A New Gardner Family Tradition

Hope your Christmas was as fabulous as mine! I took a week off from blogging—plus everything else. As I mentioned on my last blog, our whole family spent the holidays in a cabin in the mountains. I checked my messages once a day (sometimes), ignored calls from my assistant (she said she was starting to get a complex), stayed in my pajamas for several days (I did exercise and shower every day, but just climbed back into pajamas afterwards), and loved every minute of it!

And I knew we would all come back with a new family tradition or perhaps barely speaking. (Just kidding, of course—I knew we would get along great!) I’m happy to report that we have a new family tradition; we will definitely be doing this again!

I have several highlights and one lowlight and tons of photos to share!

Highlights—

  • Kids went sledding
  • The Whites went skiing nearly every day
  • Several of us went snowboarding
  • Puzzles, games, and movies
  • Making gingerbread houses
  • I didn’t leave the cabin! (except to step outside and watch the sledding)
  • Lots of delicious food!
  • Beautiful days (a nice mix of sunny and slightly overcast—no big storms until after we headed back home)
  • Visiting
  • The highest highlight of all—doing absolutely nothing that we didn’t want to!

Lowlight (is that a real word?)—

  • Starting the day after we got there, at least one person was sick with a fever; the last few days there were several sick Gardners.  We called it the “flu that keeps on giving.”

Just a quick note—I’m still in a semi-holiday mode, working from home. So don’t expect to hear from me too much in the next few days. Hope the rest of your holidays are wonderful!

 

 

 

 

 

A New Family Tradition?

It’s the day before the night before Christmas. . . I can’t believe it’s here already! We’re getting ready to make Gardner family history—for the first time with our children grown and married, we’re going to spend the holidays all together, under the same roof. We’ve reserved a large cabin in the mountains, and we’re going to see how it goes. We’ll either come back with a possible new tradition or come back determined never to try anything like that again! (Here’s hoping for a new tradition!)

Part of me is wondering if it’s worth all the work—we’re busy planning meals and activities, packing suitcases, making sure we have all the bases covered for six separate families. And part of me can’t wait to be all together with my favorite people during my favorite holiday.

We’re hoping to get out the door today, so we can just relax and have fun tomorrow and the next few days. It would certainly be much easier to just stay at home and have the girls and their families come and go, but I really think this will be a wonderful experience.

I’m planning on focusing pretty much entirely on our family, so I probably won’t blog—but I’ll give a full report when we get back home! In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, full of peace and love!

Holiday Hellos Challenge Winners

It's taken me longer than it should have (yes, I admit, I actually forgot!) to choose the winners of the Holiday Hellos Creative Challenge. So sorry. . . my holiday to-do list is long and is clamoring for my attention.

I did get the winners selected and posted finally--check them out! It's a great way to get into the holiday spirit (if you're not already)!

Grandma Pat's Party Weekend

 

As always, our Grandma Pat Christmas party came and went much faster than we would have liked! This weekend really is our only full-family reunion, and I look forward to it every year!

We do pretty much the same thing every year, and I think that’s one of the reasons we look forward to it—we know what’s going to happen, we know what we’re going to be doing, and we are ready to love every minute of it.

Everyone comes into town on Friday night; some make it in time for dinner, and the rest make it at some point. Saturday morning, we start with breakfast (the Gardners are in charge of breakfast, and we always do the same thing—cold cereal for the kids; homemade granola, yogurt, and berries; and breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, homemade salsa, ham, bacon, and cheese). The rest of the day is spent snacking (healthy and not-so-healthy!), visiting, playing games, and crafting. The kids have a project they work on, and the women always have something too—this year we took along some projects for leadership conference as well, and we enlisted extra hands to help us.

In the early afternoon we gather together for a kids’ gift exchange and then later for a Christmas program. We start by watching a five-minute nativity video, and the kids dress up in nativity clothing and act out the Christmas story. Then we do some caroling, each family shares a talent, and we end with a slideshow (this year we included a few video clips). The slideshow captures everybody’s attention, with people cheering when they see themselves or their favorite cousins on the screen.

We also exchange our “Year-in-Review” scrapbook pages, so everyone can see in photo form some of the year’s highlights in everybody’s families. We have dinner and dessert, and things wind down with more visiting.

This morning, we got up and went to church with those family members who hadn’t left yet, had an “eat-everything-that-is-leftover” brunch, and then headed home. Traveling was uneventful—a little snow on the way down, no snow on the way home. What a wonderful way to start off Christmas week!

Kanab Festivities

Today we had our Christmas celebration in Kanab—what a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with our Stampin’ Up! family members here!

I always love coming to Kanab, and today was no exception. We enjoyed a potluck lunch (we’re still small enough in Kanab that we can do that!) and visited with each other, and just like in Riverton, I presented the 5-, 10-, and 15-year service awards to our employees who hit those milestones this year.

We didn’t have any 15-year recipients in Riverton this year, but we had five in Kanab. In fact, our 15-year-group had more (five employees) than our 10-year group did (three employees).

Our 5-year-group was the largest, with six. What a great service all these outstanding individuals have given to all of us through the years!

Our celebrations at the Kanab facility are the beginning of a much-anticipated weekend. Tonight Grandma Pat’s annual Christmas party began—family has started to gather here in Kanab, and we’re looking forward to a day packed full of family and fun tomorrow! Watch for more on that later!

 

Home Office Celebration

Today was a special day—our Christmas celebrations at Stampin’ Up! always are. We have been so busy at the home office that we decided not to do our traditional Stampin’ Up! choir; people just didn’t have time to practice for weeks before the festivities. I cried a little when I heard that—music is such a wonderful part of Christmas for me—but comforted myself knowing that I’d still be able to enjoy the  elementary school choir that was scheduled to come and sing.

I knew our official activities at the home office began around noon, and I was running a few errands before going into the office. I happened to call my assistant, and when she answered, I could hear music in the background. I teared up when she told me the school choir had already come and gone—I had looked forward to them more than I realized. The music in the background was actually employees who had gathered together to carol.

I got to the office in time to enjoy that caroling—thank goodness—and then got to share a simple holiday message with our employees. What wonderful people we have at Stampin’ Up!, both employees and demonstrators! I have felt such appreciation and gratitude for all of them this year, and it was wonderful to be able to share those feelings.

As we have traditionally done the past few years, we honored employees who had been with us 5, 10, and 15 years (the photos are in that order--we didn't have any 15-year awards in Riverton this year)! I got to give each of them a hug and personal thank you; I look forward to doing the same in Kanab on Friday when we have our Christmas celebration down there.

I hope you all enjoy these next few days as we anticipate the most joyous and holy of all holidays!

 

 

Our TODAY Show Moment

What a fun day! It started early, of course, and it’s a good thing, because I wasn’t sleeping very well anyway—a little nervous, you know. I got dressed, did my hair and make-up, and we headed over to the Rockefeller Plaza.

We met up with some Stampin’ Up! demonstrators and their customers before the show, shared some hugs, and handed out signs, then went inside. What troopers our Stampin’ Up! friends were—they hung outside on the plaza waiting for two hours! A heartfelt thank you!

Inside, Shanna and I went to the green room and hurried up and waited. (smile) The producers checked in a couple of times, and kept asking me if I wanted make-up. We’d been told that they did make-up for inside guests, but because I was scheduled to appear on the plaza, make-up wouldn’t be available (that’s why I’d done my own so carefully). So when they kept bringing it up, I decided I must not have done as good a job as they wanted, so I said I’d be happy to visit make-up. I was relieved when the make-up and hair people told me I looked great and didn’t change a thing (other than one more quick powder brush).

When I stepped out on the plaza, I was greeted by a chorus of cheers and Stampin’ Up! friends calling out my name; I was so touched and proud of these amazing women and their dedication and enthusiasm!

Stampin’ Up!’s moment in the spotlight didn’t last long—I think it was under a minute (click here to check it out)—and I tried to mention everything that seemed important. Ann Curry was gracious, and while there are certainly things I would have done differently, I felt good about it. I’m definitely grateful we had an opportunity to participate in the toy drive and share even a few seconds of Stampin’ Up! with others.

 

After the show, we went back outside and took some photos with our Stampin’ Up! friends. When we went inside, Shanna and I bought a round of hot chocolate for everyone, visited, and waited for lunch—we had reservations for Shanna and I and 10 of the demonstrators.

The luncheon guests were randomly chosen from the list of those who attended). Lunch was good (more food than I could ever eat!), and the company was terrific! What wonderful people we work with!

After that Shanna and I made it back to the hotel, tired and worn out but happy. It had already been a long day, and we still had our last dinner in the Big Apple. We rested a bit, then headed back out to Spice Market, a fabulous restaurant we discovered years ago on one of our first visits. It serves delicious southeast Asian food, and the atmosphere is so great.

Full and still happy, we got back to the hotel tonight and enjoyed a lazy evening, watching a movie and stamping some Christmas tags that I brought (I always have some sort of project to work on in my down time!).

It’s been a great New York weekend, with a fun few moments on the TODAY Show, but both Shanna and I are ready to go home. Shanna has discovered that when you leave your husband behind, you miss home more than you expected! I’ve known that for years, of course. We are both excited to get back to our families!

 

Sunday in the Big Apple

I hadn’t planned on blogging today—I planned on waiting until tomorrow to post about the TODAY Show. But today turned out to be a bigger day than we had originally planned, and we took TONS of photos, so I thought I’d put up a quick post.

The only thing on the agenda this morning was church. We got up this morning and headed off. We were waiting in the taxi line, which was very long but was at least moving this time, when we started talking to the group of people behind us. Turns out they were from Utah too, also waiting to take a taxi to church. Well, the line was moving so slowly, we realized we were going to miss church if we didn’t do something else. A couple of for-hire vans were sitting there, and so we figured we’d all chip in and take a van to church. Just made it to the meetinghouse (which is in the same building as the temple) with a couple minutes to spare.

It was the Christmas program, and it was outstanding. The talent in the ward is incredible, which makes sense because many of them are professional performers. There were also lots of visitors—the room was pretty full!

After church, we decided to just walk back to the hotel at a much more leisurely pace than yesterday’s walk! Long walk but what a great way to experience NYC. We stopped by at Rockefeller Plaza and took the obligatory photo by the tree. 

We also happened upon Magnolia Bakery, which Shanna had heard about, so we had to stop and sample their cupcakes. Holy moley! We ate one cupcake and saved the other one for a treat tonight—and I think we’re going back tomorrow!

I have to say that for  a big city, New York definitely does the holidays right! There's just a fun feeling in New York during Christmas, with all the decorations and everything. I enjoy visiting during this time of year!

When we got back to the hotel, we stopped at the ticket counter to ask about tickets to the Donny and Marie Christmas show. We don’t have any plans for tomorrow night and, while we know that Broadway is dark on Monday, we were hoping that maybe they might be doing the Christmas show. Well, they did have a show, but it was the same time we had dinner reservations, so that was no good. 

“There’s a matinee this afternoon,” the ticket agent suggested. Typically, I don’t do Broadway shows on Sunday, but it was Donny and Marie! I’m a fan (although not fanatic), and I knew it would be a good, clean family show, so we decided to go. We weren’t disappointed. They spent a lot of time reminiscing and singing songs from their five-decades-long careers, and it was a fun afternoon. Even Shanna admitted it was “surprisingly good.”

Tonight we had dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, and we had the same waiter as last year! What a treat! He claimed he remembered us (I’m sure he was just being kind. . . I mean, how could he really?), and we had a fun time chatting with him and enjoying the delicious food.

So now we’re back in the hotel, having done much more today than I thought we would! I was certain we’d spend most of the afternoon just in the hotel room, watching a movie. What a pleasant surprise! It’s already time to climb into bed and get ready for tomorrow!

 

 

A Weekend in New York

Shanna and I arrived in the Big Apple yesterday afternoon—the trip was fairly uneventful. We were both exhausted so took full advantage of the chance to sleep on the plane, and we arrived fairly refreshed and ready to hit the big city.

The most noteworthy aspect of the trip was lugging along the Stampin’ Up! display boards, which we brought to give to demonstrators who will be outside on the Rockefeller Plaza during the show on Monday morning—they were large (maybe five or six feet long by two feet wide) and cumbersome. We had to pay an extra baggage fee to bring them to New York City, and we had quite an adventure maneuvering them on airport escalators and hotel elevators. All I can say is I sure hope they show up on TV and they are definitely staying in New York!

After we checked into the hotel, we headed out to the street. We hoped to grab a quick bite (a high-heel sandwich—to die for!) at Serendipity, one of our favorite New York eating spots, before hitting a Broadway show (we had tickets for Wicked, a favorite!). We didn’t have reservations at the restaurant, but we hoped we’d be early enough that they could fit us in.

We waited for a taxi forever before finally deciding to hoof it—it was probably at least two miles one way and we hustled, making it in about half an hour. (I love traveling with Shanna because, like me, she walks fast! She also loves to visit with people we meet, and we share a love of great food, so I am so looking forward to this trip with her!) When we got there, the place was packed—at least a three- or four-hour wait! So we headed back, hoping to eat at a Chinese restaurant we like. Huge wait there too!

 

We finally found a cozy little Italian place on the way to the theatre, where we had a yummy dinner and chatted with a young couple who were away from their two children (ages 19 months and 9 months!) for the first time! After dinner, we made the show (love Wicked, just makes you feel happy when it’s over, like the world isn’t such a bad place), then came back to the hotel.

We don’t have much planned today, other than just enjoying the craziness of New York. We’re going to church, and we actually have reservations at one of our other favorite restaurants . . . Italian again, but that’s OK. We’ll stroll along . . . can you do that in New York—the streets are a sea of people, and there’s such an energy here, that stroll probably isn’t the right word . . . how about we’ll follow the herd? Whatever we end up doing, I’m sure it will be wonderful, and we’ll make sure we’re back early tonight so we get plenty of sleep for the show tomorrow!

I’m excited!

 

 

 

 

 

A 10K Celebration

Today was a fabulous day—I got to spend valuable time with almost every single one of our Stampin’ Up! employees, even those working in our international offices, celebrating one of our greatest achievements!

I’ve mentioned it before, but Stampin’ Up! had a “10,000 in 2010” goal this year in the US and a goal of 4,000 new demonstrators internationally, and we met those goals last month! Woo hoo! So today we celebrated in the home office, in our Kanab facility, and in all our international offices.

We started the day with a conference call with everyone in our Europe offices, then we had a home office celebration later in the morning. Next, we (meaning me and other home office representatives) flew to Kanab for an afternoon celebration; we also had a conference call in Kanab with our Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand offices before flying home.

Whew!

You can see it was a day packed full of celebration, including treats and product give-aways! All the celebrations followed pretty much the same format—we celebrated meeting this year’s goal, thanked everyone for their incredible dedication and hard work, and then announced our goals for next year, which continue to focus on recruiting and service levels.

With all this “corporate” celebrating, I want to make sure that everyone knows that we are absolutely aware that we would have never met this goal without our amazing demonstrators. While our employees worked very hard to do all they could on their end to make this goal possible, we know that our demonstrators are where it happens!

In an ideal world, every demonstrator who shared Stampin’ Up! with someone else this year would have joined us for these celebrations, but that isn’t possible. So we did the next best thing—celebrated in honor of our demonstrators and committed ourselves to doing all we can to continue this outstanding success as we move into the future!

 

TODAY Show Surprises

Should I admit this? I didn’t get out of my pajamas today until after 2 p.m.! And unfortunately, it wasn’t because I was lounging around and taking it easy! We were frantically trying to finish the gifts we are giving the TODAY Show people (about 10 people. . . producers, hosts, hostesses, etc.) whom we will be interacting with on Monday.

Last year we took surprises as well, and we really outdid ourselves! (Click here to see those goody bags.) And we carried these on the plane with us!

This year, we went simpler, smaller, and nonbreakable! And following the TODAY Show producer’s advice, we decided to ship the gifts straight to the TODAY Show office this week, so we didn’t have to be worrying about them the morning of the show. That meant we had to get these in the mail today.

We had the first box finished last week—you can see in the pictures they are simple Kraft paper-mache boxes (with decorated lids) that can be re-used. (We did two versions--one for females and one for males.)

Inside we tucked a bag of made-in-Utah caramels (the BEST caramels in the world, and the ones I used for incentive gifts during my Workshops of a Lifetime) and a stack of cards (the photos never look as good as in real life), along with a personalized tag!

 

Shanna has spent hours and hours doing the duplicating—all I really did today was the packaging. But as usual, I was overly optimistic (smile) about how long it would take to tie everything up (tags, cards, caramels, etc.) and then put it all together perfectly. And so that’s why, when Shanna finally headed off to get everything in the mail, I was still in jammies and starving—I hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet!

I mentioned that all I did today was the packaging, but I also admired the gifts over and over—I love, LOVE these gifts! We also included a mini catalog for each person and an Idea Book & Catalog that they can all share. I hope our TODAY Show friends like these gifts, but even if they don’t, I feel pretty good about them. I would love to receive them!

Maybe our gifts will catch their attention enough that they’ll invite us to come back and stamp! Wouldn’t that be great!?

I’m looking forward to the show on Monday—I have to admit that it’s kind of nice to have one TODAY Show appearance under my belt. I know where I’m going, I know who I’ll be meeting with. . . there’s a level of comfort there because this is a return visit. I’m also looking forward to spending some one-on-one time with Shanna. She loves New York, and it will be fun to do a little shopping and dining (of course) with her!

I’m certain Monday I’ll be nervous, but right now I’m just feeling excited!

 

 

Sam's Special Day

Our grandson Sam was baptized today. While I try to be very sensitive when I’m discussing my religion on my blog, I couldn’t let this special day pass without mentioning it—partly to let Sam know how proud we are of him and his choice to be baptized, and partly because any day spent with my family is a day worth mentioning!

 We have a couple of baptism-day traditions in the Gardner family. The boys get their first suit, and I have to say that Sam looked very smart all dressed-up, very grown-up and impressive! I participated in the short program, and I just about burst with pride as I looked out at him, listening so carefully to everything that everyone said!

 

The second tradition is that Sterling and I give each of the grandchildren their own set of scriptures (complete with their name engraved in gold on the covers) when they’re baptized. So it was nice to continue with that tradition and present Sam with his personal set of scriptures, which we hope will be very special to him throughout his life.

After the baptism, we all went out to eat lunch. It was so fun to watch all the cousins sitting together and chatting; even the younger ones were well-behaved.

What a beautiful blessing my family is to me—and sweet days like this are just reminders of how important our loved ones are in our life!

 

Courage Reins Holiday Open House

Yesterday was our annual Courage Reins Holiday Open House, an opportunity to visit with the students at Courage Reins, serve them yummy doughnuts (and not just any doughnuts—only Krispy Kremes will do!), and give them gifts cards for Christmas.

For those who don’t know, Sterling is heavily involved in Courage Reins, a nonprofit organization that provides horseback riding lessons and therapy for people with disabilities. Although there are a few students who are just learning to ride, most of the students are struggling with some kind of life challenge, and while they may tell you they’re just riding a horse, their parents rave on and on about the ground they’ve gained through horse therapy!

In addition to meeting the new students, I love catching up with those I already know—what a treat to see familiar faces and hear about what is going on. One young man has been battling cancer for three years and also suffers from severe seizures. We chatted with him and his young wife, and I was amazed to learn that they have a service dog—a skilled animal who can sense when he is going to have a seizure and gives him enough of a warning (about 30 minutes) that he can get to a safe place. What a blessing that dog has been to them!

This year for the first time, we handed out simple hand-stamped, handwritten notes with the gift cards; the grandchildren loved writing personal greetings to the students. Even the younger grandchildren who can’t write yet signed their names to notes that their mommies had written. It made the gifts cards even more fun to give—and receive (I hope).

After the open house, we all went home to celebrate Cooper’s 4th birthday. I won’t write about that;  Shalae wrote about it on her blog, so you can see pictures (along with a fun tag she made) and check out the details by clicking here.

The holiday open house is turning out to be a beautiful event, one that we anticipate every year! It sets a perfect tone for the rest of the season—the atmosphere is festive (Christmas decorations with Christmas music playing in the background) and it’s a great reminder that during the holidays (and all year long, actually), one of the most important things we can do is reach out and serve others.