Comfort Foods

February 13th, 2009

I’d like to share a couple of my favorite recipes. The first is a chili recipe that I got from my good friend Deb Day, who got it from the Salt Lake Tribune’s recipe request column. It supposedly originated at the Stein Erickson Lodge in Park City. It is a great crowd pleaser.

The next is Honey Baked Custard, which is a very satisfying, simple and healthy dessert. I love the Mexican flans, but cringe at using the sweetened condensed milk that they call for. This one just uses milk, honey and vanilla. I have used 1% milk from the store to make it and it turns out fine, but I like it best when made with the whole milk that we have been buying recently from the newly opened local raw milk dairy in Mt Pleasant. I don’t skim off the cream, and shake up the jug and drink or use. It makes divine custard and yogurt!

 

Southwestern Turkey Chili

serves at least 6 

1 can of black beans*

1-cup mild fresh chilies, chopped (wear gloves) Anaheim’s are good.

2/3 cup chopped red onion

2/3 cup chopped celery

2/3 cups chopped red pepper (accept no substitute)

2/3 cup chopped white part of leek (sometimes I use white onion)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 TBS dried oregano, crumbled or rubbed

1 stick butter

¼ cup flour

4 cups shredded cooked turkey (or sautéed ground turkey)

4 cups chicken broth

2 ¼ cups thawed frozen corn (you may use canned or dried corn that has been re-hydrated)

2 tsp ground coriander seed

3 TBS chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp sugar

Cook chilies, onion, celery, bell pepper, leek, garlic, and oregano in butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes, or until veggies are softened. Add flour and turkey, cook over low heat stirring 15-20 minutes, or until flour is golden. Stir in broth. In a food processor, puree 1 ¼ cup of the corn; add it to the chili along with remaining corn, spices and the beans. Simmer stirring for 15 minutes. Season with more chili powder, salt or pepper to your taste. May be served with sour cream, shredded cheese, & or guacamole.

  • Or you can soak ¾ cups of dried black beans overnight, drain them, and then cook them with 8 cups water until tender. Drain and use in the chili.

 

Baked Honey Custard

Serves 4

 

2 eggs

¼ cup honey

¼ tsp salt

2 cups milk, scalded

1 tsp vanilla

Grated nutmeg

½ pint of whipped cream (optional)

 

Beat the eggs until well mixed, then beat in the honey, salt, vanilla, and scalded milk. Pour into custard cups or small bowls. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top of each. Set cups in a pan of hot water and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until the tip of a knife inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool, then refrigerate.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

Dialogue and Segulla Covers, Studio Progress and New Paintings

January 31st, 2009

My paintings have recently been on the cover of two different LDS based literary journals. Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought Winter 2008

And Segulla, Writings by Latter Day Saint Women Fall 2008. http://segullah.org/artist-interviews/interview-with-featured-artist-lee-bennion/#comments

I include the link to Segulla because they did an interview with me that you can read if you are interested.

While I am waiting to move into my new studio/barn, I am busy painting at Ella Peacock’s home, now owned by good friends Dave and Karen Ericson of Salt Lake City, UT. Thanks for letting me work there! Dave is also my gallery representative in Utah. He bought Ella’s home from her several years before she died, and let her stay there rent-free as long as she wanted. That was very good for Ella. It feels good spend time there again. Lots of memories have surfaced of visits with Ella. The Ericsons have changed it very little since she was there.  However, I am looking forward to moving into my new studio soon.

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 New painting studio as of 1-10-09

 Cliff Mott (owner of Topkote Inc.) is doing the interior/exterior painting on the studio/barn for me. He is also finishing the wood floor in the painting studio. Today he is running the big drum sander on the floor prior to staining and the finishing it next week. Most of the wood trim is filled and primed. Things will start to move quickly now. Cliff is a consummate craftsman and goes the extra mile on the prep work before painting. It seems like the job is going slow, but what it means is that the paint job will look absolutely fantastic and won’t need to be done again for many years. If you need exterior or interior painting on your property, you would be wise to hire Cliff. 435- 851-2723. He is pleasant to work with, has good ideas and like I said before is an incredible craftsman. He is a one man operation as the kind of work he does you can’t just turn over to a crew of people who don’t know what they are doing or don’t care. Sometimes he will hire someone to help him, but he is always there working and over seeing the project.

Here are some photos of my recent work. The only ones that are done or close to done are the first two, the little dog, and the canyon moonrise with the yucca blooms. The others range from the drawing stage to half way done. Please know that these are taken with my little camera and the quality is not very good. There is a lot of glare on them, but I hope you enjoy just seeing what they look like in progress.

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wendell-drawing.jpg 

 

 

 

Mexican Pickled Carrots

January 15th, 2009

This year we made Mexican pickled Carrots for a Christmas treat to give to neighbors and friends. Something to counter balance the onslaught of sweets that seem to flow into the house in the month of December!

I learned to make these from my mom. She figured out how to make them about 30 years ago. We often ate at a great Mexican restaurant in Winton, California called the “Tequila Café”.  Along with delicious chips and salsa on the table as appetizers, they  also served pickled carrots. My mom asked for the recipe and was told that was not something that they would give out. So mom just started thinking about it and came up with what she thought the ingredients might be and it what proportions. One of the waitresses was kind enough to answer with a yes or no, if an ingredient was right or not. When she had all the ingredients figured out she then let her ask about the process as well. After a few batches and more yes and no sessions with the  waitress, she had it dialed and the pickled carrots have been a staple at our home ever since. I have no problem sharing recipes and since many of you have asked for it I decided to put it up here where you can easily find it. 

 

Pickled Mexican Carrots                              Ada Udall

5 pounds carrots, sliced 1/4” on a diagonal.

Put carrots in boiling water w/ 1 TBS salt for about 5 minutes till done but not soft. Test for the degree of crispness you want, then remove/ drain from hot water and put into a sink of ice water. You don’t want limp soggy pickles, but not too crisp either. Keep an eye on them and keep checking them and pull them off when they feel right to you.

In another pot put:

4 cups water

2 cups cider vinegar

2 TBS salt (I use pickling salt if I have it.)

Bring to a boil.

Open a small can of pickled jalapeno peppers. Use 1/4 cup of the liquid in the vinegar solution.

Slice 2 or 3 peppers into julienne strips.

Slice 1/2 white onion and

2 garlic cloves, peeled.

In a gallon jar, or several smaller ones that will equal a gallon, put down a layer of carrots, a few peppers, onion slices and garlic slices. Sprinkle a bit of cilantro and oregano on top and repeat starting with the carrots until all ingredients are used up. Pour hot vinegar solution over all and add 1 TBS olive oil on top and let stand for at least three days. You can repack into smaller jars or just eat them out of the big one. They will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. I have actually found a jar from last year in the root cellar and we opened it up and they were great! At room temp I don’t think that they would last as long as that.

Indian Summer

November 2nd, 2008

Our long lovely fall appears to be coming to an end at last. We had a few frosty nights way back in early Sept. and then a few more in early Oct. but then went back into classic Indian summer mode, which I have so loved and appreciated. In years past this would have meant I would have been riding almost everyday, but the horses have only been out twice in the last two weeks as we have had so much to do to get the garden, orchard and place in general ready for winter, not to mention working our guts out moving stone. We had to move it from Gunnison where it origionated in the demolished Farmers Equity building to the quarry in Manti, unloading it off the pallets so it can be split by the guillotine, then loading it back on pallets and getting it transported and unloaded at our place in Spring City. We have perhaps finished moving and splitting about half of it? Even Joe is beginning to wonder if he has bit off more than he can chew with this project. He has lots more info and photos on his journal about this project.

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The pile in November 2007 

About a year ago now when he was trying to get my blessing on this project and first showed me the pile of stone in Gunnison, I looked at it, went over to the huge pile and tried to move a stone. I realized how heavy they are and how many there were (103 pallets, each probably weighing a ton+). The thought that passed through my body like a wave was “This is going to kill us.” Perhaps it will. Joe has already lost two fingernails to the project and we both know that we are over 50 by the way our bodies’ feel after a day of moving stone. But I have to admit that I am being won over to the madness. I could see from the beginning how excited Joe was about working with stone. I like being around a guy who is excited and happy about what he is doing and learning, even if sometimes he is way in over his head.

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Stones on pallets, May 2008 

The owner of the quarry in Manti who is letting us use his crew and equipment to split the stone was adamant that Joe should not bring his wife to help, but of course we couldn’t get anyone else to help. At our age, there are few friends you can invite to do this kind of grunt labor. It is hard physical work, but I have always enjoyed that in doses. It was facinating seeing the stone split, learning how to select ones that would be good for corners, learning how to lift and move them without killing myself and watching the pallets empty and fill as the hours rolled by.  I know it sounds crazy, but I found myself being grateful that I was married to someone who likes to do whacky things like this, because I enjoy it too.  I would be much more cautious and timid about jumping into unknown projects like this without Joe’s lead. 

Right now we are just hoping to face the cinderblock addition to the barn so it will look like the traditional stone stable that many old barns in our town have. Joe dreams of building an energy efficient small home on our property and facing it with the remainder of the stone. Maybe we will someday. Depends on the economy and our ability to keep selling paintings and pottery in the upcoming decade. Perhaps it will be some of our daughters that build a home out of this stone. It doesn’t really matter. I am just so thrilled to be here on this 2.5-acre plot of ground, making it more productive and beautiful. I love all the physical work involved with it and the variety of it all. One of my polygamist ancestors was John D. Lee. He had many wives. Two were sisters, Polly and Lavina Young who always lived together. They divided up the responsibilities thus. Polly was in charge of the inside of the house and Louisa the outside chores. Guess which wife I come through!

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The barn/studio is coming along. It has the roof sheathing on it now, and the windows arrived yesterday. Tomorrow the electrician is coming over to walk through all the plugs and lights with me.

Last weekend my sister Sara and I flew down to Phoenix AZ together to attend a Udall cousins party on Oct. 24 in Mesa. It was such great fun!

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Cousins Donna Flaherty, Charlene Hawkins and Sara Henderson, my sister 

Lately the only time we see cousins or beloved aunts and uncles is at funerals. Funerals are good getting folks together, but coming in from out of town like we do, it is kind of overwhelming to be in such a huge sea of relatives, mostly consisting of the next generation and their offspring, most of which I do know. Naturally my cousins who are all parents and many of them grand parents are very involved and focused on your own broods, so quality cousin visiting is kind of hard to come by. This gathering we had last week was perfect. The aunts and uncles remaining were invited, but none of our children or grandchildren. I bet we had about 30 cousins there? A great meal and lots of visiting and then a wonderful presentation put together by cousin Tim Flaherty on our common ancestry, speeches by Uncles David and Kenyon Udall and Arden Palmer and Aunt Lee Flaherty. I just soaked it all up. Cousin Dave Palmer picked us up at the airport and put us up at his home. We throughly enjoyed time with his wife Cyndi and 4 lovely daughters.

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 Dave Palmer and Ginger

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Jacklin and Jenna Palmer with big smiles for aunt Lee!

We are planning another such gathering for next fall, this time over in eastern AZ in the town of Thatcher where my Dad grew up. The first time my father ever visited us in Spring City he said this after we had showed him around our little farmstead and town “This is what I escaped”. On the other hand I always longed to live on a farm and in a town like Spring City or Thatcher growing up in suburban CA. Dad was totally supportive of our choice of where to live and that was as close as he ever came to criticizing it. Thatcher has grown quite a bit the last 25 years, but compared to Mesa and Gilbert, it is still a tiny town and we have many cousins out there still, Palmers and Udalls. I am already looking forward forward to next years gathering.

My Summer Vacation….

September 30th, 2008

It has as usual, been a very busy summer for me. I cannot bring myself to sit down and work at the computer unless I have to when it is warm and pleasant outside and there is so much work to be done. Hence the gap in my posts from May until September.

joe-on-boat-evening.jpgJoe left on Sept. 17 on his last Grand Canyon trip of the year. He will get home soon on October 5th. I thought that I would try and get a post in before he gets back because he usually is at the computer in the evenings and I am still enjoying working outside too much to take time to do this in the day.

apples.jpgThe orchard has continued to take up a great deal of my time and efforts this summer. I did a major prune in the early spring before the trees budded, but then they put all their energy into new growth to make up for what I whacked off. The texts I have read said that when you are trying to rehabilitate trees that are out of control like I am, often you have to do another heavy prune in late summer or fall. After two weeks and numerous trips to the dump with loads of branches, I completed that task and the trees look wonderful, at least I think so. There are apples! Some trees have a few; a few trees have many and a few have no fruit this year. We have pears too. I made my first apple pie from our trees today!

canyonfamily08.jpgqueen_of_the_colorado.jpgThe Grand Canyon trip in June was great. It was a lot of work for those of us who were the crew. We loved being with family and friends down there. We had perfect weather and good runs in the rapids, lots of good hikes, an all around an overdose of beauty and fun!  The above photo shows me in the bow of one of the baggage boats in Granite Falls rapid, one of the BIG ones. That is why I am the only one one in the boat. The two baggage boats don’t have lisenced guides rowing them and the two trip assistants ride with them and do  the bailing, which there is plenty of. I am with Mike Leavitt and it was his first trip rowing the Canyon which always makes it a little more exciting.

boats.jpgMy six year old Morgan Willy bucked me off while I was riding with my friend Elly in the mountains on August 5th. I got pretty banged up as I flew way up high and landed on the downhill side of the steep hill we were climbing. I will spare you the list of injuries. I decided while riding and walking down the mountain that perhaps 3 horses were too much for me.  It was a no brainier whom I would let go. I finally sold Willy just last Friday to people who know his complete history and got a great deal on him.

The best thing about cutting back to 2 horses (gaited Morgan mare, Betty and Peruvian Paso, Tiki) is that the construction was just starting on the barn/studio project when I got bucked off. I quickly changed gears and made the space that was to have been Willy’s stall into more studio space for my print studio. So, thank you Willy for dumping me! It took that to make me realize the now obvious, that I don’t have time for 3 horses and I need the studio space way more than a 3rd horse! It was perfect timing.

tiki-and-betty.jpgTiki and Betty 

lifting-crib.jpgThe barn/studio is coming along slowly. It looks rather strange now with just the log crib and cinderblock structure for the stalls. It will start to look good (I hope) when the hay-barn and upper floor (painting studio) above that and the crib start to go up.

studio.jpg Joe is going to face the block structure with some of the stone he bought. That will happen slowly over the next year I bet, in between river trips.

barnshadow.jpgI hope I have enough money to finish this project and if not, that there will be a bank left that I can borrow funds from….I hope that people who have money to spend will realize that art is a smart thing to buy. Not only do you enjoy it, but if you buy quality art, it holds its value through troubled times.

ernie2.jpgErnie (our Boxador from the Mt Pleasant pound) turned 1 year old in August.  He is a handsome fellow, and I just adore him. He is every bit as good as I had hoped he would be when I adopted him last November. Protective, but very happy to make friends as soon as he knows its OK. He is so athletic and exuberant about life. He, Dixon, Andy and Jacques are all doing well. We take an early morning bike tour around town 3 or 4 days a week. The dogs love going along on the trail rides too. 

mom-with-dogs.jpgMy Mom is doing OK. She is not very happy as her life or ability to remember it slips away more and more each day. She is very inactive and in poor shape. We have happy moments or perhaps better described as moments of contentment when I or others visit her. She often expresses a desire to pass on and be with dad. I spend Sundays and often one weekday with her each week. The two little dogs go with me every trip and bring her much pleasure. Her ancient cat Wendell still lives with her at Courtyard at Jamestown. They stay in bed together 90% of the time.

Lately when I have gone to see her we have been taking drives in the canyons above Provo to see the beautiful fall colors. I try to squeeze in a couple of trail rides each week down here for the same reason. Driving or riding through the mountains in their fall glory makes me very glad to be alive to see and be in such beauty.

yellow-aspen.jpg red-maple.jpg yellow-maple.jpg These last three photos were taken while riding Betty or Tiki the last two weeks, just shot off the hip, not taking time to stop or even look at the view screen. Truly point and shoot method! lee-and-ellen.jpg

Lee and Elly

I am painting in our garage until the new studio is done. Any of you who know me, know that I haven’ t been painting much in the summer, just a little bit. Serious painting is usually a late fall through the winter effort for me. I am working hard outside and recharging my painting batteries at the same time. The garage has no heat, so I hope we have a long warm fall.

plein-air-08.jpgI participated in the plein air competition again here in Spring City a couple of weeks ago. It was fun. I did a painting of the Horseshoe Mountain and the town as seen from the hills above the cemetery. We have the Governor’s dinner in honor of Joe and I coming up in Dec. and a show in Scottsdale, AZ in early April to paint for. Everyday I have to prioritize my efforts. Do I paint or carve frames, pick and process the tomatoes or tomatillos, clean the house, take a ride, go to Provo and see Mom, work on the barn, dig thistles, trim the horses hooves, take the dogs on a bike ride, do the laundry, make more Mom’s Stuff before my outdoor kitchen gets too cold to work in…. The list goes on and on. I actually love doing most of it (exception for house cleaning) and just try to cram as much as I can in from the predawn hours until dusk.  

PS. Next day, October 1 I took a ride in them mountains with Elly and Roxanne until noon and then spent the rest of the afternoon tearing out beautiful, old growth Douglas Fir flooring from a home in Mt Pleasant that is going to be demolished any day. I just was made aware of it last night. It was harder work than I had anticipated. I wish Joe were here! I know he will be happy I got it though. I’ll be doing it all day tomorrow and probably the next unless the bulldozer arrives before I get it all out.

Anne Flaherty McDowell

May 21st, 2008

A week ago today one of my favorite people passed to the other side, my cousin Anne Flaherty McDowell. She would have been 51 if she had lived another month and she lived most of her life in Gilbert, AZ. Her mother is my Aunt Lee and my dad’s younger sister. Her father was my dear uncle Bob, who passed a couple of years ago. I grew up in CA and Anne and her siblings in AZ, but because my dad had a small plane and strong family ties to AZ, we saw them several times each year and usually did a cousin exchange once or twice a summer as kids. Anne and her sister Charlene were like two more sisters.

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Uncle Arden, Aunt Lee, Uncle David and Aunt Louise    

Anne died of breast cancer that was first diagnosed in 1995. She had surgery and chemo and a 7-year remission, but 6 years ago it came back in her bones as a stage 4 cancer. She has outlived the odds living as long as she did. I found out that she only went on hospice care a week or so before her death when they discovered that the cancer had destroyed her liver. Until then she was fighting it for all she was worth, trying the next chemo out there, knowing that there wasn’t a cure, but just trying to buy more time with her family. She loved life and fought hard for it, never complaining or whining.

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Cousins Tim Flaherty and Alayne Udall Faverau

Anne was a remarkable person. She was the bravest of all of us girl cousins (there were about 10 of us on the Udall side in a 4 year window) and most of the boys. She was the first one to try something difficult. She was fearless, but smart. She was always laughing and upbeat. I remember how at the family gathering where she told us about her mastectomy. She laughed at the perfect symmetry of it as her husband Jim had lost his left hand in an accident and she had lost her right breast! How I admired her courage, strength, and faith.

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Cousin Charlene Flaherty Hawkins and Me 

She and Jim seemed to have a wonderful marriage. I assume this because they both seemed so happy and they raised 5 wonderful sons who also seem well adjusted and happy as well. The boys (all eagle scouts) were the speakers at her funeral last Saturday and they made Anne and Jim proud I am sure. The service was only an hour and they painted a lovely sketch of Anne’s glorious life. The youngest son Matt would have graduated this week from high school, but graduation came a week early for him when school officials brought the ceremony to Anne in her bedroom the day before she passed so she could live to see all the boys graduate, one of her goals.

 

I found out about the funeral last Thursday night after 9 pm and was on my way down Friday by 9am. I called my cousin Dave Palmer to see if he would pick me up at the airport and put me up for two nights. It was wonderful to see my beloved cousins and aunts and uncles again down in AZ. It has been way too long. I just adore them all and feel such a strong bond to these people who were such a part of my youth.

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Cousin Dave Palmer’s daughter Jacklin and family dog Ginger 

At the viewing there were many photos of Anne on display. One of my favorites was one of her doing a handstand (she was a natural gymnast before tumbling lessons were available). It was so Anne. I had this strong mental image of her doing a handstand and round offs down the aisle at the church in front of her casket as they headed out to the hearse. I didn’t recognize that body in the casket as her; the spark, and the laugh were gone. Although I know she hated to leave her boys and Jim, how she must have rejoiced to leave that ravaged body.  Thank you Anne for being so much fun and for being such an example to me. We all have to jump off that inevitable cliff called the end of life someday and you have shown us how it is done.

This article about Ann appeared in an Arizona paper this week.

Spring in Spring City

May 16th, 2008

I have been working my tail off since we got back from the river trip I last wrote about. There is a small orchard on our new property and the trees have not been pruned for at least 6 or 7 years. I knew that Joe was not going to have time to even consider doing that before leaving on his first Grand Canyon trip of the season. I knew that it should be done before the trees put a lot of energy into leaves and flowers on all those limbs and suckers that needed to come off, so I looked at a few books and talked to a few people about pruning and just dove into it. The best piece of advice I got was that the tree should be open enough that you could “throw a cat through it”.  That was a very helpful image to consider as I contemplated if I needed to remove a branch or not.

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Could you throw a cat through it? 

It took me most of three weeks to get all the trees done. During that time we were also busy cleaning out the creek that runs through our property and right behind our home. It also had not been cleared of debris or overgrowth for about a decade. It hasn’t been much of an issue the last decade because we have been in a drought, but this winter we got lots of snow, and so far our spring has been cool and we still keep getting more snow in the mountains. One of these days it is going to get hot and stay hot and we will be having a lot of water coming down all at once. I am more than a little concerned about our home being so close to the creek and thus we have done everything we could to make sure that the water is able to move past us. We had help getting started one evening before Joe left from the local Boy Scouts. I then hired three of the scouts who are brothers to come and help me finish the job after Joe left on April 21. In all I think we taken over 12 pick up loads from just the creek to the dump in the last 6 weeks. I have taken another 6 or 7 from the lot and orchard. The guy at the dump gate knows me well, and my hands have some pretty good calluses on them.

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The creek, before and after  

Also while Joe was gone I worked in our cellar, finishing building some storage shelves and organizing it down there. I needed to do that so I could clean out the garage. There were many things in the garage that needed to go down to the cellar. The garage became our “black hole” for everything we didn’t know where to put when we moved in, but knew we didn’t want buried in deep storage. By June 1st I have to be out of my cabin studio at our old home, and so I needed the garage cleaned out so I can set up temporary studio up there until my new studio/barn is built. I have the cellar and the garage pretty well organized and now I am finishing up a few paintings that I need to get done before the move. I am almost done with them as of today. I actually filled about 5 boxes of ceramics, glass and books that are in my studio. 

The best way to sum up how hard I have been working is that I haven’t been on the back of a horse since late November. Usually by this time of the year my horses are starting to get in shape. It is strange having them over at the old place still and perhaps that is part of it, as my trailer and tack are over here, but mainly it is that I just haven’t had time or energy with everything else I am doing.

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Mom in front of her apt. 

I do make time to go up and spend a weekday and usually Sunday’s with my Mom in Provo, and take the dogs on a walk or two each week. I also did manage to design and do a lot of the writing for our Horseshoe Mountain Pottery News, which will be hitting the mail stream tomorrow. Let me know when you get it!

 

 

Stillwater and Cataract Canyons

April 10th, 2008

Joe and enjoyed our trip down Cataract Canyon last October so much that we decided to do it again this April. We just got back from a weeklong trip. We launched March 31 and took out on April 6. Instead of just the two of us, this time we invited a couple of friends to come along, Rick Gate (read his account of the trip and see his photos @ http://buenavista.livejournal.com/121864.html) and Bob Armstrong.

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 Bob, Rick, and Lee

 We put in at Mineral Bottom on the Green River instead of Potash on the Colorado.  It is a stretch of water that we had never floated before, Stillwater Canyon.  Lots of beautiful canyon, Indian ruins, wonderful hikes and quiet water. There was good current. The river flowed along at about 3 mph up in Stillwater. After the confluence on day 4 of the trip, we were in familiar territory, Cataract Canyon.

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River bend on the Green 

 The weather was cool, but pleasant. I wore long sleeves and fleece everyday. I never put on my sandals once. The only tan I got was on the backs of my hands. The day we ran the rapids I was wearing neoprene gloves, and the rubber long johns under my jacket and paddle pants that I bought for our winter Grand Canyon trip of 02-03.

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Bob on the rim top 

We gathered Pinion pine and Cedar driftwood for fires in the fire pan each night. I really love sitting by a fire, staring at it, occasionally turning my eyes upward to gaze at the stars and visiting with friends. We ate well around the fire too. Joe planned the menus. My favorite was the Thai food at Bowdie canyon camp. The fish tacos were right up there along with the green chili casserole (Mexican lasagna I call it). It was Bob’s first river trip with us. He was used to backpacking fare and marveled at the food. He also liked sleeping on one of our “Paco” pads, they weigh ten x more than a backpacking pad, but they are also ten x more comfortable to sleep on.

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Joe on his boat 

The hiking was lovely in the cool temperatures. We set up the tent each night except once. We never had more than a few drops of rain, but if we hadn’t set up the tent, we surely would have. I have to confess that for me, the week went by way too fast and was over far too quickly.

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Lee and Joe 

It was a shock to wake up Monday morning in Spring City and see 3 inches of new snow on the ground! I spent the day getting gear and clothes washed and put away. Tuesday I went up to Provo to spend the day with my Mom. It was a good reunion.  Zina joined us for lunch as well.

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Mom and Zina 

Yesterday, Wednesday I made it back over to my studio for some painting. I started several new pieces, including painting on a door for a friends’ child’s room. So far it is a full sized standing portrait of our sweet old dog Kane. I can’t think of a more loyal and soft-spoken guard for your child’s room than old Kane.

Now it is Thursday morning. We awoke to another 2 inches of fresh snow. I am making inquiries about flood insurance for our home. 

New Paintings

April 9th, 2008

My show at David Ericson Fine Art opened on March 28th, 2007. I have never had so many people attend an opening of mine before! When the folks at KUER got the card for the show, they decided to re-air the interview that Doug Fabrizio did with Joe and I last May for a Radio West program. They plugged my show and the opening that night during the breaks and I bet 35-40% of the people who came that night were there because they heard the radio interview that day. Thanks Doug and the rest of the KUER crew!

Here is a link to Dave’ gallery website and my show if you can’t make it to SLC to see the paintings this month.

http://www.davidericson-fineart.com/artists/lbennion/lbennion.html

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Self at 51

I intended to do a Self at 50, but my life was just too overwhelming that year to do it, so I had to settle for 51 instead. I liked what someone said to me at the opening and that was that they had always enjoyed my self portraits in the past, but this one definitely was different. She said that she could see that I had been through something and had come out the better for it. She is right and I am glad that she could see that in the painting. 

Studio View

February 10th, 2008

Most nights now I sleep so well, but I still have occasional bouts with insomnia (once or twice a week) like tonight. I usually just lay in bed for and hour, two or sometimes three until I eventually fall asleep, knowing that at least I am resting. I won’t allow myself sleeping pills very often, or allow myself to get up and wander into the computer to write or read as then I know I will be up and awake even longer. But tonight I woke up early, it is only 1 AM and I decided that I would get up and write a long over-due journal entry. If need be, I will take a nap (probably in church) later today.

 

If you have been reading Joe’s journal, you know that we have been extremely busy lately with the sale of our old home, moving to the “new” one and now that that is done, me working like crazy in my studio every day but Sunday to paint for a show that will open at David Ericson Fine Art, SLC on March 28. Joe has been to MO and back to attend to his father and mother and witness his father’s passing and funeral. I decided to stay here and paint. We had a wonderful visit with Joe’s parents and siblings this last July at a Bennion reunion in OK that none of our girls were able to attend, so we put our finances and efforts in getting all three of them to the funeral.

 

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My time in the studio has been wonderful. My first batch of 7 paintings are near completion and I am already casting my eyes at the next set of prepared, empty canvas. I hope to get another batch of 8 or so done during the month I have left to paint for the show. I need to reserve most of March for carving and painting the frames. I think the paintings are good, and I am hopeful about them. The most important thing is that painting hasn’t felt this good in years. I passed my 3-year anniversary for my pituitary surgery for Cushing’s disease in December 2007 and am amazed that I am still making progress in recovery. The improvements this year are subtler. I have lost a few more pounds, but the biggest improvement is my stamina, physically, mentally and emotionally.

 

I remember my Endocrinologist telling me that it would take me as long to get over Cushing’s as it had for me to get sick. Since I didn’t really know how long I had been sick this didn’t mean much to me then, but it does now. I can look back at photos of myself back as far as 2000 and see hints of a Cushinoid face then. I know I was already having other symptoms, but just chalked them all up to being pre-menopausal and trudged on.

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Lee  day before surgery 2004

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Lee 2007 

The first year after surgery was very hard, but by the time it had been a full year, I felt so much better that I figured I was “all better”. I had lost 30 pounds, and did venture out to my studio some at about that time and I did complete a few pieces. It did go better than it had for a few years, but ultimately, it was still a lot harder and frustrating that I could take and I continued to avoid the studio most of that year (2006). That was also the year that my Mom’s mental health started to seriously decline, and 2006 was one of the hardest years of my life. Way too much stress. I cried so much I should have drowned. I was far enough in my recovery to manage it, but just barely. There was nothing left to give to my studio after family. I felt physically better, but had little endurance either mentally or physically and I often felt like I was dangling from a short rope over a deep abyss.

 

2007 was a lot better. My Mom is not really happy except in the moment, but she has stabilized somewhat and she is safe and well cared for. I am adjusting to that. I see her often, and am still very affected by her condition, but have started to feel an itch to paint during this last year. In September I participated in the Spring City Arts organization Plein-air painting competition, something I have never done before. I wanted to support the group’s efforts and thought why not try. I was surprised at how much fun I had and how well it went for me painting all day for three days in a row.  

 

When Dave Ericson approached me in early November 2007 about having this show in March 2008, it didn’t take me too long to decided that yes, the time had come that I could work that hard and that long in my studio and produce a new body of work. It has been since June 2004 that I have been in any kind of show where I had a chunk of paintings. That was a group show or invitational of some kind at the UVSC Woodbury Gallery. I had to borrow a few pieces from collectors to round out my portion of the exhibit. I just couldn’t finish enough new work. Painting was so hard then. I would go out to my studio and just sit and stare and sometimes cry for hours. I felt so stupid and unproductive. My brain felt like half set cement. I remember as I drove the show up to the gallery thinking that was the last time I would ever have a show, that I was done for as a painter. It was just too hard and I had lost what ever it was I had.

 

Shortly after the show opened I got a diagnosis of Cushing’s and at least I knew that there was a reason for me not being able to paint without monumental frustration and effort. That was a relief of some kind, but still, I didn’t know if I would be back in the art arena again or not. I just focused with what diminished brainpower I had on understanding my disease and on getting well.

 

In April 2006 The Salt Lake Tribune did a nice piece about me, my struggle with Cushing’s and return to my studio. The writer did a great job of raising awareness for Cushing’s, which is what I had hoped for. I scrambled to do some work the month or so before she came down for the interview, and it did go better than before my surgery, but it was still harder than I cared to admit. That summer is when things got really tough with my Mom. My forays to the studio after that were brief and usually to get something done that I and promised to do, and I intentionally kept that list  very short.

 

Of course a week after I accepted Dave’s challenge and invitation to have a show (He said that I should consider having a show this year before people forget who I am), we got the offer on our home and I lost 6 weeks of my painting time to “the move”. My typical day since we closed on the sale of our home is I get up between 6 and 7 AM, get a fire going in the stove here, do a little yoga and house work, get dressed in my winter chore duds, and head over to the old place to feed the horses and cats and start a fire in my studio. I then come home and do some more chores here and pack a lunch so I don’t have to break to come home and get back to the studio, with three dogs in tow between 9:30 and 10:30 AM. I feed the horses again around 5 PM and most days I stay and paint until 6:30 PM when I can let Tiki out of his separate feeding pen and head home.

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Joe came over to my studio today and took these photos of paintings in progress. They are almost done, but not quite.

 

I have been turning down all invitations for lunch or attending meetings of any kind in the day. I haven’t been on the back of a horse since late November. It’s been too cold and the footing is poor for riding anyway. I did take time today (I mean yesterday - Saturday) to trim all three horses hooves. The temperature got up to 40+ degrees!  After the first horse was done, I was working in a tee shirt!

 

I haven’t been able to go up and spend a weekday with my Mom since I started painting for this show. I did keep that up during “the move”, but I just can’t right now. Zina usually covers for me by spending a half-day with her during the week. I go up on Saturday evenings after painting all day and spend the night with her and then stay most of Sunday. This week I am not going up until Sunday afternoon as Mom has a PET brain scan at the Huntsman center in SLC Monday morning, so I will spend the night with her and get her to that appointment Monday. I need to stop by an art supply store and pick up a few items that I need on the way home.

 

So this is the background for this latest venture in my studio and why I say that for me the most important thing about it is that I am enjoying painting again! Yes, it is still work and I come home tired, but I feel like I can do it, and most of the time its pretty fun! I don’t feel like I have hit a brick wall with in an hour after arriving at the studio. I am actually happy to go to work each day.  I didn’t know if I would ever feel this way again, and I am so grateful.

 

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