Catering: The most valuable thing you can give is time and quality

Today, catering is not just feeding a multitude at a christening or other big occasions. Catering has adjusted to the needs of our contemporary lives.

Home replacement food is usually provided by the takeout deli, a sophisticated bakery that offers nice sandwiches. It is the type of food you will otherwise prepare in your own home.

This type of catering can provide a dinner for as small as six or 12 people. A whole chicken will be roasted, for instance, and the caterer will provide everything from candles to silverware, even the disposable and microwaveable utensils, if it is a formal dinner. It is, in other words, very personalized. A caterer today now takes even small orders like one crab or one steak.

Video stores are connected to home replacement food providers, so before you go home, not only can you buy your dinner but rent a movie to go with it, too. Clearly an expanding trend, even supermarkets are already going into this service. You may, for instance, see pre-packaged salads in separate containers in select upscale supermarkets here.

More Choices in large sit-down dinners, guests now choose from either salmon, steak, chicken, or game, which replaces the traditional one-entree-and-one-appetizer package. This type of set-up is tricky for chefs, who have to guess how many of each viand they have to preparation. That it can be fun as the chefs take bets in terms of how many of each dish will be served.

A caterer should handle everything: music, table favors, printed menus, and flowers, who thinks this type of overall service is making a comeback.

Even the customer saves money, because the caterer gets a discount. A live band, for instance, would welcome the extra business.

This may provide an advantage over the restaurants, more of which are now going into Catering Hire because it is a way of extending revenues without increasing overhead costs.

Healthy Dining: Asian diet is healthier. It used to be that the American diet consisted of meat and potatoes, but as with food trends, caterers now offer a whole array of healthier alternatives. Whole wheat, grains, pastas, and fresh veggies as well as multigrains and rice not only offer a healthier alternative but gives an attractive color combination.

Fusion, a popular term for restaurants today, is getting increasing exposure in catering. Eclectic combinations of Asian linked with French cuisine may please a more select audience spectrum, an exciting alternative for those palates weary of the traditional. The use of salsas, a combination of beans, onions and garlic, and chopped onion is a trend that is a part of both the cultural and culinary fusion among various ethnic groups.

In plate presentations, the skill of the catering chef is important. This is where training comes in handy, although for buffet tables, the trend is that the food is blended rather than separated. A layer of garlic mashed potato is spread on half a layer of chicken, for instance.

Theme buffets are also increasingly popular and are not any different from kiddo parties. The only differences are that there’s alcohol and it’s at night.

Often done for corporate cocktails, an elaborate set-up of a sports bar (which may include a mini-basketball court and videos of games), a Caribbean booth that serves tequila and tortillas, and a western saloon in one room is not unusual. You are creating entertainment venues.

Must Quality service guaranteed is one of the keys to a successful Catering Equipment Hire business. Quality service is the perceived value that a customer will receive.

For instance, you would expect a different level of service at McDonald’s than you would at a swanky resto, and it’s the same with catering.

This is a business and you have to make a profit. There’s a lot more involved aside from food. People often go into the business because they love to cook or all their friends say so, but they sometimes forget that it’s a business they have to study.

Most caterers are not serving the food from the kitchen to the table and considerations as to how long will the food will stay hot/cold, safe to eat, or look attractive should be taken into account.

The most valuable thing you can give is time and quality…If you don’t care about the small stuff, then you don’t care at all.

Tile Medallions for Your Home

In the 1700s, Josiah Wedgwood carried on the medallion tradition when he inherited a pottery shop. Wedgwood lived at the same time as British neo-classical architect and interior designer Robert Adam. Wedgwood took advantage of the classical influence that spread over England and produced pottery that harmonized with Adam’s furniture and other interior decorations. Adam sought to transfuse the beautiful spirit of antiquity with novelty and variety.

Wedgwood’s greatest fame rests in medallions on a smaller scale — on his jasperware, a dull white bisque capable of being colored and ornamented, used in a wide variety of collectible tableware, from mugs to plates to cups. The colors of the background were blue, olive green, black, lilac or sage, most often with white ornaments.

In earlier days, his larger sculptural pieces were often used as panel insertions in walls, mantels, door trim and furniture appliqués.

Now the designs are back in style. To keep the foyer connected to the rest of the house, use the same flooring as in the adjacent spaces. For interest, you might add inserts or a contrast border: stone or tile in a wood floor; Tile Medallions, or marble borders in a limestone floor.

Lighting is another consideration. For a softer ambiance, my favorite choice is a beautiful chandelier with shades and a dimmer switch. If possible, add architectural details, such as a dome where the light fixture could fit or moldings that could be faux finished or gold leafed.

A custom area rug using commercial grade carpeting is another solution. Even with a mat outside, people will wipe their feet on the foyer rug. But I’ve found that if the outside mat is sisal, people are more likely to use it. And the inside rug should be professionally sealed to resist dirt and stains.

Curtains make soft statement in hard world

Beaded curtains, in years gone by a feature of almost every home, are making a colorful comeback.

With the attractive effect they give as they move in the breeze and the many different color variations and combinations now available, they add an interesting and decorative touch to all styles of home.

The first creative choice is to decide what visual impact or atmosphere you are trying to achieve in a particular room: 1. peaceful simplicity; 2. comfortable abundance; 3. discreet subtlety; 4. immense luxury; 5. bold drama.

If curtains are not going to be floor-length, they should be below the sill. Anything less looks as if you’ve run out of fabric.

The current fashion for brilliant blue combined with vivid yellow was perfect for bathroom decor.

Sheers, scrims, draperies, panels and other lush fabrics passing themselves off as curtains, are leaping beyond the windows and shower stalls to produce a woven surround. Cotton, velvet, silk and linen swaths are now room dividers, alcove walls, romantic retreats, outdoor nooks and floating doorways.

Decorating with curtains adds drama, conjures settings and provides stimulus to the imagination. They can also muffle unpleasant sounds, add rhythm and movement to space, produce texture and dimension, and skillfully transmute the harshest light. Curtains are soft sculpture playing at being solid architecture.

Rich and opulent, simple and starched — curtains speak volumes, and with so many wonderful fabrics and materials available today, trend-setters are finding all sorts of ways to charm with curtains.

Please visit Zappobz.com – the largest manufacturer and supplier of Beaded Décor and LED curtains.

Movers and Shakers – House Style

Not all kitchens have to be left behind when you buy a new home.

The austerity and simplicity of the Shaker style first came to the attention of both designers and home-owners with Harrison Ford’s 1985 film Witness, set in the Amish community of Pennsylvania, whose lifestyle has hardly changed since the 18th century. But a number of British designers and furniture manufacturers had already begun to revive traditional methods of craftsmanship to produce simple farmhouse-style items.

The simple aesthetics of Shaker design complemented this perfectly and were incorporated into it, producing furniture that has a strong Shaker influence but is still recognizably English. The pretty, busy details traditionally associated with English country-style kitchen furniture have been replaced with a look that is strong, simple and subtle.

“During the Eighties, the market required rather exuberant and ornate details – fretwork friezes, traditional turnings, fluted columns and pilasters,” says Jeremy Pearce of the Newcastle Furniture Company. “While there is still a demand for that type of furniture, more people are drawn towards our simpler designs.”

The demand for this kitchen furniture, as opposed to units, may be due in part to the changing role of the kitchen. Many people now live in their kitchens and entertain there as well. The traditional morning room is being revived in the Nineties in the form of the relaxed, comfortable family kitchen, where wood and stone have replaced plastic and steel as the predominant materials. Kitchen furniture now often stands alongside, or accommodates, desks, bookcases and televisions, as well as sofas on which guests can relax and chat to their hosts while the food is prepared.

There are now several companies producing dressers, cupboards, tables and freestanding work surfaces with butchers’ blocks on top, vegetable baskets underneath and lockable castors. The wood will either be antique pine or oak which has been limed to enrich and emphasize the grain.

Worktops are made from maple, teak, granite or slate. The dragging, rag-rolling and stippling of traditional farmhouse-style furniture has been rejected in favour of plain, pastel shades such as turquoise, ochre and dark green which complement the wood.

Plain English, a cupboard-making firm based in Suffolk, came about in 1992 when Katie Fontana and Tony Niblock began to search East Anglia for kitchen furniture which would look right in the Suffolk Long House they had built for themselves. They wanted cupboards with painted facades and solid wooden worktops containing proper dovetailed drawers that ran on wooden drawer slips, not what they describe as “boxes with screw-on fronts on modern runners”. They soon discovered that they were not alone in their quest, and Plain English was created.

They now produce a wide range of cupboards with glazed, screened or slotted doors, as well as a variety of freestanding furniture such as dressers, larders, farmhouse tables and country chairs. Again, colours are naturalistic, pastoral shades, but strong because of their simplicity. Interiors are often painted in contrasting colours which add variety and depth. Knobs come either in chrome, flame-blackened tourmaline or brass which is cast from worn Jacobean originals. Doors are hung on traditional brass hinges and fastened with a brass catch. Drawers slide on runners lubricated with bees’ wax.

Sinks in this English Shaker style are substantial and functional. Newcastle Furniture offers a traditional deep white butler’s sink and unit with chrome taps while Plain English has a double French farmhouse sink with nickel taps.

As this is kitchen furniture, rather than a complete kitchen installation, appliances such as cookers, fridges and freezers sometimes have to be bought separately. But the simplicity of the designs means that most items – be they heavyweight, professional looking stoves or modern white dish-washers – fit in well. Newcastle Furniture does, however, produce a fridge and freezer cabinet with two high-level cupboards above and a cooker cabinet with granite worktop and splashback.

The road to fitness

Most of the established running shoe manufacturers make footwear that helps prolong endurance and prevent injuries. More than 90 percent of running shoes are now bought by people who are not serious runners but want to look fit. Taking advantage of the potential market, many new shoe makers have entered the field although they don’t have the foggiest idea how to produce shoes that are good for runners. They simply make good-looking junk.

When you run, your heels hits the ground with tremendous force. Your foot strikes the ground on the outside bottom and rolls inward, twisting the lower leg inward, too. The combined force and inward rolling can cause a wide range of injuries, from shin splints to runner’s knee. Therefore the best running shoes are made with features that reduce the force of the foot strike and inward rolling motion. Bad running shoes don’t have these safeguards.

Training tubes (also called resistance bands) are a great way to strengthen and tone the major muscle groups in arms, legs and back. The elastic tubing can be used at home or easily packed for trips. The bands come in different widths and tension levels. Rubbery and resilient, they come in enough styles and strengths to challenge anybody from the beginner to the strength-savvy veteran. But unless you combine them with anatomy-altering chemicals, forget those Mr. and Ms. Universe contests.

If you don’t have a carpeted area in your home, spring for an exercise mat. A roll-up mat, especially a nice padded one with a nonskid side, is a must if you have vinyl, tile or hardwood floors.

If you plan to combine several sports or activities in your fat-burning workouts, choose a multipurpose athletic shoe, such as a cross-trainer. You can easily buy running shoes and resistance bands online.

Fake nails making style mark

Sure, they’re tacky, but fake nails – particularly those adorned with faux jewels or airbrushed designs – are hot, and their sales are rising, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

Fake nails come in three basic forms: acrylic, gel, and silk or fiberglass-wrap.

Acrylic nails, the most popular, involve a four-step process of cleanser, primer, then liquid and powder acrylic. Dental research led to the chemistry behind acrylic nails, which revolutionized the artificial-nail industry when they came onto the scene 25 years ago.

The cleanser removes all oils from the nail so the chemicals will stick, according to Annie Trecker, supervisor of Nails Now! in Dallas. The primer is most often an etching substance that removes some of the nail surface to make it rough and porous, which also helps the chemicals adhere.

To get the right shape, the nail technician may apply a nail tip and then combine the acrylic liquid and powder on top.

The other option is a sculpture, in which the tech will place a sticker around the fingernail being set. The sticker allows the nail to show through and provides a surface on which the acrylic can set. It also lets the tech shape a rounder or flatter fake nail and adjust a nail that’s too wide or too narrow for the standard-sized tips.

The sculpture is more durable, which may not be a good thing. “(With a nail tip), if you hit the nail, the tip will come off easier,” says Rita Lewis of Spud’s Network Hair Salon in Dallas. “With the sculpt, your whole nail could be in trouble if you hit it too hard.”

You could spend 20 minutes to two hours having artificial nails acrylic or any other type applied. It depends on how leisurely the client wants her appointment to be and how experienced the nail tech is, says Trecker of Nails Now!

“One of the setbacks is that some people may have an allergic reaction,” Trecker says. She emphasizes that acrylic nails do not cause allergies, nor do they cause the fungus and mold that sometimes develops under a fake nail.

“You can’t blame it on the acrylic because it has to do with the person’s neglect of the nail,” she says. Mold occurs when water seeps into cracks in the nail, and fungus may spring up if you hit or otherwise traumatize your nail. If a fungus goes untreated, it can cause you to lose your entire nail.

Gel nails, the rarest of the fakes, are made from a pre-mixed chemical that is painted on the way polish is and then hardened under an ultraviolet lamp. The price range is about the same as for acrylics, as is the maintenance.

“There are less chemicals being applied on the nail, so gel works better for someone who might have allergies,” Trecker says. Some nail techs chemically etch the nail first, but others just cleanse it with alcohol before applying the gel.

Technicians are likely to be very meticulous in applying gel nails because the gel is so runny, Trecker says. The process involves application of three layers and hardening each one under the UV lamp.

What is hookah

The hookah or shisha, which is part and parcel of Eastern culture, has been used for pleasure throughout the ages. A hose called a “marpuc” is used to inhale the smoke of the tobacco, on which there is a small fire, and the smoke is filtered through a reservoir of water. It is believed that the sight and sound produced as water bubbles up is rehabilitating. This is the easiest way for people who like metaphysics to embark on a trip to the stars. The journey of the spirit away from the body and the eventual union of spirit and body is only one of the pleasures of the hookah.

Though it originated in the Middle East 400 years ago, the hookah is a tobacco pipe with a long tube that cools smoke by drawing it through water. First, the tobacco is put on a small, ventilated plate on the narghile, then burning pieces of charcoal are placed on top. Sucking on the shisha pipe then draws smoke down into the water-filled bowl and out again into the mouth.

Connoisseurs describe it as a “sweet” smoking sensation because the nicotine is taken out by the water. Traditionally, flavored tobacco – consisting of dried fruit pulp mixed with tobacco leaves – is used.

With the shisha, you can choose from an oriental orchard of flavors. Shisha smokers can choose from a variety of flavors, including apple, apricot, strawberry, mixed fruit and mint. There is, it has to be stressed, no outlawed substance inside the hookah tobacco. Shisha adepts consider the elaborate preparation and total attention required part of its relaxing effect. Shisha, they say, is for contemplation, not stimulation. Decor notes for your hookah smoking area: go with big pillows, oriental rugs and lots of couches to create that Night at the Casbah motif.

Get ready for in-home computer gaming

There’s no flashing neon, no floor show, no musically clinking coins when you pull the handle on a slot machine in cyberspace.

Instead, the computer mouse in the quiet room goes clickety-click. And the lemon, the grapes and the banana blink onto the screen, with a message that says, “You win!”

You need not travel all the way to Las Vegas or even Goa. Play poker, online black jack, roulette, craps or online slots and even sports games and horse racing on your PC from anywhere in the world. Online gambling takes care of everything, right from betting and playing to collecting money. Typically, the Net offers two types of gambling and wagering opportunities: casino games and sports bets. Millions of people could boot up, log on and gamble from their homes.

Online gambling works like this: users log onto the Net and go to a particular site that offers online gambling or any other wagering opportunity. While some online casino usa sites are ‘ready-made’ for playing with special Java applets or HTML format, other sites have special software that must be downloaded before playing. Users can register themselves as members and set up an account with an initial deposit. There are different ways to make deposits into your account: credit cards, American Express Money Gram, Western Union, moneybookers and other. Credit card deposits are processed online-within a minute-so one does not have to wait to start playing! As you gamble, money is credited or debited depending on whether you win or lose. And if you have had enough of wagering and want to close your account, all you have to do is fill out a withdrawal request form which is available online, and the funds are transferred to you. The mode of transaction entirely depends on your preferences.

Exploring Florida’s Gold Coast

Take a break from winter’s chill: this month’s 110-mile Historic Highways route runs from north to south along Florida’s east coast. We begin in the resort community of Palm Beach, then visit Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and Fort Lauderdale, once a haven for college students on spring break, and now a yachting center. We continue to Miami Beach, Miami, Key Biscayne, and end in Coral Gables. Dubbed the "Gold Coast," this region was established as a winter playground in the 1920s. Today, the Florida cities attract sun-worshippers from all over the world, as well as those drawn to the vibrant cultural life and restored historical areas. Southern Florida offers the active traveler abundant white sand beaches and water sports, golf, tennis, and natural habitats for bird-watching and canoeing.

PALM BEACH

Palm Beach was named for its palm trees, planted in 1878 when a Spanish cargo ship carrying them ran aground on the beach. The American architect Addison Mizner arrived in 1918. He designed many of the Spanish-Moorish homes along Ocean Boulevard, including Mar-A-Lago, built in 1923 for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. The Norton Museum of Art has extensive holdings of European, American, and Chinese pieces. Take Route 1 south 18 miles to Delray Beach.

The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, (561) 655-2833. The Norton Museum of Art, (561) 832-5196. The Breakers, (561) 655-6611.

DELRAY BEACH

Settlers from Michigan and Japan established Defray Beach in the 1920s. George Morikami, a farmer and one of the earliest settlers, acquired 200 acres of land that he willed to the county to create the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. It includes a theater, galleries, tea house, nature trail, and bonsai garden. Military miniatures covering two thousand years of history are on view at the Cornell Museum of Art and History. The dates for the Delray Beach Community Center Antiques show are February 13 and 14. Continue on Route 1 south eight miles to Boca Raton.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, (561) 495-0233. Cornell Museum of Art and History, (561) 243-7922. Antique Show and Sale, (561) 243-2233.

BOCA RATON

Legend has it that this inlet of jagged rocks was named "mouth of the rat" by Spanish pirates. In 1925, Addison Mizner designed the city plan for Boca Raton. Two of his surviving 1920s buildings are the lavish pink Boca Raton Resort Hotel and Club and the city’s administration building. Historic houses open to the public include the 1920 Old Schoolhouse, the 1937 Pioneer House, and the 1923 Historic Butler House, built from plans from Woman’s Home Companion magazine. Visit the International Museum of Cartoon Art, started by Mort Walker, the creator of Beetle Bailey. The Old Floresta Historic District along Cardinal Avenue has many small Spanish Colonial-style homes. Spanish River Park and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center are two places to take in native plants and birds. Take Route 1 south 20 miles to Fort Lauderdale.

Boca Raton Resort Hotel and Club, (800) 327-0101. Old Schoolhouse and Pioneer House, (305) 427-1050. Historic Butler House, (305) 429-0378. International Museum of Cartoon Art, (561) 391-2200. Spanish River Park, (561) 393-7815. Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, (561) 338-1473.

FORT LAUDERDALE

Named for several forts that protected settlers from Seminole attacks, Fort Lauderdale became a south Florida resort town in the 1920s. The Museum of Art features North and South American art and Dutch and Flemish paintings. The 1920 Bonnet House is the 35-acre estate of painter and art collector Frederick Clay Bartlett, whose furnishings, studio, and tropical plants are on view. The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society Museum has collections of local artifacts, Seminole and Colonial settlers’ clothing, toys, and a scale model of a fort. Stranahan House, built for trader Frank Stranahan in 1901, is a good example of Florida frontier design. The 1907 King-Cromartie House, a replica of an 1899 schoolhouse, and a Discovery museum complex are all housed in the 1905 New River Inn. Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area is home to such endangered species as the gopher tortoise and golden leather fern. The Riverside Hotel, the oldest in Fort Lauderdale, has large guest rooms with Jacobean-style oak furnishings. Cont inue on Route 1 south to 195 east, about 30 miles to Miami Beach.

Museum of Art, (954) 525-5500. Bonnet House, (954) 563-5393. Fort Lauderdale Historical Society Museum, (954) 463-4431. Stranahan House, (954) 524-4736. King–Cromartie House, (954) 462-4116. Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area, (954) 564-4521. Riverside Hotel, (954) 467-0671.

MIAMI BEACH

In 1920, 1,600 acres of mangrove swamp east of Miami were drained and developed into Miami Beach. During the 1980s, more than 800 pastel-hued structures in the Art Deco district, in the heart of South Beach, were restored and renovated, revitalizing the city. Today, the area boasts art galleries, clubs, and restaurants, along with the Miami City Ballet and the New World Symphony at the Lincoln Theater. The Wolfsonian–FLU Foundation Gallery offers rotating exhibits of American and European art produced between 1885 and 1945. The Holocaust Memorial has five main areas of sculptures and captioned photographs. Simply named The Hotel, a recently restored 1939 structure with 52 rooms, has been decorated by fashion designer Todd Oldbam with inlaid terrazzo floors, lush fabrics, and playful lighting fixtures. Adventurous divers might try the underwater Wreck Trek site in north Miami Beach, with two shipwrecks, the Patricia and Miss Karline.

Continue on Route AlA to 41 to 95 south about seven miles to Miami.

Miami City Ballet, (305) 532-7713. New World Symphony, (305) 673-3331. Wolfsonian-FIU Foundation Gallery, (305) 531-1001. The Holocaust Memorial, (305) 538-1663. The Hotel, (305) 531-2222.

MIAMI

Miami was incorporated in 1896. Today, the city is a melting pot of cultures with ethnically mixed neighborhoods such as Lithe Havana, Little Haiti, and Coconut Grove. The Art Deco Historic District runs from Ocean Drive to Lenox Avenue in nearby Miami Beach. Rare antiquities and decorative arts are on view in more than 70 rooms at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The Historical Museum of Southern Florida, in the Metro-Dade Cultural Center, interprets 10,000 years of Florida’s history from prehistoric Indian artifacts to 1830s Audubon prints. The Gold Coast Railroad Museum collections include Henry Flagler’s locomotive, a circa 1950 California Zephyr, and a Pullman car. In a 1930 Art Deco building, the Bass Museum of Art exhibits European paintings, and sculpture and decorative arts. From March 3 to 12, Miami celebrates Carnaval in Little Havana with food, concerts, and dancing events. Take Route 95 south to Route 913 southeast ten miles to Key Biscayne.

Vizeaya Museuni and Gardens, (305) 579-2813. Historical Museum of Southern Florida, (305) 375-1492. Gold Coast Railroad Museum, (305) 253-0063. Bass Museum of Art, (305) 673-7530. Carnaval Miami, (305) 644-8888.

KEY BISCAYNE

Linked by the William Powell Bridge, Key Biscayne and Virginia Key are two islands where visitors can catch a great view of downtown Miami. The area is popular with bikers, skaters, and watersports enthusiasts. The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area offers 494 acres to explore. Visitors may climb to the top of the 1845 brick Cape Florida Lighthouse. The 37-acre Miami Seaquarium is home to many rescued manatees, sharks, and sea lions. On the ocean, the Sonesta Beach Resort Key Biscayne offers 300 rooms. Backtrack about eight miles on Route 913 to Route 1 south to Coral Gables, a total of about 13 miles.

The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area, (305) 361-5811. Miami Seaquarium, (305) 361-5705. Sonesta Beach Resort Key Biscayne, (305) 365-2340.

CORAL GABLES

Similar to Palm Beach and Boca Raton, Coral Gables is a planned community of residential and commercial buildings with a Mediterranean flavor. George Merrick established the city from his 3,000 acres of citrus and avocado groves. His boyhood home, Coral Gables Merrick House and Gardens, is open and has been restored with family furnishings and artwork. The Lowe Art Museum displays antiquities and European and American sculpture. Don’t miss the Venetian Pool, a large rock quarry turned into a springfed swimming pool, where Johnny Weismuller and Esther Williams both swam. The Fairchild Tropical Garden is an 83-acre botanical garden with a conservatory, rainforest, and sunken garden. Built in 1926, the historic 279-room Biltmore Hotel is a great place to end a Florida journey.

Coral Gables Merrick House and Gardens, (305) 460-5361. The Lowe Art Museum, (305) 284-3603. Venetian Pool, (305) 460-5356. City Hall, (305) 446-6800. The Fairchild Tropical Garden, (305) 667-1651. Biltmore Hotel, (800) 727-1926.

Eight ways to ease your child’s transition to a new school

Katie walked sleepily down the stairs. This was not the bubbly, energetic morning person I had known for the past 10 years. She gave me a big hug and curled up next to me on the sofa. Tears welled up in her eyes. "Mom, I don’t want to go to school," she said. "Can I stay home and help you unpack boxes?" I gently returned her hug and reminded her that we were only going to visit the school today. She sighed and laid her head on my shoulder. I knew once we took a tour and met her teacher, she would be less anxious. It was just one of the steps we took to ease the transition. Whether you are moving miles away or minutes away, the following eight steps may help ensure an easier beginning to a new school life.

Step 1: Find a school that meets your expectations. Relocating requires an incredible amount of planning, including finding the right school. An inexpensive and helpful resource was our real estate agent who sent us a file containing everything we could possibly want to know about the local schools and communities.

Another resource is SchoolMatch, an educational consulting firm. With their full-search service ($68 to $97.50), you’ll answer a series of questions regarding preferences in schools and communities. After comparing your responses to their databases, they’ll report on the top 15 public school systems or private schools in the requested area, indicating whether they meet, exceed, or fall below your expectations in a number of categories. For more information, call 800/724-6651 or visit their Internet site at www.schoolmatch.com.

Also, check out Places Rated Almanac (Macmillan Travel, $24.95) for information on more than 350 metro areas.

Step 2: Move while school is in session. If possible, don’t wait until the school year ends. Moving during the school year will provide your child the opportunity to become involved in school activities and thus develop friendships before summer arrives. Also, most of the information regarding summer programs and camps is sent home from school with the children in the spring. If we had waited until summer, we would have missed the registration deadlines and programs would have been filled. Summer vacation can seem like forever to a child who is anticipating a different school.

Step 3: Register before you move. Locating required birth certificates, immunization records, and other information can be like looking for a needle in a haystack once the boxes are all packed. Registering ahead of time also provides the new teacher with the opportunity to prepare for your child’s arrival. If you think the relocation is going to be especially difficult, or if the circumstances of the move are negative (divorce or death, for example), talk to the counselor as well as the classroom teacher. Your child will have an easier transition if services such as counseling or special education classes are in place from the start.

Notify the current school of the impending move. This will give them adequate time to close out your child’s file and send the records to your next school. This also gives the current classroom teacher time to close out any lessons and, in some cases, plan a going away party.

Step 4: Scope it out. Before your child’s first day at the new school, make an appointment to meet the principal and tour the school with your child while it is in session. Meet the teachers your child will have, see the classrooms, the cafeteria, the library, the gym, and the playground. It will give your child a sense of security to know where everything is located.

If your child will ride the bus, find out the bus number as well as pick-up and drop-off points and times. If you drive your child to and from school, find out the procedure ahead of time. This ensures your child’s safety and reduces anxiety. If necessary, walk the route with your child for the first few days.

Step 5: Seek help from school counselors. In addition to providing individual attention, many school counselors have group programs for relocating students. For example, Jan Dukes, an elementary school counselor for the Keller Independent School District in Keller, Texas, oversees a Newcomers Club. "I gather all of the new children from the same grade. Within the group, each child has a buddy; somebody who is dealing with a lot of the same feelings. We discuss why they moved and how it is different here. We talk about interests and hobbies and how to make friends with similar interests."

Step 6: Communicate. For children, it can reduce those mountains to molehills. Licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist Tracie Morrison states, "Anytime children are facing a challenging situation, effective communication is essential. Prepare them, get their ideas, and listen to their feelings and fears. Talk about their new school and friends. Keep the conversation positive. Sometimes, younger children have a difficult time putting their feelings into words. Parents can help by making statements, such as "I know it might feel scary to start a new school" or "You might be wondering how to make friends." Help them remember how they got to know the friends they have now. Teach them to ask questions about their friends, such as "Do you have a cat?" or "Do you like to play baseball?"

The key is to focus on the positive and not let them fall into the trap of "Remember at my old school…?"

Step 7: Get active. Occasionally, be part of your child’s school day. The day will come soon enough when your child would rather eat worms than be seen with you at school, so take advantage of it while you can. Suzanne Pettit, principal of Florence Elementary in Southlake, Texas, promotes parent involvement. "Parents are encouraged to eat lunch with their child, stay for recess, and observe their child in the classroom setting at any time," says Pettit. "It is an excellent opportunity to see how their children are adjusting and to meet their classmates."

Step 8: Be consistent. Helping children establish a routine once you have moved is very important. The time to unpack and organize your home is while your children are in school. Time after school should be spent doing the same kinds of things they did before moving, including homework, chores ("What? We still have to make our beds?"), inviting friends over to play, and having fun.

You are your children’s most important teacher. Show them that relocating is an adventure. Make friends and discover places together. Instill in them the confidence and security to reach out and take hold of their new life.