The Tale Of Abigail, Charlotte, Rory & Ryan O'Neill |

The Tale Of Abigail, Charlotte, Rory & Ryan O’Neill


The strikingly beautiful Abigail O’Neill doesn’t look like the kind of woman who would write a book about chocolate, but dig a little deeper and you'll discover it's the healthy superfood variety (hello delicious ginger and spice raw cacao fudge). “The kitchen was my home from a young age and it’s remained the place where I feel the most creative and inspired. Encouraging our children to eat the same way wasn’t too difficult because there wasn’t any sugary or processed food in the house,” says the model, raw chocolatier, and self-published author of Model Chocolate, who lives near the far North Coast of Byron Bay with her family. Her children – Charlotte, 21, Rory, 19 and Ryan, 16 – might be all grown up, but she still remembers the moment she became a mother for the first time. “I’ll never forget being in hospital and holding my baby girl and realising that this is real living, this is real love. I was overwhelmed with utter adoration. I knew what it was that I wanted from life. Just to be, love, and give!” she says. We visited O’Neill at her beautiful home to talk everything from cooking to children…

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I’d describe myself I’m an earth mother and wife living the ultimate dream near the gorgeous far North Coast of Byron Bay…
More recently I’ve become an Australian fashion model, raw chocolatier, and self-published author of Model Chocolate, the chocolate models eat! I like that my life isn’t the same everyday. People who know me say that I’m happy, spontaneous, creative, loving, fun, loyal, spiritual and intuitive.

I was married quite young, so the bigger part of my life to date has been spent bringing up our gorgeous kids…
I’ve learned how to look after my family’s wellbeing. When my children were sick, I’d use natural remedies, most times with great success, to get them better. I suppose I’ve become a nurse, chef, hairdresser, teacher, photographer, taxi driver... what can’t mothers do? Most importantly I’ve discovered how to be truly kind, forgiving, patient, and to stick to my word. Being a mother has made me more efficient and time savvy too, oh the things you can get done in a day, it’s incredible! Motherhood has also taught me to understand what people need really, we are all big grown up children, you realise that when you’ve become a mother and you care more, whether it’s the ratty random teenage boy on the street, the elderly, or the highly successful. Everyone is special. Everyone is someone’s child.

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My mum is the most incredibly fun person I’ve ever known…
She’ll make a game that will have you laughing so hard you’re in stitches, out of nothing. She also taught me to be true to core values, and she showed me what it really means to love. My mum truly lived for us!.

Love your children, play and laugh with them as often as you can…
Teach by example, positivity, rewarding and consequences, but mostly remember to have lots of fun. Be their best friend. Those are the things you’ll treasure forever. We still live in the luckiest country, we can choose what we really want for ourselves and our children. That is priceless.

We’ve always wanted to raise our children in the country…
I remember the precious moments taking my ‘babies’ walking to see the cows down the road, one or two in a pram, and the eldest on foot. We would share doing the housework, baking real sourdough bread, and gardening together. I home schooled for a couple of years, so the children were always around me then. I remember often they’d make cute little ‘huts’ outside from branches and leaves. They were always tree-climbing and playing with animals or riding horses. We loved blueberry picking (and eating) together! When it rained a lot we’d run around like crazy in it, and slide down black plastic into the overflowing dam on our property. We’ve surfed together as a family for the last 12 years, so lots of memories piling the boards and kids into the car, and making a day of it. I used to have to bribe one of them with donuts, he wasn’t too keen on surfing early on and they never usually got donuts so it worked. They’re all such good surfers now.

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There’s only the boys at home now…
Our daughter has just married and moved from home and we’re actually about to embark on renovations and makeover the boys rooms. I think what children’s rooms needs the most are things that reflect who they are and that changes over the years. I remember taking my daughter shopping a number of times and we’d change the look of her bedroom, especially going into the teen years. She loved it! A few hundred dollars can go a long way to creating a new look.

While I was offered the opportunity to start a professional modelling career at 16...
I actually didn’t begin modelling until I was 32! Brisbane isn’t too far away from where we live so I joined Dallys Models for what I considered ‘a bit of fun’. Although we did all move to Sydney as a family, for one year’s adventure in 2008, after I signed with Chic Management. That was a real experience for us all. We each learned a lot, but ultimately decided that a country lifestyle was what suited us most. During my part-time career of eight years to date, modelling has always been juggled to suit my family’s needs. Our youngest is now 16, so I feel very blessed to have been able to prioritise good times with my family, while still experiencing some incredible moments with some of Australia’s top designers, photographers and creatives.

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It was always my priority to be a stay at home mother for our children in their younger years…
It wasn’t always easy, we lived in ‘sheds’ a couple of times in those early years while building our first home and before creating the home where we live now. I can relate to one wage earning families well! It’s just something I didn’t wish to compromise and I’m thankful to reflect back on so many beautiful moments as a result. I honestly couldn’t be more proud of our children and who they’ve grown up to be. My life now is definitely changing. One has moved from home, and our 19 year old is to move soon as well.

All three of my children now appreciate organic, unprocessed, in season food over junk food...
The secret is to make it tasty! Teenage boys can be harder to please, they’re so often ‘starving’ but if you can take the time to make food at home appealing usually you’ll win them over. Going out or travelling can be more tricky, so I’ve spent lots of extra dollars over the last few years to help cultivate their love for raw food bars and vegan/vegetarian restaurants and cafes.

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I always make everything from scratch…
I love cooking everything from vegan/vegetarian lasagne, pizzas and pasta to curries, spicy potato wedges, all kinds of salads/dressings, sourdough breads and of course raw and cooked vegan desserts... there’s no end. I really enjoy cooking so I’ve spent many hours in each week over the last 20 years doing just that. There’s a smorgasboard of favourite chocolate desserts in our family, all of which naturally made it into Model Chocolate, but their top two would probably be my raw Tiramisu, or my Love Me Bittersweet Jaffa Pie. We are food people. I believe good food brings people together, and hopefully, it keeps us healthy for longer to enjoy one another! I love that.

Mostly these days I enjoy walking daily amongst nature…
On the weekends, surfing is my favourite! I do still practice a few moments of yoga here and there, but not as much as I did when I was pregnant. I’m not doing anywhere near as much exercise as I’d like to be doing, but hey, picking pecans has to count right?

I love raw organic honey, coconut oil and aloes…
Try smearing some honey on your skin after a day at the beach, leave it for 10 minutes rinse off and smother with coconut oil and fresh aloe vera. Amazing! I also really obsess over scrubs. I have a recipe in the book which is a bath salt recipe which doubles as a great all over body scrub, so good. Lately I’ve also been using Zk’in beauty products, their moisturizer, face mask and rejuvenative serums are lovely! Another thing you must try is pure frankincense essential oil. I use a couple of drops neat on my skin in the evenings, it helps reduce pigmentation and is highly anti-aging.

I’m so proud of my children…
Their humour, kindness, love for their parents and each other, their determination and their true hearts. I’m also proud that I loved my children, my husband, and our family and put the things that really matter first, that I listened to my conscience. I’m so thankful to be able to write that here, I don’t have regrets.

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If you can afford it pay a cleaner for some of the big jobs like washing windows, do it...
I did that a couple of years back, it was great, and I could still put the time into preparing nice meals, which was more important to me. Being prepared from Sunday really helps too, stealing a few hours of the weekend to whip up delicious treats to have in the freezer, salad dressings, hummus, pesto etc. and go to the farmer’s markets to make sure there’s an abundance of fresh ingredients to quickly whip up meals with.

One of my greatest flaws is no structure…
So bad! That said, artistic spontaneity is one of my greatest strengths. So I just worked hard to invent and photograph the recipes when the children were at school and I wasn’t working on a modelling job somewhere. I also stayed up late at night to write, I don’t think that was overly good for me, but it was more preferable to me than compromising on our family time together. Everything about the book was from my heart all the way, and I learned so much in the inventive process. So I suppose I’ve lived the dream of a true entrepreneur!

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I love those moments when the computers and smart phones disconnect and we, the real humans, all connect…
My other favourite time of the day is escaping into nature. Whether it’s in my secret garden, or on a country road somewhere walking, or surfing in the beautiful ocean. I absolutely breathe those moments in and they make me feel rejuvenated and at peace.

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I thought it was fun to bundle up the babies and just get in the car and go on holidays, but those middle years were a trial…
Now it’s really cool, they’re all excited to come travelling with us and we have the money so we just tell them where we’re all going and ask when their holidays start, and they’re in! We’re actually planning a road trip together this coming winter, with all of the kids, and my daughter’s new hubby, I can’t wait!

There are things about motherhood that you don’t read on beautiful blogs...
Things no one warns you of when you have your babies like awful diseases, loss, and heartbreak. I too have experienced the deep pain of things unpredictable, that can attempt to ruin all the good and happiness that we’ve strived to give our children, but I believe that love always wins. Love will always find a way. So do your best, your very best, then let your heart be at peace in letting go.

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Abigail’s little list of loves…
Surfing with my family followed by a quality cafe breakfast.
My raw chocolate!
Walking barefoot on weekends around our gorgeous property.
Spending a day in Byron Bay, Newcastle or Sydney with my beautiful daughter.
I’m currently reading ‘Earthing’ a book all about the electromagnetic field around the earths surface and how you need to connect to that daily for good health.
Sun-bathing and sand-glowing - do it free at any beach and feel like a million dollars afterwards!
Green juice.
Freshly picked pecans and guavas from our trees.
Time with my mum and extended family.
Listening to music my boys play on their guitar and mandolin!

Photography: Carly Brown Words: Georgie Abay Abigail and Charlotte wear clothes from South Of The Border Sydney

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