Behind the scenes of the cover story

Although Walmart and radio stations start jingling holiday bells in early fall, we have a strict policy of not sending out our Nov/Dec issue until after Halloween. Which is why our holiday issue is just coming out now (that and I had a spooky and over-scheduled October.) I tend to feature musicians and artists on our holiday covers, and this year we kept the tradition alive. Folk artist Eric Dowdle has been on my “short list” for several years. Last December, my family visited with him in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building where local artists were displaying their beauties. His name spiked its way up the list after I saw firsthand that his personality matched his colorful depictions of cities worldwide. It wasn”t hard to get this funny man to smile at our cover shoot, but a sure way to light up his expression was to mention his baby peacocks. He loves animals and even had a pet goat named “Art.” More about that in the cover story.  He and his wife, Deb, were terrific sports and gave us an entire afternoon for the photos — despite their hectic holiday painting schedule. When Eric asked Deb to join him in the photo, he called out, “Hey, Sunshine.” That made us all smile.Several of the photos (including the one with me up above) were taken outside his warehouse along I-15. When the 18-wheelers rolled by, we had to increase our volume and include hand gestures to communicate. But even if I couldn”t always hear Eric, he was always making me laugh. Thanks, Eric, for a great interview and fabulous photo shoot. Learn more about this paintbrush genius at dowdlefolkart.com. P.S. The Christmas garland came from my very own storage room and is displayed on my very own banister every Christmas. My only regret in life is that I didn”t deduct it as a business expense — it was also used as a prop for the Kurt Bestor photo shoot two years ago.

The Office Christmas Party

Christmas and co-workers go together like tortilla soup and Sundance. Which is precisely where we went and what we ate. We locked up the office, headed up the canyon, and swapped our gifts. The festivities started with Kendall giving Kate a pecan roll, which may need some explanation. I have none to give.Then Roxanne gifted Stacy a cream-colored scarf, which happened to match her very outfit on this very day. Hugs!Whitney made Alison personalized coasters, and Whitney was like a kid on Christmas morning as she watched Alison open the mod-podge beauties.Kendall”s gift from Sheri wins the prize for the most intriguing shape. Turns out, it was a coach”s bucket labeled with “Coach Bennett” and a padded seat on top. Chocolate licorice — a favorite of this sweet-toothed expo manager — was tucked inside. Perfect.Last but not least, I opened a rectangular gift from Briana — a gorgeous silver platter, which I promptly recognized as a perfect photo-shoot prop. (It will be lovely to get Utah Valley Bride Magazine off to the printer and off of the mind tomorrow.)Unlike past Christmas gigs, this meal was bittersweet. The lunch was tasty and filled with laughter, but it also marked the end of an era. After this calendar year, we will no longer be working day-to-day with Kendall and Roxanne (Matt”s brother and sister-in-law). We”ve been together for nearly 12 years, which is exactly how old Utah Valley Magazine is. New adventures await both of us, and we couldn”t be more optimistic — or more sad. Today? Mostly sad. But luckily we share the Bennett name and the Cougar game tickets, so there will be plenty of meals and gifts in our future.Thank goodness. Someday I just might need a pecan roll.

Explosions

I can look at my situation in one of two ways — either things are looking up, up, up … OR … things are exploding beyond my control. Shall we go with “up”? Here is my son Nathan”s recent science fair project. He (and by “he” I mean all six of us in the family) tested the Diet Coke/Mentos explosion using different temperatures of soda. Turns out hot soda explodes the highest. Turns out our dog likes to lap up foamy soda. Turns out that makes him sick. Turns out I have an idea for my next kid”s science project … We also had an explosion of ballots come in for our Readers Choice awards in Utah Valley Magazine. Next year, we”re going to have technology do a little more of the legwork. But this year, the legwork was done by the legs of our very own, very tired staff. You can see the stash of goodies in the middle of the table, including the brown box of candy Legos from Blickenstaff”s. Not sure why we opened them “rat style,” but we all found ourselves sticking our hands in the ragged opening to grab colorful, edible cubes. Sugar headaches all around.  This was how Kate celebrated when the last ballot was counted. And now there”s an explosion of work being done around here. We”re finishing up a few custom magazines, our best-ever issue of Utah Valley Bride, and our “Best Of” issue of Utah Valley Magazine (including the results of the exhausting ballots). Yep, things are definitely looking up around here (including our sugar and soda consumption).