Best Holidays Ever (Just About)!

I’ve taken a bit of a blog holiday, but I’m sure you all understand! I’ve enjoyed every minute of the past two weeks. . . Sterling and I have gone to movies, watched movies at home, eaten out, and just generally loved sticking close to home and spending time with each other.

 With Sterling in school the past few months,  we’ve learned not to take our free time for granted, and it’s really been one of the most relaxing holidays I can remember because he hasn’t had to go to school and I’ve taken some time off of work.

In fact, although I’ve done a few odds and ends, the only significant work I had to do was finish writing birthday, marriage, and baby cards for our Stampin’ Up! employees.  I’ve fallen a little (LOT!) behind, and I had more than 120 cards to handwrite over the holidays—I promised myself they’d be done by December 31.

Well, I whittled away at them, doing a few here and there, every day or so, but I underestimated how long it would take, so the past two days I’ve been spending much of my time finishing them up. I called the post office this morning and they said I had until 2 p.m. to get them postmarked today, and I walked in with less then five minutes to spare!

I’ve already promised myself I won’t get that far behind again! (And now it’s in writing, so I’m really committed.) I guess we can call that my first New Year’s Resolution. I am grateful for the chance to express my appreciation to our employees, though, and recognize important milestones in their lives. .  .

One of the highlights of the holidays (other than just the sheer relaxation) was my dad’s 70th birthday on Thursday. All of my siblings and their spouses (except for Leslie, who brought her daughter because her husband couldn’t make it) gathered in Las Vegas on Thursday to take Dad out to dinner.  

Most of us had either flown in or driven in just for dinner. We originally planned to surprise him, but he found out, which was probably better since he tends to take spontaneous out-of-town trips on his birthdays, and that would have ruined our plans.

We went to the Border Grill in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. We all love Mexican, and we love this restaurant, so it was a wonderful evening. Dad hadn’t wanted to make a fuss about his birthday . . . in fact, dinner was more than he expected. But it was great to have the chance to spend a few hours with some of my favorite people!

Our New Year’s Eve plans are pretty low key. I think most of the kids are coming over for dinner and to hang out. We’ll swim, watch movies, play pool . . . . just enjoy the last few minutes of 2011 together.

It’s been a great year. . .and a great holiday. Loved every minute of it, but I have to admit I think I’ll be ready to hit it hard again next week!

 

Wishing you all a Happy New Year—and a fabulous 2012!

 

Happy Holidays!

It’s getting closer, and I’m working on my to-do list, but I’m not stressing about it. I have to admit that my top priority right now is my sweetheart. With him in school the past few months, we haven’t had a lot of together time, so I’m just loving the idea of spending the next few days with him without having to worry about homework or papers or tests!

 I’ve decided that if there are things that don’t get done, so be it! I can hand out neighborhood gifts and send out cards after Christmas if I need to; I don’t think anyone will be too bothered about the timing. .  it’s the thought that counts, right?

In fact, tonight Sterling and I are using a gift certificate for a night at a nearby cozy little bed and breakfast that the Douglass family gave us for Christmas last year. And after that, I don’t really know what we’ll be doing. It’s not “our” year this year, which means that we aren’t hosting any official family gatherings. I’m sure we’ll see each of the families at some point, check out what Santa brought and share hugs. . . but mostly I’m just looking forward to a very relaxed, nothing-I-have-to-do holiday!

Doesn’t get much better than that!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Another Great Grandma Pat Party

We had our annual Grandma Pat Christmas party this past weekend down in Kanab—it was great! I think we had more people than ever before; we counted about 80-plus people; everyone was there except for four husbands (my sweetheart included; he couldn’t get out of the weekend massage clinic). Shanna and my niece Cierra were without their husbands as well, so we drove down and back together, and had a blast. Cierra said she took her Kindle to read, but she had way too much fun chatting! So did I!

Visiting is one of the main reasons I love this annual gathering! I love catching up with all my parents and siblings and their children and grandchildren, seeing where everyone is and what they’re doing. Next to my beliefs, family is the most important thing to me, and so the time I spend with my extended family is very valuable!

 

One of the other highlights of Grandma Pat’s party is the food—we couldn’t possibly get together without plenty of tasty treats. Each meal is assigned to a family or families, and it’s fun to see what is cooked up every year. Sometimes we stick with traditional offerings and sometimes things get changed up a bit. This year Vonna and her family had Friday evening dinner, and they made a tasty “mock” Café Rio meal, which was fabulous! We all loved it!

Saturday was more food, more visiting, and a craft; we finished up some Ho Ho Ho banners that I’d actually started last year and didn’t get finished. Shanna put in a lot of time to get them ready to take down, and all people had to do was tie the pieces together, and they got to take home a gorgeous holiday décor item that hopefully will  remind them of our family gathering for years to come! We also exchanged our year-in-review pages, which are scrapbook pages that each family creates, then makes copies for all the siblings so they can kind of keep track of everyone. I love this tradition because I love to see how our family is growing. . . Sara created our pages in My Digital Studio; you can check them out here.

The weather was beautiful as well, warm enough that the kids could even play outside a bit. I took a coat down with me and didn’t put it on once!

Saturday night was our traditional Christmas program. It changes a little bit every year, but you can always count on the nativity story (in some form or other), caroling, a talent show (the Gardner family was represented by the Douglass family, which sang a song while Seth played the guitar), and a slide show with photos that everyone sent in from throughout the year.

The weekend felt a little more busy this year, and as we talked about it, I think it’s because, like I mentioned, we had a bigger crowd than we’ve ever had before, and also because people stuck around a bit longer. The party officially begins on Friday night and goes into Sunday mid-day, but Saturday is the day that most people make it. This year, more people were there on Friday and more people stuck around through Sunday—I guess nobody wanted to miss out on any of the fun!

A Kanab Holiday Celebration

We’re in Kanab tonight, celebrating the holidays in southern Utah style! Earlier today we held our annual Holiday Celebration here at our Kanab facility for our Stampin’ Up! family.

Much of it was a repeat of yesterday, which was intentional, of course. We want all our employees to hear the same message of congratulations on being where we are and let’s get excited about where we’re going! We also wanted them to have their own box of handstamped, handmade cookies!

There were several things that stood out today though. First, we had the entire Corporate Team here for the first time that I can ever remember! We have had several members together before but I don’t think we’ve ever had everyone together, and it was a treat to be able to have our Kanab employees see the entire group.

We also recognized our Kanab employees who had reached their 5-, 10-, and 15-year milestone. Again, what a wonderful treat to be able to thank these amazing people for all they do—PLUS I got some more holiday hugs!

Another fun thing for me has been the beautiful weather. We’re battling an inversion up north, but down south the sky is blue, the weather is crisp but not too cold, and I’ve loved seeing the sky!

Finally, one significant difference between our Riverton and Kanab Holiday Celebrations is the potluck lunch. Because our numbers are smaller here in Kanab, we are able to have an informal lunch as well. Everyone brings something, and it’s fun to taste a little of everything. . . ..

Some people bring the same things every year, and that’s become a tradition—and something I look forward to. One gentleman makes the best homemade root beer I’ve ever tasted. I never drink soda, but I drink his root beer every year! And one of our sweet employees makes a pumpkin roll to die for!  I was disappointed when I checked out the dessert table and didn’t see it, and then I breathed a sigh of relief when they brought it out a little later. (They probably knew they had to hide it from me so that everyone could have some!)

And I was particularly excited to find out that she’d actually made two rolls this year. . . and she gave the second one to me personally! I might share it with the kids when they get down here, but they’d better hurry!

I am excited to have most of the family coming down tonight for Mom Pat’s annual Christmas party this weekend. It’s been several days of holiday festivities, and we’re not done yet! I’ll post about Mom Pat’s party later. . .

 

A Riverton Holiday Celebration

We broke with tradition (change once again in the Stampin’ Up! world—it’s one of our principles!) this year in our annual holiday celebration. For the past several years, we’ve gathered in the atrium at the home office and enjoyed treats, caroling, service awards, and a message of thanks and appreciation.

This year, we met upstairs on the 4th floor instead. The gathering was a little more formal than our atrium celebrations, and I have to admit that I missed the caroling a little, but this morning was fabulous! I love our Stampin’ Up! employees!

Basically we gathered together to celebrate what we’ve accomplished this year. We’ve met two of our three goals—recruits (Congratulations, all you Stampin’ Up! demonstrators!) and Total Order Accuracy—and we’re very close to our sales goal with two weeks left in the year, so there’s still hope!

We also spent a little time talking about our vision and goals for 2012 and where we want to be investing our time and resources. The messages were Big Picture, with more specific details to be shared in the coming  weeks and months; I’m sure we’ll also be sharing those with our demonstrators in as many different places and ways as possible.

I could feel the excitement and anticipation in the room as our employees gathered together, and I was so thrilled to be part of it—this is an exciting time to be part of the Stampin’ Up! family! As I mentioned in my remarks during the meeting, I can feel the fly wheel starting to turn and gain momentum, and I am looking forward to the future!

One part of our holiday celebration didn’t change—recognizing our employees who have been with us for 5, 10, and 15 years. Each of these employees received a moment in the spotlight, a service award bonus, and our heartfelt thanks! (And I received a holiday hug, one of my favorite parts of the whole morning!)

 

 

We ended the meeting with a final expression of thanks and gratitude for everyone’s hard work this year, and then handed out the boxes of cookies we made yesterday! It really was a great morning!

And tomorrow we’ll be doing pretty much the same thing in Kanab—celebrating accomplishments, looking forward to the future, and recognizing service! (Check out the blog tomorrow for photos and specific details.)

Our international offices will also be part of the holiday celebrations this year; we filmed our meeting this morning and are sharing it in conference call meetings with each office. Plus we have our first international employee who has reached a service milestone—congratulations, Amanda  Maycock, who works in our Australia office!

Thank you, all!

Homemade, Handmade Gesture of Love

Yesterday (and even a few hours the day before) was busy!  I spent the entire day in the kitchen with Shanna and a friend of mine, baking 2,000 gingerbread cookies, topped with peppermint sprinkles! We used our fun, new Sweet-Pressed Cookie Stamps, which I’m loving more and more!

And then last night, our Corporate Team members and their spouses gathered for a quick dinner at our house, followed by assembling 500 hand-stamped gift boxes, tucking the cookies inside, and tying each one off with ribbon to create homemade, handmade gifts for our employees.

It was a busy, focused, FUN evening! I always enjoy spending time with our CT members, and adding their spouses to the mix is an added pleasure. We ate a great dinner quickly, knowing we had quite a task in front of us! It didn’t take us long to set up an assembly line and get things rolling. While it did take the whole evening, it was a wonderful way to spend an evening! I think we were all pleased with the idea of making something for our Stampin’ Up! employees ourselves (although I must recognize that several people at the home office did prep work as well—stamping, cutting, etc., couldn’t have done it without them!)

We’ll be handing out the boxes today at the home office and tomorrow in Kanab during our company update meetings. (Our international employees will receive a gift card but not these boxes—the cookies would be stale by the time they were shipped off, but we certainly appreciate them too!) I’m excited to celebrate this festive time of year with some of the most important people in our Stampin’ Up! family. . . . I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

A Family Christmas Sing

I enjoyed a wonderful experience last night that I wanted to share with you. Our grandson Seth has started playing the guitar this year, and he and his fellow students had a recital of sorts last night—it was a Family Christmas Sing. All the students and their families gathered together at their teacher’s home and we sang Christmas carols together!

It was a delightful idea! Didn’t take long. . . I think it was over in less than an hour. The students (of all levels) played the music while we all sang. I was reminded again how much music makes the Christmas season come alive for me. Of course, I’ve been listening to Christmas music for weeks (I actually listen to it all year long occasionally, but during the actual holiday, it’s much more consistent), but actually singing carols was such a fun experience.

I was glad I decided to go! I had thought about not going. . . we all have plenty to do this time of year, right? And I knew his immediate family would be there. I wasn’t sure that Grandma being there would be that important. Turns out it was important (he did ask Sara specifically if I was coming), and it meant as much to me as it did to him, I think!

 

Holiday Celebration, Gift Cards, Fun, and Hugs

The holidays are the perfect time to show our Stampin’ Up! employees how much I appreciate all they do. As far back as I can remember, we’ve always given some sort of holiday gift, and this year we did something completely different—this morning we gathered at a local Costco for an early-morning breakfast, a gift card, some fun prizes, and exclusive, Stampin’ Up!-only shopping time.

Lots of our employees (and their guests—each employee was encouraged to bring one guest) braved the early morning darkness and cold to attend the celebration. The doors opened at 7 a.m., and as everyone entered, I got to thank them for all they do, hug them, and wish them Merry Christmas. Then they received their gift cards and headed off to breakfast and the festivities.

At one point, there was a little bottleneck, so I quit hugging, but then Rich pointed out that the slowdown was the gift-card line, not the hugging. I was glad, because I love my holiday hugs!

In addition to the store being open for two hours just for us, we also had a cash walk (similar to a cake walk, only the prizes were cash instead of cakes) and a gift treasure hunt (small die-cut ornaments were hidden throughout the store, and when employees found them, they got to exchange them for larger surprises).

I loved spending time with these wonderful people. . . it was fun to get to see them in different circumstances than at the office. I can’t express my appreciation enough for all our employees do, and I am very grateful for the chance to work alongside such fabulous people. I hope they all have the best Christmas ever!

Home Again!

I’m home again! Woo hoo!

I’ve been so excited to be home again (for five weeks SOLID, except for a quick trip to Kanab, and Kanab is still home to me!) that I completely forgot to share a photo of the card we gave to Kathie Lee and Hoda from the TODAY Show and other behind-the-scene TODAY Show people.

I went really simply this year—I gave our Sweet-Pressed Cookie Stamps (both the Holiday and Occasions sets) as a gift, plus these cards (one for the women and one for the men). And the card is the same basic layout as the one I shared earlier, when we were originally scheduled to appear right before Thanksgiving. We just changed the stamp set images, color palletes, and Designer Series Paper. (Love how versatile stamping can be!)

I have enjoyed being home. I spent a long day in the office yesterday, and today I got to have a fun lunch with my girls for Sara’s birthday. I haven’t even thought about everything I need to do to get ready for Christmas . . . that’s on my to-do list tomorrow!

Hope you’re all enjoying this wonderful time of year!

It's Over!

Shanna and I are sitting here, completely spent, adrenaline drained. . . but content. Last night we had dinner at our favorite NYC restaurant, Serendipity, and Shanna scored at a massive maternity store we found. So our time last night was well spent! And today, despite a pesky frog in my throat, my TODAY Show appearance went well. Our demonstrators outside were FABULOUS, Kathie Lee and Hoda loved the Sweet-Pressed Cookie Stamps, and we got to be part of promoting a very good cause—the annual TODAY Show Toy Drive.

This is the third year in a row I’ve been invited to appear, and much of the experience was familiar, although you couldn’t have guessed by how nervous I was! I actually went to bed last night with butterflies in my tummy, which is very unusual for me. I woke up in the middle of the night, pondering different questions they might ask (I wanted to make sure I was prepared) and wishing I’d made a hand-stamped tag to complement the cookie stamps I was going to show. I finally got back to sleep, but spent the rest of the night fitfully.

We woke up early, Shanna forced me to eat a little oatmeal (she knew I’d feel sick if I didn’t have something in my stomach), and then we headed over to the Rockefeller Center. What an exciting place that is, especially during the holidays! We met our demonstrators there (we’d arranged beforehand with a small group of demonstrators to come and stand on the plaza and behind the window) to give them signs, then we went to the studio where I had my hair and makeup done (saw Jane Fonda there but couldn’t take pictures—against policy), then went to green room to hurry up and wait. (smile)

When I got called to the set, Kathie Lee and Hoda were wonderful, very friendly and welcoming. They even commented that I was a Diane Keaton lookalike, and I laughed because the girls have told me that same thing. I loved the way they welcomed me during the shoot, calling out “Stampin’ Up!” in unison during the introduction! I also loved that they called out the Stampin’ Up! “possee,” our group of enthusiastic demonstrators who had patiently jumped up and down and waved signs outside during the entire four-hour show! (Love those ladies!)

I did panic when I got the frog in my throat . . . wasn’t sure exactly how to handle that, but it turned out OK and I guess it makes me look human, right? I had a list of things I wanted to mention and I think I hit most of them. And I was glad they liked my outfit, although when they asked me to stand up and model it, I found out I was taped to the chair! That turned out OK too. . .

Really enjoyed the lunch afterwards with our group of demonstrators. We had a smaller group this year; we found out last year that if we were strategic, we didn’t need as many signs, and it worked out perfect this year. We couldn’t have picked a better group of demonstrators (plus a demonstrator’s sister); they jumped up and down and got us tons of valuable air time by being in just the right place at just the right time.

Overall, it was a stressful but memorable morning, and we’re grateful for the coverage, grateful to be a partner with the TODAY Show Toy Drive, and grateful that it’s over!  Shanna and I are definitely ready to come home—it’s been a long week and we both miss our sweethearts and are ready to be back in our own homes!

 

An Unforgettable Trip—Now on to the TODAY Show!

We’re back on US soil after spending an absolutely incredible few days on the Senior Adviser Trip with Stampin’ Up!’s Senior Advisers—Connie Heisey (and her husband Ray), Jill Olsen (and her husband Dan), and Janet Baker (and her husband John).

For those who don’t know, Senior Adviser is the highest title a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator can earn, and when you reach it, you get an exclusive, all-expenses trip—with me! (smile) The point of the trip is to honor and recognize these incredible leaders (and their guests), so although I’m there, the focus is on our amazing demonstrators.

Our final destination for this trip was the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis, West Indies, and can I just say the entire trip from beginning to end was amazing!

We started by flying into New York City and catching a showing of “The Lion King” on Tuesday night. In what was probably the only disappointment of the trip, Connie and her husband had flight delays and missed that part of the trip. I was sad they missed the show but grateful that they made it in plenty of time to catch the flights the next day to St. Kitts, where we caught a water taxi to Nevis.

The resort definitely was one of the nicest places I’ve stayed in my life—fabulous food, awesome scenery, attention to every detail, and people ready to help at every turn. Shanna and I actually never left the property, opting to work from the patio, read and lay out by the pool, and just revel in the opportunity to relax in a place we’ll likely never visit again.

The others got to choose their activities as well. Our first night there, we had dinner together, and we decided to gather together every night for dinner, just to catch up on the day’s happenings. Our Senior Advisers went on several little trips, sightseeing and snorkeling and shopping. I think the last day they relaxed at the resort, but the rest of the time they made the most of every minute, enjoying the West Indies. It was wonderful to hear about their fun adventures at the end of each day.

They also received amazing pillow gifts every night. Pillow gifts are a fun part of every incentive trip, but the ones from our Senior Adviser trips are, understandably, very exclusive. Because the group is so small, we are able to provide unique, handmade, one-of-a-kind gifts that I hope our achievers enjoy and treasure.

I’ve shared a few photos, but I didn’t take many . . . I think they each took many more! I’ve invited them to send me any they wanted me to share on my blog, so if I receive any, I’ll update this post.

I did appreciate the chance to honor these three amazing women; it was fun to get to know them (and their husbands) even better.

When we were trying to decide where to go, I talked with each of the achievers, and one of them said, “I don’t care where we go, as long as it’s an unforgettable trip!” Well, when I left yesterday I asked her if we’d met that objective, and she smiled and said, “Absolutely!”

Shanna and I actually left a day earlier than everyone else because I am scheduled to be on the TODAY Show tomorrow, so we had to get here to New York. I’ll post more about that tomorrow . . .the rest of today will be spent sauntering around NYC (the weather is the best I’ve ever seen at this time of year!) and prepping for tomorrow. If you have time, check it out tomorrow sometime between 10-11 a.m. (ET). I’m psyched . . . and a little nervous! Wish me luck!