The Best Apple Picking Orchards near New York City

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article from Town & Country by Katie Robinson

photo from Getty

The crisp fall air has officially descended upon the tri-state, which means it's time to break out your best argyle and go apple picking. Luckily, the area is chock full of great farms. In the rolling orchards of Hudson Valley or Princeton, you can bask in fall foliage, munch on freshly baked apple cider donuts, and wander through a magical pick-your-own orchard. After you're done? Take the (literal) fruits of your labor, and turn them into a fresh apple cobbler or homemade spiked cider. Here's a guide to help you decide on the right farm to visit this fall.

1. Love Apple Farm

Off the Hudson Valley highway, Love Apple Farm has it all: apple cider donuts, a farm animal petting zoo, an art exhibition, and (of course) apple picking. Plus, you can't beat the 99 cent per pound deal on your apple bags. 

FROM NYC: About 2 hours, 12 minutes (125 miles) from NYC by car.

1421 State Route 9H, Ghent, NY 12075; (518) 828-5048

2. Terhune Orchards

In addition to the 34 apple varieties, Terhune Orchards also provides pears, peaches, flowers, indian corn, herbs, and more. Terhune also has dwarf apple trees so even the littlest farm-goers can enjoy the fun. After you've gotten your fill of apples, go by the barn to meet Mexicali the pony, Lucky the white peacock, Egg the duck, bunnies, goats, sheep, cats, and of course, Apple and Peach, the porch-sleeping, farm labradors. While the kids are petting animals or getting lost in the corn maze, the adults can scoot over to the onsite winery to taste some of Terhune's renowned wines.

From NYC: Take an NJ Transit train from Penn Station to Princeton JCT, then cab to the farm.

330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton, NJ 08540; (609) 924-2310

3. Alstede Farms

At Alstede Farms there's more than just apples: you can also pick pumpkins, beans, peppers, raspberries, and sunflowers. They even offer a handy guide that details what produce is available and how much each costs. Open daily, the farm has hay rides, a farm animal petting zoo, a farmer's market, and fresh homemade goodies, from ice creams to pies.

FROM NYC: Take the NJ Transit train from Penn Station to Gladstone Station. From there, you'll be able to hop aboard their free shuttle to the farm.

1 Alstede Farms Lane, Chester, NJ 07930; (908) 879-7189

4. Applewood Orchard & Winery

Let's be real, apple picking takes about 25 minutes tops. To make your journey outside New York worthwhile, come to Applewood where you can pick fresh apples before heading over to the onsite winery for homemade cider and wine. Their award-winning cider is made with fresh honey instead of refined sugars so it won't leave you with a headache if you have one too many.

FROM NYC: Take the 197 Port Authority bus line to Warwick Park & Ride (about 1 hour, 50 minutes). Call a local taxi service to take you the rest of the 4 mile leg. 

82 Four Corners Road, Warwick, NY 10990; (845) 986-1684

5. Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm

Apple picking simply isn't enough for Wilkens. The farm also offers peach picking and pumpkin picking in the fall, and a Cut-Your-Own Christmas tree farm starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Wilkens also boasts three different markets where you can get your fill of all apple-related pastries, and wine at their onsite winery.

FROM NYC: Take the Metro-North (Hudson Line) train to Croton-Harmon or Peekskill station (about one hour), then taxi 15 minutes to the farm.

1335 White Hill Rd, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598; (914) 245-5111

6. Wightman Farm

Opened in 1922 and located just an hour outside the city, Wightman Farm is the ultimate family experience. With hayrides, a corn maze, pumpkin slingshots, a corn pit sandbox, pedal tractors—not to mention apple picking—this farm is the pinnacle of all things kid-friendly.

From NYC: About a one hour car ride from Manhattan.

1111 Mt. Kemble Avenue, Morristown, NJ 07960; (973) 425-9819

7. Stuart's Fruit Farm

This family-run farm has been operating since 1828, so they know how to grow good apples—over 20 varieties of them, in fact. In the Stuart's Farm orchard you'll find all your favorites, from Gala to Golden Delicious. By checking out their picking guide, you won't ever miss your favorites.

From NYC: Take Metro-North to the Croton Falls station and cab the rest of the way.

62 Granite Springs Road, Granite Springs, NY 10527; (914) 245-2784

8. Sun High Orchard

For a more animal-centric apple picking experience, Sun High Orchard is the place to be. Kids can enjoy petting some of Sun High's farm animals including sheep, rabbits, a donkey, and Jersey Gold, their friendly alpaca. After you've visited all the furry friends, head to the fields to pick apples, peaches, flowers, zucchini, and tomatoes.

From NYC: About one hour by car from Manhattan.

19 Canfield Ave, Randolph, NJ 07869; (973) 584-4734


Interview with Anita Rogers on Goop.com

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article from Goop 

photo from Goop

Anita Rogers, founder of household staffing agency British American, has more than a decade’s experience in pairing families with household staff, from nannies and butlers to personal assistants and estate managers. She’s earned a reputation for finding successful matches–and also for helping to handle any situation that may arise in the working household. Here, she shares her insights on why hiring for your childcare or home needs is profoundly personal, and how a staffing agency can help with the process.

A Q&A with Anita Rogers

Q: What are the upsides to using an agency?

A: An agency helps you determine what kind of help you really need, and devises the way in which you want your staff to fit your lifestyle. It also saves you time and keeps you safe during the interview process. Some families have limited experience interviewing and hiring childcare and household staff, which makes it easy to miss signs of danger, red flags, or dishonesty. We enforce strict standards as we interview thousands of candidates each year. This has allowed us—and other reputable agencies—to become experts at spotting dishonest references and to be able single out specific personality traits and potential challenges. A staffing agency has seen how similar traits have played out with other candidates, which lends to its ability to find the best fit for you, your family, and your household.

Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about household staffing?

A: Both parties must be willing to give and take in order to find the best match. Often people think they can hire a candidate if they offer a competitive or high salary. Or if a nanny or butler has excellent experience, they might assume they can get a higher salary and an ideal schedule. But staffing is a matchmaking process, and both parties must be satisfied with the relationship and the circumstances in order for it to work.

Q: How do you recognize good talent?

A: It’s a long process—and it’s so much more than just a great résumé and reference letters. We look for candidates that have a balance of experience, training, and education in their field and glowing references from past employers. Other indicators we look for include personality, attitude, flexibility, grammar, responsiveness, and confidence.

The résumé is always the first indicator of talent, where we look at formal level of experience, age appropriate childcare experience, the types of homes an individual has worked in, longevity in previous jobs, and demonstrated professionalism and willingness. We screen all résumés and references and do extensive state, federal, and international background checks, as well as a thorough screening of their social media.

Q: What’s the secret to finding a good match between a family and nanny?

A: Everyone must be on the same page from the very beginning of the process. One family’s dream nanny could be another’s nightmare. It’s imperative that the candidate and the family have a similar approach to raising children, as well as complementary personalities. Someone who is really laid back isn’t going to work well in a formal home that thrives on structure. (The reverse is true as well.) The perfect nanny and family pairing has similar philosophies about discipline, education, and responsibilities. There has to be a mutual respect between the parents and the nanny regarding the decisions made concerning the child. As a parent, if you feel like you have to micromanage and instruct your nanny on how you’d like every situation handled, you will become frustrated and resentful of the situation.

One of the most important factors to consider during the process of finding a good match is assessing the needs and expectations of the family. There’s a huge difference between a parent looking for an extra set of hands to help with driving, activities, and meals and a working parent who needs someone to be the child’s primary caregiver. A take-charge, independent, problem-solving nanny with sole-charge experience isn’t going to thrive as a helper. In the same way, a nanny without the confidence to make decisions on his or her own and proactively foresee situations isn’t the best choice for a family where the parents are gone most of the day. 

Q: Once the hiring process is done, what other support do clients typically need?

A: It depends upon the family. Clients will often come to us for help with communicating with their new employee, especially during the transition process while the employee settles in. We always encourage regular, open and honest communication between both parties. On occasion, we will go into the home as a “manager” and help iron out any small issues that may exist. A relationship between a family and their household employees needs to be nurtured and carefully built, as this is a private home, where discretion is of utmost importance. We encourage clear communication and a weekly sit-down between a family and staff.

Q: If a match doesn’t work out, what is your advice for handling a potential change (or parting ways)?

A: We suggest that each party be gentle but honest about their feelings. The parting should be done with kindness and care so that everyone involved understands that it isn’t a personal attack, just a relationship that has outlived its potential. When hiring staff, you are creating a business in your home. I have seen people distraught if something isn’t working out because they don’t want to offend someone, they don’t want to hurt their feelings.

In certain situations, we’ll go into the residence and let the candidate go so that we can assure it’s done with delicacy. Every situation is very different. We’ve learned it’s best to never point fingers and to make everyone feel good. We directly address and try to resolve any problems, serious or minor, that are brought to our attention, and to support the client or candidate. The ending of a professional relationship can be emotional, particularly if it involves an intimate household setting, so we work to minimize any potential animosity a much as possible.

Q: Is there a difference between a nanny and a career nanny?

A: Most definitely. A typical nanny is different from a career nanny in that they often have a lot of experience with families, but no background or education in child development. Other nanny candidates are great with children and may have teaching degrees or other formal education, but limited in-home experience (typically part-time babysitting work).

A career nanny is someone who has chosen childcare as his or her profession. Most often, these candidates have formal education in child development and/or psychology. This can include a college degree in education or or training from previous jobs. Career nannies also have an employment history of long-term placements in private homes, understand the dynmics of working in a home environment and are great with children. A career nanny knows how to anticipate needs, respect a family’s privacy and space, and handle the logistics of high-end homes. Being in a home is very different than working in a school or daycare; there is no way to prepare or train someone for it, it’s something you learn and understand only after having experienced it.

Q: How have staffing agencies changed over the years?

A: Historically, many agencies have been run by only one or two people. Today, the amount of work it takes to verify backgrounds, interview candidates, and create and nurture relationships is impossible with such a small team. This is a time-intensive business, which is why a larger team with modernized and strict processes is essential.

 

http://goop.com/work/parenthood/how-a-staffing-agency-can-help/


How Prince William and Kate Middleton Plan to Break With Tradition in Their Parenting

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Vogue article by Michelle Ruiz

One day after Prince Harry opened up about his struggles following the death of his mother, Princess Diana, Prince William is also speaking out, vowing that the next generation of royals will be open and honest about their emotions and won’t live by the traditional British stoicism. “There may be a time and a place for the ‘stiff upper lip,’ but not at the expense of your health,” he says in a new interview with CALMzine, the publication for British mental health organization CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

In this case, the effort will start at home, Prince William says, with his children, Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 1. “Catherine and I are clear that we want both George and Charlotte to grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions and feelings,” he said, offering a rare glimpse into the royal couple’s parenting style. “Over the past year we have visited a number of schools together where we have been amazed listening to children talk about some quite difficult subjects in a really clear and emotionally articulate way—something most adults would struggle with.”

This philosophy is a sharp departure from the royal family’s now legendary aversion to showing emotion—a tradition for which his own grandmother may very well be the best example. And while William doesn’t mention her or his own upbringing, he does nod to the antiquated British way of thinking in the new interview. “For too long there has been a taboo about talking about some important issues. If you were anxious, it’s because you were weak. If you couldn’t cope with whatever life threw at you, it’s because you were failing,” he said. “Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they? But of course—we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it.”

Prince William, who, along with Prince Harry and Kate Middleton (or, “Catherine,” as the royals—and only the royals?—call her), is an ambassador for the British mental health charity Heads Together, also spoke about the importance of mental health awareness in a FaceTime chat with Lady Gaga released today (she from her Los Angeles kitchen and he from his study at Kensington Palace, though he promised they would get together in the U.K. soon). He reportedly reached out after Gaga’s open letter about suffering from PTSD after being sexually assaulted at 19 years old.

“It’s time that everyone speaks up,” Prince William told her. And that’s what you call leading by example.


The Tasty, Time-saving Benefits of Hiring a Personal Chef

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article from Sheknows by Ashlee and Sean McCusker

photo by Real Journeys

Why You Need a Personal Chef

Do you find yourself going to the grocery store and feeling overwhelmed by everything that is on the shelves? With the hectic schedules that we all lead today it can feel like a chore to provide a good home-cooked meal for your family. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone working in your kitchen, providing delicious – and time-saving – family-friendly meals? Look no further: A personal chef is the stress-free answer to your family’s grocery shopping and cooking needs.

A Personal Chef is Not a Luxury

A personal chef service provides stress-free meals prepared to your specifications in your home. Your kitchen is left spotless with a refrigerator full of delicious meals. Having your own personal chef is not a luxury reserved for the rich. A personal chef service can cost you less than eating out at a moderately priced restaurant. Using a personal chef service can free up 10 to 12 hours of your time every week. Personal chefs are responsible for handling all the menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, packaging and kitchen cleanup! All you have to do is come home, reheat your food, and you're good to go.

Benefits of a Personal Chef Service

Clients who hire a personal chef generally don't have the time or ability to cook for themselves but have the resources to hire someone else to do it for them. Some clients are too busy with their work or family while others may just want to free up time so they can do the things they enjoy more than grocery shopping and cooking in the kitchen. Other clients might simply be tired of restaurant or take-out food and some may not know how to cook and have no desire to learn. Why a personal chef?

Services That a Personal Chef Service Can Offer:

  • Customize menus specifically for you and your family
  • Do all the grocery shopping
  • Buy only the freshest ingredients available
  • Make delicious healthy meals that you will look forward to eating
  • Take into account any dietary restrictions
  • Cook meals that are always preservative-free
  • Package all materials conveniently
  • Label meals for easy thawing and reheating
  • Leave your kitchen sparkling clean

3 Tips for Picking the Right Personal Chef

Each personal chef will bring something different to your table. Here are a few tips to help you decide which personal chef is right for your family.

1. Interview before hiring. When deciding upon which personal chef to hire, it is important to go with one that shares the same values for you and your family. Before agreeing to personal chef services, ascertain the backgrounds of your potential personal chefs. Find out what drew them to become chefs in the first place.

2. Verify liability insurance. An important consideration is to make sure that the chef in question has liability insurance as well as a food-handlers card. Also follow up on references, and ask for a sample menu to determine if the service will be a good fit for your needs.

3. Value involvement in professional chef organizations. Ask your prospective chefs if they are members of any professional organizations. The ones that are demonstrate not only that they are committed to a strong culinary standard and continuing education, but also that they are aware of the latest trends in the culinary world.


How Eleven Madison Park Became the ‘Best’ Restaurant in the World

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article by Alan Sytsma of Grub Street

photo by Melissa Hom

In 2012, a New Yorker profile laid out the ways in which Daniel Humm and Will Guidara were changing Eleven Madison Park — the restaurant they’d bought from their previous employer Danny Meyer the year before — to help its performance on the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking. That year, they were 10th — a jump from 24th the year before — and in the time since then, as EMP’s place on the list has steadily risen, they’ve made no secret about their goal to ultimately land the top spot. Today, that happened, when the restaurant was crowned No. 1 at a ceremony in Australia.

Critics can point to flaws with the list itself (such as its continued lack of meaningful female representation), but it is nevertheless very well-established that placement on the list has a tremendous impact on business, and each year’s release is closely followed by the industry. Even people with a casual interest in restaurants will refer to the list’s winner as the “best” restaurant, even though it’s also well-established that, as an actual objective measure of restaurant quality, the list is sort of silly.

It is a list of expensive, world-class restaurants — all of which offer exemplary dining experiences — voted on by chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and “well-travelled gourmets.” As the official manifesto reads, “There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria,” and voters are free to select whichever spots they prefer. As such, the list is a useful guide to eating $800 dinners, sure, but it’s best read as a look into chefs’ standing, and reputations, among their peers.

In other words, the restaurants that have regularly occupied the list’s top spot in the past — ElBulliNoma, or Osteria Francescana most recently — are the restaurants that the industry is most proud of. Humm and Guidara, who host and attend many industry parties and conferences, are extremely respected and well-liked; voters clearly think that holding them up on a pedestal will be good for the world of fine dining as a whole. And EMP’s co-owners are first-rate ambassadors for the world of hyperexclusive dining: Their restaurant is a modern interpretation of the classic big-city dining temple, proof that “fancy” restaurants, even ones like EMP that are firmly rooted in the European dining tradition, can still feel vital and forward-thinking.

Interestingly, the news comes just as the restaurant is set to close for the summer to renovate and overhaul the menu. The timing may seem somewhat inopportune, but it highlights the way chefs constantly rework their restaurants to stay atop these kinds of international restaurant rankings, where stagnation will cause voters to look elsewhere. Yet, in many ways, the new version of EMP sounds like it will be a natural evolution of the restaurant as it is now.

The current iteration of Eleven Madison Park is just about a decade old. Though the restaurant opened in 1998, Humm took over as chef in 2006. (He and Guidara bought the restaurant from Meyer in 2011.) In an interview with the Times, the partners explained that in addition to updating the kitchen, the dining room will get an overhaul — it will be more comfortable, which makes sense, because comfort is the restaurant’s defining feature. 

ElBulli was a showcase for Ferran Adrià’s fearlessly modern technique and open hostility toward the established pace of a meal at a Michelin-caliber restaurant. Noma, meanwhile, grew to epitomize trends like foraging, traditional preservation techniques, and steadfast commitment to local ingredients. (Not to mention all the earthenware plates you see in every single dining room.) EMP, on the other hand, offers a menu that in many ways is a throwback to traditional luxury ingredients and classic European techniques — a signature dish of Humm’s is celery root or asparagus that’s braised in pig’s bladder and served with black truffle; another dish, “eggs Benedict,” is essentially a caviar course served with homemade English muffins — and sets itself apart with unparalleled warmth and familiarity. Dinner at Eleven Madison Park isn’t about boundary-pushing or avant-garde food; it’s an exercise in opulence and pampering.

That m.o. clearly resonates right now with voters, and with today’s announcement, Humm and Guidara are now the faces of fine dining around the world (just as Redzepi has been for the past decade, and Adrià was before that). The accomplishment is a testament to their talent and determination, of course, as much as it is an indication of the prevailing trends at the highest end of the restaurant world. And just as Adrià’s modernist cooking and Redzepi’s New Nordic aesthetic inspired scores of other chefs, the EMP team’s embrace of unpretentiousness (relatively speaking) and unmatched graciousness should continue to influence other restaurants around the world for many years.


How ‘Downton Abbey’ Fueled China’s Demand for Butlers

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article from New York Times by Chris Buckley and Karoline Kan

photo by Gilles Sabrié

CHENGDU, China — Mao once said that a revolution was not a dinner party. But with the communist revolution turning into opulent capitalism, China’s rich are now making sure the dinner party settings are immaculate and the wine is poured just right.

Inspired in part by the “Downton Abbey” television drama, the country’s once raw and raucous tycoons are aspiring to old-school decorum, fueling demand for the services of homegrown butlers trained in the ways of a British manor.

“What they would like to say to their friends is, ‘Look, I have a butler, an English-style butler in my home,’ to show how wealthy they are,” said Neal Yeh, a Chinese-born Briton living in Beijing, who for over a decade has helped train and find jobs for butlers.

“The country now with the biggest trend in butlers is China,” said Mr. Yeh, whose English accent would be at home on “Downton Abbey,” the television series about a blue blood family in England, which was avidly watched in China. “I dare say I have played a part in starting this trend.”

Butler training schools and agencies have been doing business in China for more than a decade, but the number of recruits has grown sharply in recent years, according to those in the business. Most are Chinese and many are women. The International Butler Academy China opened in 2014 here in Chengdu, a haze-covered city in southwest China, and offers a six-week boot camp on dinner service, managing homes and other minutiae of high living.

“The Chinese are vacationing more now than ever in history, and so they’re being exposed to the West more and more,” said Christopher Noble, an American trainer at the academy who previously ran bars in Cleveland. “But Chinese people see that, experience top-class personal service abroad, and they want to experience it here.”

A boom in butler service might seem incongruous as President Xi Jinping campaigns zealously against corruption and extravagance, and an economic slowdown undercuts lavish spending. But China’s rich continue amassing ever greater fortunes and want what they see as the trappings of respectable refinement. Even under Mr. Xi, butlers are finding growing work as symbols of good taste, according to people in the business.

“You read about an economic slowdown, but China’s wealth is still growing,” said Luo Jinhuan, who has worked as a butler in Shanghai and, most recently, Beijing, after learning the job in Holland. “Old money has passed from one generation to the next. But the new money doesn’t have the same quality. You need to help them improve.”

If butlers symbolize maturing Chinese capitalism, the somewhat awkward status they have here also reflects how the rich in China must play by different rules than the wealthy in many other countries.

It often comes down to a lack of trust. Wealth in China, where a cutthroat business culture is pervasive, comes with insecurity about being brought low by resentful employees, rivals, and officials, especially with the continuing crackdown against corruption. That wariness discourages many millionaires from hiring their own Jeeves to run their homes, people in the business said.

“Some of them discover that in reality they can’t trust an outsider to manage the household,” said Tang Yang, a marketing director at the butler academy. “They’re unwilling to have a butler who knows all the information about the family.”

Relatively few graduates of the academy end up as traditional household butlers. Instead, many work in high-end clubs, housing estates and executive floors, serving several clients at the same time — not with the same intimacy as a personal butler.

Promoters of butlers in China often point out that the country has its own tradition of high-end service, and the classical Chinese novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber,” features traditional butlers, called “guanjia,” or “domestic manager,” in Mandarin. But “Downton Abbey” helped rekindle a new romanticized interest in old-school service in China.

Many student butlers here said they had watched and rewatched the show as an instruction video on the self-effacing unflappability of domestic service.

“I only began to grasp this profession of butlers after watching ‘Downton Abbey,’” said Xu Shitao, a 34-year-old Beijing native studying at the Chengdu academy. “I think that in the future this profession will be quite popular and will have a market.”

But Ms. Xu and her classmates have found that, in reality, being a butler is strenuous work.

On a recent morning, they practiced for hours, learning to serve wine and water the proper way. Again and again, the class of eight clasped a wine bottle near its bottom and stepped forward in unison around a dinner table to dispense just enough wine to reach the widest part of a wine glass.

Not a drop was to splash the tablecloth or, heaven forbid, a guest.

“Stretch, pour, up, twist, back, wipe. Try to extend your arm,” Mr. Noble commanded, using his ever-present translator. “You want to be able to extend your arm as much as possible. You’re doing a ballet.”

Students also take classes on serving formal dinners, packing luggage, cleaning house and countless other details of managing life for the rich.

“You have to get the details right to do your job right,” said Yang Linjun, a 22-year-old student in the class. “Your arms get sore and your hands hurt, but this is a lifestyle.”

After they graduate, many hope to attach themselves to China’s growing number of superrich. In return, they may earn monthly wages of $2,800 or much higher as personal butlers, depending on experience and luck — more than for many service jobs.

By 2015, China had 400 billionaires and billionaire families, an increase of 65 from just a year earlier, according to Forbes’ annual list. The country’s richest 1 percent own about one-third of household wealth, a share similar to the concentration of wealth in America.

Manners can be rough in China, sometimes in a warm way, sometimes less so. But that has been changing as people grow richer, travel and live abroad, and bring back a demand for polished, attentive service.

“A decade ago, very few Chinese people stayed in five-star hotels,” said Yang Kaojun, a property manager with the Summit Group, which employs teams of trained butlers who are at the beck and call of residents. “But now many people have, and that’s given them some understanding of what good service is.”

As well as the Chengdu academy, the Sanda University, a private college in Shanghai, has incorporated butler training into its hospitality program. Many Chinese also learn how to be butlers in Europe. And Sara Vestin Rahmani, the founder of the Bespoke Bureau, a British company that finds domestic staff members for wealthy employers, said her company planned to open a school for butlers and domestic staff people in China this year.

The number of butlers in China is hard to determine. There may be hundreds or thousands, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and the prosperous south. Ms. Rahmani said that in 2007 her company found positions in China for 20 butlers; by 2015 that number had grown to 375, including 125 with families. Others reported similar growth.

“We are in actual fact exporting to China a trade which was once their own,” Ms. Rahmani said. “With communism, everything that was refined, unique and upper-class became a distant memory.”

But Chinese employers often treat butlers as expensive all-purpose flunkies who should be on call 24 hours a day. That violated the traditional idea of a butler as a respected manager of the household and above most menial tasks. Ms. Luo, the butler, said her work was far more hectic than she imagined. Her daily routine included overseeing the sauna, cinema, bowling alley and other rooms in a 32,000-square-foot home.

“I feel that when work starts, there’s no time at all to stop and rest,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than working in a hotel.”

The pressure is compounded by employers’ fears that household servants could exploit sensitive information. Butlers are supposed to have a deep knowledge of their employers’ every foible, traditionally recorded in a book. But the worry that information could be used to rob, extort or prosecute them has discouraged many rich people from taking butlers into their confidence.

“Many of our wealthy are the first generation to be rich, and they don’t have a long accumulation of family history,” said Mr. Yang, the student at the butler academy in Chengdu, who works for a real estate company. “You need trust and a long period of adjustment to have another person suddenly by your side.”


Bringing Down Bébé: How One Mother Mistakenly Hoped a Year in Paris Would Transform Her Sons

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article by Danzy Senna for Vogue

photo by Steven Simko

 

Inspired by a spate of books extolling the French way, Danzy Senna hoped a year in Paris would transform her all-American sons into model citizens. Au contraire.

One afternoon, a few weeks after we arrived in Paris, I took my sons to a playdate at the home of two French boys who lived in the neighborhood. Their mother, Christine, was like a poster girl for all I’d heard about Frenchwomen: Tall, thin, and effortlessly stylish, she was raising two sons while managing a career as a lawyer. She welcomed us into her pristine Saint-Germain apartment. My younger son, Miles, age four, raced past her down the hall in search of toys. My older son, Henry, age six, hid behind me, muttering hello only after I’d prompted him. She led me to the dining room, where I found an unfamiliar spectacle: her two sons, the same ages as mine, quietly curled over the table with pens and paper. They were dressed like miniature businessmen, with haircuts to match. The younger one appeared to be drawing a picture. Fine; my kids did that too. But the other one, the six-year-old, was intently writing down a row of math problems in one column and their answers in the other.

“Homework?” I asked Christine.

“No,” she said with a light laugh. “He just enjoys math.”

Her sons rose at the sight of me and, unbidden, held out their outstretched hands to shake. They said their bonjours before lifting their faces so that we could kiss on each cheek. Then Christine told her sons to go play, and they marched off, obediently, to join mine. When she disappeared into the kitchen, I peeked at the page of math problems, perversely pleased to see that many of the boy’s answers were wrong. Christine returned with tea and a plate of brightly colored macarons. We sat together, chatting, and I found myself relaxing. This was just as I’d imagined my life in Paris—me enjoying adult time while my children played independently. I’d imagined civility as something that people, even raucous American children like mine, could catch, like a bug.

The official reason we were in Paris was that my husband had a sabbatical from his university professorship in L.A. We’d decided to uproot the family for the year to give the boys a cross-cultural adventure. We wanted them to grow up worldly and bilingual. And for me, it was more than that. I was not sure I liked the overly precious culture in which I was raising them. In preparation, I felt I had to read Pamela Druckerman’s playground sensation Bringing Up Bébé. I was horrified to see myself in the book’s descriptions of the overindulgent American parent. My kids represented everything that was wrong with our country. They made too much noise in restaurants. They were picky eaters, to the point where I often cooked them two separate meals at night. Their toys lay scattered all around the house, as if to mark the territory they’d won. My husband and I had not had a conversation that didn’t revolve around them in years. I was forever sleep deprived. And long after giving birth I still looked, well, a little bit pregnant. Once, in a yoga class, the teacher asked me if I was expecting. “Actually,” I lied, “I just gave birth.” She congratulated me, and I waited until she was out of earshot to add, “Four years ago.”

Druckerman wasn’t alone in extolling the virtues of the French. In the same way that Julia Child once introduced American women to the exquisiteness of French cuisine, an entire cottage industry has grown around the idea that when it comes to living, Frenchwomen do it better. Consider French Kids Eat Everything; Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance;or the upcoming French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, by Mireille Guiliano, of the original French Women Don’t Get Fat. The list goes on. We’ve always admired their fashion; now it seems they’ve become standard-bearers for every facet of our existence. In contrast to our American child-ruled ways, French mothers apparently practice some elegant form of detachment parenting, which is why they look so much better than we do, and also why their kids are so much better behaved.

At home in L.A., my husband and I were at least aware of the problem. Whenever our sons complained that they were bored, my husband would reply, “This isn’t a cruise ship, it’s your childhood.” But the world outside our door sometimes seemed to be arguing otherwise. One mother I knew admitted she’d taken to asking her ten-year-old daughter on occasion: “How do you think your childhood is going so far? Pretty good?”

I’d always been susceptible to parenting manuals. When the boys were small, I read a book on attachment parenting that convinced me I’d already done them deep psychic harm. I’d failed to give birth to them in a bathtub. I’d failed to wear them strapped to my body all day in a sling while I cleaned and cooked and tended crops in the field. I’d failed to nurse them until they told me it was OK to stop. As a result, I learned they were doomed to be obese, anxious, and somewhat dim.

It was in some ways refreshing to read Bringing Up Bébé—except that it turns out I’d messed up my kids by being too attached. Frenchwomen didn’t believe that hoo-hah about “you’re only as happy as your saddest child.” Frenchwomen nursed for only as long as they felt like it. Frenchwomen didn’t feel the need to follow their toddlers around the park in earth shoes, interpreting their experiences for them. But, according to the book, it wasn’t too late. I could still turn this cruise ship around. And here we were, in Paris, determined to make our kids tough, gritty, independent, and exceedingly polite in two languages. They were going to attend the local public school, where they could put the French they’d been practicing to good use. International schools, I’d been told by the admissions director of a French lycée in Los Angeles, were for wimpy Americans who wanted to just have “a nice year.” We didn’t want a nice year. We wanted a French year.

I nibbled Christine’s macarons and asked her the question posed to Frenchwomen through the ages: How do you do it? I swept my hand around her apartment. Taking my question literally, she explained that she had it all down to a system. She saw the kids on Monday evenings, Thursday afternoons, and then Saturday mornings were reserved for their grandparents, and then. . . .

From the back of the apartment came a loud crash, followed by a scream. The dreamscape was shattered. I rose and followed Christine toward the commotion, trying to think of a way to explain my children. I’d tell her there was something wrong with them, that they’d been officially diagnosed with a mental disorder—something vague but clinical-sounding, like oppositional defiance disorder—and then I’d get us the hell out of there.

But when we reached the back of the apartment, we found her older son straddling his younger brother on the floor, clutching his neck tightly, while the smaller one flailed around beneath him, his face turning scarlet. My two sons stood at the sidelines, each clutching a toy car, watching with mouths slightly open.

“Ça suffit!” Christine shouted, leaning down to pull the one brother off the other. She slapped the older one swiftly several times on his bottom and then helped the younger one to his feet, berating them both in a tone I have yet to master.
If I was looking to the Old World for help with parenting, it was probably because I had no cultural tradition to draw from in my own background. The only tradition in my family, going back on both sides for generations, was to break with tradition. One of my grandmothers was an Irish playwright from Dublin; the other grandmother was an African-American jazz musician from the Deep South; one grandfather was a blue-blood Harvard law professor turned civil rights activist; the other grandfather was a professional lightweight boxer from Nuevo León, Mexico.

I was raised in 1970s cultural chaos. Dinner was tacos one night, spaghetti the next. My mother’s idea of discipline was to occasionally throw shoes at us while shrieking, “I can’t take this anymore!” Other times she just laughed at our misbehavior like an older teenage sister. Once, when I was eight or nine, she told me her theory that everyone had two ages, an actual age and a spiritual age. “For example,” she said, “I’m always going to feel seventeen.” She glanced at me through cigarette smoke. “And you’re always going to feel 40.”

I once saw a sculpture by the artist Charles Ray that seemed to sum up the American family as I’d known it: four naked mannequins—a mother, a father, a young boy, and a toddler girl—standing in a row, holding hands. They appear at first glance to be your average nuclear family, but the artist has slightly enlarged the children and shrunk the parents so that they all stand at equal height. It unsettled me because it spoke so clearly of a land where children were treated as adults and parents acted like children.

Before I knew it, the French school year had begun. From the outside, the boys’ école looked like a huge fortress, the playground a crush of screaming children—kind of like the public schools I’d attended as a kid. The class sizes seemed alarmingly large. I had to remind myself of our mantra—childhood is not a cruise ship—when I left the boys there behind the gates that first day.

At pickup, I leaned down to ask Henry how his first day of school had gone. He told me, his mouth smeared with pain au chocolat, “Weird; I feel like I don’t exist. How many days before we go back to L.A.?”

When I looked for Miles inside the maternelle, I found him sitting in a corral with the other four-year-olds. He looked calm enough, but he was wearing a purple jacket I didn’t recognize with a name tag that read mohammed. I tried to tell his teacher that there had been a mistake, but the elderly M. Rousseau just nodded and said, “Oui, oui.”

I tried to laugh the misunderstanding off, but by the second week it didn’t matter, because Miles had changed his name anyway. He was insistent that everybody call him Oui and he would throw a fit if we dared call him otherwise. He also began to speak in a drunken slur that made him hard to understand. It took me a few days to realize he was trying to sound as if he had a French accent.

When I went to a school official and told her my concerns about the kids’ adjustment, she assured me they’d be fine. “You pay too much attention to them,” she told me. “Keep yourself busy with other things. Enjoy Paris!”

And so, I tried to put away my worries about Henry, a previously sunny, popular child who now played with his hands constantly, making conversations between them. After writing at home in the mornings, I wandered Paris during the days, searching for the city I’d read about in books. I discovered a farmers’ market near our house like nothing I’d ever seen before. And I admit I did forget the children’s woes as I perused the exquisite displays of cheese, the glistening fish, the beautifully arranged fruits. Once, on my way home, I bumped into a neighbor, a Parisian mother of two. I asked her if she, too, shopped at the farmers’ market, holding up my bags proudly.

“Never,” she said, clucking her tongue. “That’s for American tourists. Tomorrow I’ll show you where real French mothers do their shopping.”

The next day she led me to a store called Picard. The logo on the sign out front was a giant blue snowflake. Inside, it looked a little like a morgue—a bare white space filled with rows upon rows of freezer chests. I followed her through the aisles, peering at the boxes and bags of frozen food. The French had found a way to freeze everything: escargot, foie gras, stuffed salmon, tiramisu. Pumpkin soup came in a bag of frozen blocks you just melted in a pan. “Is this what you feed your children?” I asked, thinking of the pressure back home to buy only fresh, local, and organic.

“Every night,” she said, laughing at my expression. “Oh, you didn’t know? This is the little secret of Parisian mothers. We don’t cook. Who has the time? At night I put Picard in the microwave, and dinner is ready in five minutes. Voilà!”
Everywhere I went in Paris, I saw beauty, history, nattily dressed children, and fantasies of America, from the movie posters in the Métro to the names of the French clothing labels—American Vintage, American Retro. It was as if, at this moment of identity crisis, with France’s economic future somewhat uncertain, the country had finally come to appreciate our pioneering spirit. I noticed that the French remained, however, stubbornly attached to quality and tradition, and as I walked the streets, it was impossible not to be impressed by the cut of a silk scarf or the elaborate window display of our local pastry shop. At the boys’ school, it was true that there was a lot more rote memorization than they were used to, but I was glad that Henry was learning to handwrite in the most beautiful cursive, a far cry from the iPads that had been dispensed to every kid in his L.A. kindergarten class.

Whatever Paris’s charms, the boys were deeply homesick. At night, in their twin beds, they whispered back and forth to each other all the things they missed the most about Los Angeles—horrible things, like the garish outdoor mall with the fountains that “danced” to pop tunes, or the Santa Monica Pier, where they’d both shrieked with terror on a ride before throwing up their cotton candy. They missed it all—especially their preschool, which I had affectionately called Kumbaya Academy, where, instead of their being corrected for any mistakes, every smear of paint or mindless utterance was met with “Great job!”

It was fall, and the U.S. presidential elections were in full swing. One evening, I found Henry standing in the living room watching CNN footage of a Mitt Romney campaign rally. He was chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” I switched off the TV and sharply reminded him that we were Obama supporters—but even I could see that wasn’t the point. In bed beside my husband that night, I asked him to remind me what we were doing here with the kids. “Exposing them to another culture,” he said, trying to reassure us both. “They’ll adjust in no time. Remember? Kids are resilient.”

Everything crystallized the next weekend when my husband and I attended an American-fiction festival in Paris. There I met a French photographer who was doing a series on contemporary writers. Sixty-something, gray-haired, he asked me to lean against a wall while he fiddled with his camera. We chatted. I told him we were here for a year with our kids, that we’d put them in French public school. “We’re hoping they’ll pick up French,” I told him.

“Ah,” the man said, nodding. “My parents did that to me when I was seven. We moved here from Sweden, and they dropped me in a French public school without having any French. Because, as they say, kids are like sponges.”

I tried to laugh away my growing discomfort. “I guess it worked,” I said. “You sound French now.”

“Funny you should say that,” he said. “Fifty-five years later, I’m still trying to remember that year. According to my parents, I didn’t speak for the first six months after we got here—not a word. I was rendered completely mute by the shock of it.”

He hid his face behind the camera. “Now let’s start with one of you smiling.”
One Monday morning soon after, Miles pretended to be sick, and I pretended to believe him so he could stay home. As I was walking Henry to school, he tripped on the curb, fell, and skinned his knee. Though the cut was tiny, he began to weep like I’d never heard him weep before. I sat down beside him and held him in my arms, and a memory floated back to me from my own childhood. My father, in the late seventies, in the wake of his divorce from my mother, had sent my sister and me to a black-pride academy deep in the heart of Boston’s African-American neighborhood. The founder’s motto was to “instill racial pride while teaching.” During our time there, we performed in an all-black Christmas pageant called The Black Nativity, learned to sing the black national anthem, and were swatted with a switch by a dance teacher in an Erykah Badu–style head scarf when we forgot our steps.

My sister and I wept each time we were led up the steps into this new world where we were generally ostracized by the other kids. My father had the best of intentions—to make us proud of our black heritage in the midst of a predominantly white city—but in a haze of idealism and political ideology, he couldn’t see the more immediate reality of our daily misery. He inflicted this education on us like a bitter medicine. Someday we’d be proud to be black. Someday we’d reach the promised land of Negritude, and this would all make sense.

Henry sobbed in my arms over the cut on his knee that wasn’t really the problem. I held him and told him, “It’s lonely, isn’t it, being in that school? I’m so sorry. Let’s just stop. OK? Today we’ll go inside and say goodbye to your schoolmates and your teacher. We’ll thank them for having you. Then we’ll leave and we’ll never go back again. I’m finding you a school where people speak English.”

He looked confused for a moment. “Really?”

“Really.”

The following week I had both boys enrolled in bilingual international schools. We weren’t abandoning the language project altogether—half their day would be in French, half in English. But along with French children, there would be other Anglophone children like them.

The first day, I took Henry to his new classroom. We found a group of rowdy American and British boys crowded around a table building a Lego castle. They were neither self-contained nor well behaved. They were everything Bringing Up Bébé claimed French kids were not. I nudged my son to join them.

Afterward, I sat in a nearby Starbucks, drinking a soy chai latte, surrounded by brash Americans. I thought about all the parenting books I’d read over the years, with their shifting and contradictory advice on how to do right by one’s children. My husband and I were still just making it up as we went along. My kids would not go home bilingual, with scarves wrapped artfully around their necks, happy gourmands who greeted visitors with kisses to both cheeks. I wasn’t going home as a French mother, real or imagined. It was shameful to admit, but I was the happiest I’d been in weeks.


A Child’s Lifelong Self-Esteem Emerges Earlier Than We Thought

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article from Huffpost

photo from Sleeptastic Solutions

Children may form a sense of their “overall goodness” by preschool.

 

Five-year-old children may only read and write at a basic level, but their sense of self is surprisingly sophisticated. A provocative new study suggests that by kindergarten, a child’s self-esteem is as strong as an adult’s.

The research, published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, finds that most children have developed an overall positive sense of themselves by this age — and that sense of self remains relatively stable over their lifespan.

“Some rudimentary sense of children’s self-esteem appears to be already established by age 5,” Dr. Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the University of Washington and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “That does not mean it can’t change with life experiences and maturation. We think self-esteem is malleable but we also think that it starts earlier than previously thought.”

The research overturns traditional psychological beliefs about the way self-esteem develops during childhood. Scientists previously thought that preschoolers were too young to have developed an overall positive or negative sense of themselves, according to Cvencek.

“Our new work,” he said, “shows that preschoolers do have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person. It’s a first.”

In previous studies, psychologists relied on verbal self-evaluations to measure a child’s self-esteem, which may have provided unreliable data due to young children’s limited verbal abilities.

So for their study, Cvencek and his colleagues designed a new test, called the Preschool Implicit Association Test (PSIAT), to measure children’s positive feelings toward themselves. The researchers administered the test to 234 five-year-old boys and girls living in Washington state.

Similar to an implicit association test for adults — which asks participants to quickly associate words such as “self” and “pleasant” or “unpleasant” — the preschoolers were asked to associate objects.

The children were presented with several different varieties of flags, which they were taught to divide into two groups: “yours” and “not yours.” Then, the preschoolers completed a task in which they pressed buttons to indicate whether “good” words (fun, happy, good, nice) and “bad” words (bad, mad, mean, yucky) were more associated with “me” or “not-me.” 

The results of this and two other implicit association tests revealed that the children associated themselves more with good qualities than bad ones. 

“Previously we understood that preschoolers knew about some of their specific good features,” Dr. Anthony Greenwald, a psychologist at the University of Washington and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “We now understand that, in addition, they have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person.”

The study also revealed that high self-esteem was correlated with strong gender identity and preference for members of their own gender, suggesting that a child’s self-esteem is connected to other formative parts of their personality.

Now that we know that self-esteem emerges early in life, how can parents and teachers foster the development of a healthy sense of self in a child?

The warm, supportive connections a child develops with others are probably the most important factor, according to Cvencek.

“Children who feel loved by others may internalize this to love themselves,” he said. “Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life.”


The Surprising Effects of Listening to a Baby Cry

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photo from Getty Images

article by Jen Gann from The Cut for New York Magazine

Parents who’ve done any form of cry-it-out sleep training — or all parents, quite frankly — are only too familiar with what happens when their baby cries: It feels horrendous. It feels immediately alarming, as though every nerve ending is suddenly subject to an electrical fire. Yesterday, the New York Times took a good look at some of the science behind a baby’s cry — and our sometimes surprising reactions.

Seeing some of the crying facts laid bare is a little staggering. Normal infants, for example, cry about two hours every day. What the Times calls a “notorious human crybaby” will sometimes cry for two hours, every two hours. Crying, of course, is essential to survival: Infant mice stripped of the ability to cry are ignored by their mothers, and quickly die.

Indeed, we’re hardwired to respond to crying. Researchers have “found that within 49 thousandths of a second of a recorded cry being played, the periaqueductal gray — an area deep in the midbrain that has long been linked to urgent, do-or-die behaviors — had blazed to attention, twice as fast as it reacted to dozens of other audio clips tested.”

What to do with that reaction, when all your attempts to calm a crying baby are met with more crying? Personally, I always rolled my eyes a little at anyone’s claim that I would “learn to decode” my baby’s cries, that the cries would sound different depending on what he wanted (it seemed like most of the time, he didn’t know?). But according to a study summarized by the Times, Spanish researchers have been able to categorize three cry types: anger, fear, and pain.

With their arms and legs pinned to provoke anger, mad babies usually kept their eyes half-open, looking off to the side as they cried. Babies frightened by a loud noise, “after an initial hesitation and tensing up of the facial muscles, emitted an explosive cry and kept their eyes open and searching the whole time.” For babies given a shot, the cries were immediate, forceful, and conducted with shut eyes.

On a more uplifting note, the Times presents some possible evidence against so-called “mommy brain”:

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In another study, volunteers were asked to play a lab version of the popular game Whac-a-Mole by pressing down on an ever-shifting target button as rapidly as possible. Subjects then listened to recordings of babies crying, adults crying or birds singing, and played the game again.

“We saw better scores and more effortful pressing after the infant cries,” Dr. Young said.

Why not try this out at home? Your angry, fearful, or pained baby is primed to give you lots of opportunities.


Recipe!: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 small)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise, and place it flat side down on a cutting board. Cut the potato halves into 1-inch-wide wedges.
  • In a small bowl, combine the oil, chili powder and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Place the potatoes on a roasting pan and brush with the oil mixture. Lay the potatoes flesh side down on the pan and put the pan in the oven.
  • Cook until potatoes, turning once, until soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and season with remaining1/2 teaspoon salt. Let the wedges cool for a bit, and serve warm.
    • For dunking, ketchup always works (at 15 calories per tablespoon) or try a squeeze of fresh lime juice for a British chips-and-vinegar effect.

How Prince William and Kate Middleton Plan to Break With Tradition in Their Parenting

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Vogue article by Michelle Ruiz

One day after Prince Harry opened up about his struggles following the death of his mother, Princess Diana, Prince William is also speaking out, vowing that the next generation of royals will be open and honest about their emotions and won’t live by the traditional British stoicism. “There may be a time and a place for the ‘stiff upper lip,’ but not at the expense of your health,” he says in a new interview with CALMzine, the publication for British mental health organization CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

In this case, the effort will start at home, Prince William says, with his children, Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 1. “Catherine and I are clear that we want both George and Charlotte to grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions and feelings,” he said, offering a rare glimpse into the royal couple’s parenting style. “Over the past year we have visited a number of schools together where we have been amazed listening to children talk about some quite difficult subjects in a really clear and emotionally articulate way—something most adults would struggle with.”

This philosophy is a sharp departure from the royal family’s now legendary aversion to showing emotion—a tradition for which his own grandmother may very well be the best example. And while William doesn’t mention her or his own upbringing, he does nod to the antiquated British way of thinking in the new interview. “For too long there has been a taboo about talking about some important issues. If you were anxious, it’s because you were weak. If you couldn’t cope with whatever life threw at you, it’s because you were failing,” he said. “Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they? But of course—we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it.”

Prince William, who, along with Prince Harry and Kate Middleton (or, “Catherine,” as the royals—and only the royals?—call her), is an ambassador for the British mental health charity Heads Together, also spoke about the importance of mental health awareness in a FaceTime chat with Lady Gaga released today (she from her Los Angeles kitchen and he from his study at Kensington Palace, though he promised they would get together in the U.K. soon). He reportedly reached out after Gaga’s open letter about suffering from PTSD after being sexually assaulted at 19 years old.

“It’s time that everyone speaks up,” Prince William told her. And that’s what you call leading by example.


The Tasty, Time-saving Benefits of Hiring a Personal Chef

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article from Sheknows by Ashlee and Sean McCusker

photo by Real Journeys

Why You Need a Personal Chef

Do you find yourself going to the grocery store and feeling overwhelmed by everything that is on the shelves? With the hectic schedules that we all lead today it can feel like a chore to provide a good home-cooked meal for your family. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone working in your kitchen, providing delicious – and time-saving – family-friendly meals? Look no further: A personal chef is the stress-free answer to your family’s grocery shopping and cooking needs.

A Personal Chef is Not a Luxury

A personal chef service provides stress-free meals prepared to your specifications in your home. Your kitchen is left spotless with a refrigerator full of delicious meals. Having your own personal chef is not a luxury reserved for the rich. A personal chef service can cost you less than eating out at a moderately priced restaurant. Using a personal chef service can free up 10 to 12 hours of your time every week. Personal chefs are responsible for handling all the menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, packaging and kitchen cleanup! All you have to do is come home, reheat your food, and you're good to go.

Benefits of a Personal Chef Service

Clients who hire a personal chef generally don't have the time or ability to cook for themselves but have the resources to hire someone else to do it for them. Some clients are too busy with their work or family while others may just want to free up time so they can do the things they enjoy more than grocery shopping and cooking in the kitchen. Other clients might simply be tired of restaurant or take-out food and some may not know how to cook and have no desire to learn. Why a personal chef?

Services That a Personal Chef Service Can Offer:

  • Customize menus specifically for you and your family
  • Do all the grocery shopping
  • Buy only the freshest ingredients available
  • Make delicious healthy meals that you will look forward to eating
  • Take into account any dietary restrictions
  • Cook meals that are always preservative-free
  • Package all materials conveniently
  • Label meals for easy thawing and reheating
  • Leave your kitchen sparkling clean

3 Tips for Picking the Right Personal Chef

Each personal chef will bring something different to your table. Here are a few tips to help you decide which personal chef is right for your family.

1. Interview before hiring. When deciding upon which personal chef to hire, it is important to go with one that shares the same values for you and your family. Before agreeing to personal chef services, ascertain the backgrounds of your potential personal chefs. Find out what drew them to become chefs in the first place.

2. Verify liability insurance. An important consideration is to make sure that the chef in question has liability insurance as well as a food-handlers card. Also follow up on references, and ask for a sample menu to determine if the service will be a good fit for your needs.

3. Value involvement in professional chef organizations. Ask your prospective chefs if they are members of any professional organizations. The ones that are demonstrate not only that they are committed to a strong culinary standard and continuing education, but also that they are aware of the latest trends in the culinary world.


How Eleven Madison Park Became the ‘Best’ Restaurant in the World

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article by Alan Sytsma of Grub Street

photo by Melissa Hom

In 2012, a New Yorker profile laid out the ways in which Daniel Humm and Will Guidara were changing Eleven Madison Park — the restaurant they’d bought from their previous employer Danny Meyer the year before — to help its performance on the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking. That year, they were 10th — a jump from 24th the year before — and in the time since then, as EMP’s place on the list has steadily risen, they’ve made no secret about their goal to ultimately land the top spot. Today, that happened, when the restaurant was crowned No. 1 at a ceremony in Australia.

Critics can point to flaws with the list itself (such as its continued lack of meaningful female representation), but it is nevertheless very well-established that placement on the list has a tremendous impact on business, and each year’s release is closely followed by the industry. Even people with a casual interest in restaurants will refer to the list’s winner as the “best” restaurant, even though it’s also well-established that, as an actual objective measure of restaurant quality, the list is sort of silly.

It is a list of expensive, world-class restaurants — all of which offer exemplary dining experiences — voted on by chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and “well-travelled gourmets.” As the official manifesto reads, “There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria,” and voters are free to select whichever spots they prefer. As such, the list is a useful guide to eating $800 dinners, sure, but it’s best read as a look into chefs’ standing, and reputations, among their peers.

In other words, the restaurants that have regularly occupied the list’s top spot in the past — ElBulliNoma, or Osteria Francescana most recently — are the restaurants that the industry is most proud of. Humm and Guidara, who host and attend many industry parties and conferences, are extremely respected and well-liked; voters clearly think that holding them up on a pedestal will be good for the world of fine dining as a whole. And EMP’s co-owners are first-rate ambassadors for the world of hyperexclusive dining: Their restaurant is a modern interpretation of the classic big-city dining temple, proof that “fancy” restaurants, even ones like EMP that are firmly rooted in the European dining tradition, can still feel vital and forward-thinking.

Interestingly, the news comes just as the restaurant is set to close for the summer to renovate and overhaul the menu. The timing may seem somewhat inopportune, but it highlights the way chefs constantly rework their restaurants to stay atop these kinds of international restaurant rankings, where stagnation will cause voters to look elsewhere. Yet, in many ways, the new version of EMP sounds like it will be a natural evolution of the restaurant as it is now.

The current iteration of Eleven Madison Park is just about a decade old. Though the restaurant opened in 1998, Humm took over as chef in 2006. (He and Guidara bought the restaurant from Meyer in 2011.) In an interview with the Times, the partners explained that in addition to updating the kitchen, the dining room will get an overhaul — it will be more comfortable, which makes sense, because comfort is the restaurant’s defining feature. 

ElBulli was a showcase for Ferran Adrià’s fearlessly modern technique and open hostility toward the established pace of a meal at a Michelin-caliber restaurant. Noma, meanwhile, grew to epitomize trends like foraging, traditional preservation techniques, and steadfast commitment to local ingredients. (Not to mention all the earthenware plates you see in every single dining room.) EMP, on the other hand, offers a menu that in many ways is a throwback to traditional luxury ingredients and classic European techniques — a signature dish of Humm’s is celery root or asparagus that’s braised in pig’s bladder and served with black truffle; another dish, “eggs Benedict,” is essentially a caviar course served with homemade English muffins — and sets itself apart with unparalleled warmth and familiarity. Dinner at Eleven Madison Park isn’t about boundary-pushing or avant-garde food; it’s an exercise in opulence and pampering.

That m.o. clearly resonates right now with voters, and with today’s announcement, Humm and Guidara are now the faces of fine dining around the world (just as Redzepi has been for the past decade, and Adrià was before that). The accomplishment is a testament to their talent and determination, of course, as much as it is an indication of the prevailing trends at the highest end of the restaurant world. And just as Adrià’s modernist cooking and Redzepi’s New Nordic aesthetic inspired scores of other chefs, the EMP team’s embrace of unpretentiousness (relatively speaking) and unmatched graciousness should continue to influence other restaurants around the world for many years.


How ‘Downton Abbey’ Fueled China’s Demand for Butlers

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article from New York Times by Chris Buckley and Karoline Kan

photo by Gilles Sabrié

CHENGDU, China — Mao once said that a revolution was not a dinner party. But with the communist revolution turning into opulent capitalism, China’s rich are now making sure the dinner party settings are immaculate and the wine is poured just right.

Inspired in part by the “Downton Abbey” television drama, the country’s once raw and raucous tycoons are aspiring to old-school decorum, fueling demand for the services of homegrown butlers trained in the ways of a British manor.

“What they would like to say to their friends is, ‘Look, I have a butler, an English-style butler in my home,’ to show how wealthy they are,” said Neal Yeh, a Chinese-born Briton living in Beijing, who for over a decade has helped train and find jobs for butlers.

“The country now with the biggest trend in butlers is China,” said Mr. Yeh, whose English accent would be at home on “Downton Abbey,” the television series about a blue blood family in England, which was avidly watched in China. “I dare say I have played a part in starting this trend.”

Butler training schools and agencies have been doing business in China for more than a decade, but the number of recruits has grown sharply in recent years, according to those in the business. Most are Chinese and many are women. The International Butler Academy China opened in 2014 here in Chengdu, a haze-covered city in southwest China, and offers a six-week boot camp on dinner service, managing homes and other minutiae of high living.

“The Chinese are vacationing more now than ever in history, and so they’re being exposed to the West more and more,” said Christopher Noble, an American trainer at the academy who previously ran bars in Cleveland. “But Chinese people see that, experience top-class personal service abroad, and they want to experience it here.”

A boom in butler service might seem incongruous as President Xi Jinping campaigns zealously against corruption and extravagance, and an economic slowdown undercuts lavish spending. But China’s rich continue amassing ever greater fortunes and want what they see as the trappings of respectable refinement. Even under Mr. Xi, butlers are finding growing work as symbols of good taste, according to people in the business.

“You read about an economic slowdown, but China’s wealth is still growing,” said Luo Jinhuan, who has worked as a butler in Shanghai and, most recently, Beijing, after learning the job in Holland. “Old money has passed from one generation to the next. But the new money doesn’t have the same quality. You need to help them improve.”

If butlers symbolize maturing Chinese capitalism, the somewhat awkward status they have here also reflects how the rich in China must play by different rules than the wealthy in many other countries.

It often comes down to a lack of trust. Wealth in China, where a cutthroat business culture is pervasive, comes with insecurity about being brought low by resentful employees, rivals, and officials, especially with the continuing crackdown against corruption. That wariness discourages many millionaires from hiring their own Jeeves to run their homes, people in the business said.

“Some of them discover that in reality they can’t trust an outsider to manage the household,” said Tang Yang, a marketing director at the butler academy. “They’re unwilling to have a butler who knows all the information about the family.”

Relatively few graduates of the academy end up as traditional household butlers. Instead, many work in high-end clubs, housing estates and executive floors, serving several clients at the same time — not with the same intimacy as a personal butler.

Promoters of butlers in China often point out that the country has its own tradition of high-end service, and the classical Chinese novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber,” features traditional butlers, called “guanjia,” or “domestic manager,” in Mandarin. But “Downton Abbey” helped rekindle a new romanticized interest in old-school service in China.

Many student butlers here said they had watched and rewatched the show as an instruction video on the self-effacing unflappability of domestic service.

“I only began to grasp this profession of butlers after watching ‘Downton Abbey,’” said Xu Shitao, a 34-year-old Beijing native studying at the Chengdu academy. “I think that in the future this profession will be quite popular and will have a market.”

But Ms. Xu and her classmates have found that, in reality, being a butler is strenuous work.

On a recent morning, they practiced for hours, learning to serve wine and water the proper way. Again and again, the class of eight clasped a wine bottle near its bottom and stepped forward in unison around a dinner table to dispense just enough wine to reach the widest part of a wine glass.

Not a drop was to splash the tablecloth or, heaven forbid, a guest.

“Stretch, pour, up, twist, back, wipe. Try to extend your arm,” Mr. Noble commanded, using his ever-present translator. “You want to be able to extend your arm as much as possible. You’re doing a ballet.”

Students also take classes on serving formal dinners, packing luggage, cleaning house and countless other details of managing life for the rich.

“You have to get the details right to do your job right,” said Yang Linjun, a 22-year-old student in the class. “Your arms get sore and your hands hurt, but this is a lifestyle.”

After they graduate, many hope to attach themselves to China’s growing number of superrich. In return, they may earn monthly wages of $2,800 or much higher as personal butlers, depending on experience and luck — more than for many service jobs.

By 2015, China had 400 billionaires and billionaire families, an increase of 65 from just a year earlier, according to Forbes’ annual list. The country’s richest 1 percent own about one-third of household wealth, a share similar to the concentration of wealth in America.

Manners can be rough in China, sometimes in a warm way, sometimes less so. But that has been changing as people grow richer, travel and live abroad, and bring back a demand for polished, attentive service.

“A decade ago, very few Chinese people stayed in five-star hotels,” said Yang Kaojun, a property manager with the Summit Group, which employs teams of trained butlers who are at the beck and call of residents. “But now many people have, and that’s given them some understanding of what good service is.”

As well as the Chengdu academy, the Sanda University, a private college in Shanghai, has incorporated butler training into its hospitality program. Many Chinese also learn how to be butlers in Europe. And Sara Vestin Rahmani, the founder of the Bespoke Bureau, a British company that finds domestic staff members for wealthy employers, said her company planned to open a school for butlers and domestic staff people in China this year.

The number of butlers in China is hard to determine. There may be hundreds or thousands, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and the prosperous south. Ms. Rahmani said that in 2007 her company found positions in China for 20 butlers; by 2015 that number had grown to 375, including 125 with families. Others reported similar growth.

“We are in actual fact exporting to China a trade which was once their own,” Ms. Rahmani said. “With communism, everything that was refined, unique and upper-class became a distant memory.”

But Chinese employers often treat butlers as expensive all-purpose flunkies who should be on call 24 hours a day. That violated the traditional idea of a butler as a respected manager of the household and above most menial tasks. Ms. Luo, the butler, said her work was far more hectic than she imagined. Her daily routine included overseeing the sauna, cinema, bowling alley and other rooms in a 32,000-square-foot home.

“I feel that when work starts, there’s no time at all to stop and rest,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than working in a hotel.”

The pressure is compounded by employers’ fears that household servants could exploit sensitive information. Butlers are supposed to have a deep knowledge of their employers’ every foible, traditionally recorded in a book. But the worry that information could be used to rob, extort or prosecute them has discouraged many rich people from taking butlers into their confidence.

“Many of our wealthy are the first generation to be rich, and they don’t have a long accumulation of family history,” said Mr. Yang, the student at the butler academy in Chengdu, who works for a real estate company. “You need trust and a long period of adjustment to have another person suddenly by your side.”


Bringing Down Bébé: How One Mother Mistakenly Hoped a Year in Paris Would Transform Her Sons

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article by Danzy Senna for Vogue

photo by Steven Simko

 

Inspired by a spate of books extolling the French way, Danzy Senna hoped a year in Paris would transform her all-American sons into model citizens. Au contraire.

One afternoon, a few weeks after we arrived in Paris, I took my sons to a playdate at the home of two French boys who lived in the neighborhood. Their mother, Christine, was like a poster girl for all I’d heard about Frenchwomen: Tall, thin, and effortlessly stylish, she was raising two sons while managing a career as a lawyer. She welcomed us into her pristine Saint-Germain apartment. My younger son, Miles, age four, raced past her down the hall in search of toys. My older son, Henry, age six, hid behind me, muttering hello only after I’d prompted him. She led me to the dining room, where I found an unfamiliar spectacle: her two sons, the same ages as mine, quietly curled over the table with pens and paper. They were dressed like miniature businessmen, with haircuts to match. The younger one appeared to be drawing a picture. Fine; my kids did that too. But the other one, the six-year-old, was intently writing down a row of math problems in one column and their answers in the other.

“Homework?” I asked Christine.

“No,” she said with a light laugh. “He just enjoys math.”

Her sons rose at the sight of me and, unbidden, held out their outstretched hands to shake. They said their bonjours before lifting their faces so that we could kiss on each cheek. Then Christine told her sons to go play, and they marched off, obediently, to join mine. When she disappeared into the kitchen, I peeked at the page of math problems, perversely pleased to see that many of the boy’s answers were wrong. Christine returned with tea and a plate of brightly colored macarons. We sat together, chatting, and I found myself relaxing. This was just as I’d imagined my life in Paris—me enjoying adult time while my children played independently. I’d imagined civility as something that people, even raucous American children like mine, could catch, like a bug.

The official reason we were in Paris was that my husband had a sabbatical from his university professorship in L.A. We’d decided to uproot the family for the year to give the boys a cross-cultural adventure. We wanted them to grow up worldly and bilingual. And for me, it was more than that. I was not sure I liked the overly precious culture in which I was raising them. In preparation, I felt I had to read Pamela Druckerman’s playground sensation Bringing Up Bébé. I was horrified to see myself in the book’s descriptions of the overindulgent American parent. My kids represented everything that was wrong with our country. They made too much noise in restaurants. They were picky eaters, to the point where I often cooked them two separate meals at night. Their toys lay scattered all around the house, as if to mark the territory they’d won. My husband and I had not had a conversation that didn’t revolve around them in years. I was forever sleep deprived. And long after giving birth I still looked, well, a little bit pregnant. Once, in a yoga class, the teacher asked me if I was expecting. “Actually,” I lied, “I just gave birth.” She congratulated me, and I waited until she was out of earshot to add, “Four years ago.”

Druckerman wasn’t alone in extolling the virtues of the French. In the same way that Julia Child once introduced American women to the exquisiteness of French cuisine, an entire cottage industry has grown around the idea that when it comes to living, Frenchwomen do it better. Consider French Kids Eat Everything; Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance;or the upcoming French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, by Mireille Guiliano, of the original French Women Don’t Get Fat. The list goes on. We’ve always admired their fashion; now it seems they’ve become standard-bearers for every facet of our existence. In contrast to our American child-ruled ways, French mothers apparently practice some elegant form of detachment parenting, which is why they look so much better than we do, and also why their kids are so much better behaved.

At home in L.A., my husband and I were at least aware of the problem. Whenever our sons complained that they were bored, my husband would reply, “This isn’t a cruise ship, it’s your childhood.” But the world outside our door sometimes seemed to be arguing otherwise. One mother I knew admitted she’d taken to asking her ten-year-old daughter on occasion: “How do you think your childhood is going so far? Pretty good?”

I’d always been susceptible to parenting manuals. When the boys were small, I read a book on attachment parenting that convinced me I’d already done them deep psychic harm. I’d failed to give birth to them in a bathtub. I’d failed to wear them strapped to my body all day in a sling while I cleaned and cooked and tended crops in the field. I’d failed to nurse them until they told me it was OK to stop. As a result, I learned they were doomed to be obese, anxious, and somewhat dim.

It was in some ways refreshing to read Bringing Up Bébé—except that it turns out I’d messed up my kids by being too attached. Frenchwomen didn’t believe that hoo-hah about “you’re only as happy as your saddest child.” Frenchwomen nursed for only as long as they felt like it. Frenchwomen didn’t feel the need to follow their toddlers around the park in earth shoes, interpreting their experiences for them. But, according to the book, it wasn’t too late. I could still turn this cruise ship around. And here we were, in Paris, determined to make our kids tough, gritty, independent, and exceedingly polite in two languages. They were going to attend the local public school, where they could put the French they’d been practicing to good use. International schools, I’d been told by the admissions director of a French lycée in Los Angeles, were for wimpy Americans who wanted to just have “a nice year.” We didn’t want a nice year. We wanted a French year.

I nibbled Christine’s macarons and asked her the question posed to Frenchwomen through the ages: How do you do it? I swept my hand around her apartment. Taking my question literally, she explained that she had it all down to a system. She saw the kids on Monday evenings, Thursday afternoons, and then Saturday mornings were reserved for their grandparents, and then. . . .

From the back of the apartment came a loud crash, followed by a scream. The dreamscape was shattered. I rose and followed Christine toward the commotion, trying to think of a way to explain my children. I’d tell her there was something wrong with them, that they’d been officially diagnosed with a mental disorder—something vague but clinical-sounding, like oppositional defiance disorder—and then I’d get us the hell out of there.

But when we reached the back of the apartment, we found her older son straddling his younger brother on the floor, clutching his neck tightly, while the smaller one flailed around beneath him, his face turning scarlet. My two sons stood at the sidelines, each clutching a toy car, watching with mouths slightly open.

“Ça suffit!” Christine shouted, leaning down to pull the one brother off the other. She slapped the older one swiftly several times on his bottom and then helped the younger one to his feet, berating them both in a tone I have yet to master.
If I was looking to the Old World for help with parenting, it was probably because I had no cultural tradition to draw from in my own background. The only tradition in my family, going back on both sides for generations, was to break with tradition. One of my grandmothers was an Irish playwright from Dublin; the other grandmother was an African-American jazz musician from the Deep South; one grandfather was a blue-blood Harvard law professor turned civil rights activist; the other grandfather was a professional lightweight boxer from Nuevo León, Mexico.

I was raised in 1970s cultural chaos. Dinner was tacos one night, spaghetti the next. My mother’s idea of discipline was to occasionally throw shoes at us while shrieking, “I can’t take this anymore!” Other times she just laughed at our misbehavior like an older teenage sister. Once, when I was eight or nine, she told me her theory that everyone had two ages, an actual age and a spiritual age. “For example,” she said, “I’m always going to feel seventeen.” She glanced at me through cigarette smoke. “And you’re always going to feel 40.”

I once saw a sculpture by the artist Charles Ray that seemed to sum up the American family as I’d known it: four naked mannequins—a mother, a father, a young boy, and a toddler girl—standing in a row, holding hands. They appear at first glance to be your average nuclear family, but the artist has slightly enlarged the children and shrunk the parents so that they all stand at equal height. It unsettled me because it spoke so clearly of a land where children were treated as adults and parents acted like children.

Before I knew it, the French school year had begun. From the outside, the boys’ école looked like a huge fortress, the playground a crush of screaming children—kind of like the public schools I’d attended as a kid. The class sizes seemed alarmingly large. I had to remind myself of our mantra—childhood is not a cruise ship—when I left the boys there behind the gates that first day.

At pickup, I leaned down to ask Henry how his first day of school had gone. He told me, his mouth smeared with pain au chocolat, “Weird; I feel like I don’t exist. How many days before we go back to L.A.?”

When I looked for Miles inside the maternelle, I found him sitting in a corral with the other four-year-olds. He looked calm enough, but he was wearing a purple jacket I didn’t recognize with a name tag that read mohammed. I tried to tell his teacher that there had been a mistake, but the elderly M. Rousseau just nodded and said, “Oui, oui.”

I tried to laugh the misunderstanding off, but by the second week it didn’t matter, because Miles had changed his name anyway. He was insistent that everybody call him Oui and he would throw a fit if we dared call him otherwise. He also began to speak in a drunken slur that made him hard to understand. It took me a few days to realize he was trying to sound as if he had a French accent.

When I went to a school official and told her my concerns about the kids’ adjustment, she assured me they’d be fine. “You pay too much attention to them,” she told me. “Keep yourself busy with other things. Enjoy Paris!”

And so, I tried to put away my worries about Henry, a previously sunny, popular child who now played with his hands constantly, making conversations between them. After writing at home in the mornings, I wandered Paris during the days, searching for the city I’d read about in books. I discovered a farmers’ market near our house like nothing I’d ever seen before. And I admit I did forget the children’s woes as I perused the exquisite displays of cheese, the glistening fish, the beautifully arranged fruits. Once, on my way home, I bumped into a neighbor, a Parisian mother of two. I asked her if she, too, shopped at the farmers’ market, holding up my bags proudly.

“Never,” she said, clucking her tongue. “That’s for American tourists. Tomorrow I’ll show you where real French mothers do their shopping.”

The next day she led me to a store called Picard. The logo on the sign out front was a giant blue snowflake. Inside, it looked a little like a morgue—a bare white space filled with rows upon rows of freezer chests. I followed her through the aisles, peering at the boxes and bags of frozen food. The French had found a way to freeze everything: escargot, foie gras, stuffed salmon, tiramisu. Pumpkin soup came in a bag of frozen blocks you just melted in a pan. “Is this what you feed your children?” I asked, thinking of the pressure back home to buy only fresh, local, and organic.

“Every night,” she said, laughing at my expression. “Oh, you didn’t know? This is the little secret of Parisian mothers. We don’t cook. Who has the time? At night I put Picard in the microwave, and dinner is ready in five minutes. Voilà!”
Everywhere I went in Paris, I saw beauty, history, nattily dressed children, and fantasies of America, from the movie posters in the Métro to the names of the French clothing labels—American Vintage, American Retro. It was as if, at this moment of identity crisis, with France’s economic future somewhat uncertain, the country had finally come to appreciate our pioneering spirit. I noticed that the French remained, however, stubbornly attached to quality and tradition, and as I walked the streets, it was impossible not to be impressed by the cut of a silk scarf or the elaborate window display of our local pastry shop. At the boys’ school, it was true that there was a lot more rote memorization than they were used to, but I was glad that Henry was learning to handwrite in the most beautiful cursive, a far cry from the iPads that had been dispensed to every kid in his L.A. kindergarten class.

Whatever Paris’s charms, the boys were deeply homesick. At night, in their twin beds, they whispered back and forth to each other all the things they missed the most about Los Angeles—horrible things, like the garish outdoor mall with the fountains that “danced” to pop tunes, or the Santa Monica Pier, where they’d both shrieked with terror on a ride before throwing up their cotton candy. They missed it all—especially their preschool, which I had affectionately called Kumbaya Academy, where, instead of their being corrected for any mistakes, every smear of paint or mindless utterance was met with “Great job!”

It was fall, and the U.S. presidential elections were in full swing. One evening, I found Henry standing in the living room watching CNN footage of a Mitt Romney campaign rally. He was chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” I switched off the TV and sharply reminded him that we were Obama supporters—but even I could see that wasn’t the point. In bed beside my husband that night, I asked him to remind me what we were doing here with the kids. “Exposing them to another culture,” he said, trying to reassure us both. “They’ll adjust in no time. Remember? Kids are resilient.”

Everything crystallized the next weekend when my husband and I attended an American-fiction festival in Paris. There I met a French photographer who was doing a series on contemporary writers. Sixty-something, gray-haired, he asked me to lean against a wall while he fiddled with his camera. We chatted. I told him we were here for a year with our kids, that we’d put them in French public school. “We’re hoping they’ll pick up French,” I told him.

“Ah,” the man said, nodding. “My parents did that to me when I was seven. We moved here from Sweden, and they dropped me in a French public school without having any French. Because, as they say, kids are like sponges.”

I tried to laugh away my growing discomfort. “I guess it worked,” I said. “You sound French now.”

“Funny you should say that,” he said. “Fifty-five years later, I’m still trying to remember that year. According to my parents, I didn’t speak for the first six months after we got here—not a word. I was rendered completely mute by the shock of it.”

He hid his face behind the camera. “Now let’s start with one of you smiling.”
One Monday morning soon after, Miles pretended to be sick, and I pretended to believe him so he could stay home. As I was walking Henry to school, he tripped on the curb, fell, and skinned his knee. Though the cut was tiny, he began to weep like I’d never heard him weep before. I sat down beside him and held him in my arms, and a memory floated back to me from my own childhood. My father, in the late seventies, in the wake of his divorce from my mother, had sent my sister and me to a black-pride academy deep in the heart of Boston’s African-American neighborhood. The founder’s motto was to “instill racial pride while teaching.” During our time there, we performed in an all-black Christmas pageant called The Black Nativity, learned to sing the black national anthem, and were swatted with a switch by a dance teacher in an Erykah Badu–style head scarf when we forgot our steps.

My sister and I wept each time we were led up the steps into this new world where we were generally ostracized by the other kids. My father had the best of intentions—to make us proud of our black heritage in the midst of a predominantly white city—but in a haze of idealism and political ideology, he couldn’t see the more immediate reality of our daily misery. He inflicted this education on us like a bitter medicine. Someday we’d be proud to be black. Someday we’d reach the promised land of Negritude, and this would all make sense.

Henry sobbed in my arms over the cut on his knee that wasn’t really the problem. I held him and told him, “It’s lonely, isn’t it, being in that school? I’m so sorry. Let’s just stop. OK? Today we’ll go inside and say goodbye to your schoolmates and your teacher. We’ll thank them for having you. Then we’ll leave and we’ll never go back again. I’m finding you a school where people speak English.”

He looked confused for a moment. “Really?”

“Really.”

The following week I had both boys enrolled in bilingual international schools. We weren’t abandoning the language project altogether—half their day would be in French, half in English. But along with French children, there would be other Anglophone children like them.

The first day, I took Henry to his new classroom. We found a group of rowdy American and British boys crowded around a table building a Lego castle. They were neither self-contained nor well behaved. They were everything Bringing Up Bébé claimed French kids were not. I nudged my son to join them.

Afterward, I sat in a nearby Starbucks, drinking a soy chai latte, surrounded by brash Americans. I thought about all the parenting books I’d read over the years, with their shifting and contradictory advice on how to do right by one’s children. My husband and I were still just making it up as we went along. My kids would not go home bilingual, with scarves wrapped artfully around their necks, happy gourmands who greeted visitors with kisses to both cheeks. I wasn’t going home as a French mother, real or imagined. It was shameful to admit, but I was the happiest I’d been in weeks.


A Child’s Lifelong Self-Esteem Emerges Earlier Than We Thought

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article from Huffpost

photo from Sleeptastic Solutions

Children may form a sense of their “overall goodness” by preschool.

 

Five-year-old children may only read and write at a basic level, but their sense of self is surprisingly sophisticated. A provocative new study suggests that by kindergarten, a child’s self-esteem is as strong as an adult’s.

The research, published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, finds that most children have developed an overall positive sense of themselves by this age — and that sense of self remains relatively stable over their lifespan.

“Some rudimentary sense of children’s self-esteem appears to be already established by age 5,” Dr. Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the University of Washington and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “That does not mean it can’t change with life experiences and maturation. We think self-esteem is malleable but we also think that it starts earlier than previously thought.”

The research overturns traditional psychological beliefs about the way self-esteem develops during childhood. Scientists previously thought that preschoolers were too young to have developed an overall positive or negative sense of themselves, according to Cvencek.

“Our new work,” he said, “shows that preschoolers do have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person. It’s a first.”

In previous studies, psychologists relied on verbal self-evaluations to measure a child’s self-esteem, which may have provided unreliable data due to young children’s limited verbal abilities.

So for their study, Cvencek and his colleagues designed a new test, called the Preschool Implicit Association Test (PSIAT), to measure children’s positive feelings toward themselves. The researchers administered the test to 234 five-year-old boys and girls living in Washington state.

Similar to an implicit association test for adults — which asks participants to quickly associate words such as “self” and “pleasant” or “unpleasant” — the preschoolers were asked to associate objects.

The children were presented with several different varieties of flags, which they were taught to divide into two groups: “yours” and “not yours.” Then, the preschoolers completed a task in which they pressed buttons to indicate whether “good” words (fun, happy, good, nice) and “bad” words (bad, mad, mean, yucky) were more associated with “me” or “not-me.” 

The results of this and two other implicit association tests revealed that the children associated themselves more with good qualities than bad ones. 

“Previously we understood that preschoolers knew about some of their specific good features,” Dr. Anthony Greenwald, a psychologist at the University of Washington and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “We now understand that, in addition, they have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person.”

The study also revealed that high self-esteem was correlated with strong gender identity and preference for members of their own gender, suggesting that a child’s self-esteem is connected to other formative parts of their personality.

Now that we know that self-esteem emerges early in life, how can parents and teachers foster the development of a healthy sense of self in a child?

The warm, supportive connections a child develops with others are probably the most important factor, according to Cvencek.

“Children who feel loved by others may internalize this to love themselves,” he said. “Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life.”


The Surprising Effects of Listening to a Baby Cry

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photo from Getty Images

article by Jen Gann from The Cut for New York Magazine

Parents who’ve done any form of cry-it-out sleep training — or all parents, quite frankly — are only too familiar with what happens when their baby cries: It feels horrendous. It feels immediately alarming, as though every nerve ending is suddenly subject to an electrical fire. Yesterday, the New York Times took a good look at some of the science behind a baby’s cry — and our sometimes surprising reactions.

Seeing some of the crying facts laid bare is a little staggering. Normal infants, for example, cry about two hours every day. What the Times calls a “notorious human crybaby” will sometimes cry for two hours, every two hours. Crying, of course, is essential to survival: Infant mice stripped of the ability to cry are ignored by their mothers, and quickly die.

Indeed, we’re hardwired to respond to crying. Researchers have “found that within 49 thousandths of a second of a recorded cry being played, the periaqueductal gray — an area deep in the midbrain that has long been linked to urgent, do-or-die behaviors — had blazed to attention, twice as fast as it reacted to dozens of other audio clips tested.”

What to do with that reaction, when all your attempts to calm a crying baby are met with more crying? Personally, I always rolled my eyes a little at anyone’s claim that I would “learn to decode” my baby’s cries, that the cries would sound different depending on what he wanted (it seemed like most of the time, he didn’t know?). But according to a study summarized by the Times, Spanish researchers have been able to categorize three cry types: anger, fear, and pain.

With their arms and legs pinned to provoke anger, mad babies usually kept their eyes half-open, looking off to the side as they cried. Babies frightened by a loud noise, “after an initial hesitation and tensing up of the facial muscles, emitted an explosive cry and kept their eyes open and searching the whole time.” For babies given a shot, the cries were immediate, forceful, and conducted with shut eyes.

On a more uplifting note, the Times presents some possible evidence against so-called “mommy brain”:

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In another study, volunteers were asked to play a lab version of the popular game Whac-a-Mole by pressing down on an ever-shifting target button as rapidly as possible. Subjects then listened to recordings of babies crying, adults crying or birds singing, and played the game again.

“We saw better scores and more effortful pressing after the infant cries,” Dr. Young said.

Why not try this out at home? Your angry, fearful, or pained baby is primed to give you lots of opportunities.


Recipe!: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 small)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise, and place it flat side down on a cutting board. Cut the potato halves into 1-inch-wide wedges.
  • In a small bowl, combine the oil, chili powder and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Place the potatoes on a roasting pan and brush with the oil mixture. Lay the potatoes flesh side down on the pan and put the pan in the oven.
  • Cook until potatoes, turning once, until soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and season with remaining1/2 teaspoon salt. Let the wedges cool for a bit, and serve warm.
    • For dunking, ketchup always works (at 15 calories per tablespoon) or try a squeeze of fresh lime juice for a British chips-and-vinegar effect.

Recipe!: Orange Cranberry Muffins

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 navel orange, cut into eighths
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Put the orange wedges, orange juice, egg and oil into a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to incorporate. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour the orange mixture into it and stir to make a thick batter. Stir in the cranberries.
  4. Divide the mixture among the muffin tins, filling the tins about 3/4 full, and bake until the muffins are golden and push back when gently pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack and enjoy warm or toasted.

Recipe!: Parmesan Cheese Straws

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • Small scattering of flour
  • 1 8 1/2-ounce sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the puff pastry. Flour the side facing you and use a rolling pin to roll it to a 12-inch square. Brush the puff with egg mixture (you’ll probably use less than half of what you’ve got, but that’s fine).
  3. Sprinkle the cheese and paprika evenly over the puff. Press the toppings gently but firmly into the puff to help them adhere.
  4. Slice the puff into twenty-four 1/2-inch strips. Divide the strips between the prepared baking sheets, seasoned side up. Twist the strips twice, clockwise at the top and counterclockwise at the bottom, so that you’ve got one long spiral. Put the baking sheets in the oven and cook until the twists have puffed and are golden brown, about 18 minutes.
  5. Let cool and serve.

British American Child Development Education Workshop

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Please join British American Household Staffing for a free child and infant development education event on Tuesday, December 1st. We will be introducing the newest addition to our team, Ashley Mundt, M.Ed., CCLS, previewing curriculum for our brand new child development education and caregiver (nannies, newborn care specialists, baby nurses) training services, as well as presenting a short lecture on the significance of incorporating sound developmental knowledge into daily care. In addition, we will be offering priority registration and a discounted fee for all caregiver training workshops, developmental education series, and private in-home sessions to those in attendance.
 
The goal of these new services is to provide educational opportunities for those who care for, and work with, children. Classes and workshops have been designed to provide a general understanding of child and infant development (taught in age specific lessons) along with practical ideas and strategies for incorporating this knowledge in order to elevate the quality of care children receive. Our classes and workshops are not meant to teach strict protocols or a provided a step-by-step guide to caring for children. We respect that each child and infant is unique and there is no “one size fits all” approach that is applicable to all children and infants, families, or caregivers (nannies, newborn care specialists and baby nurses). Instead of an instruction manual for childcare, we want to provide caregivers (nannies, newborn care specialists and baby nurses) with a tool box full of information, proven strategies, and activity ideas that they can draw on to best support and nurture children and infants’s development and handle challenges that will inevitably arise.
 
In creating the materials for this program, we have drawn information and resources from professional experience, current research, and leading experts in the fields of child development and developmental psychology. Our lessons are comprised of carefully curated current evidence-based information and expert advice on a wide variety of topics relevant to caring for children of all ages. Each lesson provides clear, simple developmental information and concrete examples of how this can inform the way caregivers interact with and respond to children and infants on a day-to-day basis.
 
Heading up our child and infant development education and caregiver training services will be Ashley Mundt, M.Ed., CCLS. Ashley has a strong academic background and years of hands on experience working with children, infants and families in private and group settings. She received both a B.A. in Sociology and Youth and Human Services from Pepperdine University and an M.Ed. in Applied Child Studies from Vanderbilt. Her training as a Certified Child Life Specialist enables her to support and guide children, infants and families during medical interventions, chronic illness, and family/home crisis situations. Although she has worked in many different settings throughout her career (including homes, schools, camps, and hospitals), her passion, and bulk of experience, is working directly with families in private homes. She has worked as a highly sought after nanny, childcare and infant consultant, parent educator, and caregiver trainer. Ashley's background of extensive developmental education and hands on experience in luxury homes puts her in a unique position to understand the needs of families, caregivers (nannies, newborn care specialists and baby nurses) and (most importantly) children and infants.
 
We invite you to come and learn about these exciting new educational opportunities we are offering for our BAHS caregivers and families. In order to accommodate as many clients and caregivers as possible, we will host both a daytime (11:30-1:00) and evening (5:30-7:00) event on Tuesday, December 1st. Please RSVP to anita.rogers@bahs.com to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to preview sample materials, meet Ashley, learn about the importance of developmental education, and take advantage of priority registration for upcoming caregiver class series and workshops. We will also be offering special discounts and giving away a limited number of free sessions to those in attendance.


Italian Opera and Business

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British American Household Staffing's president, Anita Rogers performed Italian classical arias with Craig Ketter for the Italian Chamber of Commerce and the BAB (British American Business) on April 7th, 2015.  The event was a huge success with an audience of over 150 attendees.  Craig Ketter is a well-known pianist as well as one of the top vocal operatic coaches in the United States, specifically well-known in New York.  He often collaborates with the Metropolitan Opera and works with some of the best-known principal voices of today.  Anita sang Vaga Luna, Che Inargenti by Vincenzo Bellini and Io T’Abbraccio by G.F. Handel from the opera Rodelinda with Heidi Skok.  

Anita Rogers, a mezzo-soprano, had performed and trained classically in England, Italy and Ireland prior to coming to the United States twelve years ago where she has performed opera and lieder extensively, as well as more esoteric repertoire.  Heidi Skok has been singing at the Metropolitan Opera for twelve years and is now pursuing a solo career in opera as a mezzo-soprano.  Heidi has performed throughout the United States and is currently recording an album.  Craig Ketter is a well-known pianist as well as one of the top vocal coaches in the United States.  He often collaborates with the Metropolitan Opera and works with some of the best-known principal voices of today.  

The evening was a celebration of the arts through business, and British American Household Staffing, known for placing the best quality domestic staff in New York and California, is proud to continue the tradition of supporting the New York’s arts world.  The audience and artists enjoyed cocktails, networking, and a live opera recital as they met new contacts in the stylish setting of one of the largest luxury apparel showrooms in New York.


1/10 Greek Music Event

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British American Household Staffing hosted an informal late afternoon and evening of Greek music and dancing on January 10th, 2015.  

Beth Bahia Cohen and Adam Good played live music, and Anita Rogers sang and played the guitar. The group played a large selection of Rebetika and Smyrnaika while the party of over 100 attendees danced late into the evening hours. Traditional Greek food and drink was provided by Pi, a Soho, New York based Greek restaurant. 

This evening was a great success for British American Household Staffing and represented one of many artistic ventures British American Household Staffing aims to support and promote. 

British American Household Staffing is a proud patron and supporter of the arts and supports an eclectic selection of artistic forms, ranging from fine art and opera to folk and historic music traditions. 


11/9 Event for Alexander Beridze

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On the evening of November 9th, British American Household Staffing hosted an evening dedicated to concert pianist, Alexander Beridze, prior to his debut performance at Carnegie Hall. The evening was attended by a variety of business executives, artists of all kinds, and BAHS employees alike.

An up-and-coming private chef, Eric Post, provided a few select gourmet dishes for the evening, including a squash soup shooter and salmon tartare. The beautiful presentation of each dish was only matched by their masterful preparation.

The true crux of the evening came from the opera performances by mezzo-sopranos Heidi Skok and Anita Rogers and soprano Lydia Dahling. Heidi and Anita  performed “Io T’abbraccio” from G.F. Handel’s Opera Rodelinda. Lydia and Anita performed “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” from J. Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman.  The audience was captivated by the stunning performances and all  eagerly anticipated Alexander Beridze’s sold out performance at Carnegie Hall on November 12th.

The evening was a wonderful celebration of artistic talent.  British American Household Staffing is thrilled to continue the tradition of supporting the brightest and boldest of New York’s arts world in the European traditional “salon” style setting that BAHS is intent on reviving in New York City .

If you are interested in learning more about our events, please email us at events@bahs.com.


Burnished Heart | An Art Exhibition feat. The Rug Company

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On Tuesday evening, September 23rd, clients, friends, and BAHS employees alike gathered in the loft space at 77 Mercer Street to view artist Bryan Christie's exclusive show, "Burnished Heart." The show was crafted exclusively by Bryan for the event, and jointly sponsored by BAHS and local luxury business The Rug Company. Bryan's selected works comprised some of his finest and most thought provoking pieces, from larger silk on encaustic works to smaller works done on paper.

Potential buyers and art enthusiasts moved in and out of the space from 6:30 PM to late into the night, enjoying fine wines and cheeses sourced from local businesses and stimulating discussion on the nature of Bryan's work. The artist himself was in attendance, giving his unique artistic insight to all those interested parties.

The event was a great success thanks to The Rug Company's great eye for design combined with BAHS's beautiful SoHo loft space. BAHS looks forward to hosting more events of a similar nature in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about our events, please email us at events@bahs.com.


Burnished Heart | An Art Exhibition feat. The Rug Company

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Join BAHS and The Rug Company Tuesday, September 23rd for a night of fine art and rugs. Local artist Bryan Christie will be hanging some of his most dynamic pieces in BAHS's front space, and The Rug Company will be bringing a sampling of some of their finest rugs, all of which will be available for purchase. Wine and cheese will be served. Please send all RSVPs to events@bahs.com. We look forward to seeing you all there!


Art Exhibition: Cannon Hersey’s Silk Route

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British American Household Staffing's first major art exhibition event was a great success, with over 50 potential buyers viewing Cannon Hersey's 22 moving pieces.

Starting at 6 PM, guests started arriving to view the art and mingle with fellow fans of the artist’s work.  Friends, family and British American Household Staffing clients alike gathered to see his new work and hear about the creation process and deeper meaning of all of his culturally provocative work.  7 PM marked the private tour that revealed a cohesive and provoking thought process behind all of his diverse body of work.  Wang Rouying was kind enough to play the piano for the event; at only 13 years old, she performed a complex Rachmaninoff piece. The remainder of the event consisted of some wonderful socialization and discussion about the pieces.

The Tasty, Time-saving Benefits of Hiring a Personal Chef

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article from Sheknows by Ashlee and Sean McCusker

photo by Real Journeys

Why You Need a Personal Chef

Do you find yourself going to the grocery store and feeling overwhelmed by everything that is on the shelves? With the hectic schedules that we all lead today it can feel like a chore to provide a good home-cooked meal for your family. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone working in your kitchen, providing delicious – and time-saving – family-friendly meals? Look no further: A personal chef is the stress-free answer to your family’s grocery shopping and cooking needs.

A Personal Chef is Not a Luxury

A personal chef service provides stress-free meals prepared to your specifications in your home. Your kitchen is left spotless with a refrigerator full of delicious meals. Having your own personal chef is not a luxury reserved for the rich. A personal chef service can cost you less than eating out at a moderately priced restaurant. Using a personal chef service can free up 10 to 12 hours of your time every week. Personal chefs are responsible for handling all the menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking, packaging and kitchen cleanup! All you have to do is come home, reheat your food, and you're good to go.

Benefits of a Personal Chef Service

Clients who hire a personal chef generally don't have the time or ability to cook for themselves but have the resources to hire someone else to do it for them. Some clients are too busy with their work or family while others may just want to free up time so they can do the things they enjoy more than grocery shopping and cooking in the kitchen. Other clients might simply be tired of restaurant or take-out food and some may not know how to cook and have no desire to learn. Why a personal chef?

Services That a Personal Chef Service Can Offer:

  • Customize menus specifically for you and your family
  • Do all the grocery shopping
  • Buy only the freshest ingredients available
  • Make delicious healthy meals that you will look forward to eating
  • Take into account any dietary restrictions
  • Cook meals that are always preservative-free
  • Package all materials conveniently
  • Label meals for easy thawing and reheating
  • Leave your kitchen sparkling clean

3 Tips for Picking the Right Personal Chef

Each personal chef will bring something different to your table. Here are a few tips to help you decide which personal chef is right for your family.

1. Interview before hiring. When deciding upon which personal chef to hire, it is important to go with one that shares the same values for you and your family. Before agreeing to personal chef services, ascertain the backgrounds of your potential personal chefs. Find out what drew them to become chefs in the first place.

2. Verify liability insurance. An important consideration is to make sure that the chef in question has liability insurance as well as a food-handlers card. Also follow up on references, and ask for a sample menu to determine if the service will be a good fit for your needs.

3. Value involvement in professional chef organizations. Ask your prospective chefs if they are members of any professional organizations. The ones that are demonstrate not only that they are committed to a strong culinary standard and continuing education, but also that they are aware of the latest trends in the culinary world.


How Eleven Madison Park Became the ‘Best’ Restaurant in the World

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article by Alan Sytsma of Grub Street

photo by Melissa Hom

In 2012, a New Yorker profile laid out the ways in which Daniel Humm and Will Guidara were changing Eleven Madison Park — the restaurant they’d bought from their previous employer Danny Meyer the year before — to help its performance on the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking. That year, they were 10th — a jump from 24th the year before — and in the time since then, as EMP’s place on the list has steadily risen, they’ve made no secret about their goal to ultimately land the top spot. Today, that happened, when the restaurant was crowned No. 1 at a ceremony in Australia.

Critics can point to flaws with the list itself (such as its continued lack of meaningful female representation), but it is nevertheless very well-established that placement on the list has a tremendous impact on business, and each year’s release is closely followed by the industry. Even people with a casual interest in restaurants will refer to the list’s winner as the “best” restaurant, even though it’s also well-established that, as an actual objective measure of restaurant quality, the list is sort of silly.

It is a list of expensive, world-class restaurants — all of which offer exemplary dining experiences — voted on by chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and “well-travelled gourmets.” As the official manifesto reads, “There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria,” and voters are free to select whichever spots they prefer. As such, the list is a useful guide to eating $800 dinners, sure, but it’s best read as a look into chefs’ standing, and reputations, among their peers.

In other words, the restaurants that have regularly occupied the list’s top spot in the past — ElBulliNoma, or Osteria Francescana most recently — are the restaurants that the industry is most proud of. Humm and Guidara, who host and attend many industry parties and conferences, are extremely respected and well-liked; voters clearly think that holding them up on a pedestal will be good for the world of fine dining as a whole. And EMP’s co-owners are first-rate ambassadors for the world of hyperexclusive dining: Their restaurant is a modern interpretation of the classic big-city dining temple, proof that “fancy” restaurants, even ones like EMP that are firmly rooted in the European dining tradition, can still feel vital and forward-thinking.

Interestingly, the news comes just as the restaurant is set to close for the summer to renovate and overhaul the menu. The timing may seem somewhat inopportune, but it highlights the way chefs constantly rework their restaurants to stay atop these kinds of international restaurant rankings, where stagnation will cause voters to look elsewhere. Yet, in many ways, the new version of EMP sounds like it will be a natural evolution of the restaurant as it is now.

The current iteration of Eleven Madison Park is just about a decade old. Though the restaurant opened in 1998, Humm took over as chef in 2006. (He and Guidara bought the restaurant from Meyer in 2011.) In an interview with the Times, the partners explained that in addition to updating the kitchen, the dining room will get an overhaul — it will be more comfortable, which makes sense, because comfort is the restaurant’s defining feature. 

ElBulli was a showcase for Ferran Adrià’s fearlessly modern technique and open hostility toward the established pace of a meal at a Michelin-caliber restaurant. Noma, meanwhile, grew to epitomize trends like foraging, traditional preservation techniques, and steadfast commitment to local ingredients. (Not to mention all the earthenware plates you see in every single dining room.) EMP, on the other hand, offers a menu that in many ways is a throwback to traditional luxury ingredients and classic European techniques — a signature dish of Humm’s is celery root or asparagus that’s braised in pig’s bladder and served with black truffle; another dish, “eggs Benedict,” is essentially a caviar course served with homemade English muffins — and sets itself apart with unparalleled warmth and familiarity. Dinner at Eleven Madison Park isn’t about boundary-pushing or avant-garde food; it’s an exercise in opulence and pampering.

That m.o. clearly resonates right now with voters, and with today’s announcement, Humm and Guidara are now the faces of fine dining around the world (just as Redzepi has been for the past decade, and Adrià was before that). The accomplishment is a testament to their talent and determination, of course, as much as it is an indication of the prevailing trends at the highest end of the restaurant world. And just as Adrià’s modernist cooking and Redzepi’s New Nordic aesthetic inspired scores of other chefs, the EMP team’s embrace of unpretentiousness (relatively speaking) and unmatched graciousness should continue to influence other restaurants around the world for many years.


How ‘Downton Abbey’ Fueled China’s Demand for Butlers

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article from New York Times by Chris Buckley and Karoline Kan

photo by Gilles Sabrié

CHENGDU, China — Mao once said that a revolution was not a dinner party. But with the communist revolution turning into opulent capitalism, China’s rich are now making sure the dinner party settings are immaculate and the wine is poured just right.

Inspired in part by the “Downton Abbey” television drama, the country’s once raw and raucous tycoons are aspiring to old-school decorum, fueling demand for the services of homegrown butlers trained in the ways of a British manor.

“What they would like to say to their friends is, ‘Look, I have a butler, an English-style butler in my home,’ to show how wealthy they are,” said Neal Yeh, a Chinese-born Briton living in Beijing, who for over a decade has helped train and find jobs for butlers.

“The country now with the biggest trend in butlers is China,” said Mr. Yeh, whose English accent would be at home on “Downton Abbey,” the television series about a blue blood family in England, which was avidly watched in China. “I dare say I have played a part in starting this trend.”

Butler training schools and agencies have been doing business in China for more than a decade, but the number of recruits has grown sharply in recent years, according to those in the business. Most are Chinese and many are women. The International Butler Academy China opened in 2014 here in Chengdu, a haze-covered city in southwest China, and offers a six-week boot camp on dinner service, managing homes and other minutiae of high living.

“The Chinese are vacationing more now than ever in history, and so they’re being exposed to the West more and more,” said Christopher Noble, an American trainer at the academy who previously ran bars in Cleveland. “But Chinese people see that, experience top-class personal service abroad, and they want to experience it here.”

A boom in butler service might seem incongruous as President Xi Jinping campaigns zealously against corruption and extravagance, and an economic slowdown undercuts lavish spending. But China’s rich continue amassing ever greater fortunes and want what they see as the trappings of respectable refinement. Even under Mr. Xi, butlers are finding growing work as symbols of good taste, according to people in the business.

“You read about an economic slowdown, but China’s wealth is still growing,” said Luo Jinhuan, who has worked as a butler in Shanghai and, most recently, Beijing, after learning the job in Holland. “Old money has passed from one generation to the next. But the new money doesn’t have the same quality. You need to help them improve.”

If butlers symbolize maturing Chinese capitalism, the somewhat awkward status they have here also reflects how the rich in China must play by different rules than the wealthy in many other countries.

It often comes down to a lack of trust. Wealth in China, where a cutthroat business culture is pervasive, comes with insecurity about being brought low by resentful employees, rivals, and officials, especially with the continuing crackdown against corruption. That wariness discourages many millionaires from hiring their own Jeeves to run their homes, people in the business said.

“Some of them discover that in reality they can’t trust an outsider to manage the household,” said Tang Yang, a marketing director at the butler academy. “They’re unwilling to have a butler who knows all the information about the family.”

Relatively few graduates of the academy end up as traditional household butlers. Instead, many work in high-end clubs, housing estates and executive floors, serving several clients at the same time — not with the same intimacy as a personal butler.

Promoters of butlers in China often point out that the country has its own tradition of high-end service, and the classical Chinese novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber,” features traditional butlers, called “guanjia,” or “domestic manager,” in Mandarin. But “Downton Abbey” helped rekindle a new romanticized interest in old-school service in China.

Many student butlers here said they had watched and rewatched the show as an instruction video on the self-effacing unflappability of domestic service.

“I only began to grasp this profession of butlers after watching ‘Downton Abbey,’” said Xu Shitao, a 34-year-old Beijing native studying at the Chengdu academy. “I think that in the future this profession will be quite popular and will have a market.”

But Ms. Xu and her classmates have found that, in reality, being a butler is strenuous work.

On a recent morning, they practiced for hours, learning to serve wine and water the proper way. Again and again, the class of eight clasped a wine bottle near its bottom and stepped forward in unison around a dinner table to dispense just enough wine to reach the widest part of a wine glass.

Not a drop was to splash the tablecloth or, heaven forbid, a guest.

“Stretch, pour, up, twist, back, wipe. Try to extend your arm,” Mr. Noble commanded, using his ever-present translator. “You want to be able to extend your arm as much as possible. You’re doing a ballet.”

Students also take classes on serving formal dinners, packing luggage, cleaning house and countless other details of managing life for the rich.

“You have to get the details right to do your job right,” said Yang Linjun, a 22-year-old student in the class. “Your arms get sore and your hands hurt, but this is a lifestyle.”

After they graduate, many hope to attach themselves to China’s growing number of superrich. In return, they may earn monthly wages of $2,800 or much higher as personal butlers, depending on experience and luck — more than for many service jobs.

By 2015, China had 400 billionaires and billionaire families, an increase of 65 from just a year earlier, according to Forbes’ annual list. The country’s richest 1 percent own about one-third of household wealth, a share similar to the concentration of wealth in America.

Manners can be rough in China, sometimes in a warm way, sometimes less so. But that has been changing as people grow richer, travel and live abroad, and bring back a demand for polished, attentive service.

“A decade ago, very few Chinese people stayed in five-star hotels,” said Yang Kaojun, a property manager with the Summit Group, which employs teams of trained butlers who are at the beck and call of residents. “But now many people have, and that’s given them some understanding of what good service is.”

As well as the Chengdu academy, the Sanda University, a private college in Shanghai, has incorporated butler training into its hospitality program. Many Chinese also learn how to be butlers in Europe. And Sara Vestin Rahmani, the founder of the Bespoke Bureau, a British company that finds domestic staff members for wealthy employers, said her company planned to open a school for butlers and domestic staff people in China this year.

The number of butlers in China is hard to determine. There may be hundreds or thousands, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and the prosperous south. Ms. Rahmani said that in 2007 her company found positions in China for 20 butlers; by 2015 that number had grown to 375, including 125 with families. Others reported similar growth.

“We are in actual fact exporting to China a trade which was once their own,” Ms. Rahmani said. “With communism, everything that was refined, unique and upper-class became a distant memory.”

But Chinese employers often treat butlers as expensive all-purpose flunkies who should be on call 24 hours a day. That violated the traditional idea of a butler as a respected manager of the household and above most menial tasks. Ms. Luo, the butler, said her work was far more hectic than she imagined. Her daily routine included overseeing the sauna, cinema, bowling alley and other rooms in a 32,000-square-foot home.

“I feel that when work starts, there’s no time at all to stop and rest,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than working in a hotel.”

The pressure is compounded by employers’ fears that household servants could exploit sensitive information. Butlers are supposed to have a deep knowledge of their employers’ every foible, traditionally recorded in a book. But the worry that information could be used to rob, extort or prosecute them has discouraged many rich people from taking butlers into their confidence.

“Many of our wealthy are the first generation to be rich, and they don’t have a long accumulation of family history,” said Mr. Yang, the student at the butler academy in Chengdu, who works for a real estate company. “You need trust and a long period of adjustment to have another person suddenly by your side.”


Bringing Down Bébé: How One Mother Mistakenly Hoped a Year in Paris Would Transform Her Sons

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article by Danzy Senna for Vogue

photo by Steven Simko

 

Inspired by a spate of books extolling the French way, Danzy Senna hoped a year in Paris would transform her all-American sons into model citizens. Au contraire.

One afternoon, a few weeks after we arrived in Paris, I took my sons to a playdate at the home of two French boys who lived in the neighborhood. Their mother, Christine, was like a poster girl for all I’d heard about Frenchwomen: Tall, thin, and effortlessly stylish, she was raising two sons while managing a career as a lawyer. She welcomed us into her pristine Saint-Germain apartment. My younger son, Miles, age four, raced past her down the hall in search of toys. My older son, Henry, age six, hid behind me, muttering hello only after I’d prompted him. She led me to the dining room, where I found an unfamiliar spectacle: her two sons, the same ages as mine, quietly curled over the table with pens and paper. They were dressed like miniature businessmen, with haircuts to match. The younger one appeared to be drawing a picture. Fine; my kids did that too. But the other one, the six-year-old, was intently writing down a row of math problems in one column and their answers in the other.

“Homework?” I asked Christine.

“No,” she said with a light laugh. “He just enjoys math.”

Her sons rose at the sight of me and, unbidden, held out their outstretched hands to shake. They said their bonjours before lifting their faces so that we could kiss on each cheek. Then Christine told her sons to go play, and they marched off, obediently, to join mine. When she disappeared into the kitchen, I peeked at the page of math problems, perversely pleased to see that many of the boy’s answers were wrong. Christine returned with tea and a plate of brightly colored macarons. We sat together, chatting, and I found myself relaxing. This was just as I’d imagined my life in Paris—me enjoying adult time while my children played independently. I’d imagined civility as something that people, even raucous American children like mine, could catch, like a bug.

The official reason we were in Paris was that my husband had a sabbatical from his university professorship in L.A. We’d decided to uproot the family for the year to give the boys a cross-cultural adventure. We wanted them to grow up worldly and bilingual. And for me, it was more than that. I was not sure I liked the overly precious culture in which I was raising them. In preparation, I felt I had to read Pamela Druckerman’s playground sensation Bringing Up Bébé. I was horrified to see myself in the book’s descriptions of the overindulgent American parent. My kids represented everything that was wrong with our country. They made too much noise in restaurants. They were picky eaters, to the point where I often cooked them two separate meals at night. Their toys lay scattered all around the house, as if to mark the territory they’d won. My husband and I had not had a conversation that didn’t revolve around them in years. I was forever sleep deprived. And long after giving birth I still looked, well, a little bit pregnant. Once, in a yoga class, the teacher asked me if I was expecting. “Actually,” I lied, “I just gave birth.” She congratulated me, and I waited until she was out of earshot to add, “Four years ago.”

Druckerman wasn’t alone in extolling the virtues of the French. In the same way that Julia Child once introduced American women to the exquisiteness of French cuisine, an entire cottage industry has grown around the idea that when it comes to living, Frenchwomen do it better. Consider French Kids Eat Everything; Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance;or the upcoming French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, by Mireille Guiliano, of the original French Women Don’t Get Fat. The list goes on. We’ve always admired their fashion; now it seems they’ve become standard-bearers for every facet of our existence. In contrast to our American child-ruled ways, French mothers apparently practice some elegant form of detachment parenting, which is why they look so much better than we do, and also why their kids are so much better behaved.

At home in L.A., my husband and I were at least aware of the problem. Whenever our sons complained that they were bored, my husband would reply, “This isn’t a cruise ship, it’s your childhood.” But the world outside our door sometimes seemed to be arguing otherwise. One mother I knew admitted she’d taken to asking her ten-year-old daughter on occasion: “How do you think your childhood is going so far? Pretty good?”

I’d always been susceptible to parenting manuals. When the boys were small, I read a book on attachment parenting that convinced me I’d already done them deep psychic harm. I’d failed to give birth to them in a bathtub. I’d failed to wear them strapped to my body all day in a sling while I cleaned and cooked and tended crops in the field. I’d failed to nurse them until they told me it was OK to stop. As a result, I learned they were doomed to be obese, anxious, and somewhat dim.

It was in some ways refreshing to read Bringing Up Bébé—except that it turns out I’d messed up my kids by being too attached. Frenchwomen didn’t believe that hoo-hah about “you’re only as happy as your saddest child.” Frenchwomen nursed for only as long as they felt like it. Frenchwomen didn’t feel the need to follow their toddlers around the park in earth shoes, interpreting their experiences for them. But, according to the book, it wasn’t too late. I could still turn this cruise ship around. And here we were, in Paris, determined to make our kids tough, gritty, independent, and exceedingly polite in two languages. They were going to attend the local public school, where they could put the French they’d been practicing to good use. International schools, I’d been told by the admissions director of a French lycée in Los Angeles, were for wimpy Americans who wanted to just have “a nice year.” We didn’t want a nice year. We wanted a French year.

I nibbled Christine’s macarons and asked her the question posed to Frenchwomen through the ages: How do you do it? I swept my hand around her apartment. Taking my question literally, she explained that she had it all down to a system. She saw the kids on Monday evenings, Thursday afternoons, and then Saturday mornings were reserved for their grandparents, and then. . . .

From the back of the apartment came a loud crash, followed by a scream. The dreamscape was shattered. I rose and followed Christine toward the commotion, trying to think of a way to explain my children. I’d tell her there was something wrong with them, that they’d been officially diagnosed with a mental disorder—something vague but clinical-sounding, like oppositional defiance disorder—and then I’d get us the hell out of there.

But when we reached the back of the apartment, we found her older son straddling his younger brother on the floor, clutching his neck tightly, while the smaller one flailed around beneath him, his face turning scarlet. My two sons stood at the sidelines, each clutching a toy car, watching with mouths slightly open.

“Ça suffit!” Christine shouted, leaning down to pull the one brother off the other. She slapped the older one swiftly several times on his bottom and then helped the younger one to his feet, berating them both in a tone I have yet to master.
If I was looking to the Old World for help with parenting, it was probably because I had no cultural tradition to draw from in my own background. The only tradition in my family, going back on both sides for generations, was to break with tradition. One of my grandmothers was an Irish playwright from Dublin; the other grandmother was an African-American jazz musician from the Deep South; one grandfather was a blue-blood Harvard law professor turned civil rights activist; the other grandfather was a professional lightweight boxer from Nuevo León, Mexico.

I was raised in 1970s cultural chaos. Dinner was tacos one night, spaghetti the next. My mother’s idea of discipline was to occasionally throw shoes at us while shrieking, “I can’t take this anymore!” Other times she just laughed at our misbehavior like an older teenage sister. Once, when I was eight or nine, she told me her theory that everyone had two ages, an actual age and a spiritual age. “For example,” she said, “I’m always going to feel seventeen.” She glanced at me through cigarette smoke. “And you’re always going to feel 40.”

I once saw a sculpture by the artist Charles Ray that seemed to sum up the American family as I’d known it: four naked mannequins—a mother, a father, a young boy, and a toddler girl—standing in a row, holding hands. They appear at first glance to be your average nuclear family, but the artist has slightly enlarged the children and shrunk the parents so that they all stand at equal height. It unsettled me because it spoke so clearly of a land where children were treated as adults and parents acted like children.

Before I knew it, the French school year had begun. From the outside, the boys’ école looked like a huge fortress, the playground a crush of screaming children—kind of like the public schools I’d attended as a kid. The class sizes seemed alarmingly large. I had to remind myself of our mantra—childhood is not a cruise ship—when I left the boys there behind the gates that first day.

At pickup, I leaned down to ask Henry how his first day of school had gone. He told me, his mouth smeared with pain au chocolat, “Weird; I feel like I don’t exist. How many days before we go back to L.A.?”

When I looked for Miles inside the maternelle, I found him sitting in a corral with the other four-year-olds. He looked calm enough, but he was wearing a purple jacket I didn’t recognize with a name tag that read mohammed. I tried to tell his teacher that there had been a mistake, but the elderly M. Rousseau just nodded and said, “Oui, oui.”

I tried to laugh the misunderstanding off, but by the second week it didn’t matter, because Miles had changed his name anyway. He was insistent that everybody call him Oui and he would throw a fit if we dared call him otherwise. He also began to speak in a drunken slur that made him hard to understand. It took me a few days to realize he was trying to sound as if he had a French accent.

When I went to a school official and told her my concerns about the kids’ adjustment, she assured me they’d be fine. “You pay too much attention to them,” she told me. “Keep yourself busy with other things. Enjoy Paris!”

And so, I tried to put away my worries about Henry, a previously sunny, popular child who now played with his hands constantly, making conversations between them. After writing at home in the mornings, I wandered Paris during the days, searching for the city I’d read about in books. I discovered a farmers’ market near our house like nothing I’d ever seen before. And I admit I did forget the children’s woes as I perused the exquisite displays of cheese, the glistening fish, the beautifully arranged fruits. Once, on my way home, I bumped into a neighbor, a Parisian mother of two. I asked her if she, too, shopped at the farmers’ market, holding up my bags proudly.

“Never,” she said, clucking her tongue. “That’s for American tourists. Tomorrow I’ll show you where real French mothers do their shopping.”

The next day she led me to a store called Picard. The logo on the sign out front was a giant blue snowflake. Inside, it looked a little like a morgue—a bare white space filled with rows upon rows of freezer chests. I followed her through the aisles, peering at the boxes and bags of frozen food. The French had found a way to freeze everything: escargot, foie gras, stuffed salmon, tiramisu. Pumpkin soup came in a bag of frozen blocks you just melted in a pan. “Is this what you feed your children?” I asked, thinking of the pressure back home to buy only fresh, local, and organic.

“Every night,” she said, laughing at my expression. “Oh, you didn’t know? This is the little secret of Parisian mothers. We don’t cook. Who has the time? At night I put Picard in the microwave, and dinner is ready in five minutes. Voilà!”
Everywhere I went in Paris, I saw beauty, history, nattily dressed children, and fantasies of America, from the movie posters in the Métro to the names of the French clothing labels—American Vintage, American Retro. It was as if, at this moment of identity crisis, with France’s economic future somewhat uncertain, the country had finally come to appreciate our pioneering spirit. I noticed that the French remained, however, stubbornly attached to quality and tradition, and as I walked the streets, it was impossible not to be impressed by the cut of a silk scarf or the elaborate window display of our local pastry shop. At the boys’ school, it was true that there was a lot more rote memorization than they were used to, but I was glad that Henry was learning to handwrite in the most beautiful cursive, a far cry from the iPads that had been dispensed to every kid in his L.A. kindergarten class.

Whatever Paris’s charms, the boys were deeply homesick. At night, in their twin beds, they whispered back and forth to each other all the things they missed the most about Los Angeles—horrible things, like the garish outdoor mall with the fountains that “danced” to pop tunes, or the Santa Monica Pier, where they’d both shrieked with terror on a ride before throwing up their cotton candy. They missed it all—especially their preschool, which I had affectionately called Kumbaya Academy, where, instead of their being corrected for any mistakes, every smear of paint or mindless utterance was met with “Great job!”

It was fall, and the U.S. presidential elections were in full swing. One evening, I found Henry standing in the living room watching CNN footage of a Mitt Romney campaign rally. He was chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” I switched off the TV and sharply reminded him that we were Obama supporters—but even I could see that wasn’t the point. In bed beside my husband that night, I asked him to remind me what we were doing here with the kids. “Exposing them to another culture,” he said, trying to reassure us both. “They’ll adjust in no time. Remember? Kids are resilient.”

Everything crystallized the next weekend when my husband and I attended an American-fiction festival in Paris. There I met a French photographer who was doing a series on contemporary writers. Sixty-something, gray-haired, he asked me to lean against a wall while he fiddled with his camera. We chatted. I told him we were here for a year with our kids, that we’d put them in French public school. “We’re hoping they’ll pick up French,” I told him.

“Ah,” the man said, nodding. “My parents did that to me when I was seven. We moved here from Sweden, and they dropped me in a French public school without having any French. Because, as they say, kids are like sponges.”

I tried to laugh away my growing discomfort. “I guess it worked,” I said. “You sound French now.”

“Funny you should say that,” he said. “Fifty-five years later, I’m still trying to remember that year. According to my parents, I didn’t speak for the first six months after we got here—not a word. I was rendered completely mute by the shock of it.”

He hid his face behind the camera. “Now let’s start with one of you smiling.”
One Monday morning soon after, Miles pretended to be sick, and I pretended to believe him so he could stay home. As I was walking Henry to school, he tripped on the curb, fell, and skinned his knee. Though the cut was tiny, he began to weep like I’d never heard him weep before. I sat down beside him and held him in my arms, and a memory floated back to me from my own childhood. My father, in the late seventies, in the wake of his divorce from my mother, had sent my sister and me to a black-pride academy deep in the heart of Boston’s African-American neighborhood. The founder’s motto was to “instill racial pride while teaching.” During our time there, we performed in an all-black Christmas pageant called The Black Nativity, learned to sing the black national anthem, and were swatted with a switch by a dance teacher in an Erykah Badu–style head scarf when we forgot our steps.

My sister and I wept each time we were led up the steps into this new world where we were generally ostracized by the other kids. My father had the best of intentions—to make us proud of our black heritage in the midst of a predominantly white city—but in a haze of idealism and political ideology, he couldn’t see the more immediate reality of our daily misery. He inflicted this education on us like a bitter medicine. Someday we’d be proud to be black. Someday we’d reach the promised land of Negritude, and this would all make sense.

Henry sobbed in my arms over the cut on his knee that wasn’t really the problem. I held him and told him, “It’s lonely, isn’t it, being in that school? I’m so sorry. Let’s just stop. OK? Today we’ll go inside and say goodbye to your schoolmates and your teacher. We’ll thank them for having you. Then we’ll leave and we’ll never go back again. I’m finding you a school where people speak English.”

He looked confused for a moment. “Really?”

“Really.”

The following week I had both boys enrolled in bilingual international schools. We weren’t abandoning the language project altogether—half their day would be in French, half in English. But along with French children, there would be other Anglophone children like them.

The first day, I took Henry to his new classroom. We found a group of rowdy American and British boys crowded around a table building a Lego castle. They were neither self-contained nor well behaved. They were everything Bringing Up Bébé claimed French kids were not. I nudged my son to join them.

Afterward, I sat in a nearby Starbucks, drinking a soy chai latte, surrounded by brash Americans. I thought about all the parenting books I’d read over the years, with their shifting and contradictory advice on how to do right by one’s children. My husband and I were still just making it up as we went along. My kids would not go home bilingual, with scarves wrapped artfully around their necks, happy gourmands who greeted visitors with kisses to both cheeks. I wasn’t going home as a French mother, real or imagined. It was shameful to admit, but I was the happiest I’d been in weeks.


A Child’s Lifelong Self-Esteem Emerges Earlier Than We Thought

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article from Huffpost

photo from Sleeptastic Solutions

Children may form a sense of their “overall goodness” by preschool.

 

Five-year-old children may only read and write at a basic level, but their sense of self is surprisingly sophisticated. A provocative new study suggests that by kindergarten, a child’s self-esteem is as strong as an adult’s.

The research, published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, finds that most children have developed an overall positive sense of themselves by this age — and that sense of self remains relatively stable over their lifespan.

“Some rudimentary sense of children’s self-esteem appears to be already established by age 5,” Dr. Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the University of Washington and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “That does not mean it can’t change with life experiences and maturation. We think self-esteem is malleable but we also think that it starts earlier than previously thought.”

The research overturns traditional psychological beliefs about the way self-esteem develops during childhood. Scientists previously thought that preschoolers were too young to have developed an overall positive or negative sense of themselves, according to Cvencek.

“Our new work,” he said, “shows that preschoolers do have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person. It’s a first.”

In previous studies, psychologists relied on verbal self-evaluations to measure a child’s self-esteem, which may have provided unreliable data due to young children’s limited verbal abilities.

So for their study, Cvencek and his colleagues designed a new test, called the Preschool Implicit Association Test (PSIAT), to measure children’s positive feelings toward themselves. The researchers administered the test to 234 five-year-old boys and girls living in Washington state.

Similar to an implicit association test for adults — which asks participants to quickly associate words such as “self” and “pleasant” or “unpleasant” — the preschoolers were asked to associate objects.

The children were presented with several different varieties of flags, which they were taught to divide into two groups: “yours” and “not yours.” Then, the preschoolers completed a task in which they pressed buttons to indicate whether “good” words (fun, happy, good, nice) and “bad” words (bad, mad, mean, yucky) were more associated with “me” or “not-me.” 

The results of this and two other implicit association tests revealed that the children associated themselves more with good qualities than bad ones. 

“Previously we understood that preschoolers knew about some of their specific good features,” Dr. Anthony Greenwald, a psychologist at the University of Washington and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “We now understand that, in addition, they have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person.”

The study also revealed that high self-esteem was correlated with strong gender identity and preference for members of their own gender, suggesting that a child’s self-esteem is connected to other formative parts of their personality.

Now that we know that self-esteem emerges early in life, how can parents and teachers foster the development of a healthy sense of self in a child?

The warm, supportive connections a child develops with others are probably the most important factor, according to Cvencek.

“Children who feel loved by others may internalize this to love themselves,” he said. “Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life.”


The Surprising Effects of Listening to a Baby Cry

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photo from Getty Images

article by Jen Gann from The Cut for New York Magazine

Parents who’ve done any form of cry-it-out sleep training — or all parents, quite frankly — are only too familiar with what happens when their baby cries: It feels horrendous. It feels immediately alarming, as though every nerve ending is suddenly subject to an electrical fire. Yesterday, the New York Times took a good look at some of the science behind a baby’s cry — and our sometimes surprising reactions.

Seeing some of the crying facts laid bare is a little staggering. Normal infants, for example, cry about two hours every day. What the Times calls a “notorious human crybaby” will sometimes cry for two hours, every two hours. Crying, of course, is essential to survival: Infant mice stripped of the ability to cry are ignored by their mothers, and quickly die.

Indeed, we’re hardwired to respond to crying. Researchers have “found that within 49 thousandths of a second of a recorded cry being played, the periaqueductal gray — an area deep in the midbrain that has long been linked to urgent, do-or-die behaviors — had blazed to attention, twice as fast as it reacted to dozens of other audio clips tested.”

What to do with that reaction, when all your attempts to calm a crying baby are met with more crying? Personally, I always rolled my eyes a little at anyone’s claim that I would “learn to decode” my baby’s cries, that the cries would sound different depending on what he wanted (it seemed like most of the time, he didn’t know?). But according to a study summarized by the Times, Spanish researchers have been able to categorize three cry types: anger, fear, and pain.

With their arms and legs pinned to provoke anger, mad babies usually kept their eyes half-open, looking off to the side as they cried. Babies frightened by a loud noise, “after an initial hesitation and tensing up of the facial muscles, emitted an explosive cry and kept their eyes open and searching the whole time.” For babies given a shot, the cries were immediate, forceful, and conducted with shut eyes.

On a more uplifting note, the Times presents some possible evidence against so-called “mommy brain”:

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In another study, volunteers were asked to play a lab version of the popular game Whac-a-Mole by pressing down on an ever-shifting target button as rapidly as possible. Subjects then listened to recordings of babies crying, adults crying or birds singing, and played the game again.

“We saw better scores and more effortful pressing after the infant cries,” Dr. Young said.

Why not try this out at home? Your angry, fearful, or pained baby is primed to give you lots of opportunities.


Recipe!: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 small)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise, and place it flat side down on a cutting board. Cut the potato halves into 1-inch-wide wedges.
  • In a small bowl, combine the oil, chili powder and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Place the potatoes on a roasting pan and brush with the oil mixture. Lay the potatoes flesh side down on the pan and put the pan in the oven.
  • Cook until potatoes, turning once, until soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and season with remaining1/2 teaspoon salt. Let the wedges cool for a bit, and serve warm.
    • For dunking, ketchup always works (at 15 calories per tablespoon) or try a squeeze of fresh lime juice for a British chips-and-vinegar effect.

Recipe!: Orange Cranberry Muffins

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 navel orange, cut into eighths
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Put the orange wedges, orange juice, egg and oil into a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to incorporate. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour the orange mixture into it and stir to make a thick batter. Stir in the cranberries.
  4. Divide the mixture among the muffin tins, filling the tins about 3/4 full, and bake until the muffins are golden and push back when gently pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack and enjoy warm or toasted.

Recipe!: Parmesan Cheese Straws

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • Small scattering of flour
  • 1 8 1/2-ounce sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the puff pastry. Flour the side facing you and use a rolling pin to roll it to a 12-inch square. Brush the puff with egg mixture (you’ll probably use less than half of what you’ve got, but that’s fine).
  3. Sprinkle the cheese and paprika evenly over the puff. Press the toppings gently but firmly into the puff to help them adhere.
  4. Slice the puff into twenty-four 1/2-inch strips. Divide the strips between the prepared baking sheets, seasoned side up. Twist the strips twice, clockwise at the top and counterclockwise at the bottom, so that you’ve got one long spiral. Put the baking sheets in the oven and cook until the twists have puffed and are golden brown, about 18 minutes.
  5. Let cool and serve.

Recipe!: Jam and Graham Cracker Cheesecake

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Recipe by Smitten Kitchen via Parenting

Photo by Deb Perelman

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces of cream cheese, softened for 10 seconds in the microwave
  • 3 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • A few sheets of graham crackers, broken into squares or rectangles

Directions:

  • Mix the softened cream cheese with the jam. Spread a little of the mixture on top of each graham cracker.
  • Either eat right away, or chill for 30 minutes.
    • The grahams will soften and become more like a cheesecake crust, and the topping will firm up.

**Pro-tip: Use different flavors of jam, top with a slice of fresh strawberry

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