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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 27: Creative Challenge 52

How to make a ring

A friend came over yesterday to learn a bit about jewellery making. I taught her how to make her own ring and, while I was at it, I thought I'd show you too. You can make gorgeous pieces with some basic equipment and for very little cost.

make your own ring

If you've followed this blog or looked at my photo galleries, you'll know that I love bold, signature pieces. My friend Kayleen does too, so I thought we'd start with large 'urban edge' style rings. I taught Kayleen how to make one version, and I made a different version myself using the same techniques to show how versatile a basic method can be.

make your own ring steps 1 and 2

Step 1: Cut your silver to size. Silver comes in sheets of different widths. Kayleen and I used silver that was 0.8mm thick and we cut it 2cms wide so the ring bands would be fat and funky. The final step involves cutting your silver to fit the diameter of the finger you want to wear it on. We cut Kayleen's silver to 59mm and mine to 62mm. Note that you need to add an extra 1mm in length when you make wide rings, otherwise they won't fit.

Step 2: Before you do anything else, you need to soften the silver so it's malleable. You do this by applying heat. I use a jeweller's torch now, but I used a cheap propane torch that I bought from Bunnings for a few years before I upgraded my equipment. You'll need a honeycomb or charcoal base with a large brick underneath to place your silver on. Slowly move the flame back and forth over the silver until it begins to glow red. Plunge into cool water and then jeweller's pickle to remove oxidation (this is cheap and easy to obtain from a jewellery supplier).

make your own ring steps 3 and 4

Step 3: Add texture to the silver. Kayleen used the round end of a hammer to create texture on hers and I made scratches on mine. Because my silver was only minimally handled, it stayed nice and malleable, but Kayleen's hardened and needed to be heated again as per step 2.

Step 4: Use pliers to twist the silver so the ends join. Make sure the join is flush or your solder won't take.

Step 5: Your rings are now ready to solder. Apply flux and 'easy' solder (readily available and inexpensive from jewellery suppliers).

Step 6: Heat the ring carefully under dimmed light (so you can clearly see the process unfolding) until the solder flows.

Step 7: Shape your ring on a mandrel. You can use a piece of round dowel if you don't have a mandrel.

make your own ring steps 5 and 6

Step 8: File any added shape you want around the edges of your ring. Kayleen shaped the back of hers so it would be more comfortable to wear, and I created a flowing shape around both edges of mine. Once you're happy with the final shape, file the inside of your ring and the outer edges, starting with coarse files and using increasingly fine files, until the edges are nice and smooth. Take care, also, to file off any excess solder at the join.

Step 9: Soak your ring for a couple of minutes in Liver of Sulphur to get an aged look, then brush the patina back with 0000 steel wool until you get the finish you want. If you take too much off, just soak it in the Liver of Sulphur and start again.

Step 10: Wear and enjoy!

Kayleen's finished ring

Kayleen's finished ring

Scarlet's finished ring

Scarlet's finished ring

Telena Routh

telenas felt dress

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been experimenting this week with different colours of prefelt, creating this gorgeous two-toned dress.

She's also been making felted hollow beads, cones and flat felt for jewellery. She's building up a collection of these so she can make some colourful accessories to brighten up her winter wardrobe.

Telena's final piece this week is a felted bracelet with slits to reveal the inner layer.

With her daughter's wedding only two weeks away, it's a miracle Telena found time for any creative output at all.

telenas felt jewellery

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 at an indie book fair this weekend with an Allaboutwriting exhibit. Their short story book,  36 Hours, was delivered to the fair on Friday and Trish is pleased to report that quite a few copies were picked up by interested readers. Richard gave a talk about the contract between reader and writer, and he also moderated a panel discussion. So...a successful weekend!

36 Hours

With the book fair consuming much of her time, Trish found herself with a creative challenge at an impromptu supper she and Richard held on Friday night - she needed an emergency dessert. Trish had bought some Brie and Camember, but after the main course, she thought the plain cheese seemed boring and she wondered how she could make it more special and festive.

She whipped through her cupboard and found preserved figs, quinces and ginger. Trish poured the syrups into a pan and added bay leaves, black pepper, star anise and cinnamon. She let the syrups bubble away for a while, then added the fruits and heated them through. Then she simply poured the whole lot over the cheese and added some almonds. Delicious!

Check out Trish's fabulous food blog for more of her exciting food adventures.

Trishs Festive Dessert

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been up to his impressive sequin tricks again. He's loving his creation this week, largely for the unintentional irony he generated. The choice of sequins for this delightful project initially gave him some concern - too pale and pastel. Three letters in and he feared an unpicking was on the horizon, but then he had a change of heart and thought, 'what could be less intimidating and more ridiculous than this t-shirt in pastel sequins?'

So Kanen persevered and he felt happier and happier as he neared completion. Now he thinks it's a masterpiece of understatement, irony and glamour.

kanens sequined shirt

What the photos don't show is the gorgeous opalescent sheen on the sequins which really catches the light with a pale blue/green flash - perhaps not so understated after all.

Kanen thinks he'll wear his creation to Jacqui's Aida opening night next weekend, possibly even with the gold lapel jacket. 'Too much of a good thing?' he asks. Never!

Security in Sequins

Keryn Clark

keryns floral shoe fetish
keryns babys breath

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, decided, this week, to get creative with some vessels that were lying around the shop, and also with a few bunches of baby's breath from the fridge. Remy argued that they needed to keep the baby's breath in the fridge in case an order came in. Keryn insisted it would be better out forming some kind of display. Ad break for clash of the titans - Keryn won. No sooner was the baby's breath fluffed out and in the vase when someone walked in and said 'I have to have them'. The five words retailers most like to hear.

Keryn has appealed to Kanen's shoe fetish for her creative challenge with this artistic interpretation of flowers on the soles of her foot. One foot sold within moments of being put on display. That leaves just one more to go...

kanens floral feet

Stephen Bennett

Steve was very excited to find a Lubitel Twin Lens Reflex roll film camera (1960) for $35 in a secondhand shop last weekend, and he couldn't wait to put it through its paces. Fortunately, Georgia was all dolled up with a new outfit and fresh from the hair salon, so she agreed to pose for a series of photos. The camera worked perfectly and here are a couple of the shots of Georgia.

singer songwriter Georgia Bennett

Steve also found time this week to process films shot in the Blue Mountains a few weeks ago. These photos are of the Cathedral of Ferns at Mt Wilson, taken with his beloved Hasselblad.

Cathedral of Ferns

Week 24: 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 always up for a challenge. She's thrown herself, this week, into a Food Bank Challenge, a real boon for us because of the delicious recipes she can showcase here.

Trish's challenge was to buy a recipe from Food Bank South Africa for 40 Rand, cook the dish, and then tweet a picture of the dish to #FoodBankRecipe, with a prize of two business class trips to London on offer for some lucky entrant.

Trish bought four recipes and has made three of the dishes already. First cab off the rank was Dominic Pain's non-stirred seafood risotto. Trish says she'll definitely be making this dish again and she'll keep it in mind for when she's short on cooking time too - it was quick and easy as well as delicious.

Seafood risotto

Trish's next creation was tamarind chutney followed by chicken breasts in ginger tamarind chutney with cauliflower tabouleh, both of which came from Ishay Govender-Ypma. The tamarind chutney and cauliflower tabouleh were so popular in Trish's household that she's declared them future staples. A ringing endorsement indeed.

Chicken in ginger tamarind chutney

Trish has included a photo of daughter Maria's caramel toffees (see the first photo on this blog) to give us a glimpse of the wonderful petits fours project that has consumed their household over the past few weeks too. Yum!

Do follow Trish's fabulous food blog for recipes and news of Trish's exciting food adventures.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has sworn off shoes for a full week now. Instead, he's been overhauling a set of drawers in an afternoon of paint, glue and wallpaper.

He loves the shape of these drawers, but he felt that they needed a splash of high-gloss (high-stink) off-white paint to get them looking schmick. He's also fond of the drawer handles but, alas, the same could not be said for the faux wood formica drawer fronts. They had to go.

Ever the tech wizard, he managed to delete the "before" shots from his iPhone. 'But,' he says, 'trust me. They weren't very me!'

The paper Kanen used is not actually wall-paper, but an unusually thick wrapping paper from a gorgeous shop on King Street called Pentimento. It didn't wrinkle at all when Kanen slathered on the wallpaper glue, which is always a risk with flimsier stock.

Drawers

Kanen is quite chuffed with the outcome, and he says he has quite a few more pieces of boring furniture sitting in Jacqui's garage awaiting his attention in coming weeks. These are going to be something to see.

Keryn Clark

The biggest challenge for Keryn this week involved the transformation of her personal living space into something that wouldn't depress her the moment she walked in the front door. Keryn has always lived in character houses, so her new modern townhouse has provided something of a culture shock.

She was sitting in her lounge/dining and kitchen area - the "white box" as she calls it - having a "what have I done?" moment, when the idea of a green feature wall sprung to mind. Everything else flowed from there.

The biggest challenge with Keryn's new living space is the size of her couch, which completely overpowers the room, but with the help of a few of her favourite collected pieces (and some roses), she thinks it all came together well. Keryn still can't walk out the back door to look at her cement box of a back yard, but that's a challenge for another day.

Keryn also made two particularly fine floral arrangements during the week. One came home with her - don't you hate it when that happens? - and the other sold within an hour. So, all in all, Keryn has had a pretty good week. So good she's thinking of heading into the kitchen to bake...

Telena Routh

With a car full of felting equipment, much more fleece than needed, and her freshly dyed swathes of silk, Telena set off last weekend with great excitement for a three day felted garment workshop with a wonderful felter, Pam de Groot.

Her first challenge was to turn her dyed silk into prefelt, and after making about five metres in a single sitting, she turned in for the night, barely able to move her aching limbs.

The next morning, revitalised and ready to take on the world, she formed the fabric into a rough dress shape, while quietly muttering about future diets! Further construction of the dress took careful planning because you can never completely predict what will happen during the felting process. Sounds a bit like life, doesn't it?

Telena has not yet decided what to do with the loose silk left draping around the dress, as she thinks it's too much on such a short person, so the dress is still a work in progress.

On a musical note, she managed to get up early enough to practise for an upcoming quintet concert each morning before setting off for the workshop. What discipline!

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has taken a well earned break this week. She caught the bus to Sydney on Friday night for Soundwave. It's been a hot weekend in Sydney, but that hasn't dampened her enthusiasm. She's out in the sun (hopefully decked out in hat and sunblock!) as I write, enjoying the music, and I'm sure to hear all about it late tonight.

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has found some time this past week to process some of the photos he took in Narooma during his brief summer sojourn. Always a fan of black and white, he's started with these landscapes of Handkerchief Beach. These are going to be hard to trump when he decides to process the rest of his Narooma collection.

Scarlet Bennett

I've been sick with a heavy head cold this week - one of those tedious bugs that just won't budge - and I've had a lot of work commitments too, so I've been much more interested in the call of my bed than in doing anything creative.

I made a silver cuff yesterday to get my weekly challenge across the line. Cuffs like this are quick and simple to make, and always a pleasure to wear. They look good with everything and they never go out of vogue. And they're terrific emergency creations for sick people, as it turns out. Timeless elegance. You really can't beat it.

Week 22: Creative Challenge 52

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, has some very exciting news this week. The new Gold Coast florist shop that we've been hearing about, Bloom in Design, is open for business! Here, for your enjoyment, is Fourteen days in the life of Bloom in Design.

Keryns Finished Shop Fit-Out

What started out as a vague idea as Keryn sat at her computer in Perth a mere four months ago, suddenly took shape and became real. Today's photo journey starts with a blank room on the Gold Coast, after Keryn and her business partner, Remy, took ownership of this space on 1 February.

Keryn had analysed the specs from the plans she'd received by email and she knew what needed to be done when they moved in - after five days they opened their doors.

Keryn's job is concept, planning, promotion and knitting things together, and for the last few months she felt like she was pushing a cart up hill. Then suddenly the shop came together and it was Valentine's week. What a great time to open a florist shop.

At the beginning of the week, they didn't even have a flower supplier. In desperation, Keryn found a grower in Sydney on Facebook and phoned to ask if he shipped to the Gold Coast. The answer was 'yes', so she ordered a shipment of flowers two days later, which he promptly sent to Brisbane, a hundred kilometres away from Bloom in Design. One courier and $300 later, they had flowers.

Keryn made a You Tube video, which she had to learn to do very quickly, to promote the opening...

Their website, which is currently just a placement page, comes from an arrangement Keryn photographed before they left Perth. She liked it so much she sent it to their graphic designer for use as part of their brand. Next came set-up of the social networking sites, which Keryn has linked to the website. She's been bombarding them with photographs ever since, trying to establish a social media presence.

But the real joy in this project came for Keryn on Valentine's Day when four out of five of her own arrangements sold within a couple of hours. She hasn't historically been known for her floristry skills, although she has trained as a florist. Remy, her business partner, usually gets the accolades while Keryn hides in the back room doing something essential but boring. She was allowed to play on Valentine's Day and was very happy to sell her arrangements.

Keryns Valentines Day Flowers

Keryn also did flowers for two restaurants as a marketing exercise, which netted them four customers.

And finally, realising that they were overstocked as a result of not yet knowing their market, she drove to their local supermarket, which had been under-supplied with flowers, and sold twelve assorted arrangements which were gone within thirty minutes. All this from staring out of her window in Perth, playing with arrangements on her kitchen table, and taking photographs of them because she was bored.

Keryns Flowers

Congratulations Keryn and Remy. It's a beautiful shop.

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh's week began with the promise of some spare time for felting, but everyday life somehow got in the way. She started the week by making some felt balls to be used in future jewellery projects.

Telenas Felt Balls

Having seen one of her felting friends felt around a teapot several years ago in a workshop, she's always thought it would be a fun thing to do, with a beautifully insulated teapot a further attraction. Telena cut strips of prefelt in different colours and wove them around the teapot. After wetting down with soapy water, she gently rubbed the surface. This proved more difficult than expected as some areas were awkward to felt around. With much perseverance, the fleece began to felt and shrink around the form of the teapot. She felted a little cap for the teapot lid (how cute is that?), and she thinks she'll felt the teapot cover further in the coming days. For now, she's off to make a nice hot cup of tea.

felting a teapot
Telenas Felted Teapot

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 sharing her culinary talents with her daughter Maria this week.

Maria has secured a job making petit fours for a restaurant in Johannesburg, and she was due to deliver her first batch this week. Trish pulled an all-nighter (with other family members also forgoing sleep) to act as kitchen hand and assist with the preparations. Maria's petit fours were a big success and now that Maria has fully developed her recipes, Trish thinks she'll manage the workload independently in the future.

Trish and Richard are in Magoebaskloof in Limpopo this weekend, staying with their friend Merle of Barok, and Trish has taken some nature photos for her contribution. They make me want to down tools and head straight outdoors.

Trishs Lichen Photos

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has given in to temptation and declared his creative challenge The 52 Week Shoe Challenge. And it's just as well, because his amazingly glitzy shoes just keep coming.

He needed these shoes, he said (and we all believe him), to go with the opening night shirt he purchased, but in the absence of any craft store that he could locate, he's pleased to present his first Zara/reject shop creative hybrid. The original Zara shoe was $20 down from $90, and only had appeal because of the silver leather around the edge.

Shoe makeover

The transformation was achieved with craft paint and glitter, all secured with hair spray. The shoes were quite a hit on opening night, although Kanen expected them to be trashed by evening's end. He was wrong. They're rock solid and can now happily take their place in his regular rotation. So now he has new shoes and a new technique up his sleeve. Expect to see more hair spray spectaculars in the future.

Kanens shoe transformation

Georgia Bennett, Stephen Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, enlisted Stephen Bennett's help for her creative contribution this week. You may remember from last week that Steve has embarked on a project to develop his video production skills. And Georgia has been keen to improve the quality of her You Tube recordings. They joined forces this week to see if they could improve on the results Georgia's been getting with our very basic set-up. They've achieved a great result - far and away the best yet.

Georgia also made some stunning treats by playing around with the raw, organic chocolate recipe she posted a few weeks ago. This time, she made peanut butter cups and also some delicious mint chocolate. The chocolate was very rich last time, so we added blended macadamias to the basic chocolate recipe to give a creamier result - a trick inspired by reading the ingredients on a variety of raw, organic chocolate bars - and it's a real improvement. Neither of these creations is going to last long around here.

Georgias Chocolates

Scarlet Bennett

People who know me well know that I'm far from a last minute wonder. I always like to prepare for deadlines in advance. But this week, that turned out to be impossible and I had a real scramble to the finishing line. I woke yesterday morning with no creation even underway, and the obvious solution was to attempt something with a Valentine's Day theme. I made this bold heart using polymer, black onyx, a dried flower from my garden, and resin. It's not finished yet - I'll make the edges sharp once the resin is properly set, but it's an interesting piece that will look really good with the right outfit.

Valentine's Pendant

As is always the case when you're incredibly busy, all sorts of other things demand attention. We're absolutely drowning in garden produce at the moment and I'm determined not to waste a morsel. So this weekend's cooking output has included: pumpkin soup, crumbed eggplant, Afghan eggplant curry, Italian tomato sauce, and fig jam. I also made a double batch of banana, walnut and cinnamon muffins and some delicious nut loaves for the freezer. A nice, productive weekend all round.

cooking with garden produce

Week 21: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been up to his famous shoe tricks again. He's submitted this week's creation from sunny Perth, where he reports that hotel crafts completely rock. He says he can't sleep in work accommodation unless there's a liberal sprinkling of sequins, paint and glue on the carpet (can you imagine how popular he is with the cleaners?).

He bought these hideous shoes for $5 and dragged them across the Nullarbor with the express purpose of a cheeky debazzling, and - voila! Given the fact that people are stopping to stare at his sparkly specs, he expects these little lovelies to stop traffic.

Kanens Shoes In Progress

'You know the drill,' he said. 'Paint, glue, sequins, RESULT!'

He forgot his masking tape so the lines aren't as crisp as previous efforts, but they'll get Kanen through the next twelve days in the style to which he's become accustomed, and may even form part of his artsy/casual opening night look if they don't fall apart first (they're not exactly a sturdy shoe).

Kanen says he has an enormous week ahead of him and he wonders what on earth he's going to create during the cracks in his crazy schedule. Hopefully no shoes, he says, but he makes no promises. Just as well. There's an unlikely promise if ever I've heard one.

Kanens Finished Shoe Transformation

Keryn Clark

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, has survived the arduous process of moving, and is busy in her new Gold Coast home, setting up her florist shop. She spent time in Melbourne and Sydney when she first left Perth to set up supply chains and have a look around. While she was there, she created a photo story of her travels.

Her story began with a house sporting a beard - Hipster House, she's called it.

Keryns Hipster House

She walked from St Kilda to South Yarra and beyond looking for flower shops. Some wouldn't let her take photos so she had to go undercover to get these snaps. She saw these places as oases in an urban landscape.

Keryns Urban Oases

The Victorian building squashed between the pop-up and fast food outlets somewhere near Chapel Road reminded Keryn of bloated decrepitude. And the urban art she found struck her as 'voices from the underground'.

Keryns urban art photos

Keryn has (cleverly) named the last two houses Monobrow and Opposites Attract. Love it!

Monobrown and Opposites Attract

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has continued with her jewellery theme, creating felt dreadlocks of different lengths and widths.

Inspired by a photo in the Good Weekend magazine a few weeks ago, she's created two necklaces with a chain-like effect. The darker of the two was made with lots of short felt ropes, the lighter was made from a very long dreadlock that Telena looped around itself.

Telenas Felt Chains

The final necklace combines five thin felt ropes. It's fastened with a clasp, which means it can be worn in a variety of ways - as it falls, twisted or knotted (see photos below).

Telenas felt necklace

Telena says she's been enjoying making smaller pieces lately, but she's also planning some larger pieces. School went back last week, so she's been busy teaching again, and arranging music on Sibelius. Felting time just got that bit more scarce, but I'm sure that won't hold her back.

Trish Urquhart

Trishs Curtains

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 busy on a number of creative fronts this past week.

She's making a set of refurbished curtains for their rental unit. The original curtains were made by Richard's mother in 1965. Trish has re-lined them, as the fifty year old lining was totally rotten on the edges. And she cut off the old tops, threw away the rotten tape, and made a new tab top to replace the old, damaged pieces.

Trishs Curtain Refurbishment

Trish also made an ostrich frittata, using an ostrich egg that novelist Jo-Anne Richards bought in Calvinia on her drive to Johannesburg from Cape Town. She made it with prawns, basil, red onions and gruyere, and Trish reports that it was delicious. To see more of Trish's exciting food adventures, visit her fabulous food blog.

Trishs Ostrich Egg Frittata

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has had a demanding week. She's been sick with a virus that spread through the family with the impressive efficiency of falling dominoes, and she started at a new college on Monday as well.

Nevertheless, she found the energy to make a delicious tomato sauce on Friday afternoon using tomatoes and oregano from our garden. The tomatoes were a mixed batch - all organic and open-pollinated, with a number of heirloom varieties in the mix. The end result was as delicious as it was colourful.

Tomato Sauce

If you think it looks like the tomatoes weren't skinned, you're right, and I'm to blame for that culinary heresy. I attempted to make an authentic sauce once, painstakingly pealing all the tomatoes, and decided - long before the task was done - that life was too short. Ever the pragmatist, I've taught Georgia to make fresh tomato sauce with the skins intact - which makes sauce-making a quick and easy job - and we blitz the end result in a powerful blender. No one who tastes it is any the wiser.

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has made a video that is - in his words - truly dreadful. As a neophyte movie producer he came up with the idea of an exciting, gut wrenching thriller called the Kiss of the Carrot, starring Duke and Velvie, with a support cast of extras from Paddock 2.

Things he thinks he learnt in the process:

  1. Learn how to turn the video camera on to record. The red light means it's recording and the green light means it's not. He got this basic concept wrong for a total of 32 takes.
  2. Make sure the microphone is out and working, and use the wind shield when filming en plein air.
  3. Don't try and make a film while feeding horses by yourself.
  4. Don't use daggy scene transitions from the software package.

He feels that his future as the next Fellini is imminent, so he's decided to show his first picture warts and all as a point of reference for future blockbusters.

This short one-acter comes with a warning - it really is awful.

The end.

Scarlet Bennett

Flower Pendant

I made some old style jewellery this week - just trinkets really - for the fun of it. The resin wasn't even dry, however, before the pieces were claimed. Hannah and Georgia have adopted these pendants and I'm delighted they've gone to such worthy homes. I'll probably play around some more with these techniques. They're a relaxing antidote to an overly busy work week and the end result reminds me of a much loved (deceased) grandmother.

Victoriana Rose Pendant

Week 20: Creative Challenge 52

Trishs Sage Tea

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 obsessed with sage this week.

She went on a quest to make an interesting sage tea and came up with a combination comprised of mixed sage leaves and flowers, mint, cinnamon and dried rose buds. Trish says the combination is delicious, and she's enjoyed it hot, at room temperature, and chilled. She thinks it must have all sorts of beneficial properties and one look at her photos has sold me on that idea.

Trish also made a sage 'oil' mix by blending sage leaves, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. She kept it in a jar in the freezer and she's used it in nearly every meal this week: on baked potatoes fresh from the garden, as a baste for baked fish, served with gem squash, and used to flavour some Karoo lamb. Doesn't that sound delicious?

Check out Trish's fabulous food blog for more news of Trish's endlessly creative cooking adventures.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been indulging his shoe fetish again. He started the week by gilding the lily on last week's creation, adding sequins to his paint job. I hear the sequins elicited no end of comment from the naysayers of last week - a very satisfying turnaround.

Kanens brown shoes

His shoes of this week were a very early sequin attempt that went sour on account of the wrong glue. The sequins all fell off on their first outing, leaving a sequin-imprinted gluey residue behind which, unlike the sequins, refused to be dislodged from the fabric. Kanen relegated the shoe's to Jacqui's garage of horrors until the other day when he unearthed them with a rescue plan in mind. A lick of peacock green metallic paint later and they've taken on a sort of reptilian scale effect which Kanen quite likes. He painted the grey lace section gold, so they're not only glamtastic, but patriotic too. This creative legend will be outfitting Australian Olympians in no time.

Kanens Peacock Shoes

Telena Routh

Rolled Felt

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has had a week full of meetings, long phone calls to parents, teaching, and house guests, so her felting time has been snatched in small moments, resulting in small creations.

Telena made some flowers this week, felting the larger flower in a single piece with a plastic resist between the layers. She then shaped it to make it stand away from the base. The smaller flowers were felted in long strips, rolled up and sewn to create the bud shape. Her plan in the coming week is to make leaves and stems for some of the flowers, and to turn others into brooches.

Felt Flowers

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has been thinking about fashion and working on a new dressmaking idea over the past few days. She made a pattern this week from one of her favourite skirts, and she's cut out her fabric and is ready to sew. Happily, she wants her new skirt to be longer than the original (and she's added a good inch to the pattern), and that's music to any parent's ears.

Make your own pattern

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has had a huge week looking for repertoire for his new job as choirmaster at Canberra Grammar Junior School. He is responsible for six choirs, from Years 2-6, so he needs lots of different music for the different age groups and abilities involved.

He had the bright idea to make a two-part arrangement of a favourite song - Benjamin Britten's The Sally Gardens, so he wrote a second part under the melody, entered the lot into Finale, and then printed out four versions so he can use it for the choir and also for a couple of high school boys who sing duets. He loves any excuse to work with Finale as he finds it such a brilliant program.

Steves arrangment of The Sally Gardens

Steve also photographed Georgia before she went out for a birthday party on Friday night. Looking good, girl! Nice photo too.

Singer Georgia Bennett

Scarlet Bennett

My creative contribution has a garden theme this week. I dried a coreopsis flower and set it into this brass ring with resin. It's not a classic piece, by any means, but it's fun and funky and youthful. I swear it takes at least a decade off me.

Flower Ring

I've got a job list a mile long in the garden at the moment, because if I don't propagate my seeds now, I'll have no winter crops. My plants need to be well developed before the winter cold kicks in, and Canberra cold is never far away. My first tranche of seeds was started this week - around 250 seeds in total, and I need to do at least that many again over the next few weeks. Mercifully, we've had a cool spell, so I've been able to get the job done in relative comfort.

Propagating seeds

Not only is it planting time, but it's harvest time as well, and my summer crops have flourished. Here's a selection of produce picked yesterday morning to turn into a delicious Afghan eggplant curry - my friend Khatira's recipe. Yum!

Garden Harvest

Week 19: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been embellishing necklaces this week. Her daughter, Rachel, is getting married soon and they've been out shopping for bridesmaid dresses together. Rachel has also been draping her belongings around the house to see what she really wants to take with her into married life, so there's been lots of cleaning and sorting activity too. The downside of this is that Telena's studio is now quite full! She plans to remedy that in the coming week.

Telenas Dreadlocks
Telenas Cat

In the meantime, she's taken some of her dreadlock necklaces and added felted balls to create another dimension of interest. The autumn toned neckace is going straight to Telena's private collection, I'm told. Telena has also shared photos of some of her other bead necklaces, and there's a picture of her special studio helper too - just what you need when you're trying to sew knitted squares into blankets. As you can see, Hazel (the cat) has claimed them as her own. Who's a nice, warm kitty, then?

Telenas Felt Beads

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 delightfully creative in her kitchen again.

Her masterpiece this week is an innovative sage pesto, which she served with a roasted garden butternut, fresh out of her garden. Trish's sage is going crazy at the moment and her first butternut was ready for picking yesterday, so she was determined to find a way to combine the two.

She often fries the sage leaves but, after the success of her recent tarragon pesto, she wondered if sage pesto would also be good. As it turns out, it was delicious.

Trishs Sage

Trish took two loosely packed cups of sage leaves and blended them with about a cup of olive oil. She then added six cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, and blended that. She stirred in around two handfuls of chopped walnuts and another two handfuls of ground almonds - thinking that the powerful sage needed this degree of taming - along with two handfuls of mixed grated cheese. She added a couple of teaspoons of honey, and served the pesto with slices of roasted butternut. Do visit Trish's fabulous food blog for more news of her food adventures.

Roasted butternut with sage pesto

Dinner wasn't served until about ten o'clock, however, because Trish was multi-tasking - arranging a bookcase that she'd moved into the living space from their ex-writing room. This, of course, turned into a bigger project than intended and the photos here are a work in progress as she didn't have time to move all the books. Looking good, Trish. Love the paint job.

Bookcase renovation

Kanen Breen

Kanens Gold Shoes

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has effected a five minute shoe transformation this week - a crazy work week for him - and he says he's very happy indeed with the results.

He bought these ultra-conservative shoes last week and wore them to rehearsals where he was roundly mocked for his 'plain Jane' footwear (people can be so cruel). Until then, he hadn't intended to mess about with the shoes but, upon reflection and with a little bit of a nudge from his friends, he decided that they weren't very 'him' after all and something had to be done. Five minutes with his So Soft gold paint and he now has just enough razzle dazzle to satisfy the naysayers and put a smile on his face as well. He says his creative output this week is hardly groundbreaking, but the best his schedule and energy levels would permit. I'm just glad to see him back in the shoe game. Flamingos are all well and good, but I'd definitely being missing his ultra glam shoes. Perhaps a well shod flamingo for next week?

Kanens Shoe Transformation

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has delighted us with another culinary delicacy this week. Always keen to make new things, she had a go at a German Apple Cake and the results, I think, speak for themselves - yes, it tastes easily as good as it looks. To serve, she invented an apple and blackberry sauce using fruit freshly picked from our garden and the combination couldn't have been better. It was a wonderful dessert.

Georgia hasn't done any recordings this week, but she's been prolific with her song writing. She has four new pieces to add to her repertoire once she's refined them to her liking, and we'll hopefully get to hear them in the coming weeks. Keep 'em coming, Georgia.

Georgias German Apple Cake

Stephen Bennett

Grandfathers Chest

Stephen Bennett has had a busy week attending meetings for a new job as choirmaster at Canberra Grammar School, so his creative work this week has been somewhat curtailed.

He inherited an old chest from his grandfather and has been intending to turn it into a bedside table for at least 25 years, so he got on with the job and now can't figure out why he took so long to get around to it. It looks fabulous, doesn't it?

Finished Chest

The tapestry stand he made for Hannah needed a re-design and a few modifications, followed by staining and varnishing, and he completed that job too (not bad for a curtailed week).

Hannah's tapestry stand
Doors in progress

The kitchen re-build is still hanging around his neck like a noose, so he tried to make some progress there. He cut all the rails and styles for the door frames, and when the panel raising router bit arrived in the mail from the USA, he raised the first two panels. He's also gluing up the next panel to be routed. It will be a slow job but he swears he'll get there by next Christmas. All in good time, I'm sure.

Kitchen Panel Doors

Scarlet Bennett

I could take a photo of my computer to show you all the writing I've done this week, but that wouldn't be very exciting, so you're going to have to take my word for it. My fingers have been flying across the keyboard with pleasing fluency, and long may that last is all I can say.

Determined to create something visual, however, I tinkered with some polymer early in the week, making a rose using a few different shades of red. I then added some wire and resin to make the piece a bit more interesting. It's an unusual design and I must say it's growing on me. It looks striking on and the steel wire stops the flower from looking too girly. An industrial passion theme, perhaps, and you've gotta love that.

Scarlets Red Rose

Week 18: Creative Challenge 52

Kanens shoes

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been getting creative with shoes again. Jacqui had some $5 shoes that they'd both declared revolting but, happily, the shoes were potentially garish enough to be put to costuming use in their cabaret capers - with some added sequins, of course. The shoes are still very much on trial, but Kanen says he wants to see them on-stage and under lights before they get sent to God.

There's a little bit of glue clean up to come, but that has to wait for a day or two until the glue is properly dry. Kanen says it's hard to tell from the photos, but the larger sequins have a kind of holographic sheen that is quite vile but well suited to the hideous shoes. It makes them flash under the light, apparently.

Don't despair at this tantalising arm's length view. These shoes just might be coming to a venue near you very soon...

Jacquis Shoes

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, is preparing to show some of her felted bags and, with her injured finger still on the mend (but not quite up to textile work again yet), she's opted to showcase some of the bags this week.

Telenas bags 1

Telena has used a variety of techniques to make these bags. Some were knotted and then felted. Others were knitted to a very large size and then shrunk in the washing machine. Still others were made to a pattern with layers kept separate during the felting process, and one was free-machine embroidered.

Telenas Bags 2

Telena is hoping that her finger will be sufficiently recovered in the coming week to allow her to resume felting again. Either way, she's not going to be short of things to do because she still has a wedding to prepare for, oboe lessons to give, and a spare room to prepare for guests. It's good to know that she's keeping out of mischief. And her bag exhibition will really be something to see.

Telenas Bags 3

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 creative with her camera as well as in the kitchen this week. She's been taking portraits of her vegetables - a very fine way to honour them before putting them into the pot - and creating her usual array of culinary delicacies.

Trishs herb and cucumber harvest

She turned an early morning garden harvest (5 cucumbers, mint, tarragon and lovage) into a delicious raw lunch time soup. She served the soup with the remains of her parmesan ice cream (you can find the parmesan ice cream here on Trish's fabulous food blog), which has been in her freezer waiting for another outing.

Raw green soup with parmesan ice cream

The potatoes Trish picked were combined with onion and served as a potato bake for supper. Yum! It's all been happening at Trish's place.

Trishs garden potatoes

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has been impressively creative this past week, as always. She's made a new Tumblr blog, Rhythm Runway, to post about two of her favourite things - music and fashion. And she designed some images for the blog, which she then got Steve to photograph. How good does her theme look?

Rhythm Runway Images

Everyone in our family sings, and we often improvise harmonies and mess about with songs. Georgia, Hannah and I have a version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy that we sing together sometimes when the mood takes us. We trotted it out yesterday to create something different for this blog. It's a live recording featuring Georgia singing the solo and the bottom ensemble line, Hannah is singing the top line, and I'm sandwiched in the middle. Stephen Bennett gets credit for his sound engineering skills. We'd be lost without his various talents.

I'm absolutely crazy about Georgia's solo. She never sings it the same way twice and she's a real one-take wonder. She nails it every time.

Stephen Bennett

As I mentioned, Stephen Bennett has been kept busy with other people's creative projects this week. Always quick to spot an opportunity, however, he snapped this wonderful portrait of Georgia when they were working on her Rhythm Runway shoot.

Georgia Bennett

He's also been making panel doors for our new kitchen cupboards and we may get a glimpse of his results next week. Bring it on, I say.

Scarlet Bennett

Giant Russian Sunflower

My writing output this week has been really good but that means I've been sitting a lot. To compensate, I've been taking breaks in our urban farm, which is absolutely flourishing. Our giant Russian sunflowers have started to morph from flowers to seed producers, which is exciting to watch, and the purely decorative Italian sunflowers alongside are a joy to behold. I defy you to feel grumpy when you look at these cheery blooms.

Italian Sunflowers
Zucchini Flower

The summer glut is upon us and I joked at breakfast that we may need to think about a book - Creative Ways with Zucchinis - since I'm inventing new ways to serve these prolific producers on a daily basis. Today's exciting kitchen adventure, after picking another mountain of ripe produce, was two different varieties of zucchini bread - golden zucchini and sweet corn, and zucchini and chive. They're very nice indeed.

Scarlets Zucchini Bread

The passion Kanen Breen feels for shoes, I reserve, I'm afraid, for eggplants (tragic, isn't it). I just adore these black velvet friends and I've got quite a few different varieties fruiting at the moment. I should have photographed my harvest this week, but I just couldn't wait to eat them. Never fear, however, there are plenty more on the way.

Scarlets Eggplants

I haven't had much time to spend in my jewellery studio this week, but I did make these cool sterling silver earrings. This design reminds of King Neptune's trident and evokes nostalgia for the stories of my youth. They look fabulous on.

Scarlets Trident Earrings

Week 17: Creative Challenge

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, abandoned her kitchen in favour of other creative pursuits this past week.

Trishs Landscape Panorama

She's been holidaying with family in Magaliesburg, and she took the opportunity to take some awesome photos of her surrounds. You may remember that developing her photography skills was one of Trish's goals when we embarked on the year-long creative challenge. She's certainly succeeding on that front.

Trishs Sunset Diptych

Trish had a problem to solve when she returned home to Johannesburg. Richard needed to use their newly renovated office for meetings and the weather was unpleasantly hot. No problem for a creative like Trish. She whipped up this impressive awning in the blink of an eye. She says she was tempted to take a leaf out of Kanen Breen's book and paint stripes on it (note that she didn't go as far as sequins, glitter and seed beads), but it was too hot to faff about with decorations. They needed a cool office and they needed it fast. Nice work, Trish!

Trishs Awning

As the office window faces out onto their vegetable garden, Trish took a few quick snaps in her garden too. She often throws some marigold and nasturtium seeds into the garden when she's planting cabbages in the hope that they'll deter some of insects that love chewing away on her cabbage crops. This year they've self-sown in an attractive line at the base of the passion fruit and are flowering and looking beautiful. She also reports that her gem squashes are flourishing and that she's got enough tomatoes to regularly enjoy tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella salads. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Trishs Garden

Kanen Breen

On the rebound from another two sell-out cabaret performances at The Vanguard in Newtown, opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has renewed his passion (or should I say, fetish) for shoes.

He bought these converse sneakers because he liked the zipper effect, but they were originally a camouflage design which had no appeal, so he painted them green with his trusty fabric paint. He never really liked the colour he chose (too forest green and he has nothing to wear with that colour scheme), so he rarely ever wore them.

After a couple of years in Jacqui's garage where nature took its course with damp as its ally, and they went even greener - mould green to be exact. Kanen made a half-hearted attempt to resuscitate them, but the paint started coming off and he was going to consign them to the bin when he suddenly thought...'Now come on, don't give up, get creative!' Fabric glue, glitter and masking tape later and we have a re-born pair of shoes just gagging to get grooving. Kanen has a feeling these little lovelies won't have any time to gather moss as they stride out with pride and just a hint of gay abandon.

He says, 'I'm back, baby. How I've missed the shoe transforming caper. More to come, methinks...'

Brace yourselves, people.

Kanens Shoes

Keryn Clark

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, is on the move tonight, at a farewell function before she flies out of Perth at 5am tomorrow morning to her new home in the Gold Coast. Safe journey, Keryn, and we look forward to seeing you back in full creative form next week.

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has had a painful week in more ways than one. She's been unable to create new textiles - ouch! - because she took a slice out of the middle finger on her right hand on a rotary cutter (with the blade protector in place).

Fortunately, she has a very impressive body of work to draw on while she's incapacitated, and she's showcasing some garments from her own collection this week.

The good news is that even with her injured finger, Telena is still able to knit, so she's planning to mass produce squares and blankets for Wrap with Love. Perhaps there really is a silver lining in every cloud.

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has been in Sydney this week, enjoying her last holiday away from home for this summer. Inspired by the gorgeous clothes she bought while she was away - shopping mostly in Newtown's alternative boutiques - she came home determined to create a sewing nook in her bedroom that she can leave set-up and ready to go. Her first project is to make a pattern from this cute little fitted skirt, and then to make another skirt in stretchy black fabric.

Georgias Sewing Nook

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has had a fiddly week organising (and ordering) tools to finish the kitchen re-build. He's finished the painting this week and properly installed the range hood. He's fitted skirting boards behind the stove and put up architraves around the door. So, nothing glamorous, he says, but lots of necessary finishing up. His next task - once the router bit he's waiting on arrives - is to build the timber cupboard doors.

Kitchen Before
Kitchen After

In the midst of building our kitchen, he also found time to set up a portrait shoot for me. I needed a new head shot for my work, and I'm fortunate indeed to have a live-in photographer at hand. One man, five minutes. Sorted!

Scarlet Bennett

Scarlet bennett

I've been busy on a number of creative fronts this week. I finished a necklace that I started last week. The choker is made from blue sky jasper, all the findings are sterling silver, and the pendant is a mixed media creation featuring a dried nigella flower from my garden. If you look closely you'll see a subtle industrial edge - the border embellishments on the pendant are star washers from the hardware store.

Blue Sky Jasper Nigella Pendant

I've also been drying flowers for use in future jewellery creations.

Scarlets Dried Flowers

I've been flat out in the garden, getting rid of summer weeds, planting fresh batches of lettuce, beet, radish, silverbeet, chia, celtuce, sugarbeet and basil. And I've been harvesting, harvesting, harvesting... You can't imagine how much produce my garden is currently producing. The sample below was just what I picked for today's lunch, and it's an understatement to say that this didn't make a dent in my available produce.

Summer harvest

I was fortunate enough to receive a Sedona food dehydrator for Christmas (just in time to turn our ripening stone fruit into delicious fruit leather), and I've been experimenting with lots of different recipes using this extraordinary machine. A particular highlight this week was my homemade muesli bars. Full of nothing but pure, life-enhancing ingredients, these bars have to be tasted to be believed - so much better than anything you can buy at the supermarket. Here they are half way through the drying process on a Sedona tray, and served with a nice cup of tea at the end of a busy afternoon in the garden. Just the ticket.

Scarlets Muesli Bars
Muesli bars with tea

Week 16: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has had scant creative time this week, but even so she's managed to produce something gorgeous. She experimented some more with her new drum carder (a Christmas gift she showcased last week) using yarn in contrasting hues.

Keen to create a chequerboard pattern, she made a light pre-fleece with each contrasting colour. She then cut the prefelts in wavy lines and wove them together, before placing a piece of black tissue silk on the back. She felted the fabric, taking care to make sure the pieces didn't come apart.

The resulting collar is a colourful piece that Telena will use to liven up a dark coat. If she wants a muted effect, she'll show the reverse side. Telena loves how the cut fibres form an edge through the silk and make a relief pattern, and she's already imagining possibilities with this technique on a larger scale. How much sleep does she need, she wonders?

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 creative person indeed.

Trish and Richard have a cottage on their property that they rent out, and they've been busy this week preparing it for a new tenant. Trish has sent us some photos to show us the results of their hard work. The transformed cottage looks absolutely gorgeous, and I love the colour scheme.

The previous tenant left behind an enormous quantity of spices and Trish wanted to clear them out because they were consuming much of the grocery storage space. She decided to integrate them into her own spice collection, which posed something of a challenge because her spices were badly organised and spread over three different areas in her kitchen. She needed an instant solution, so she pilfered a rather useful little filing cabinet from the office and transformed it into a spice cabinet with a lovely urban industrial look. Nice.

TrishsSpiceCabinet

After a very successful couple of hours planting Swiss chard, coriander, radish and bean seeds, as well as tomato, cabbage and parsley seedlings, Trish dashed into the kitchen to create something with her modest garlic harvest. She's blended the garlic cloves together with olive oil and she'll store the garlic puree in a jar in the freezer. Her research suggests that it won't freeze solid, which means she'll be able to scoop garlic puree out with a teaspoon to use as needed. I'll be interested to hear how this turns out because, if it works, I'll do the same with my next garlic crop. What a great idea.

To see more of Trish's fabulous food adventures, check out her blog.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been flat out with performances this week, but he's managed to find time to fool around with a few birds.

Kanen bought two trashy flamingos from K-Mart for the princely sum of $12 each. New, they were a darker pink and, according to Kanen, unpleasantly pristeen. Over time, one of them weathered nicely with some good, even colour fade and tiny rust patches along the edges. The other, for reasons best known to itself, went a hideous putty colour with major rust issues that Kanen says made it look like an ibis on crack. He was going to throw it out when he suddenly thought...creative challenge!

Before...

Before...

Kanen has gone to town with left over paint and glitter to give this little birdie her glam back. He's deliberately left it outside to weather because the pink is too dark, but he says it's already fading well, and the glitter is looking older and less 'clean', which he likes. Fabulous, frivolous fun. Thanks for the bird's-eye view, Kanen.

After...

After...

Keryn Clark

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, is still preparing to move to the other side of the country. She's therefore continued her 'moving chic' creative trend. To use up the ingredients in her pantry, she made an asparagus and sour cream tart and a batch of her famous red velvet cupcakes. I say famous because she won a bake-off with the cupcakes at the law firm she was working at until recently. She says, 'it's not often you steal the prize from under the noses of lawyers so I consider this my finest moment of 2014. Which says quite a lot about the year, actually.'

Keryn took the cupcakes on her Christmas visiting rounds. And the pie, she reports, was absolutely delicious.

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has long been passionate about the ethical issues involved in the production of food. She only buys vegan fair trade chocolate and she keeps a close eye on the things we buy for the rest of our household too.

This week, she decided to try her hand at making raw, vegan, organic, fair trade chocolate from scratch. We couldn't for the life of us find plain chocolate molds - Santa molds are still the flavour of the moment - so she made a plain chocolate slab that we can break into chips for baking, and she also used this ice cube tray to make bite sized chocs. She dipped some strawberries in the left over chocolate and these were devoured within seconds of being set. Her chocolate is delicious and the recipe is posted at the end of this blog. Virtuous decadence at its best.

Making Chocolate
Raw organic chocolate

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has had a busy week. He processed some photos from his pre-Christmas trip to the south coast.

Not a keen cook, he was obliged to make some fruit leather because the fruit on our plum tree ripened while I was away visiting family. This delicious offering is plum and banana, and it's seriously yummy.

He also took advantage of a relatively empty house to do some more work on our kitchen - finishing the internal cupboards, fitting the bench tops, and finishing the tiling. All in all, a great week's creative work.

Scarlet Bennett

I've been away visiting for much of the past week, so I've had a mad scramble to make something in time for this blog.

Continuing with the dried nigella flowers from last week, I've made a flower pendant using copper, hardware store materials, a dried nigella flower, and resin. There are a lot of reflective surfaces on this pendant, which makes it hard to capture with a camera, but I like it a lot. Cyberpunk with a twist, perhaps.

Flower Pendant

Vegan Raw Chocolate

Georgia's chocolate was based on a recipe in Going Raw by Judita Wignall.

Ingredients

1/2 cup cacao butter; 1/2 cup cacao powder (not cocoa powder); agave nectar to taste (Georgia used 4-6 tablespoons); 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; pinch sea salt.

Method

Melt cacao butter in a saucepan over very low heat. Take the saucepan on and off the heat to keep the temperature low. You should be able to touch the pan and cacao butter without pain. Once melted, stir in the cacao powder, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and salt and combine well. Pour into molds and set 30 minutes in the freezer before removing. Enjoy