This is part of a weekly series I’m writing in 2016 to focus on one of my three words for the year: beauty. At the start of nearly every week a post will explore some aspect of beauty that I’ve been considering. Read more about my focus words of the year.
This past weekend I went to the third annual Midwest Art of Living Conference. The purpose of the weekend is to bring high school girls together to show them the art and beauty that exists in the things typically considered part of the home. The whole thing is done so well that every attendee wants to return home and set a beautiful table for their family or create an amazing cake for a special event.
The concept for this conference is to help modern teenagers to see that there is actual beauty in the things of the home. That women of all ages should take pride and care in these home arts, which have decreased in popularity and prestige over the last 40 years. It isn’t to say a woman’s only role is barefoot in the kitchen, but rather that these are parts of the full flourishing of the human person that should be learned, studied and improved. It helps them see the great love we can show for those around us by creating a delicious meal or setting a beautiful table.
To make these lessons practical and fun, there are a handful of different competitions the attendees can participate in while attending. They prepare ahead of time with their team members and then come ready to wow the judges with their expertise in a particular area. Competitions includes: table setting, culinary skills, cake creation, and fashion skills gallery. The cakes made were stunning (and certainly far better than anything I could have ever made in high school). The ham-based breakfast meals created in the culinary contest were literally mouth watering. The skills gallery included how to screen print and how to make leather jewelry. And the tabletop decor, which was hands-down my favorite contest, was creative and so impressive.
Beyond the contests the attendees can also rotate through a variety of mini classes. They learned how to bake bread and the various derivations that can be created with the addition or subtraction of an ingredient or two. (I ate WAY too much bread to sample all the creations.) They learned about the lost art of letter writing and calligraphy and were then given a chance to write a thank you note to someone. There was also a cultural component on the home traditions in Indonesia.
As I photographed the conference this weekend, it had me thinking that I was surrounded by beauty on so many different levels. The cakes were beautiful. The platters of food were beautiful. The table decorations were beautiful. The attendees were beautiful. The bread station was beautiful, as was the bread being made and displayed. The every hallway was filled with professionally and beautifully done posters lauding another art of living. The thank you notes filled with loving affection were beautiful. The attempts at calligraphy, in all the various levels of skill, were beautiful.
Overall, it was a weekend filled with beauty that had me thinking, how can I bring more beauty to the arts of living in my own home? Can I platter my meals better to make it more appealing to a guest having dinner? Can I arrange flowers in a welcoming way for the front foyer? Can I make my own screen-printed t-shirts or leather jewelry? (Not even kidding, I really want to do that this summer!)