Thursday 1 March 2018


So, I was absent for a while, because we threw a 16 th party for our daughter. The last stages were a three day hard slog, we set up in the hall the previous afternoon and night, set up on the day, shopping for food, and putting on the party, with cooking, starting pack up on the night. The day after: a garage sale there, and distribution around town of remaining (most) items, then a final clean, finishing with mopping the kitchen floor. The next morning we all slept, exhausted. The ache in my legs finally went away on the third day afterward. I now have a cold , though, which Acerules had , it didn’t dim her beauty though. 

A huge amount of work went in because of the theme, Venetian Masquerade, and a limited budget. 

It was held in a local church hall, I was very pleased the teens were well behaved. 

We transported most of them an hour each way from school, and back to Mc Donald’s at midnight, on a coach with driver that we hired. We paid it off weekly since October. Acerules was afraid most wouldn’t come otherwise because of the distance. A couple of parents expressed their appreciation. 

Some teens were really helpful after they arrived, one arranged remaining flower vases, another put in the napkins in the rings and distributed them, one put batteries in the faux candles, the teens distributed those, another separated the pile of costumes into boys and girls. One boy took the guest book around for people to sign. The first course plates disappeared from the tables magically, so I’m happy about that.

The birthday cake was chocolate mud, from the local Main Street bakery, with a real Venetian gold mask on the top, that a friend in US sent me. Around the sides was a gold cloth laurel wreath that I bought from a costume shop on Ebay, which contrasted nicely with the dark chocolate. Writing and a couple of icing flowers and a 16 candle were on the top. Simple, but effective. 

A teen guest administered the music I had collected , and some “doof doof” music he brought, on USB, on my hubby’s stereo he got for his 50 th a few years ago. The guest brought additional speakers. We put it on an old pine tall tv cabinet that daughter had spray painted metallic gold. On top were borrowed disco lights and mirror ball. (We were going to hire a dj, until the inflated utility bills came in the mail. )

Daughter wore a watermelon pink , long ballgown that took me from April to December to pay off on layby, as we don’t use credit cards. It was a second hand designer, one off, gown. There was a black blouse to go under it, made over by our dressmaker, but that got mislaid until the next day. She will wear it later. She had a black lace mask with a black flower on it.

The hairdresser gave her a “half up half down” side curled ponytail like a 1700 s look, and she had a tiny black hat with a black rose , black bow and peacock feather. She “scrubbed up a treat.” (Looked very good.) She made her entrance in tiny-diamant√© covered high heel  shoes that I bought cheap but new, from a burlesque seller on eBay. Later she switched to lower gold second hand Italian leather ones, with kitten heels, from Ebay, covered in gold lace by the local dressmaker. Later still she went unshod. The party was 6 hours long.

She had a real Murano glass and gold , hot pink bead from a jeweller around her neck on a chain, and an antique gold ring from Ebay with a hot pink star sapphire in it. Those and gold hoop earrings from the jeweller, she got for her birthday. I had paid them all off during the previous year. 
There’s a Leyland Brothers story to that ring (travel all over the countryside) . 

The seller had accidentally sent it to South Australia to a jade collector, and his brown jade pendant came here to Victoria. We both had to send them back to her up North , then she sent them to the correct addresses. 

I did a baroque decor, modified by daughter wanting spooky, so I got the kids to tease out and apply faux spider webs. (There was nothing minimalist about this crazy decor!)

However, there were assorted cream and gold damask tablecloths, from Ebay , also from local vintage/antique shops and op (thrift) shops , sometimes with sheets or curtain material underneath; new matching pink and white flocked damask design table runners from an eBay seller, silver compotes of fruit, arranged by the teens, (the leftovers of which Acerules is still having in her school lunches), and lots of flowers in mostly op (thrift) shop curly vases. The florist and I and one of the teens worked overtime on those. I had wired up faux fruit, feathers and faux jewels to include in the arrangements, and we spray painted interesting branches silver. 
There were pewter and silver goblets, lots of candlesticks and candelabras, in silver, gold, and black, vintage silver coasters, and napkin rings made from curtain rings with fancy buttons threaded on. This is taken after dessert:

We had pewter and vintage glass punch bowls filled with non alcoholic alternatives to wine. One American recipe with grape juice and lemon/lime soda I can recommend. We couldn’t get white grape juice here, so just threw in equal amounts of dark type with the lemon/lime. The (valuable) pewter bowl was a wedding present years ago. Continuing the hot pink theme, the other was clear soda with raspberry/apple all natural cordial. Very simple, a good thing, as in the heat the bowls needed refilling often. We also had lemonade and Italian mineral water, non alcoholic wine, and plain lemon/lime. It was a no alcohol party because of the teens. Both grape and lemon/lime punch are shown here as the other had run out. Remember the candlesticks that hubby made and daughter painted gold? That clock was a vintage find on Ebay for around $60 , I think, though I bought it nearly a year ago. The statuette of the soldier is made in Italy, and the clock is German. I think the teens spiderwebbed him.

Tapestries depicting the period (1600s-1700s) hung on the walls. Two were of Venice as seen across the water, with ladies and gentlemen on a day out. The framed one was from Ebay and we went to Melbourne to collect it. It was only $30 au. This doesn’t show how big it was, very big, but light. 

One had been sent by my friend in America. Hubby put it up on the wall, but without the rod! Oh well, he made good pizza.

One I bought when we were engaged to be married:

Another framed tapestry from home:

I had baroque style mirrors but couldn’t hang them on the removable Commander hooks I’d brought, (sob), as some thought they’d give way, it being over 30 c deg. That was a shame, I was very disappointed as I was relying on that look. The straight edge pictures  and mirrors we were able to prop on occasional tales we brought. One mirror, below, normally in Acerules bedroom at home, I used underneath, on an antique plant stand:

Many prints were v cheap , though on the theme, and I painted the frames gold. This one below was $5 au from Ebay. The new blue and pink central glass vase, one of a pair, looks like Murano, but is much cheaper at $7.50 au from ebay also. Some of my readers will recognise the mannequin head, I don’t know who put her there in the vintage Venetian mask, but it made me laugh. (Placement of items was a team effort). I didn’t light the real candles, they were there for looks, we had enough light when it got dark from the many battery candles, that are safer. Although the decor did look better in that more traditional dim light, the iPad wouldn’t take photos without me switching the light on briefly.

Some readers may recognise the wooden candlesticks and plaster cherubs below that Acerules painted gold:

These doileys were being sold off by a lady on eBay from her mother’s colourful handmade stash :

One good antique wooden framed engraving of Venice that I’d paid off on layby, went behind the cake, propped, daughter will have it in her adult house. 

She wants to keep the chandeliers too, and the Venetian and Italian masks sent by a friend in America, for her house, plus the tapestry from there. She’s kept two plainer mirrors too, and a few ornaments and silver candelabras and serving dishes. Nothing too “curly” as her style is more linear. That’s good, as dusting is not her thing.

It is hard to hire party things in the country beyond the basics, so only the black chair covers were hired, through the florist. As stretchy material, they were easy to put on, and hid the metal chairs well. I pinned on straight lace chair sashes I made from a roll of shallow lace curtaining. Venice has a lace industry, though their handmade product was out of our budget. We approximated by having bulk black and pink lace fans on the tables, necessary in the heat. Unfortunately we had to run ugly modern pedestal fans too, as the hall windows don’t open very wide, I guess because of noise considerations. We did have nearly all the doors open. The teens wandered outside a few times, and took some hilarious photos of themselves.

Food: hubby made pizza (on bought bases), using fresh (bought that day) and homegrown ingredients, it was yummy. He took over the cooking and I decided it best just to get out of his way.  I had commissioned a local friend to make leek and bacon flan, which I enjoyed. A local takeaway broke out of their comfort zone to make a Venetian speciality I showed them online, containing mixed seafood and a few veges, fried in batter. It was tasty. Hubby prepared salad, leg ham (the gluten free people were ok with that, ) tiramisu, cake, gelati (four kinds for the dairy intolerant and vegan,plus the rest of us) and raspberry jelly. The kids had raspberry lollies,(sweets, candies) later in the evening. 

The kids had their pop music and dancing, a little, though they also sat in the area we set up with antique carved velvet “grandmother and grandfather” armchairs, carved antique velvet dining chairs, benches belonging to the venue, covered with heavy cotton damask bedspreads I collected for a few years, and cushions on the floor rug. 

The venue looked better when it got dark. We kept the fluorescent lights off, and lit battery candles everywhere, the kind you get at carols by candlelight, and battery tea lights stuck in real candles. There were also real candles for decor but I didn’t light those, for safety. 

In the lead up , daughter and I did lots of crafts, and we put them on the blog. We went to Melbourne on the coach and trains to pick up Ebay props, such as two Marie Therese chandeliers for cheap, that I stripped the crystals off. I painted them magenta with a medium added to make the paint see through. Then I attached acrylic flowers cut off a no longer working string of solar lights , that were painted to match. Time ran out to glue, so I attached those with rubber bands . When hanging, with battery candles in them, the fittings looked like Murano glass. I also painted three strings of flower Solar lights and a couple of vases to match.

After dessert, hubby having a well earned rest in the white shirt, teens sitting in their seating area down the back:

We had a garage sale of props at the hall next day, only a bit sold as people here are struggling with high utility bills, and the dairy price crisis. We distributed the rest to the scouts op shop, some good brass and gilded wood candlesticks and vases to the two churches nearby, flowers and more medium vases to the nursing home, surplus craft materials to a disabled day centre, put some things in storage for daughter ‘s adult home, also brought our own furniture and wedding presents home. Candelabras and candlesticks went into her storage for her wedding, (of which she wants medieval theme. ) That is not a problem as hubby was a medieval reenactor for decades, so we have the props, and the goblets from the Venetian party. 

All the professionals we used showed great creativity, I for one was very happy with what they provided for us. Looking at a photo of the cake, which I couldn’t put up here, as it has Acerules real name on the top; I was thinking about the debate about whether such event artisans are breaking the law if they refuse to work for someone, crying discrimination.  I don’t think so, as they  are artists. They put their heart and soul into what they create and need to feel inspired. We should not force them to work for anyone against their will. Creatives are butterflies, they shouldn’t be cooped up.

I’d also like to acknowledge the local Chemist staff that administered the gift registry, keeping a data base and wrapping the gifts. It was lovely to see Acerules face light up as she unwrapped the items. Some guests gave her money, most of which she spent after the weekend on the same gift registry, buying personal care items , a leopard hot water bottle cover for winter, and a big tub of natural honey! Some friends also gave her jewellery, a bag tag, watercolour paints set with paper, and money which she’s spending on more art materials.

The party gave some business to helpful local retailers, as well as “Mum and Dad “ small businesses on eBay, and ordinary people there just selling off their stuff. I heard some sad stories why they were selling. To me, that was all part of the experience. I did shop for the cheapest prices in the main, unless there was something exclusive I was looking for, even then I’d see if I could make it for less. Would I plan that Venetian party now? Quite frankly, the utility bills have gone up so much, I have to say no, it would have to be something smaller. Inflated bills are strangling consumers’ ability to keep the economy ticking over.  However, I started preparations for this, three years ago. I’m grateful hubby kept his job.

Thanking volunteers.
No names, but if you’re reading, you know who you are.
I have to thank a local friend for helping decorate tables on the afternoon of the party, and transported  groceries, took me to the bank and to pay the hairdresser; plus another friend collected our daughter fully dressed from the hairdresser and drove her to the hall. Adult guests drove to pick up ice , gelati and other items from off site. 

A teen friend of Acerule’s helped us pack up for hours on the night, after the party , which made somewhat less work next day, though there was still heaps to do. 

The church representative let us have extra hall time before and after the party for set up, 

and take down, and the garage sale; and found extra chairs and tables for us , which we appreciate. A church volunteer mowed the lawn and coped with the increased rubbish we left. 

SES rescue service, of which hubby is a member, allowed us to borrow their folding tables, and Eskies for our ice,  also allowed us to temporarily use their freezer for the gelati, as there was none at the hall. (Though it’s a good kitchen there.) 

Op (thrift) Shop staff give their time all year as volunteers so we can buy  fun stuff for theme parties, and have somewhere to leave the things no longer needed, and the money raised goes to a good cause. (Anglicare, Lifeline , St Vincent de Paul, Red Cross, Salvation Army, the Scouts and Red Cross are the ones we used, over the three years, maybe a couple of others.)

My father previously paid school fees and teeth braces so we could ‘spoil’ our daughter, we don’t take that for granted.  I appreciate the lady who lent us the disco lights and mirror ball. 

Two of hubby’s work mates drove or lent a Ute (pickup truck) and car with trailer, for hours, one on each day, for transport of the furniture, ladder, necessities and props. 

A friend was hired to sweep the hall after the garage sale, while I packed up, but wouldn’t take payment, so I encouraged her to take some jewellery from the garage sale table, and flowers.

The costume dressmaker and florist both put in extra hours gratis, and the florist drove two carloads of our things and myself, to the hall. Her daughter went to buy pins for the chair sashes.

The hairdresser lent her back room for getting dressed out of school uniform, and she also applied Acerules makeup unexpectedly. (There was consensus that there was insufficient time for a makeup artist after school. ) 

Local retailers let me have extended lay-bys on items for the party. I was allowed to do (paid) printing at the library, and we used their computers, scissors and stapler.

I even remember the nice Ebay seller last year of the oval gold mirror, (that Acerules is keeping) , that drove us to the next seller’s house , of the chandeliers, then took us to the railway station. He wasn’t the only Ebay seller that gave us lifts to the station either. I do pray to God for help in a pickle, and he often provides. People are kind natured , too. I really do appreciate all these helpers and don’t forget.

Friends overseas kindly gave ideas and links on emails, provided a cheer squad, and one provided masks and a tapestry, that Acerules kept for her house. I wish they could all have been here. I appreciate all the readers of my blog, as I documented what we did, it helped me clarify my thoughts and remember where I was up to . 

There is so much work behind those Venetian and /or masquerade parties and weddings you see on Pinterest etc. Ours didn’t have the budget of some of those, but was equally as much work. If you want to do that theme and don’t have a baroque palazzo to use, be prepared to start collecting years before, as I did, but unlike me, get somewhere to store it all. (Hubby wouldn’t let me hire a storage unit until the week before the party! Now it is going to store things I’ve collected previously for Acerules’ future adult house.)  You will also need at least a day each side of the party for bump in and bump out, as it’s a complicated look to put together, or as I called it, over the top.

I’ve thrown kids’ (and a few adult) functions for years, collecting things for each theme, but this is the last until her wedding, it feels weird, but the house and bills are now crying out for attention.

However, when they are this darned cute, I just can’t regret it all



Running on empty said...

Correction, bad punctuation . Hubby did not prepare the desserts. I prepared the raspberry jelly with Acerules, when we got access to the hall the evening before, and refrigerated it there. I had collected two vintage jelly/mousse moulds, one a fancy love heart and one with a fruit design. We also found a glass dish with a flower design there to use as a mould. I’d not tried making jelly in a mould before, only in bowls. I got advice from the Internet how to put the jelly in (first you refrigerate the mould) and from a guest on how to get it out (you sit the mould in a bowl of warm water very briefly.)

The tiramisu was made by the same local store that made the Venetian fried seafood dish. Hubby went to Woolworths to buy the four kinds of gelati.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cath, Glad it went without a hitch! It looks fun & everyone enjoyed. It all looked lovely & very interesting & part spooky. XO, NA

R said...

Awww, indeed. And what a belle of the ball -- Acerules, you could not have looked more lovely if you'd been made entirely of dreamstuff. Oh it is going to feel strange not to be in party mode after this long build-up and hectic finish, but I hope the easier days are good for you. Can't say no worries, because those utility bills are definitely worries.

So great to see it all come together. Sad not to be able to capture the candlelit magic, but lovely images nevertheless.

Pam Richardson said...

Wow, what a fabulous 16th birthday party! You planned and executed it wonderfully!

Running on empty said...

Nice to see you all again, including Nancy, who’s posts keep disappearing although I can read them on gmail. Thankyou, I had help, for which I am grateful.
Acerules has been sick with a virus, including a short hospital stay since the party, so we’ve been busy with that too.