Monday, November 29, 2010

Family and Formals

It has been a busy month at Eight Acres of Eden. There are nine people in this family and six celebrate their birthdays in the last two months of the year. Parties to plan, cakes to bake, presents to find. Added onto the list of events is the annual church formal dinner for the young people and on Wednesday my sixteen year old daughter leaves for her first missions trip to Thailand - there were lots of preparations for this - cooking for fund raising church lunches and trips to town to buy the travel essentials. And did I mention this is all happening just before Christmas? I love this time of year - it is the time when I indulge - not in food but in creative pursuits - making bon bons and silk flower garlands and decorating my home. However this year, I have had to reassign my priorities and devote my precious time to precious people rather than preparations.

Both my daughters attending the church formal had been reminding me that they needed to find a dress. This was not high on my list of priorities until I realized how excited they were to have an opportunity to dress up and express their femininity. Finding the perfect dresses for them was no easy task. We visited lots of dress shops. Most of the dresses we saw were simply too immodest - too short, too low cut or too casual which tends to be the case when you live in a coastal region where surf culture predominates. However, with a little perseverance and lots of pavement pounding, we found dresses for both girls. My younger daughter found hers first - at a vintage clothing store. A genuine vintage dress in a lilac hue with a high neckline with a lace frill on the back of the calf length hem to match the three little roses. It was the perfect fit and the style was not too mature for a younger teen. She wore it with black flat ballet pumps and it suited her so much - she looked lovely. So there is my first tip for finding lovely modest dresses - check out vintage clothing stores. The styles of yesteryear can still be worn today. How refreshing it was to see on the news that at the Melbourne Cup this year the 'fashions on the field' had many girls opting for vintage suits and dresses. The girl they interviewed looked so lovely in her 1940's inspired outfit and stated that she felt so 'elegant'.

The aqua gown worn by my older daughter is her dream formal dress. She had told me she wanted to wear a long, flowing dress in a satin fabric. We found her gown at a bridal and formal wear shop which was having a fifty per cent off sale on selected styles. Thankfully, the dress was on the sale rack and it was in a small size. This mother was unsure at first - I knew that most other girls would not be wearing long dresses in such a formal style. She didn't mind - she wanted to make a statement that you don't have to opt for the fashion look of that season and that you can dress beautifully and retain modesty. It was her suggestion that we should alter the neckline slightly to bring it up higher. A few stitches and a hook and eye were all that was needed. Tip number two - don't be afraid to alter a dress you believe is 'not quite right' - you can add lace to lengthen a pretty but too short dress, add straps to a strapless dress or wear a bolero jacket. Alter a neckline if you need to, as we did. We have always said to our daughters when talking to them about how they should dress - don't be afraid to be different, don't let 'Supre' (a teen fashion store) or peers dictate to you how you should dress, dare to wear dresses, express your femininity, honour your parents, respect your father and be aware of the message your dress and demeanour could send to young men, be especially considerate of your brothers in the Lord. Smile and speak kindly, be gentle, courteous and conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of your Lord. You are a daughter of the King. How satisfying it was for me to see my daughters taking this all on board as they prepared for the formal this year. They looked beautiful, they felt so elegant and their radiance was so apparent it could hardly be contained!

My son surprised me too, stating that he needed a suit! In previous years he assured us that a suit would be 'too formal' for this occasion. Did I hear that right - my son who usually wears jeans or board shorts and t- shirts and thinks shirts are for politicians and businessmen went shopping by himself for a suit but rang me for advice.... I assure you I'm still recovering, picking myself off the floor and pinching myself - did I dream that my son asked his mother for fashion advice?! 'Which suit mum?' Not to be outdone by his sisters he listened to my advice and opted for the slightly more expensive, higher quality suit which he told me was much nicer, (designed in Italy!) better cut etc. I assured him it would be a good investment - that he would wear it again to weddings and future formal events. He even bought a white shirt but when I suggested the bow tie he went pale. 'Be happy mum I actually bought a suit and a shirt' was his response! He looked good in it too. Both my son and daughter paid for their own formal outfits which was such a blessing to our family at this time of the year.

All these happenings in our household have left me little time to write blog posts.... not ones that need lots of photos to be taken and uploaded so please accept my sincere apologies. I wanted to show you my newly completed formal living room but I'll have to save that for next year .... here's a peek at the work in progress, painting the newly raised ceiling and beams. As with most projects in this home it was a family affair!

On the first day of the next month my beautiful twin girls will be five years old. They will spend their birthday morning at the airport farewelling their sister as she gets ready with the rest of her missions team to board the plane that will take her to Sydney to catch her flight to Bangkok later in the day. We will have a simple but special celebration at home and as the cake decorating daughter is not going to be here I get to actually decorate the birthday cake this time - I'm cheating using ready-made iced decorations which was a wise move as as I will have so little time to prepare but the cake will be home made of course! I'm certain they will want to help to make their own cake and decorate it too!

Rarely does a day go by without something on the stove or in the oven. We have recently discovered the truth that sometimes the best food comes from a few basic ingredients..... eggs from our chickens, a little sugar and farm fresh milk are all that is needed to make what I am now convinced is the most delectable dessert ever .... a baked egg custard, one food I have fond childhood memories of, as the local bakery used to make pretty good custard tarts. I used the Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evan's recipe from his book 'The Real Food Companion'. I have to take it back to the library soon - it was worth reading for this one recipe! A sprinkling of nutmeg is the only extra ingredient. With the eggs mounting up in the basket on the bench I suspect that this dessert will be a regular item on the family menu this summer. Simple to make, simple to eat! Oh and we enjoyed this batch of custard with strawberries and cinnamon biscuit hearts!

And speaking of desserts have any of my readers ever used these books? I found them in my daughter's idea's file. Would love to surprise her at Christmas with a book related to her interest that she has obviously looked at purchasing. I'm trying to find most of our family's gifts online this year as I have no desire to traipse around stores or stand in queues at checkouts.

It is time to sign off and go and do what I had intended to do today which was make some more bon bons - I have another Christmas decorating seminar to prepare for too! My tree is not up yet and it is almost December.

Are you ready for Christmas? Don't forget in the midst of all your preparations the people they are for are far more important than the preparations themselves. Don't stress to impress - if you don't have it all photographed for your pre-Christmas blog posts don't worry - we will still enjoying seeing Christmas pictures next year. Just a little reminder that your family needs you now in the midst of the busyness.

Until next time,

With Love and Joy,

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Ruby said...

Your children scrubbed up really well! They look gorgeous!
Lots of good projects around your place.

SF said...

Your children look fantastic Ann! :D
Might you share the custard recipe, please? It looks so yummy! xx

Renata said...

HI Ann
Your children look wonderful - perfect for a formal dinner! I love your daughters dresses - particularly the aqua one - it is so beautiful & feminine. My first thought was I like the neckline - it's stylish, but modest - thanks for telling us how you achieved the look!

Sounds like you are busy, but having a great time - hope the birthday celebrations go well! Happy Birthday to your girls for tomorrow!
Looking forward to seeing the new ceiling - I'm hoping Dave will raise ours in our kitchen/living area - we've discussed it since we have to replace it anyway!
Have a lovely day - I'd better get off this computer, but couldn't resist catching up on your news

Far Above Rubies said...

Ann, what beautiful children. It's delightful to pass by Eden. I can sense your love for your home and children.

Your twins are beautiful.

Ann, would you mind sending me the direct link to the poem you mentioned on my blog. I'd like to read it.

God bless,


Niki said...

The kids look amazing. Your son so handsome.
The girls dresses are beautiful.
I had creme brulee at CJ's work party in York on the weekend & I am soooo craving it now. It was the best thing I had ever eaten. Delish.
So I may be using our chicken eggs, sugar & fresh milk this weekend too.
Can't wait to see your living room pictures.
Lots of Love Niki x

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

My Previous comment has gone south it seems....I said....Your girls look gogeous and your son really handsome,Great memories for them and you!
My Little ones Birthday is the same as your two little ones!
Two of my kids and my hubby are all December so seems like a crazy time of year for me too!
The Christmas tree is up thogh and a couple of homemade pressies done....things are getting there ...s-l-o-w-l-y!

Suzanne said...

Ann you have beautiful children with such loving hearts!

Camille said...

Great photos of the children Ann! How fun that the girls wanted to dress formal! AND your boy in his suit...all grown up!

I *love* what you said about the busyness of the season and how you are handling it..."I have had to reassign my priorities and devote my precious time to precious people rather than preparations" we all need to remember this! Thank you for the reminder.

Blessings to you!


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