Spoiled for Choice

See that photo of me?  It’s me in the Kate Spade dress I was telling you about.  Here I am at the dressmaker’s having it altered so I can wear it to Arabella’s Valedictory Dinner.  After this fitting, I had it pressed and I bought a bracelet to wear with it.

A dress for ‘Val’

Here’s me heading off to Arabella’s Valedictory Dinner.  It might have escaped your attention, but I’m not wearing the Kate Spade dress.

Alannah Hill dress

I’m wearing an Alannah Hill dress that I bought over a year ago.  You see, I showed the peacock-coloured dress to Arabella and she paused before saying, ‘Mum, I really like it, but I just don’t think it’s formal enough.  ‘Val’ is really special mum and I think you should wear your Alannah Hill.  It’s so pretty on you and it has those sparkles.  It’s much more eveningish’.

And Carl agreed.

And remember this image I showed you of the dress Arabella begged me to buy her for Val?

A dress purchased for ‘Val’

Here she is leaving for ‘Val’.

Wearing black sequins

No, that’s not the white dress.  The night before Val she was over at a friend’s house working on a final school project that involved taking one of your school uniforms and painting on it, something symbolic of what’s helped you get through Year 12.  Who comes up with these ideas?  Arabella painted the Snapchat logo.  Anyway, while there, her friend’s mother showed her all her old formal gowns.  Arabella loved the black sequined dress the mother had worn to her Year 12 Formal all those years ago and next thing she was borrowing it for Val.

I have no words.

The teenagers

But the next day I did manage, ‘Happy Birthday!’  Yes, Arabella is now an adult – she’s 18.

Getting ready for Val was pressured as the girls had a full day of school leaving just a few hours to morph from school girl to princess.  I collected Arabella from school and drove her to the mall where she had her make-up done by Bobbi Brown.

Still in school uniform. Not quite a princess yet

We then beetled back to our local shops where she had her hair done.  Arabella wanted her hair pulled back into a slick bun.  I sat watching the hairdresser at work and texted my friend who has a daughter at a similar school who also had a formal that night.  I said, ‘Her hair is being pulled back into a very ordinary bun that is so basic I could have done it with two severed hands and they want to charge me $120?’  (Dear God, please do not let Carl read this).

My sympathetic and very understanding friend had just returned from her daughter’s visit to the hairdresser and said, ‘Yep, it’s crapola’.

A neat and tidy bun

As I reluctantly handed over my credit card the hairdresser tried to soften the blow by saying, ‘Your daughter’s so pretty.  Is she a model?’  No, nothing.  I felt nothing.  Nothing but the full sting of that $120.

We arrived home with just a few minutes spare for me to do my own hair and my own make-up in a bathroom with a blown light bulb.

Archie drove us to the venue at the University of New South Wales.  Despite being financially ruined, Carl and I were in great shape and determined to have a wonderful night.  At least we weren’t in tears as so many mothers and daughters had been.  We were seated with some lovely friends of Arabella’s and their parents and right beside me was the math’s teacher.  Not a lot in common there I’m afraid.

The banquet chairs were the worst I’ve experienced; black plastic with metal rims that were cold and hard.  The service wasn’t too good and the food disappointing but the night was all about the girls and after the dinner and after the speeches they were individually presented on stage and given a graduation certificate and a ring.  They then stood in a big group and for the last time together, sang the school’s hymn.

Rack of Lamb with baby onions

Salmon with asparagus

Green Tea Panacotta with Pomegranate Seeds


A certificate and a ring

Formalities over, the girls started being silly.

And one of the mother’s joined in.

And I asked one of Arabella’s friends to take a family photo. Shouldn’t have bothered – I look like I’ve crossed over to the after-life

Girls who just wanna have fun.  This would be the Drama class.

It was a very moving and special time and Arabella said, ‘It’s been my best birthday ever’.

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  1. Congratulations on Arabella’s graduation! What a gorgeous family! I absolutely love reading your family stories. You are hilarious and the hilarious part is that most of us know EXACTLY what you’re talking about and can commiserate with you. I’m going to have to agree with the family after seeing all the girls in more formal dresses…the Kate will have to be kept for a nice luncheon or something. The sparkles looked lovely. 🙂

  2. You both look beautiful and I am glad it all went smoothly for you.

  3. thelifeofclare says:

    I’m glad it’s all over and it sounds like it went down a treat!

  4. You both looked amazing in your dresses. I agree that the Alannah Hill one was better suited to the formality of the affair. I could see you wearing the peacock one in the afternoon with a big hat on. And Arabella’s black loaner was very mature and sophisticated with the haircut though … $120? Unbelievable.


  5. Congratulations! This is amazing post and you are both so beautiful. I loved your dresses. But especially yours and your daugther’s together photograph is the best. Made me smile… Good Luck for her new life. Blessing and Happiness. Thank you dear Charlie, love, nia

  6. Congratulations to Arabella, perhaps now that she’s an adult she can afford to buy her own dresses!
    You looked great in both gowns, Charlie!

  7. Congrats to Arabella and the proud mom!

  8. yummychunklet says:

    Congrats and Happy Birthday!

  9. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Congratulations mum, dad and Arabella! The Alannah Hill does look fabulous on you-love those sparkly shoulders 🙂

  10. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    Congratulations to all of you! Having just been through the whole graduation thing several months ago, but the much more subdued, less dramatic and considerably less expensive Minnesota version, I can understand the importance of this evening and how it’s all part of that transition into adulthood and leaving home.

  11. My undying love for all things sparkly means that I approve with thunderous applause of both your and Arabella’s dresses. SUCH WIN. Though the hair appointment pricetag makes me gag a little….

  12. hahaha, enjoyable post once again, I have to say that you look AMAZING either way, truth is that your Alannah Hill dress is spectacular. Happy Birthday to your Arabella she;s such a doll! I laughed my pants off with your “crossed over to the after life” picture! Have a nice weekend Charlie!

  13. Haha, well hopefully that dress you bought Arabella is returnable! Love the picture poses 🙂 Sounds like everyone had a great time. Happy Birthday to Arabella!

  14. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    That last line makes it all worthwhile. You look stunning. Arabella looks stunning (I prefer the black–and how gorgeous with her coloring). And what a great photo of the two of you. Another milestone successfully navigated. Congrats!

  15. Jennifer Cullen says:

    You and Arabella both look stunning. Congrats!!! And I think the lighting in the family picture makes you look like the angel that you are!

  16. You all look stunning my friend, I’m so glad such a big event turned out so successful 😀
    You deserve that!

    Choc Chip Uru

  17. What an exciting time of year! You both look stunning!

  18. I enjoyed the fashion show! Congratulations and Happy Birthday to Arabella. She looks beautiful ! Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos …it’s a special occasion and you did it in style.

  19. Norma Chang says:

    Congratulations Arabella! You looked stunning.
    Congratulations Mom and Dad! You did a fantastic job raising you kids.
    Now on to the next phase of life, how exciting!!!!!
    Norma Chang, http://gardentowok.com/

  20. InTolerant Chef says:

    When you didn’t post for the last couple of days, I thought perhaps the pressure had finally got to you and you might have been lying in bed medicated mumbling ‘no more cakes, no more cakes….’
    I’m glad to see you on your feet instead and looking very glamorous indeed! That photo of Arabella and her slightly older sister is gorgeous sweetie

  21. Looks like Arabella had a great night. Your Alana Hill dress was also stunning and you looked hawt in it too. Great to hear that you did not bawl through the ceremony, like so many of the other mothers. It is time for celebrating, not sadness.

  22. Sweet Posy Dreams says:

    Congratulations to Arabella and to you! You both looked gorgeous. Two kiddos out of high school — you’re two thirds of the way!

  23. I agree with Arabella here, on both counts – that white creation looks so gorgeous on you and much more sophisticated than the blue one….that one is more, I don’t know, Hawaiian?
    And that black number is sensational. Absolutely gorgeous. Couldn’t believe it is that old. But then, 20-22 years have stopped feeling that old all of a sudden…..that’s late 80s or early 1990s possibly.
    Your daughter is beautiful, but I cannot imagine that guy charged you 120 for that sham…..that’s terrible!

  24. Juliet Batten says:

    Fabulous. You both look stylish and beautiful. Congratulations.

  25. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    Made it all worth while having Arabella saying it’s the best birthday she has had!
    🙂 Mandy

  26. my jaw is all open. After reading your blog for sometime, I had imagine u and your family in my own way. lol and now I am just buff cause I imagined arabella much younger. ^.^ I must have got stuck in one of your memories of your kids when they were younger.

    You guys look gorgeous! In a way I understand what ur daughter meant with the peacock dress. Its more like a night half formal beach dress. I like it though. Sometimes I wish I could get these type of dresses here in Goa.

  27. tania@mykitchenstories.com.au says:

    We are in two worlds moving as one at the moment Charlie my son graduated and had his 18th in the same weeks. Fortunately he didnt have to wear and evening gown or have his hair in a bun. Arabella does look gorgeous ( and so do you)

  28. Aww, it all leaves me just a bit teary. (and it leaves you exhausted, poor and elated) You are very pretty, Charlie, with a gorgeous smile. Not sure how you got your lippy on without a freakin lightbulb though!

    Arabella is beautiful, 18 and graduated. A perfect night for you all.

  29. Gosh, the black dress is beautiful, too, and Arabella is a stunner no matter what she wears. Glad it all went so well and looks like everyone is having such fun.

  30. Oh, how funny about the dresses…especially after the formal dramas. Funny but frustrating!! Ditto the $120 for hair, which I am cringing at from the other side of the world. I’m glad she had a good night though and it sounds like a big marker of a new stage for you all!

  31. Hi Charlie,
    All of you look gorgeous! I agree with Betsyb, Arabella is stunning no matter what she wears. Looks like you all had a great time.
    Btw, I loooovveee the Kate Spade dress on you. It’s beautiful!

  32. Miss A was walking by as I was reading this and said, “Who is that girl? I like that girl! She has great lipstick and a sparkly dress.” 🙂 That is a stunning black dress. So glad Arabella had a great birthday and graduation. Congratulations!!!

  33. What wonderful photos! Such a beautiful daughter, and mother, too! Loved being part of the very special occasions, and hearty congratulations to Arabella! Such major steps in the life of any young person! 🙂 Debra

  34. Congratulations to Arabella for graduating and turning 18! She’s an adult now hehe! Does that mean she’s no longer a teenager? 🙂 I love that black dress Arabella chose to borrow and wear the Val! I can’t believe it belonged to her friend’s mum so many years ago 🙂

    Wow $120 definitely is expensive but I think it’s worth it, because Arabella looks amazing and it was her best birthday so far hehe 😀 xx

  35. Everyone looks great & I especially love the picture of you and Arabella hamming it up 🙂

  36. justonecookbook says:

    Congratulations to Arabella!!! Wow she’s the most gorgeous one! I’d mistaken her as a model or celebrity! And I was cracking up so hard when I read your comment on ” I look like I’ve crossed over to the after-life”. Haaaa.. you are such a good writer and make me smile and happy. Your family is beautiful Charlie. You look stunning!

  37. Congrats to Arabella for her graduation and birthday. What a day in her life! And, if you ask me, the 2 of you would have looked good no matter what dresses you chose. That pic of the 2 of you is one you’ll both cherish for many years to come.

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