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Creative Challenge Finale

Creative Challenge Finale

So...we've arrived at the end of our year long creative journey, and what a year it's been. Creating a significant piece every week is a big undertaking, so congratulations to the creative challenge team for a year of absolutely fabulous design and creation. Here's what we've made to celebrate our grand finale.

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has completely finished refurbishing his century old camera, and he took her out yesterday for a test drive. She worked beautifully and was easy to carry around and use. He’s decided to call her Beatrice, and is looking forward to a long and meaningful relationship.

Camera refurbishment
Steve's old camera

The photos below are of Kama Nature Reserve and the Academy of Science at the ANU.

Kama Nature Reserve
Kama Nature Reserve

Georgia Bennett

The Lonely Road Georgia Bennett

Georgia Bennett recorded her first EP in July. It will be available for sale on iTunes shortly, but in the meantime here's a sneak preview of a couple of her songs. Georgia wrote all the songs on the album, and she recorded the guitar part and all the vocal parts as well. This is a huge achievement, and a brilliant result. Have a listen.

A few months ago, Georgia did a gig in Gold Creek dressed as the Black Widow from Captain America to support a local charity. One of the organisers liked her costume so much that she asked Georgia to model for a photo shoot to advertise a new cosplay event in Canberra that she's starting up. Georgia had a great time, and the photos are amazing.

Singer songwriter Georgia Bennett

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has made a wrap this week, inspired by the paving in the Spanish village at Balboa Park in San Diego. 

San Diego

She laid painters’ tape on a piece of brown silk chiffon and covered it with 2 layers of fleece. She then felted it and cut the fleece along the taped lines, felting a little more to seal the edges. She's very happy with the result and thinks it is a lovely reminder of her travels.

Telena's wrap and pullover

Telena has also managed to finish the pullover she's been knitting, with a little help from her furbaby, Hazel! She's already thinking about her next knitting project and has decided that she has OCKD….obsessive compulsive knitting disorder.

Telena has had some lichen stewing for the past few months in a concoction of water and ammonia. It needs exposure to sunlight to help the colour develop into a more purple hue before she can use it in a dye bath. She's glad it's lost the strong eye-watering smell it had when she first made it. 

Lichen eco-dyeing

Telena says she's really enjoyed the 52 week challenge - the excitement of creating new work and the challenge of trying new techniques. She plans to continue to challenge herself this way in the future. Good news.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has managed a quick trip home to Sydney this week, and it gave him a chance to create a fresh look for a lampshade he picked up from the gutter (where else?) using a scrap of wallpaper and some trim from the local Indian supermarket. It took him a total of 20 minutes, and he says that measuring was the hardest part. As rush jobs go, Kanen says it was a quick and satisfying transformation.

lamp makeover

Kanen is back in Melbourne now, and he spotted these little dazzlers on sale in the window of Windsor Smith. He thought they were rather dishy, but he wasn't as keen on the price. His solution? Off to Rivers he went, and for $30 he had his own pair ready to be transformed. One hour later, and his new glitzy boots are drying on his balcony. They're cheap, cheery and every bit as marvelous as the real deal for a fraction of the price. Go for gold!

shoe makeover
shoe makeover

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, is in Venice this week.

While there's bound to be cooking on the horizon, she's been out and about with her camera to capture some shots for our last creative challenge. It's hard to top photos of Venice, after all. Check these out.

Trish Urquhart in Venice

I must also mention that the bells of San Marco were tolling in the background as Trish emailed her photos through. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Trish and Richard are in Venice to run an Allaboutwriting writing retreat. Trish says that the apartments and palazzo are stunning, and the host very kind and helpful. She's enjoyed shopping at the Rialto market and surrounding shops, buying fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, and she plans to go with the cook during the week to shop for their participants.

Trish sends a big thank you to everyone in the creative challenge group for all the fun and inspiration over the past 12 months.

Trish Urquhart in Venice

Keryn Clark

Keryn's garden - before

South African born writer, florist and textile designer, Keryn Clark, has completely transformed her life over the course of our creative challenge. She's moved from Perth to the Gold Coast and has been gradually turning her new backyard into a more inviting living space. Here's a quick reminder of Keryn's starting point.


And here's the transformation below. While the weather still hasn't allowed for abundant growth, there have been significant changes. How fabulous does the garden look? Keryn has transformed her backyard from a concrete wilderness to an inviting outdoor living space. Great work.

garden transformation
Keryn's garden - after

Scarlet Bennett

I've created a series of pieces to commemorate our final creative challenge blog. This journey started (for me) with a horse, so I've ended it with a talisman that celebrates my love of horses. This set is made from sterling silver and carnelian.

Carnelian horse

I have a lot of different pendants (many of which I've made over the course of this creative challenge) that I wear with a plain black necklet. To provide a bit of variety, I made a simple black onyx and sterling silver necklet with a bolt ring centrepiece that will allow me to add any pendant I like. It doesn't look like much on it's own, but it's going to be the perfect backdrop for my pendants. This piece going to be a staple in my wardrobe.

I also made a carnelian necklet to wear with the carnelian pendant I made a few months ago. It's more vintage than classic, and I've got just the outfit to wear with it.

Scarlet's gemstone chokers

My final piece is made with sterling silver and denim lapis lazuli. I made it for my daughter Hannah, who's having a birthday in a couple of weeks. I hope she'll like it.

Hannah's lapis lazuli choker

Hearty thanks to the creative challenge team for a truly inspiring year. Thanks, also, to the readers who've sent encouragement along the way. It's been a really great year.

Week 51: Creative Challenge 52

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, is in Paris, and she's taken the opportunity to take some photos while she's there.

Trish and Richard are staying in a gorgeous, but tiny apartment on the Ile Saint Louis, but they've had a lot of work to fit in and that hasn't left Trish any time for cooking. With extraordinary food on every corner, who needs to cook in Paris?

Paris photography
Paris Photography
Paris Photography

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has returned from a joyful family wedding in San Diego, where she spent time with family, went sightseeing, and drank quite a few margaritas.

Telena in San Diego

She took bamboo knitting needles, crochet hook and some wool to amuse herself on the plane, and she managed to knit and crochet a number of squares while watching seven movies over the course of two flights. She finds it easy to knit without watching what she's doing and she's getting better at this when she's crocheting, although she notes that she's a little slower.

Telena's squares

Telena had no opportunity for felting this week, but she's gathered some silk chiffon and fleece for a new project and can hardly wait to get started.

San Diego

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been the Jimmy Choo of Warragul this week. With three of the girls from the Remembrance tour green with envy over the ruby boots he made for Libby last week, he's found himself in hot demand. The girls trooped off to Target to buy some cheap shoes for Kanen to play with, and they put in requests for their favourite colours.

Kanen's shoes

Kanen says he spent no more than about 90 minutes on any one pair, although he notes that the pink undercoat didn't take to the faux leather very well, requiring four coats for even coverage. Each coat was completely dry within 5 minutes, however, so it didn't hold up production.

Shoe makeover

Kanen forgot to take a before photo of the blue boots (which were black), but he was quite taken with the blue leather paint, sans glitter, and he says he might whip up a pair for himself when he's home from tour.

shoe makeover

Stephen Bennett

Steve's scones

Stephen Bennett put on his chef's hat this afternoon to make a delicious batch of sultana scones to get us through the working week. He was a popular fellow indeed when they were sampled this afternoon. They're delicious!

Steve's scones

He's also shared some photos from a gathering of film photographers last weekend. The group sat around for a while talking about cameras, films, prints and the weather, then went their separate ways to see what they could find to photograph. The two buildings in Steve's photos were taken with a lens on the camera and the other two are pinhole (lens-less) photographs. Nice.

landscape photography
landscape photography

Scarlet Bennett

I've started working on some pieces to put aside for Christmas gifts, and I put together this choker set today for a friend who adores blue and butterflies. It's made with blue sky jasper, crystal quartz and sterling silver. It's not something I'd wear myself, but she'll love it.

blue sky jasper choker

Week 50: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, sends greetings from sunny Wodonga today. He is, he says, time poor but glitter rich, and he's whipped up these little Target lovelies in a sparkling frenzy for his tour manager, Libby Hill, who greatly admired last week's blue effort. Libby swears that she'll wear the boots to their first regional performance of Remembrance.

Kanen's shoe makeover

The shoe makeover took Kanen all of 90 minutes - he's getting speedy and slap dash in his old age, he says. Speedy perhaps, but I can see no sign of the slap dash. These shoes are just splendid.

Kanen's shoe makeover

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been impressively creative with the fruit she's been picking along the river bank this past week.

Trish made spiced roasted plums, which she says are delicious on oat porridge, with yoghurt, and also with cheese and crackers. She made sloe gin, which will take at least six months to mature (but will it last that long without someone giving in to the urge to sample it?). Still working with free fruit, Trish made apple, elderberry and sloe jelly. She also made a tomato tart tatin, and she's taken photos to show the making of it. Do check out Trish's food blog to see more of her fabulous food adventures.

Trish's tomato tart tatin

Trish has also been busy with travel photography this week and she's shared a photo of Godmanchester at night. Stunning.


Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been busy preparing for an overseas trip. That meant lots of packing and giving extra lessons to prepare her students for exams too.

She decided to felt a cover for her ipad so she can slip it into her handbag while sightseeing. Telena estimated the size of her pattern before shrinkage and laid out the base layer of a silvery grey fleece with a more colourful fleece laid on top. She had to felt carefully to avoid getting ridges around the edges, measuring at each step to make sure the ipad would fit. Telena was very pleased to discover that she can turn the felt cover inside out because both sides are attractive.

Telena's felt ipad cover

Telena has also been indulging her passion for knitting, and she's been working on the sleeves to a jumper she showed us not so long ago. She thinks she'll have it finished just in time for the warmer weather, but is happy to have it ready for when the cold sets in next year.

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has had a man-cold all week, so he's been a bit under the weather creatively. He did, however, find a camellia flower on our pathway this morning, and he took a very nice photograph of it.


He also finished his camera renovation project this week, and here are the finished bellows, ready to go. Nice job.


Scarlet Bennett

It's still too cold in Canberra to be soldering, hammering and filing downstairs in my jewellery studio, so I've been making pieces that I can put together on the couch in our warm living room.

I played around with some copper wire and black lava stone this week, creating a necklace that I put together with sterling silver links and findings. I made a pair of earrings to match too.

Copper lava stone jewellery

I also made a necklace and earring set using amber stones with mixed sterling silver findings.

Amber and sterling silver necklace set

Week 49: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has recently been in Orange and, while she was there, she visited Sassy Wines, a small boutique winery. The owner, Felicia, expressed interest in having some of Telena's textiles in the gallery at her cellar door, and she gave Telena a bag of mixed merino/polworth fleece to use in her creations.

Telena's felt scarves

Telena experimented with the fleece this week, finding that it created a softer felt than pure merino, and she's excited by the possibilities.

Telena's felting process
Telena's crocheted squares

She made two long skinny scarves, one with fleece alone and the other a mix of fleece and silk chiffon. Telena hasn't decided how she'll dye them yet, whether she'll eco-dye with leaves or aim for brighter hues.

Telena has also been making crocheted granny squares as she's going overseas and is hoping that a bamboo crochet hook will be deemed a safe travelling accessory by the authorities who determine what we can and can't take on flights.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, reports that the tedious events of last week (when Kanen received a homophobic taunt from a heckler in the crowd after he sang the national anthem at a nationally televised basketball match in Melbourne) have deterred his itchy glitter-finger not a jot! So he presents this week's dazzling offerings with a gay and defiant heart. Bravo.

Kanen's glitter tie

Kanen hasn't shared his creative process since he assumes that, by now, we're all too familiar with his methods. He did, however, experiment with a new technique that's turned out quite splendidly. He dropped into Riot Arts and Craft for a bottle of acrylic medium because he's been struggling with the consistency of the gorgeous Glitterlites paints he so adores. It's very thick in the jar and doesn't spread very well on fabric, requiring several coats to achieve uniform coverage. Kanen thought he'd see if it might apply more evenly if it was dispersed in an appropriate medium.

Kanen's painted boots

His hypothesis was resoundingly confirmed and he says this is an important development because the thinner coats allow greater flexibility in the finished shoe, which means no cracks or sparkle loss where the shoe bends with the foot.

Are we glad to know this, he asks. Absolutely! I'm loving those new wheels sick.

Kanen's shoe makeover

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has contributed a wonderful recipe for her contribution this week.

Trish and Richard have started the return journey in their narrowboat, Patience, to their mooring in Braunston and, as they travelled through various locks, Trish discovered a bounty of hedgerow fruit - apples, plums, elderberries, haws, blackberries and sloes.

Trish's hedgerow crumble

Trish has mountains of fruit still to process, but for now she's created a brilliant hedgerow crumble, and she's shared the recipe on her blog. Do check it out. It looks delicious. As does her greengage clafoutis below. Yum!

Trish's hedgerow crumble

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has nearly finished renovating the camera he started work on last week and all that remains is to secure the bellows to the frames. He's very pleased with how it's turned out and, with the hardest part of the job behind him, he's looking forward to finishing the task.

Steve's camera renovation

We're just back from a trip to Sydney, returning to Canberra via Kiama and Berry, to shoot a couple of marketing videos. Steve took every possible opportunity to grap some landscape shots while we were there. He took these photos in Manly.

Manly Beach

The next photo was taken in Kiama, and rest at Berry.

Masonic Temple Kiama

Scarlet Bennett

I've got two new online courses that will launch in the next couple of weeks and I wanted to make videos for each of them to include on my website.

These are substantial programs - roughly six months in duration - and, although they're both peak performance courses, the content is very different because the professional demands of each profession differ so greatly.

So...we went to Sydney to film a video for the Peak Performance for Performers course because we wanted footage with the gorgeous Sydney cityscape in the background. We filmed at dusk and into the night to capture the amazing view of the city lights. Steve took a photo to capture my creative effort.

Filming for Peak Performance Psychology for Performers

This morning we drove to Kiama for some ocean footage, and the weather just couldn't have been better. The rain held off, but the sky was blanketed in grey clouds, giving us fabulous, soft light to work with. It was a bit of a flying tour, but we got the job done and now it's over to Steve to put the videos together.

Video for Peak Performance Psychology for Writers

There wasn't much time for recreation on this trip, but we did manage a walk around Manly Beach this morning and a book indiscretion at some point on our journey was inevitable. The impressive thing is...I only bought one!

Manly video trip

Week 48: Creative Challenge 52

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has made a plum tart tatin this week and she's shared her recipe too. Read on!

Trish's plum tart tatin

Trish's Plum Tart Tatin Recipe

Melt some butter, sugar, star anise and cassia bark in a pan until it bubbles and is caremelised. Arrange the cut plum halves in circles in the pan and continue cooking until heated through. Remove from the heat.

Place a circle of puff pastry over the plums, tucking in around the sides. Bake in a hot oven until the pastry is puffed and golden. Remove from the oven. Allow to stand for ten to 15 minutes and then loosen around the edges and invert onto a serving dish. Serve with yoghurt or creme fraiche.

Do check out Trish's blog to see more of her fabulous food adventures.

Trish's plum tart tatin

Trish has also done some landscape photography this week, working with a sunset theme, and her shots are gorgeous.

Trish's sunset photography
Trish's sunset photography

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, managed to carve out some felting time this week, in spite of a busy teaching and examining schedule.  She felted a purple felt lace scarf for a friend, while she was waiting for a student to arrive. She then managed to finish the piece after his lesson, while a curry was simmering on the stove. Telena wins the multi-tasking prize this week!

A few days later, she enjoyed some felting in the sun, making small shapes into brooches, while enjoying a nice cup of tea. 

Telena's felt scarf and brooch

Telena also finished the eco-printed top from last week, leaving it to soak for a few days in the iron water, then washing it out and drying it to reveal the final colours.

Telena's eco-dyed t-shirt

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is back in the tie game again this week, inspired by our illustrious PM and his draconian stance against marriage equality.

Victorian Opera asked Kanen to sing the national anthem at some basketball matches last night and he quickly decided that a glitter rainbow tie would be a fitting and fabulous protest whilst singing about the glories of our 'fair' and 'free' land.

He says the tie was straightforward if slightly time consuming to create (endless waiting for one color to dry before embarking on the next, and multiple coats required for even coverage), and the results most pleasing to his eye.

Kanen's rainbow tie

Kanen sang the anthems twice - first for the women's match and then two hours later for the men's. Both times were televised. The first time, the cameramen very artfully filmed him from the back and side, almost as though deliberately avoiding his fashion flair- most annoying, he says. The second time, however, they captured his full-frontal flamboyance, which prompted a redneck in the crowd to hurl homophobic epithets at him. Kanen says he expected this and couldn't have been less fazed. In fact, he found it strangely gratifying, because it meant that his tie must have been sparkling extra bright.

How gorgeous does he look is his finished creation? (The fans on Facebook were swooning).

Kanen's rainbow tie

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett’s offering this week is threefold.

Firstly, he found another unusual vegetable to photograph, and thinks he might try a series of root vegetables. They're bound to be gob-smackingly popular with the punters.

Steve's root vegetable photography

Secondly, he hauled his bones out to the front porch and weeded the little garden next to the front door that has been in serious disrepair for months. There's still work to be done as he plans to fertilise and touch up the paint work, but it looks heaps better now than it did.

Steve's garden diptych
Steve's camera renovation

Thirdly, he’s making slow progress with his 8x10 camera, but progress nonetheless. This week he managed to get the old bellows off the front and rear bellows frames, and clean them up ready to receive the new ones. He’s a bit nervous about this as he doesn't feel that fabric related activities are quite his bag, and he doesn’t want to ruin the new bellows. He also prepared a couple of new lens boards for his two 8x10 lenses. He had to cut bigger holes in the aluminium, clean them up, spray with matt black, and then mount the lenses and tighten them up with the lens wrench. They are both ready to go now and just awaiting the new bellows, at which point the whole apparatus can be reassembled.

Steve's camera renovation
Steve's camera renovation

Scarlet Bennett

I've been a busy little author again this week, churning out nigh on 15,000 words, while carrying a full-time workload. I've drafted two chapters for my crime fiction novel - and it's just reaching the point in the story where some seriously bad stuff is going to happen, so that's kept me interested all week - a complete module for one of my online courses, and a few articles for my Psychology for Writers program too. One of my articles is about how you can tell when people are lying, and I really enjoyed researching and writing about that topic. Don't try to get anything past me now! My beta readers have given it a big thumbs up, too, so there are a few new lie spotters in the world these days.

The demand for my online courses has been really pleasing and I want to take a moment here to thank all you kind people who helped spread the word. I'm delighted to be working with the fine people who've signed up for my programs, so thanks for letting people know about them.

I whipped up some earrings today, mostly so I'd have something visual to share for my creative contribution. I've never made hoops before, and I'm very pleased with how these have turned out. And I made the turquoise flower earrings because they struck me as just the ticket for an out-and-about Saturday. Flowers, after all, go with everything

Scarlet's handcrafted earrings

Week 47: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is showcasing a jacket transformation this week. He bought this jacket from Topshop, largely because it was on sale for $35 (down from $200). It fits Kanen like a glove, but is a shade too plain for his taste, so he knew it would need 'the treatment' when he bought it.

Kanen bought the sequined butterflies at a garage sale that "Sarah Jane", a local fashion boutique was having, and this week the garment and the sparkles have officially met!

He's sewn them on, but not rigidly in case further inspiration strikes. But for now, the jacket flies with him to Melbourne for another four week stint.

Kanen's jacket

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been indulging her passion for landscape photography again, with very successful results. She took these shots on the River Great Ouse just outside Ely a few nights ago.

Trish's landscape photography

Trish has also been busy cooking this past week. She's made red currant jelly and samphire, and she still has ingredients left to play with today. She's planning a busy day in the kitchen.

Trish's red currant jelly
Trish's red currant jelly

Trish created an extraordinary tart tatin using beetroot, along with some beetroot cured salmon, and beetroot greens and lentil soup. She's posted her recipes on her fabulous food blog. Do check it out.

Trish's samphire

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, managed to snatch some time between teaching this week to continue dyeing some scarves with leaves she collected on a recent trip to Orange.

She found a variety of different eucalypts, and bundled them up in an iron water dye bath. She soaked a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt in soy milk overnight because cotton reacts differently to wool and silk, and needs a protein mordent to help the dyeing process.

Telena's eco-dyeing

Telena laid out the leaves and rolled the fabric around a dowel. Then she boiled it for two hours in the iron water. She couldn't wait to unwrap it and is very excited by the result.

The shirt is still wet in her photo, and the oxidisation process will continue as it dries.

Telena's eco-dyed t-shirt

Telena also made a dye bath from some of the remaining eucalypt leaves (being careful not to use the ones that she knows give red/orange tones) to create dye her scarves this lovely colour.

Telena's eco-dyeing

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett is very excited and can hardly sit still this week because he's close to getting his 90 year old Century Universal 8x10 camera functioning, and he can’t wait to use it.

He had a functioning  Sinar 8x10 camera, but sold it a couple of years ago as it was too heavy and bulky to cart around. His friend Pete gave him this camera (a much lighter, more compact field camera), but it needed extensive restoration, in particular, a new bellows and carrying handle. The poor old thing is battered and scratched, as you can see, and is missing a couple of small mechanical items.

Steve's old camera

Good news, however. A new bellows has just arrived from China, and a leather craftsman in Canberra has made a replacement leather handle. So all that remains is to figure out how to fit the bellows properly, find a few alternatives to the missing bits, and put it all together again.

Steve's camera refurbishment project

The two photos below are 8x10s that Steve made with his previous Sinar camera at Bombo near Kiama. The rock formation is known as The Cathedral.

The Cathedral

Scarlet Bennett

I've written thousands of words this week, giving my forensic psychology manuscript a real boost. That creativity isn't ready to share, however, so I've put together a quick terrarium today. I planted it out in my trifle dish, which is sacrilege in one sense, I know, but it's been years since I've made trifle and the dish has sat in the cupboard for years, neglect and unused. I decided it would be better off serving some function, albeit an unconventional one.

Scarlet's terrarium

Week 46: Creative Challenge 52

Stephen Bennett has taken some fabulous photos this week, starting with this gorgeous shot of a turnip, that Hannah grew in our vegie patch. Here it is in all its glory, before it was transformed into the world's most delicious turnip soup.

We went to Mt Stromlo yesterday, to the site of the old burnt out observatory, for a photo shoot that you'll hear more about when I tell you about my contribution. Steve took some surreal looking photos of some of the buildings.

It was a bleak day - very cold (about 8 degrees, I think, when we were there), blowing a gale, and the rain started soon after we left. The only upside of the bad weather was the opportunity to photograph the moody sky.

Mt Stromlo

Steve also took a photo of me, hard at work with my portrait subjects. I'm dressed to the nines and looking ultra glamorous as you can see.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is busy trying to get young Xander into his own bedroom at night, but Xander has confessed that he doesn't like the wallpaper Kanen slavishly applied over three years ago in anticipation of his arrival. He says he won't be able to sleep looking at it. The ingratitude!

Kanen admits that the wallpaper he and Jacqui chose is pretty 'out there', but is made sense when they did it, although he wonders now what they were thinking.

They went to reverse garbage this morning and bought a few cheap frames, a dog calendar from 2008, and a Dr Seuss book (Xander's favourite). When they returned home, they spent a few hilarious hours watching Xander pick his favourite dogs and illustrations, and helping him put some of the images in frames.

The best part, Kanen says, was letting him pick where he wanted to place them on the walls. It looks terribly random, but he was insistent upon this arrangement, including the felt robot sticker Jacqui bought him a while back. Kanen thinks it all looks rather ghastly really, but the little tacker loves the new look and he claims he'll be much happier attempting the transition now. Good luck with that!

Kanen's wallpaper

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best (very successfully, if you've been following this blog) to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has had some incredible concoctions coming out of her kitchen this week.

She found some apples at one of the moorings they stopped at on their narrowboat, Patience, and she had some strawberries that needed using up too. Then she spotted a jar of Sichuan pepper in the supermarket and, voila, her creation was born. Trish has made a strawberry, apple and Sichuan pepper jelly. Yum!

Trish's apple and strawberry jelly

Trish also made a flat frittata using mushrooms, togarashi seasoning, honey and garlic.

Trish's mushroom frittata

Do check out Trish's blog to see more of her fabulous food adventures.

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, had an enjoyable meeting with her felting group this week. She describes the get together as a place of encouragement, and show and tell, where they share their latest creations and eat lots of yummy food.

Telena showed her eco-dyeing and one of the bird nests she's recently made. She also felted another while she was there using white fleece. The following day, she fired up the camping stove and boiled up a dye pot of cinerea and vinegar. She bundled her latest bird nest, along with one she made a few weeks ago, into the pot with eucalyptus leaves from her favourite trees. She boiled them for an hour while waiting impatiently for the results.

She has them stuffed with bubble wrap while they're drying, so they retain the desired shape.

Telena thinks they're gorgeous and she's hoping some discerning birds will make their nests in the warm, dry, artistic surroundings come spring.

Telena's bird nest

Scarlet Bennett

I've had quite a creative diversion this week. I used to do a lot of photography, helping Steve when he had his wedding photography business, but it's been a long time since I've picked up my camera.

I pulled it out of moth balls this week to help Lucy, Hannah and Georgia with a project they've been working on.


They went to Supanova together in June, dressed in Marvel costumes that Lucy put together (many items sewn from scratch with patterns she created herself). Lucy went as a fem Bucky Barnes, Hannah as a fem Captain America, with Georgia dressed as Natasha, the Black Widow.

Cosplay photos

Having gone to so much effort with the costumes, they decided that a photo shoot would be great, to capture what they'd done. I took hundreds of photos, and Steve took plenty too, but here are a few of mine - some of Lucy's favourites. Don't they look fabulous?

Cosplay photos

Week 45: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been eco-dyeing again this week, as she's had some enquiries about her dyed silk scarves. So...out came the camping stove and fortunately the rain held off. Telena made up the iron water, wrapped the leaves in silk and immersed them in the hot water, then left them to do their magic for an hour. She also briefly dipped some previously dyed scarves into the iron water to bring out some different hues.

Telena's silk scarves
Telena's eco-dyeing

Telena took advantage of yesterday's beautiful winter sun, spending some time outdoors knitting gumnut beanies, this time in girly colours for another new arrival. She's also had a busy week encouraging her students to be diligent in the lead up to their exams.

Telena's knitted hats

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has just landed in Sydney (along with his gargantuan hangover) to beautiful blue skies. That wouldn't have been his experience if he'd flown into Canberra today!

Kanen has had a big week of shows, 8 in 6 days - unheard of for opera singers. He says it was very challenging but also rewarding. He loves Sweeney Todd and the audiences were really involved so Kanen found it a brief but wonderful pleasure.

He's submitted some pictures of the transformation he made every day this past week, from mild-mannered glitterphile to the dastardly Beadle Bamford, a fun little role with lots of nasty dialogue and some ridiculous, dandy-ish music. Clearly, broad brush strokes were encouraged and, up close, Kanen says he looks like he's in Cats, but he's reliably informed that from about Row F, his efforts were quite effective. God bless the wig, Kanen says - it was the cherry on the cake. Nice chest!

Kanen's Sweeney Todd makeover
Kanen Breen as The Beadle

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been a busy bee this past week (this is a terrible pun that you'll only truly appreciate when you read on).

Trish faced a difficult dilemma: Wade through six months worth of tax documents or go and watch some friends harvesting honey. Guess which option proved more attractive?  Do read Trish's blog about this. It's funny. And Trish shares a delicious oat pancake recipe, which she sourced to provide an accompaniment for the fresh honey and some fresh herbs she picked while she was visiting.

Trish's oat pancakes

During the week, Trish and Richard stopped their narrowboat at Wilton Marina to pick up a couple of things at the chandlery. There were four huge cherry trees outside laden with perfectly ripe cherries, and when Trish was paying she asked if it was okay to pick some. The result was an apple and cherry jelly flavoured with fennel and black pepper. This looks so delicious.

Trish's berries
Trish's apple and cherry jelly

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett had an hour to kill while his car was being fixed earlier this week, so he took his camera and went for a walk around Mitchell, which is an industrial area in Canberra, looking for some urban abstracts. He's rather pleased with the two buildings he photographed and he loves the triptych of tree shadows on walls. Not usually an urban photography afficionado, he enjoyed the experience so much that he's decided to try his hand at some more.

Steve's urban industrial photography
Steve's urban industrial photography
Steve's urban tree shadows

Scarlet Bennett

April, May and June are always frantically busy months in my occupational psychology business, and this year has been no exception. With the 14 July release of my novel in the mix, it's been even busier than usual and, I have to confess, I've been stretched a bit thin, to the point where I've been fantasising about taking a holiday.

That can only be a fantasy, because there will be no rest for me until the summer rolls around, so I've opted for the next best thing - a change.

I was facilitating a leadership workshop this week, and one of my participants mentioned that she makes terrariums in her spare time. You can imagine how quickly that captured my interest. Aha! I thought. This week's Creative Challenge sorted! Terrariums are very different from my previous creations, making them an ideal substitute for a holiday (I know, there's no substitute for a holiday, but this is a helpful delusion so please indulge me).

Here are my first efforts, not exactly masterpieces, but lovely to have in our home nevertheless. The downside was that it's been bitterly cold in Canberra today, so I put them together on the kitchen table. Let's not talk about the mess...

Scarlet's terrarium
Scarlet's terrarium
Scarlet's terrarium

Week 43: Creative Challenge 52

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been exploring The Culinary Delights of the Riverbank this week. Do check out her fabulous blog. You'll be amazed by what Trish has made with the ingredients she collected.

If you've been following our year long Creative Challenge, you'll know that Trish and Richard have been travelling around the UK in their narrowboat, Patience. This has given Trish an opportunity to explore wild produce on their travels. She came across some blackcurrants at one of the locks yesterday, and created some delicious blackcurrant jelly with her find.

Trish's blackcurrant jelly

Traveling around the UK has also given Trish an opportunity to shop at a variety of different markets - just the ticket for a gourmet cook. This week she's made mushroom risotto flavoured with truffle cheese, beetroot tart tatin, and a beetroot and green lentil soup flavoured with sherry vinegar and smoked paprika. All in the little galley kitchen in their narrowboat. Very impressive! To see more of Trish's food adventures, please visit her fabulous food blog.

Trish's mushroom risotto

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, had a very busy and successful craft show last weekend, and she's enjoyed a more relaxed time this past week. She had a lovely excursion to Virginia Farm in Annangrove with a friend, where she bought some Corriedale fleece - a coarser fleece for more sculptural felting. Telena then spent another happy day teaching her friend to nuno felt so she could make some gifts to give to family on an overseas trip.

Telena happily knitted while issuing instructions, and her friend rolled and rolled and rolled her creations.

Telena's felting

Feeling inspired, Telena drew up a pattern and a resist for a sculptural form. She's been planning to create a hanging bird nest for the garden for a while now. She laid out the cream coloured Corriedale around the resist, and made a long, thick dreadlock to attach to the nest. She gently felted, taking care around the edges to avoid creating ridges. As the fabric thickened and shrank, Telena cut a slot and pulled out the resist. She then felted harder until the fabric was strong and dense. Telena plans to eco-dye this piece with some eucalyptus leaves once she's made a few more in various shapes and sizes.

Telena's felting

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is still in Melbourne rehearsing Sweeney Todd and the weather, he says is bitterly cold, wet and windy (reminds me of Canberra) - perfect for creating masterpieces indoors.

Original purse

A Sweeney colleague presented Kanen with an old purse for a make-over this week, after having admired his red and gold sparkly boots - as you do. Kanen says he loved the old, lived-in version of the purse, but she was gagging for some gold sparkle, so he humbly presents the new 'improved' model. He says there was very little work involved at all, but she loves it, and it's a project befitting a time-poor, very busy week of stage calls. Nice!

Kanen's purse makeover

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett's offering comes to you from the Blue Mountains this week. He took Hannah and Georgia to visit his parents in Leura for a few days. Amongst other things, the trio undertook the delightful Grand Canyon walk, fitting in a quick trip to Govett's Leap while they were in Blackheath.

Hannah and Georgia

Steve is pleased to announce that his Tactical 5.11 trousers were a huge success in the wilds of the canyon, but he was less impressed with his new Vibram soled outdoorsman shoes. He ventured forth into a frothing creek to photograph some small waterfalls, and unfortunately the grip of the Vibram sole didn't entirely match the slip quotient of the wet rocks, resulting in a bit of a tumble, a dinged knee, and wet socks. Fortunately, the water cooled feet were rather beneficial on the steep and unrelenting climb back out of the canyon, resulting in a springy and bouyant photographer reaching the top and motoring merrily back to base camp. Ah, the joys of the outdoors.

Banksia flowers
Grand canyon steps
Hannah and Georgia
Grose Valley
Mt Solitary

Scarlet Bennett

I've been working all day, every day for weeks now to get some online courses ready to launch on my website. The plan was to have the courses ready to go live on the 14th of July when my book is published. I'm going to make that deadline, but only by the skin of my teeth.

For this week's Creative Challenge, I'm going to share the link to my Psychology for Writers program, and the video I made as part of its marketing. If you have any thoughts before the page goes live on Tuesday, I'd be delighted to receive your feedback. Check out the content on this link: Psychology for Writers.

Week 42: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been pressed for time this week (ah, the trials and tribulations of a veritable cabaret legend), but he came up with a solution for a black satin shirt that he bought online, which arrived with sleeves way shorter than indicated. He took the shirt with him to Melbourne because it's perfect for the suit he wants to wear to his opening night performance of Sweeney Todd, knowing full well it would fall under the banner of Creative Challenge fodder.

Kanen's embellished glove

A quick trip to Lincraft, a quick and easy sewing job later, and we have the illusion of greater length if not the reality. Kanen notes that it's not a solution that would appeal to most chaps, but he's happy with a fringe or two to add a touch of interest.

Kanen's sleeve solution

He also found a glove with attractive lace-up detail in the gutter during the week (just the one, sadly), and he thought he'd glam it up a bit for some bedfellows action down the track. He says it's not his finest work, really, but it will look alright under lights and it kept him out of the pub, which is probably a good thing given his schedule during the week.

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been touring the UK on a narrowboat for the past couple of months, and they've really been seeing the sights. She and Richard left Oxford yesterday, and travelled as far as Thrupp village on their way to Cambridgeshire, via Braunston, on the Oxford canal.

Veg van berries

On Friday, Trish walked a couple of blocks from the boat to shop at a gorgeous veg van than moves to different locations in Oxford on different days. She bought some lovely berries - strawberries, tayberries and blackcurrants amongst other things. Trish and Richard had friends coming over for supper, so Trish made a blackcurrant marscapone sauce to go with the strawberries and tayberries. Here's her recipe:

Trish's Berries


250g blackcurrants, 100ml water, 50g sugar, 2 star anise, 4 bay leaves, and about 10 crushed black peppercorns, 250g marscapone.


Place all ingredients except the marscapone in a pot and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the fruit is pulpy and the liquid has reduced and is syrupy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Push the mixture through a sieve. Discard the solids and beat the blackcurrant syrup into the marscapone. Serve with strawberries and tayberries.

Trish also made a roasted cauliflower. She rubbed the cauliflower with olive oil and paprika, and roasted it in a hot oven until it was a deep golden colour. Yum! To see more of Trish's fabulous food adventures, check out here food blog.

Trish's Roasted Cauliflower

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been flat out this weekend at the North Shore Craft Group exhibition and sale. 

This week, she made some skinny scarves with beautiful sari silks embedded into fleece.

Telena's felted scarves

She made another waistcoat, this time using a lovely rich colour palette against the black fleece to create a stained glass window effect. Telena also made a collar using layers of felt and fabric in purple tones. And she found time to finish a felt lace dress that she'd started previously too.

Telena's felted waistcoat and collar

On Thursday, Telena spent the day putting together equipment and arranging all the beautiful creations of jewellery, pottery, leatherwork, studio glass, and an array of textiles, which included bags and woven and felted garments. Her plan was to find somewhere, after all that, to sit in the sun and enjoy a good book. Sounds like a plan to me.

Telena's exhibition photo

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has created a photo essay for this week's contribution, from photos he took along the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. A few years back, he was working regularly in Adelaide and he took every opportunity to go exploring with his camera.

Fleurieu Penisula

These photos were taken at Second Valley, the sort of place where you wish you owned a little shack you could stay in through the winter each year. His photos have all been shot on film, scanned, and tweaked in Photoshop for your viewing pleasure. Nice.

Fleurieu Peninsula
Fleurieu Peninsula

Scarlet Bennett

I've had a complete Creative Challenge wipe-out this week. It's not that I've been slack. In fact, I've done plenty of creative things. It's just that my creations have either a) been an utter disaster or b) fallen into the 'to be revealed soon' category.

In terms of future revelations, with Stephen Bennett as my trusty videographer and tantrum resolver, I've made two videos in the past week to promote some online courses that I'll be adding to my website next week. Steve's editing the curse words out of the videos as I write.

Mirror compacts

As to the disaster, well, that's still a painful subject. Having had such a successful pilot run making book-themed mirror compacts, I tried to make a sizeable batch yesterday for giveaways when my novel is released (only 9 days to go now!). The problem is, it's been bitterly cold in Canberra - a string of -7 degree nights followed by days with a top of 10 degrees - and, even with the heater powering away next to me, it's turned out to be just too cold for the resin to move and set smoothly. And the heat gun doesn't make up for the cold ambient temperature, either. So I now have a large pile of unusable mirror compacts that will have to be thrown out - I'll be lucky if there's a single good one amongst them. The consequences of this are:

  • wasted money and resources (which irks me no end)
  • time pressure to make more giveaways
  • and a complete Creative Challenge blowout

I was relying on those compacts!

Wandering around the house lamenting the fact that I'd become a Creative Challenge desperado at this late stage, with the finishing line emerging on the horizon (it's just ten weeks until our year-long challenge comes to an end), I was wracking my brains for a solution. What to do?

That's when my black sense of humour kicked in. Having scarcely sung a note in anger over the past decade, here's my contribution (one woman,  5 minutes - quite literally, I'm afraid), and you'll have to give me points for working the theme because that, I think, is its best feature. On the one hand, my current form is disappointing. On the other hand, I've always rather envied the clapped out rock chick sound. At last, it seems, I've arrived.

Back in the day, for the record, I made some half-decent recordings, and here's a link to prove it (the recordings are on my website to show that I've walked the talk when I launch my Goodbye Stage Fright online course next week).

'The years teach much which the days never knew.'

- Ralph Waldo Emerson