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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

Week 41: Creative Challenge 52

Georgia Bennett did a great gig this weekend. She played at the Super Hero Family Fun Day in Gold Creek. It was a PCYC community event to get kids interacting with the police.

Singer Georgia Bennett as the Black Widow from Captain America

After Stephen Bennett did his roadie thing for Georgia, he wandered around for a bit with his camera, taking candid shots.

Super Hero Family Fun Day photos

With her Supanova costume at the ready, Georgia went as the Black Widow from Captain America. I'm crazy about that hair! And I bet the dude who went as Batman was loving himself sick in that macho outfit. 'Stick with me, son.  I'll see you straight.'

Georgia Bennett at Superhero Family Fun Day

Kanen breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is introducing us, tonight, to the latest fashion craze to sweep his hotel room. He calls it the wonky tie and he's in love.

There's a Daiso store within spitting distance of Kanen's Curren abode, and he trotted down there yesterday for inspiration after a fairly arduous week of Sweeney Todd rehearsals. What's not to love about a store which stocks the most bizarre assortment of merchandise where everything is priced at $2.80?

Kanen returned to his hotel room with this white tie that is pre-tied, has a zipper tightening arrangement, and some orange acrylic paint. He admits that he had more grandiose plans than time allowed this weekend (and he still intends to attempt these), but knowing full-well that he had the dregs of a bottle of red Glitterlites in his bag, he set out to create a prototype for the pre-tied, pre-shaped, pre-everything wonky tie!

Daiso white tie

With a $2.80 roll of wire at hand, but no wire cutters to work with, he couldn't quite achieve the shape he'd envisaged, but it's early days for the WT (as he calls it - funny), and he'll see if he can make reality match his vision in coming weeks.

The Wonky Tie in progress

That said, Kanen says he's fully enjoyed this first result, the crumple allowing the sparkle to catch more light. He loves his bling, our Kanen, and the Wonky Tie looks set to become the season's latest and greatest craze. Order now - while stocks last.

The one and only Wonky Tie

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 in Spain holidaying with family this past week. It was a perfect opportunity to indulge her passion for travel photography. Enjoy!

Trish Urquhart in Spain
Trish Urquhart on holiday in Spain

Trish didn't do much cooking while she was away - just one meal, and what a meal it was: beetroot cured salmon and prawns marinated in chili, garlic and fino. Yum. Check out Trish's food blog for more news of her fabulous cooking adventures.

Trish Urquhart on holiday in Spain

It was delightfully warm in Spain, except for a sweltering 45 degree (Celcius) day on their last day there, and Trish and Richard enjoyed some walks and swims, a few touristy excursions, and some delicious and interesting food. On one of their outings, Trish played around with the these tiles and some lichen that she found nearby. Gorgeous.

Trish Urquhart on holiday in Spain

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been able to spend more time felting and dyeing this week as a result of the NSW school holidays, although she's still had quite a few students to teach.

She's been eco-dyeing again, and this week she experimented with cochineal in the dye bath.

Telena's cochineal eco-dyeing

Telena made a nuno felted waistcoat in black and white by laying silk fabrics onto black fleece and felting them together. She also made a collar in paler shades, which can be worn reversed to reveal the silk underneath. She made a waistcoat from merino wool and eco-dyed it with eucalypts. Both waistcoats can be worn upside down to create a bigger collar/smaller coat.

Telena's nuno felted waistcoat
Telena's merino wrap eco-dyed with eucalypts

Telena has some other projects underway in preparation for the winter sale and exhibition of the North Shore Craft Group later this week. What a week! Nice work, Telena.

North Shore Craft Group Exhibition

Scarlet Bennett

I've had some A-grade pearls sitting in my jewellery box begging for attention for a while now, and I've had a hankering for classic designs this week. What could be more classic than pearls?

I indulged myself by making a Heart of a Rose pearl set with a classic pearl necklace and some matching earrings. Note the hearts on the catch of the necklace - I love that touch. These pieces don't jump off the screen and grab attention like some, but they'll last for decades and never go out of style. And I can't describe how gorgeous the pearls feel.

Heart of a Rose pearl set

Week 40: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been eco-dyeing again this week, chancing her luck with her outdoor cauldron between bouts of rain. She's become an expert, she says, in quickly assembling, using and disassembling her camping stove.

Telena's eco-dyeing

She's experimented this week on some silk scarves using mordents in the dye baths to create different colours. She also made some cream coloured felted scarves and dyed them with native leaves collected in her neighbourhood, along with a bunch from her florist to add foliage that grows in cooler climates.

Telena's eco-dyeing

Telena is enjoying her eco-dyeing project so much that she's decided to grow her own supply. She ordered 5 tube stock and, when the box arrived, she discovered that the nursery had sent her 20 little seedlings, 15 at no cost. She's pleased to have the extra because she's not sure how well the plants will do in the warmer Sydney weather, but she's going to try to find a chilly, exposed spot for them in her garden once they've grown a bit bigger.

Eco-dyeing plant stock

It's school holidays in NSW now, so Telena is hoping to have some extra time in her studio, playing with textiles and serenading the neighbours with her saxophone.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been taking the nation by storm this week with his glorious partner in crime, Jacqui Dark.

You can't miss this celebrated pair - they're everywhere. The Strange Bedfellows cabaret (of their own distinctive creation) has been an enormous success and they're in all the papers. Here's a sample of the reviews that have been published in Melbourne and Brisbane in the last eight days.

They've been on the radio too, with notable sessions on ABC 774 Conversation Hour and Joy FM. The punters can't get enough of them.

Regular followers of this blog will have seen many of the costumes revealed for the first time right here as Kanen has stitched and glued and laboured over his uber-glitzy caberet creations.

The big question is this...what's he going to do next? Watch this space.

Strange Bedfellows taking the world by storm

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 traversing the Thames with Richard this week in their narrowboat, Patience. Trish has taken some gorgeous travel photos as they've journeyed, a few of which she's shared with us here.

UK Travel Photography
The river Thames
Roasted plum and onion relish

In her galley kitchen, Trish whipped up a delicious roasted plum and onion relish this week, and she flavoured it with chilli and star anise. She and Richard enjoyed it with cheese.

Trish plans to perfect this recipe further as she says she'd have preferred a little more sweetness. She's going to make it again and then she plans to share the recipe - a culinary delight for the rest of us to look forward to.

And she can keep the stunning photos coming too!

The river Thames

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has been happily engaged in his landscape photography this week. He took these images at Wee Jasper at the foot of the Brindabellas, 80 kilometres north-west of Canberra. The water panoramic at the bottom is going straight to the pool room. I love it!

Wee Jasper
Wee Jasper
Wee Jasper

Steve also helped me today with an image that I wanted for my website. Who's the most adorable dog in the world, then?

Scarlet Bennett

book themed mirror compacts

This week I finished off the giveaways I started work on last weekend, for use by book bloggers when my novel is released on 14 July.

I wanted to make something a bit different so my giveaways are not all jewellery. And I wondered about some book-themed mirror compacts, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make the idea work.

I'm delighted with how my experiment has turned out. See for yourself.

Book-themed mirror compacts
Book-themed mirror compact
Music-themed mirror compacts

Week 39: Creative Challenge 52

Elder flower 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 very mobile this past week. She and Richard have covered serious ground in their narrowboat - heading from Waltham Abbey on the Lee Navigation to Limehouse Basin, back to Paddington Basin for a couple of days, and they are now on the river Thames at Clieveden.

This, of course, has left little time for creativity, but Trish made a gorgeous brew of elder flower tea this morning, with flowers that she picked along the river bank. I love the composition of this photo with the water in the background. It's just lovely. And Trish has been indulging her passion for travel photography too, with impressive results indeed. The photos are of Paddington and Limehouse Basins.

Trish's travel photography
Trish's travel photography

Telena Routh

Telena's eco-dyeing

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, achieved some wonderful results at her eco-dyeing workshop last weekend, and this has sent her scouring the neighbourhood for suitable trees. She walks with her eyes focusing skyward on the colours and shapes of the gum leaves and tries very hard not to trip over in the process!

Having already felted some small and large wraps, Telena laid down a variety of leaves, rolled, bundled and tied them up, then put them in the simmering dye baths, eagerly awaiting the results. She also dyed some silk scarves. One of the lovely side effects of a eucalyptus dye bath is the aroma.

Telena dyed the orange coloured pieces in a cinerea dye bath and the grey pieces in an iron dye bath. She's delighted with the results. And who wouldn't be? She says she thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and can see herself happily brewing on the camping stove in her backyard. Telena intends to continue using regular dyes, because she loves brightly coloured fleece, but plans to make eco-dyeing a regular part of her repertoire too. What a fabulous addition to her toolkit.

Telena's eco-dyeing
Telena's eco-dyeing

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been in Brisbane today for a matinee performance of the Strange Bedfellows cabaret spectacular, and he's en route to Melbourne tonight for more of the same. He'll be rehearsing and performing in Sweeney Todd for Victorian Opera too, while he's there. The man is unstoppable.

No description could do Kanen's contribution this week justice. He's outdone himself. He created this sequined suit to wear to Strange Bedfellows shows in Adelaide. It was a labour intensive project and the effect under lights, he says, was quite spectacular.

Kanens cabaret jacket

Here he is wearing his masterpiece. If you look closely, you'll recognise his shoes from a previous creative challenge. And if you're a particularly ardent Breen fan (aren't we all?), you might even sense his deft hand at work in Daryl's crimson shoes.

Strange Bedfellows in Adelaide

This week Kanen also put a lick of Glitterlites over the top of a previous effort. They're now so over the top, he says, that he can scarcely cope - too much fabulousness for the human foot to bear.

Kanens Glitterlites boots

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has been a very kind soul this week, devoting his creative challenge time to a project of mine.

I have a suite of online courses that I'll be releasing on my website in July, and I'm busy preparing materials for them. The courses will all be supported by audio and video files, and today I wanted to make a guided relaxation recording for one of my programs.

Steve set up a little mini studio for me this morning in his dark room (the only room in the house with any potential whatsoever for quiet) and I recorded the voice over. He then worked on the soundtrack to get the levels and balance right, then put it together with some royalty-free music in one of his software programs. Thank you!

Scarlet Bennett

Pearl and sterling silver earrings

Jewellery giveaways for my forthcoming book blog tours are still at the top of my list of creative priorities. This week I made some more earrings and also a couple of pendants. I love these pendants and Steve's photos are just wonderful. And I've started work on some book-themed pieces for next week that just might tickle your fancy - if I can bear to part with them, that is.

Yellow jasper pendant
Inca rose pendant
Pearl and sterling silver earrings
Black onyx and sterling silver

Week 38: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been performing at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival with his partner in crime, Jacqui Dark.

'Sequins, glitter, booze, nodules, red carpets, more booze, midnight guest spots, hangovers, more booze. I'm too old for this,' he says.

His shoes, I'm sure, have been some consolation.

Kanen's shoes

Trish Urquhart

Trish's comfrey fritters

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 outdone herself in Patience's little narrowboat kitchen this week. With Richard working to a tight script deadline, Trish made a scriptwriter's dream supper to sustain him.

She started with a salad of carrot and coriander with spicy mango chutney sunflowers seeds (I'm definitely going to try this) and she followed with Georgian Lobio and fried haloumi. A feast fit for a king. And if that weren't enough, Trish also posted a recipe blog for the rest of us to follow. Check it out here. It looks absolutely delicious.

Trish has also been foraging along the river banks picking elderflowers and comfrey leaves, which she turned into fritters. She drizzled the fritters with a syrup made of elderflower cordial seasoned with togarashi.

Trish's elderflower fritters

And she even managed to fit in some travel photography. A big creative week!

Trish's travel photography

Telena Routh

Having developed an interest in eco-dyeing, Telena recently enrolled in a weekend workshop to extend her limited experience. She loves the idea of being able to add the beauty of nature to her felting. With the workshop running this weekend, she made four felted wraps in advance. Two were felted from merino fleece and she made two nuno felt wraps, which are a combination of fleece and silk chiffon. They're cream and very simple in style.

Telena has been collecting different types of leaves for printing, including a range of Eucalypts and some lovely autumn foliage.

Yesterday in the workshop she experimented on small samples of fabric. She made up bubbling dye baths and immersed the folded, pegged and blocked bundles, letting them cook while eagerly anticipating the resulting alchemy. Today she's been working on her felt wraps and, if we're lucky, we'll get to see the results next week.

Telena's eco-dyeing
Telena's felt wraps
Hall markets

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett had a lot of errands to run today, but in between jobs he's been popping back and forth to the Hall markets to watch Georgia's regular monthly gig. He wandered around with his camera while he was there, capturing something of the ambience on what has been an awfully cold day in Canberra. I'm not too proud to admit that I had to rummage through my wardrobe looking for long johns in order to survive the -3 degree 8am set-up.

At the end of the day, once the punters had gone home and the stall holders were all packing up, Steve set up the video camera in the only safe, discreet place possible - so sorry about the industrial aesthetic - to film Georgia's final song of the day. She performed for five hours, and this was her closing number. Not half bad for someone who was exhausted.

singer songwriter georgia bennett
Hall markets

Scarlet Bennett

Turquoise and sterling silver

Turquoise and sterling silver

I've been working on jewellery giveaways for book bloggers to give their readers when they post about my book after it's released on 14 July. Being me, I've taken a small-scale project and made it bigger than Ben-Hur.

I made a couple of pendants this week, and a heap of earrings too - too many for this blog, but I've chosen a few to share here. My next task is to make some book-themed items and that's going to be my priority next weekend. There's definitely no rest for the wicked around here.

Freshwater pearls with sterling silver hearts

Freshwater pearls with sterling silver hearts

Amethyst and sterling silver

Amethyst and sterling silver

Turquoise and yellow marble pendants

Turquoise and yellow marble pendants

Red agate earrings

Week 37: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been knitting up a storm this week, and she has a new striped jumper to prove it. She started knitting this pullover a few years ago before putting it aside and she's happy to find that it still fits.

telenas knitted pullover

Telena says she loves knitting and creating but finds the stitching up boring, so after all her hard work some creations take a while to reach their finished form. In this case, the colours were singing to her and she could hardly wait to get this piece off her knitting needles and completed. You won't miss her wearing this, she says. No boring beige for Telena.

Telena has also raided her rather large stash of wool and she's picked out some colours in a different palette for her next project. The weather's certainly cold enough for lots of woollies now.

telenas wool stash

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is back in Sydney for all of six days before heading west to Adelaide - ample time to gussy up this rather plain IKEA found object, he says.

kanens cupboard makeover

Kanen had borrowed Jacqui's car a year ago to drop something off in Potts Point and he came across this piece in his apartment building's communal dumping ground. He squeezed it into the boot and dumped it in the garage of horrors from whence it was plucked a couple of months ago to replace a rather gorgeous vintage sideboard in Jacqui's kitchen that had finally succumbed to age.

IKEA furniture is cheap, hardy and practical, but not really to either Kanen or Jacqui's taste aesthetically, so it's been a prime target for some creative challenge magic ever since.

Kanen never needs much of an excuse to go and visit the Wallcandy wallpaper shop - and, in particular, its El Cheapo off-cuts section - so he says it was lovely to spend an hour or so there during the week with the gorgeous girls, discussing all things paper and thumbing their amazing sample books. They all agreed, apparently, that they're better than porn!

The actual 'doing' on a job like this is minimal. A bit of measuring, a bit of blade and ruler work, and a bit of wallpaper glue and you're done. Kanen likes the fact that, due to the reflective nature of the paper, the rather gaudy pattern becomes lessened under light (natural or electric) so that from certain angles you don't see it at all, yet from other perspectives it proudly declares its full 1970s appallingness.

You may notice evidence of Jacqui's birthday celebrations in some of the photos. Kanen says he did the measuring and cutting while drunk, so it's miraculous it came out as intact as it did. That man can pull a creative rabbit out of his hat rain, hail or shine.

kanens cupboard 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 had a hugely busy week. Exploring the British canals in a narrowboat is not all beer and skittles, you know.

trishs cooking

Trish and Richard left Paddington Basin yesterday, and after a six or seven hour journey, are now docked in Limehouse Basin. It was a grueling day after a stressful working week, and Trish was grateful to look out over the inky black water at the reflected lights at the end of it.

Nevertheless, ever the creative, Trish still managed to exercise her artistic spirit. Firstly, she made a fabulous raw courgette pasta. It's based on last week's togarashi recipe and she's calling it her three step, low carb, raw pasta. If you'd like to make this yourself, here's the recipe:

Step 1: Microplane the courgette and marinate it in a dressing of lemon juice, lemon rind, olive oil and garlic.

Step 2: Make a cooked creamy sauce. Trish used shallots, bacon, aubergine and cream.

Step 3: Add goat's cheese coated with togarashi.

Trish's other culinary creation was rhubarb with sugar and togarashi and served with creme fraiche. Yum! Never one to blow her own trumpet, Trish observed that both dishes were sublime. Coming from her, that's high praise indeed.

Trish has also indulged her passion for travel photography this week and she's shared some pictures of Limehouse, which she took on her phone.

Oh, and she'll be cross with me for mentioning this, but it's her birthday today, so please send her your birthday regards!

trishs travel photography

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has been busy with some woodworking this week. He's been working on a job that he's been meaning to get to for a while.

steves new music stand

His singing teaching set-up needs constant tweaking, and the music holding facilities above his keyboard have been somewhat inadequate. This week he devised a music stand with greater display capacity along with an improved retention strip along the bottom to accommodate thicker scores, and with hinges attached to the CD shelf so he can lift the stand back when he wants to gain access to the keyboard control display.

He says his new set-up is a big improvement and he's very happy with the result.

steves custom made music stand

Steve also went out with Georgia today and did the videography on her latest You Tube clip. She sang while he recorded and their biggest challenge was traffic, which kept passing and interrupting them at inopportune moments. It took a few takes, but they got there. I'm so pleased she recorded this song. I love what she does with it.

Scarlet Bennett

Continuing on with the project I started last week, I've been working on some jewellery giveaways for my forthcoming book blog tour. I made a few new pairs of earrings this week and Steve has kindly photographed them for me. The Heart of a Rose earrings below are one of my all-time-favourite designs. I sometimes make them with pearls. This time I made them with sterling silver and rose quartz.

Heart of a Rose earrings

I also made some earrings with amethyst, rose quartz and sterling silver. They're long and dangling and not what I usually make, but I quite like them.

amethyst and rose quartz earrings

I embarked on a project yesterday to make something special for a friend. She's never worn pearls before and I wanted to introduce her to the sheer joy of wearing them. I started by making her a necklace with freshwater pearls and sterling silver, and I added an adaptable centrepiece for maximum versatility. The silver centrepiece will allow her to switch pendants around depending upon her mood. I gave her a gorgeous silver heart to wear when she only wants pearls, and I've called this design Pearls with Love.

Pearls with Love necklace

I also made her a black onyx pendant for days when she wants more of a vintage look, and in this iteration I'm thinking of it as Pearls with Everything.

Pearls with Everything

I'm working on a smaller pendant to complete the set and I'll have that ready in time for next week's creative challenge.

In the meantime, I'm absolutely loving this pearl design and I'm thinking I'll have to make some more. Pearls are like flowers. You just can't have too many in your life.

Week 36: 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 exercising her keen artistic eye this week. She and Richard are currently moored at Paddington Basin, and Trish has been walking through Paddington Station in her search for interesting culinary provisions. She looked up, yesterday, and noticed the elegant steel scaffolding above.

Paddington Station

Trish took shots with her phone from a few different angles, and she liked the location so much she intends to go back with her camera.

Paddington Station

Having captured her masterpieces, she then got inspired about food. She ducked in and out of a couple of supermarkets, then she rushed back to the boat to make supper with Richard for some friends. She was so inspired she even managed to dash out a quick blog post. Check it out here. You'll be hard pressed to find more creative ways to use togarashi seasoning. The roasted peaches with vanilla, cognac and togarashi seasoning look simply amazing. Yum!

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, is still obliged to keep off her injured ankle, so she's been finishing some longstanding projects to make the most of her enforced immobility.

She's been working, this week, on a pullover she started a few years ago, a project which stalled when she couldn't decide how to finish the neckline. She decided to move away from the striped pattern she used for the body, opting for larger blocks of colour on the sleeves to achieve a quirkier look overall. The pullover isn't quite finished yet, but Telena's hoping to have another warm woolly to wear by the end of the coming week.

Knitted pullover

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, promised us more of his signature glitzy shoes last week and, as always, he's delivered in spades.

Kanen says he's tres happy with the sparkly little quickie transformation he's executed this week on another $20 pair of Zu shoes - gorgeous soft lambs wool lined suede, down from $120. He's the king of the bargain as well as the king of glitz.

It took Kanen an hour and a bit to jazz up these shoes, with a trusty hairdryer by his side to cut down the drying time.

Shoe makeover

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett's creative offering this week is a light-tight addition to a drawer for his friend Pete, whose darkroom Steve build a couple of years ago. Pete often comes up with little modifications and Steve is happy to oblige where possible. This drawer makes it possible for Pete to store open packets of light sensitive enlarging paper ready to be grabbed and stuck under the enlarger. It's a real time-saver in the darkroom and something Steve might just add to his own darkroom one day.

Darkroom drawer

Scarlet Bennett

My novel will be published on 14 July, and it will be going on a global blog tour as part of its marketing. It's customary to provide giveaways for book bloggers to use as prizes in competitions they run for their readers. There will be book giveaways, of course, but I've also agreed to make some jewellery to add to the mix. That's going to be my creative challenge for the next few weeks.

I'll be making a variety of pieces - some classic sterling silver with semi-precious gemstones, and some book themed pieces like the Pride and Prejudice pendant I made for my niece recently.

Today I made some earrings. This pair is made with turquoise and sterling silver finished with an antique patina. These earrings are reminiscent of American Indian craftsmanship.

Earth goddess earrings

I also made a pair using freshwater pearls and sterling silver. I never, ever tire of pearls. They lend a timeless elegance to just about everything.

Pearl earrings

This is a good start, but I need more, much more. Watch this space to see what I add to the booty.

Week 35: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has created a sexy shoe makeover this week. 'Pinch me!' he says. He searched high and low across Melbourne's cobblers and shoe repairers this week for the lovely Glitterlites that he showcased in a recent shoe transformation but, alas, nobody had even heard of it. Nobody, that is, until his last port of call - a shoddy little shopfront run by the Rekaris family who were delightful and quite caught up in the passion of his search (he wins hearts everywhere he goes, our Kanen. The folks at Specsavers adore him.).

Kanens red shoe makeover
Kanens red shoe makeover

The Rekaris family hadn't heard of Glitterlites, but they advised Kanen to ring a leather wholesaling group in Flemington called Leffler, who supply most of Melbourne's shoe repairers and makers with their products. He rang them. He described. He held his breath. They said yes, they stocked all the colours of the rainbow with such casual indifference that Kanen almost thought he'd dreamt it. An hour later, he was standing in their warehouse trying to decide which colour in the spectrum he most desired. He says he was like a frat boy in a whorehouse for the first time. Oh dear.

Kanen ultimately decided that red was his top priority because he needs it to make a pair of shoes for Daryl, the Bedfellows' pianist. Daryl now wears, in their shows, the red sequined jacket Kanen made previously, so it only seemed right to queer him up even further, to match the Bedfellows' own peculiar brand of gildedness.

Next stop was the ZU shoe warehouse in Richmond to spend further $$$. He managed to pick up six pairs of shoes - $900 worth - for $120. 'Very me to go for one pair and come out with six,' Kanen says, 'but I'll live on two minute noodles for a month if I must!'

Daryl's brogues are a darker charcoal than the before photo suggests and, of course, the true magic of the glitter can't really be captured in its full sparkly magnificence, but Kanen says they look a treat in real life. He could have stopped at the 'undercoat' stage - not as shiny as his previous pink pair because he's painting on suede rather than leather - but the sparkles beckoned and won the day. One pair down, five to go.

Kanen's still in Melbourne and he says that shoe transformations are a great creative challenge option for hotel living, so watch this space. He says he planning something outlandish and sparkly next. Just for something different.

Keryn Clark

I write with sad news for flower fans. South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, is working so hard at the moment that she's decided to opt out of the rest of our year-long creative challenge. She's indicated, however, that she may return briefly to show us how her backyard transformation ends up. Something for us to look forward to. If we're lucky, she might even throw in a flower arrangement or two.

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been obliged to keep off her ankle again this week, and she's taken the opportunity to finished an unfinished knitting project.

This pullover started its life as a sleeveless vest for Telena's father, but remained unfinished when he passed away. She's attempted to finish it several times, but the timing somehow wasn't right.

The pattern had a pullover option and Telena found that she had enough wool to extend the project, so she busily knitted the sleeves and sewed the garment together. She says it's rather large on her, but she feels warm and cosy in it.

Telena's pullover

Last night, Telena and her husband went to a 1920s party, so Telena adjusted one of her long, black concert dresses to transform it, temporarily, into a flapper dress. She folded the extra length up on the inside and sewed it loosely to the lining. She then sewed some long black fringing to the now shorter hemline. She says it looked quite the business with a red feather boa, long red gloves, and a headband with feathers and a rose.

Telenas flapper dress

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 togarashi seasoning. She bought a huge bag of cashew nuts from an Indian supermarket in a town they passed through this week on the way back to London on their narrowboat, Patience. She roasted the cashew nuts on a very low heat with olive oil, togarashi seasoning and salt, and then ate them as a snack while writing this blog post.

Roasted togarashi cashews

Trish has also included a travel photo she took from Patience last night. How's the serenity?

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett promises that this is the last instalment of photos from his Easter photographic trip to the Snowy Mountains. He's finished processing and scanning all the films and here are the final fruits of his labours - a highly productive and satisfying trip. When's the calendar coming out, I wonder.

Steves high country triptych

Scarlet Bennett

I started this week's blog with shoes and I'm finishing with shoes - sort of, in a sublime to the ridiculous kind of way. Where Kanen wins the style award, I'm hoping to win the comfort award. Well, daggy actually. I'm not too proud to admit it.

But the truth is, in winter, I get very cold feet, and I'm a relentless 'fixer' of problems, no matter how trivial.

I've been tinkering away with these slippers for a couple of weeks now. The crocheting took me no time at all. And the rest of the tinkering would be more accurately described as procrastination, because stitching up and cord plaiting are the jobs I least enjoy. At last, however, my masterpiece is complete. Do try to contain your envy.

Week 34: Creative Challenge 52

Stephen Bennett has produced some wonderful landscape images again this week. His tetraptych is of a ruined cattleman's cottage that he found at Shannon's Flat on the back road from Canberra to Adaminaby. There was no fence in evidence so he bowled up to discover he had the place to himself and then spent a happy hour exploring with his Hasselblad. It's just as well he did, because it's wet and windy in Canberra today - not a suitable photography day at all.

Cattleman's hut landscape photos

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is apologetic about this week's creation. In fact, he claims it's his weakest effort to date which, given his extraordinarily high standards, is hardly discouraging.

He's in Daylesford for Mother's Day where his sister also lives. He hadn't yet come up with any creative plan of note, so he was delighted to find that his uber creative sister, Keele, had fashioned a lamp together out of old bits of other lamps and light-fittings but had yet to tackle the plain, boring lampshade atop her masterpiece. He says he's not kidding when he tells us this dreadful effort (his words!) took him ten minutes.

The fabric is an old skirt of Keele's that he's stretched into place without cutting and then sewed in with the hideous bobble trim she bought for her daughter. Kanen says, 'it aint pretty, but I'll sneak over the line with it and aim for a more considered contribution next week.' I think he's being too modest by far. A Breen original is still a Breen original and this lampshade has a charming retro feel.

Kanens lampshade makeover

Keryn Clark

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, has been frantically busy this weekend with Mother's Day flowers. Aware that she had no chance of contributing anything today, she submitted some photos earlier in the week, documenting her history in Perth.

This little house is where she first encountered her business partner, Remy, nearly twenty years ago. His twin brother is a hairdresser who used to work out of the house and Remy had his art works on display there too. That meeting set in motion a creative partnership that has lasted ever since.

Keryns house
Perth in transition - a photo journey

Keryn wanted to capture Perth in transition in her images. When she first arrived in Perth, Beaufort Street near the art school was undeveloped, but now the city has started to swirl around it. The little grey vintage shop is where Keryn had her first poetry framed, and Wall Candy was a source of inspiration, not to mention an endless source of furniture. Keryn has included a photo of her signature flower, the bougainvillea, even though she says that roses run a close second. Finally, the terrace houses have been overtaken by McDonalds and Officeworks. Keryn says she knew the person who owned one of them and he bought it years ago for $480,000. Imagine what it would be worth now.

Perth in transition - a photo journey
Perth in transition - a photo journey
Perth in transition - a photo journey

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been continuing her exploration of eco-dyeing this week. With all the recent storms, there's been an abundance of kerbside branches in her street, so she's had some fun foraging for suitable plant matter.

Telena has made a lightweight off-white felted wrap comprised of two fine layers of fleece over silk chiffon. After felting, she soaked it for a few hours in a bath of alum and water. She then layered it with leaves and gumnuts and rolled it around some dowel. She tied it and boiled it in a large saucepan with the addition of some bits of rust. She left it in the solution for four days to let the colours develop. As you can see, the foliage has left clear imprints - gorgeous.

Eco-dyed wrap

Telena has also made a felt lace wrap this week for the friend who was responsible for all the beautiful flowers at Rachel's recent wedding.

felt lace wrap

With winter approaching and several friends expecting babies, Telena has been knitting some gumnut hats. She's very fond of this pattern and the yarn is very soft and warm. They don't take long to knit so she now has quite a collection. Telena has damaged a ligament in her ankle so she says it's time to put her feet up and do some more knitting. Anyone expecting? There are hats to spare.

knitted baby hats

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 still cooking up a storm on Patience, their recently refurbished narrowboat. She's written an erudite blog this week, featuring impressive words like revictual and gongoozler. If these words are as foreign to you as they were to me, check out Trish's blog here. You'll be able to impress the punters silly with your new words, and Trish's travel photography is awesome too.

Trish has also filmed a moody time lapse video from the boat. There's water, clouds and trains and a tangible sense of chill in the air. Love it.

Scarlet Bennett

My friend Kayleen came over for a jewellery making lesson yesterday and I taught her how to make a gorgeous silver cuff, which I then forgot to photograph. Just as well I'd made a small something extra - some cute sterling silver earrings to liven up a cold, grey weekend.

Sterling silver spiral earrings

Week 33: Creative Challenge 52

travel photography in the UK

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 working wonders in her small galley (narrowboat) kitchen this week.

In addition to profiting from her obsession with tagaroshi seasoning, Trish has created a wonderful new recipe - spiced clementines preserved in honey and cognac. These look really fabulous, and if you're as tempted to make them as I am, check out her Clementines in a Cauldron blog where she's posted the recipe.

Always the productive creative, Trish has also added some new travel photos. They make me want to pack up stumps and head straight to the UK. You're a bad influence, Trish!

Spiced clementines

Kanen Breen

kanens shoe makeover

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is absolutely flat chat at the moment. The Bedfellows are strutting their stuff at the Vanguard, and Kanen is flying to Melbourne early tomorrow morning - no rest for the wicked, clearly. But he's found time to indulge his shoe fetish this week with a truly spectacular makeover.

Just when he thought he'd produced the gayest pair of shoes in Christendom, along came a little product called 'Glitterlites - flexible glittercoat', and he was born anew, trembling like a six year old girl playing with her first My Little Pony doll. He knew that this stuff existed, but it's an American product - pretty expensive to import - and Kanen wasn't sure it would be worth the expense. Imagine his delight to find it, quite by accident, at a shoddy old cobblers in Bondi Junction.

'God bless America,' he says. 'It's brilliant! And you can anticipate a whole new range of camp footware when I return from Melbourne.' Too exciting.

It's advisable, apparently, to match the glitter to a similar background colour, so Kanen painted a pale pink undercoat with leather paint and he says he could honestly have stopped at that point because the shoes looked so smooth and shiny. He then added the Glitterlites, which painted on as smooth as silk.

He's loving these shoes sick now, and desperately hoping to finish another longer-term project to combine them with in time for the opening gala concert at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Can't wait to see that. These sparkly new wheels are really something, aren't they?

pimp my shoes

Keryn Clark

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, is having this week off to celebrate a milestone birthday. Happy birthday, Keryn, from the entire creative challenge team! Another year young with your happiest, most creative years ahead of you. See you next week.

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has decided - after going through her wool stash - that she really ought to join woolaholics anonymous. But she's decided, instead, to de-stash and put some of her bountiful collection to good use.

Going through her stash, Telena's eyes fell on some lovely gold bobbly wool and, as she pondered its fate, she thought of a young lady at the gym whose favourite colour is yellow. Telena knew she'd love it, so she's spent much of her spare time this week knitting a scarf and hat for her gym friend's birthday next month - even knitting on the ferry en route to work.

knitting on the ferry

Her next step is to try and muster the courage to donate some of her wool collection to a deserving cause or person. Good luck with that, Telena.

Telena has also fitted in some felting time this week. She's made several prefelts with the idea of creating a sculptural collar. She layered different colours of fleece to achieve this, and as she sews, felts, and cuts away streaks, the different shades will be revealed.

knitted scarf and hat

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has been a photographic creative again this week

The photos in the triptych were taken using the Kershaw Eight 20 Penguin camera pictured. He found it in a junk store and paid peanuts to add it to his ever-growing collection of old cameras. It takes roll film and produces 6x9cm negatives It's a very basic camera, and quite clumsy to use, but it works just fine and is a worthy addition to his collection. As you can see, he captured some lovely shots with it.

Kershaw Eight 20 Penguin camera images

Steve created a diptych with a couple of pinhole photos that he took in Boorowa last Sunday for Worldwide Pinhole Day. He used the big old box camera that takes 8x10 film and has no lens on the camera, just a tiny, half millimeter pinhole to form the image on the film plane. Miraculous.

pinhole photos for worldwide pinhole day

Steve also took a lovely portrait of Lucy and Hannah yesterday, taking advantage of Lucy's trip home from Sydney. Gorgeous girls.

portrait photography - lucy and hannah

Scarlet Bennett

I've been in my jewellery studio again this week, completing a set of pieces that I've been incrementally adding to.

I'd previously made a cuff and ring (pictured) with sterling silver and green aventurine, and I wanted a pendant to complete the set.

green aventurine cuff

So I made a vintage style pendant and I'm just loving it. All I'm missing now, it seems, are some Breen-esque shoes to complete my ensemble. Too much? Never!

Green aventurine pendant