Fire & Ice in Southern Utah

Last night we made our annual trek south to St. George, Utah, home of Dixie College. Five years ago, Megan was invited to be on the college’s foundation board and asked to chair a fundraising event aimed at raising money for student scholarships.

That inaugural dinner and silent auction, called Fire & Ice, has become a favorite family tradition of ours. We purchase a table and attend as a family—all the adults—and really look forward to dressing up fancy, enjoying delicious food, and bidding on fun items.

Megan and her committee do a fabulous job organizing the event, and it went off without a hitch last night. The decorations (Chocolate Chip and Bashful Blue) looked beautiful, the entertainment was perfect (short and sweet—I’m all about that!), and the auction items were great. We always try to bid on a trip that we can turn into a family vacation, and this year was no exception. We found a weeklong condo in Midway, Utah, and were excited at the end of the evening to be the top bidder on that item; we’re hoping to plan it around the time Shanna comes home from her mission, so we can be all together again for the first time in a year and a half!

We bid on some smaller items too—including a basket of bread and homemade jam that Megan had made. “Just make a donation and I’ll make you your own basket,” she kept telling Sage and me. We also bid pretty high on some caramel apples and caramel-covered pretzels, until we realized that they were going to end up being the most expensive treats we’d bought in a long time!

But seriously, we don’t mind paying pretty high prices when it’s for a great cause! And the timing of the event—a trip to warmer southern Utah in typically cold February—always makes the trip even more enjoyable. It’s well worth the drive!

January Questions--and Answers

It's time again to answer a few questions. These are a few (not all) of the questions I saw on my January blogs. Thanks for reading and being so interested!


Will Stampin’ Up!—or its products—ever come to [insert the name of a country]?


Occasionally one of you will ask if we’re heading to another country. Right now, we operate in seven different countries—the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. I’d love to operate in as many countries as possible—in fact we have a couple of vision statements that talk about being all over the world. Right now, however, we have no plans to open any new markets, but no one knows what the future may hold, right?


Will you put the stencil demonstrators/projects that you did at Leadership online?


As a matter of fact, I just completed a video training that focuses on stenciling and how excited I am about this new product line. It’s not my entire leadership presentation, but it does include several aspects of it. Right now that training is scheduled to go online mid-March, so watch for it there.


Where did you get your blue strappy shoes? Who makes your Happy Shoes?


Aren’t they adorable? I’m glad you liked them too! They are made by Jeffrey Campbell of California, and I got them at Nordstrom. They were available in two colors: black and Taken with Teal. I almost bought the black, because it goes with everything, but I’m so glad I went with the fun color. I’ve had lots of fun coming up with different outfits that match!


Our Happy Shoes are made by Roxy, and there are two different kinds. One has kind of a foam bottom and costs a little less, and the style with the more solid bottom costs about $10 more. Shalae has one of each pair, and she says the one with the solid bottom is more comfortable!


How do you get everyone in your family to pose for photos? Do you have a “Mom” look or do you use bribery?


I laughed when I saw this question! I know exactly what you mean by the “Mom” look—I’ve used it many times, but not for picture taking. Our family just takes tons of photos, and everyone knows it and is used to it. A camera is part of every Gardner gathering.


As for the annual family portrait for the catalog, it’s just expected, and even the younger kids know it’s part of life. While we don’t use bribery (that’s illegal isn’t it?), we do believe in “positive reinforcement,” so on catalog picture day, white treats (white marshmallows, tic tacs, etc.) are part of the deal for the younger kids.


Why are the stampin’ supplies not included in the back of the new catalog?

I know some of you are disappointed in this decision. To be honest, I haven’t printed out the online list and stuck it in my stamp studio, and there have been several times when I’ve gone to the back of the catalog to check a supply, and been reminded that it wasn’t there—and I’ve been disappointed too! That said, if I have to choose between having the stampin’ supplies or more product, I’ll take the product any day! We can’t keep adding pages to the catalog, and we wanted to keep offering great new products, and something had to give. The stampin’ supplies was the best choice, although no one was excited about it.


The stampin’ supplies are available online, as I mentioned. I know a few of you don’t have ready Internet access, and if you can’t get to the library or an Internet café or something, my assistant offered to print the list for you and send it to you if you’ll just send her a self-addressed stamped envelope. Make sure it’s got the right amount of postage on it, please. (smile) Just send the envelope to Stampin’ Up!, Att: Stampin’ Supplies, 12907 South 3600 West, Riverton, UT 84065.


Can you introduce us to your family? You talk about them so often, and sometimes I get confused. . .

I’m assuming you’re talking about my immediate family, since I did a post about my extended family not too long ago. One of my first postings back on August 4 (2008) actually introduced the family a bit; click here to read that.


As long as we’re talking about family, there were a few other family questions that I’ll answer: Yes, Mom Heather died in December 2007; I can’t believe it’s been that long, and I still miss her every day! My dad’s name is Lynn—I’ve kind of decided not to include last names on my blog. I’m sure Dad wouldn’t mind, and I know you guys are all sane, reasonable people, but in this day and age, we just feel better not divulging everything. (smile)


Aunt Ruth is Sterling’s older sister, and while I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you knew her age, I don’t feel comfortable being the one to tell you! (smile) They have one other sister, Alice, who died a few years ago from cancer.


Several family members have worked for Stampin’ Up!, and I have a few aunts who are demonstrators. Mom Pat and Mom Heather both did various things. Almost all our girls have worked at Stampin’ Up!, and at some point in time, all our sons-in-law have been with us too. As life circumstances (babies, retirement, graduation, etc.) have changed, so have their jobs, and they’ve come and gone. Many of my family have been integrally involved with Stampin’ Up! for many years, so I love that they can contribute in any way.


Where does your new artwork/designs/products come from? (This is a simplified version of several questions concerning our artwork.)


We hear often that our artwork is one of the things we are most known for, and I have to admit, I think it’s pretty fabulous. We have numerous illustrators and designers who create our artwork for stamp sets and other products, based on their own ideas as well as suggestions from others. (Demonstrators and customers often share ideas for new images!)


We have a product development team that works on new products, including our In Color offering. They base their color selection on research and study; if you know much about color, you are probably aware that there are “hot” colors every season, and often we take those colors into consideration as well. We know you want markers, and we try to give you what you want whenever we can. . . .


How do you decide when to retire an item?


Retiring a product, whether it’s a stamp set or an accessory, is based on numerous factors, including how long the product has been around, how timely is still is, and what the sales numbers are on it.


Do you have a special celebration when a new catalog comes out? How far ahead do you work on the catalog?


I lumped these two together, because they’re actually a little bit related. We don’t have company-wide celebrations when new catalogs are released, and one of the reasons is that we’re already months into development of the new catalog, and it almost seems anticlimactic. Which doesn’t mean we’re not thrilled! Like you, a new catalog is a high point in our year, and we love it when the new catalogs are released, but we really are focusing on what’s coming up next!


Another reason we don’t have celebrations is because the catalog is a huge accomplishment for a couple of our departments, but each of our departments have projects that are just as significant, just as intense. Although they may not impact your world as much as the catalog, they are equally important for us to succeed. If we had a celebration at the conclusion of each important project being completed, we’d be having way too many parties!


How do you collage your photos on the blog?


To tell the honest truth, I don’t do the collages. I take the photos and then forward them to my assistant, who actually creates the visuals. She uses Picasa, which is a software that is available for download (free!) online. I don’t know how to use all the bells and whistles yet, but I’ve got that one basic tool (“Create collage”) down pat!


Why don’t you do giveaways like other blogs?


Well, I thought I did! I do give a free stamp set to every winner of the monthly Creative Challenge. I’m guessing you’re referring to random giveaways, and you’re right—I don’t do that. I’ll think about it, OK?


Also, just as a side note, if you do submit a project for the creative challenge, please make sure your contact information (e-mail address) is included. One of the winners last month didn’t have that included, so I haven’t been able to contact her. If you’re reading this (Jennifer Picard), please comment on this blog with your e-mail address so I can send your free stamp set to you!


What was the game you played at Grandpa’s 95th birthday?


One of our cousins had gathered a lot of information about all of us and then written it down, and we had to go around and find out who had done certain things, like who had lived for several years in another country, and things like that. They had also included questions about Grandpa and Grandma, like the name of the café they ran in Bicknell, Utah, and fun little tidbits like that. We had to find out those answers by asking each other. It really was a great ice-breaker!


Just a note: Several of you have asked questions about the history of Stampin’ Up!, or the Stampin’ Up! story. I’m working on a posting (probably it will be several postings) about that, so watch for more information about that in the near future.

And thanks for the comments about your favorite products from CHA. I made a list of them, believe me! I love to hear what you like and what’s catching your attention! Thanks for the feedback.

Aloha! (Again)

We’re in Hawaii—again—and we’re headed here next month as well. That will be three times in six months (last November for vacation, this time for a regional, and next month for our incentive trip), but whose complaining! Maybe I should apologize or something, but I don’t feel a bit badly! We love Hawaii, but we usually don’t get here this often, so I’m just going to enjoy it.

In fact, Sterling and I are staying an extra couple of days! We don’t have much planned, just our usual MO—sleep in late, late breakfast, go for a walk, relax on the beach, early dinner, watch a movie. We may try to hit a sightseeing place or two, but usually we come here with one thing on the agenda—relax! And this is a perfect place to do exactly that.

But first things first! We arrived on Friday, just in time to attend a “Share the Aloha Spirit” demonstrator-planned and -hosted activity. A group of our Hawaiian demonstrators had invited the Stampin’ Up! staff to spend the evening with them, and it was delightful! The evening was packed with delicious local food, hula dancing, a skit, making tea leaf leis, and stamping! We truly did experience the aloha spirit—and loved spending the time with our local demonstrators!

Our regional was next, and the aloha spirit continued! What a warm reception we enjoyed on Saturday.
And I’m not talking about the weather, although that part was heavenly too! I laughed because the local demonstrators were talking about how chilly it was, and we Utahns were thrilled to be anywhere that was warmer than 40 degrees! As we walked through the convention center, which has several open-air areas, the warm breeze felt wonderful!

But our demonstrators—and our guests—were even more wonderful. More than a third of our participants at this regional were guests, and that is not typical at a regional. It was great to have so many guests catch a glimpse of what a Stampin’ Up! regional is all about!

I always share the regional project I demonstrate with you, but this one is a little different. Typically I demonstrate a technique or something, but I used the new matchbox die for my project this time, and it’s so easy, there’s really no technique to show. I showed how to put the base of the box together, and then showed three finished projects. Quick and easy!

The projects started when I saw the Jackpot Designer Series paper and the King for a Day stamp set. I’m not a card-playing person (in fact, typically I don’t play games of any kind—just don’t enjoy them), but I knew as soon as I saw those two products that I wanted to make something special for Sterling; his birthday is March 4. Again, although I don’t have any idea what a suit or a trick or a jack is (although I’ve obviously heard the words!), I knew there was some significant to 3/4, so I based my birthday card for Sterling on that idea.

I made the matchbox package to hold a deck of 12 cards (not a full deck of 50 or however many are in a deck), three cards in four different colors, to tie into his birth date. The front of the cards is the King for a day image embossed , and the Jackpot DSP decorates the back of the cards, where I’ll also add a surprise gift for him, like arranging for a sitter to watch Grandpa (which he usually does) or giving him a foot massage, or. . .well, I haven’t completed the list yet, but I still have a whole week before I have to give it to him, so I’ve got time. Sterling was in the audience when I showed the project, so the packaging won’t be a surprise, but I didn’t talk about the surprises on the back, so he can still look forward to that part of the deck of cards.

Creating that idea was so simple, I ran with it. I needed gift boxes for my sister Vonna’s birthday and one for a package I’m sending to Shanna for her birthday, so I switched out DSPs and stamp sets, and made two more fun, easy projects! I hope you enjoy them!


Shalae's Surprise Valentine

Note from Shelli—Shalae received a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift from her husband Jon, a gift that took quite a bit of creativity. I invited him to guest blog today and share the gift with you.

Jon Brown—Originally Shalae and I had agreed not to give each other Valentine’s gifts this year. Earlier this month, we went to Savannah, Georgia, to interview at a potential graduate school, and we decided to make that our Valentine getaway. But then I heard that Rascal Flatts was coming to town, and I changed my mind. We both love Rascal Flatts and have talked about going to a concert for years, but we’ve never made it. So I decided to surprise Shalae.

When I come up with ideas, I often think about them for a long time. Projects kind of snowball in my head, as I add new little ideas and things. That’s kind of the way this happened. I’d been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, and one thing kind of led to another until I had a whole scavenger hunt, complete with poem for directions, and three gifts along the way.

The Rascal Flat tickets was the first gift, and then I added a bracelet and chocolate-covered strawberries. Once I’d figured out the gifts, I needed the packaging—it’s all about presentation, you know! At work (I’m doing an internship at Stampin’ Up!), we’d photographed a box that worked great for the strawberries. It was about 4x4 and had four dividers inside, perfect for four strawberries (which I dipped myself!). The original box didn’t have a lid, but it wasn’t hard to add that. I die cut a few flowers and added a half-pearl thing (I think you call it a Pretty), and tied a ribbon around it.

The package for the bracelet was based on the same box, just a little smaller without the dividers. I tied the ribbon around the base of that box, instead of the top, for a little variety.

For the tickets, I just wanted a sleeve to slide the tickets into. I bought the tickets and printed them from the computer, then scanned them so I could play around with the colors. I’ve been around Shelli and Shalae enough to know that color coordination matters! (Plus I’m a photography major, so I care what things look like too!)

The color palette I used was Pretty in Pink, Chocolate Chip, and Certainly Celery. And no, I don’t have all the Stampin’ Up! colors memorized. J I just happen to know those right now because I used them for these projects. I can’t spout off all the names!

Shalae spent all day last Friday at her mom’s, helping out with a few things, so I knew I’d have the whole day to work on this. I was a little stressed about getting it all done; I had to make the boxes and write the poem in between feeding the kids, putting them down for naps, doing a few dishes, and playing with them, but luckily Shalae was gone all day. I asked Shelli to text me and let me know when Shalae headed home, so I’d have time to hide things. But it ended up that I had plenty of time to get everything finished, and it was a nice Valentine’s surprise.

Not As Easy As It May Look

Every time a new catalog comes out, people comment on our family photo. I appreciate those comments, because nothing means more to me than my family.

That family photo is a wonderful family memento, but it doesn’t come without a lot of work and effort. Anyone who has tried to put together a group photo with more than a dozen or so people knows that. We shot our annual family photo this weekend, and I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes!

The timeline this year—and pretty much every year—went something like this:

January 12 (the Monday we got back from Leadership): Shelli and Shalae left at 11 in the morning and got back at 9 at night, spending the entire day determining colors and purchasing clothing. (I cover the top half, and they’re responsible for taking care of the bottom half, based on the colors that we’ve chosen.)

January 13-last week: Clothes are tried on and returned or exchanged; stewed over, mulled over, and discussed—it’s quite a process, especially when you’re a perfectionist and color freak like me (and Shalae).

February 13: Everyone comes into town. The girls have hair appointments. Everyone eats a good dinner and gets to bed early. (At least the kids!)

February 14: Family photo shoot day! We wake up happy (or at least pretend to be), and the parents smile and act as calm as possible. By 9 a.m., the photo crew (pictured here) and Shelli and Sterling arrive at the studio to start makeup and other preparations.

The girls and their families stagger arrival times, depending on the age and how well behaved the children are. We have two makeup artists on hand (pictured below) to do the girls; the boys put up with powder.

By 10:30 a.m., we are starting to place people, shooting starts at 11 a.m., and we’re done by 11:30 a.m.

We’ve learned by experience that a half hour window is about all we can get from our young grandchildren, and so we’ve got it down to a science! Our photographer takes dozens and dozens of shots in that short 30 minutes, and we can almost always find one or two that most of us look good in. Then, through the marvels of PhotoShop, he often substitutes a head shot or two for those who may have been blinking or grimacing or just not paying attention. It amazes me what he can accomplish on his computer!

Our photographer and his wife have worked with us for years. They do a lot of the photography for our publications, but they don’t normally do family portraits. However, their studio is large enough for all of us, and we’re glad they make this exception. They have everything ready so it happens fairly quickly and painlessly—considering that we’ve got 10 adults and 13 children! (We missed Shanna this year—it’s the first time we haven’t had everyone for the photo. I’m already looking forward to next year when she’s back!)

I’m always a nervous wreck, worrying about things that might go wrong. The studio is full of hundreds of props, and I’ve always been panicked that, with kids running around, something would break. It never has though—until this year! All I’ll say is that little boys and balls are great outside but not inside with glass tables and vases!

We used to go out for lunch after it was all over, but we’ve gotten large enough that now everyone heads back to our house, and Sterling and I pick up lunch somewhere and bring it home. Then we get to just relax and spend a fabulous weekend together! And that’s what we did! It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it for the wonderful family picture—and weekend of memories!

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine¹s Day!


I know it's a little early, but it's on my mind because yesterday was my annual "Hugs and Kisses" day. It's been a tradition for as long as I can remember to walk around and hand out HR-approved hugs and kisses (Hershey's candy) to our Stampin' Up! employees sometime during Valentine's week, and yesterday was that day in Riverton.


I love the chance to see the people I work with and thank them for all they do. It's humbling to interact with these wonderful people; I feel so blessed! I walked through the distribution center and then though all four floors of our administration center, and loved every minute of it--except for my shoes. While I chose the perfect clothes for the day (a shocking pink jacket), I certainly could have been smarter about the choice of shoes. I forgot I would be walking around for several hours, and my adorable, high-heel, black-patent leather boots were killing me by the end of the day.


I only wish I could have made the same walk (in flats) through Kanab and our other offices. But I can't be in more than one place at a time, so I'll be passing out hugs and kisses in Kanab in a week or two, and in our other markets as I get an opportunity to visit each of them in the coming weeks and months. I know I could send cards and candy in the mail, but there's something about giving the treats and thanks in person that is very important to me, so I'm OK if the Valentine wishes are a little late. . .


I wish you all a happy Valentine's day too, of course!

Valentine's Surprise Box

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a blog, and I apologize. But I knew when I started this that, while I wanted to post at least two or three times a week, there would be occasions when I wouldn’t be able to do it that often. This has been one of those weeks, nothing particularly exciting, just a lot of meetings and a lot to do. I’ve got several blog topics floating around in my head, and I’ll get them posted soon. . .

In the meantime, I did finish my Valentine’s projects for the grandchildren. Actually, this is a dual gift, for both the grandchildren and their mothers. Our daughters all have a small off-white feather tree, which they decorate on different holidays with seasonal decorations. Last year I made several heart ornaments for the tree; I showed the hearts at a regional last year, as well as on a local television show here in Utah.

So I created this year’s project as an ornament as well, so that the grandchildren could enjoy the candy treat inside (and the personal greetings from Sterling and I), while the moms could have more ornaments for their Valentine trees. The two projects color coordinate together and (I think) look great!

The project is based on one of the SoShelli.Com creative challenge winners from last month—Jennifer Picard’s 12x12 scrapbook page/box. It’s really quite simple and straightforward. All I knew about the project was that it was a 12x12 page, and I figured out how it worked. I figure if I can do it, then you certainly can!

I adapted these to 6x6 pages so they’d fit on the tree, and then made one spotlighting each of the grandchildren. Inside are personal expressions of love from Sterling and I, which I hope the grandchildren will be able to treasure every year when they pull these ornaments out.

I couldn’t get the lighting exactly right—it seems I could either get a good shot of the detail of the project or a good shot of the photo in the center, and I couldn’t decide which one to post, so I’ve posted both!

 I’ve also shown a photo of the back, so you can see how I decorated that, as well as how I’ve attached the ribbon and Pretties bead, which closes the box and keeps the lid on so it can hang on the tree. I added Chunky Glitter to the outside, and the photo doesn't really do that justice, but I really liked the shimmer and texture it added.

I fell in love with these darling boxes, and I hope you like them as well. Thanks, Jennifer, for the inspiration!

Business as Usual

You know, when I sit down to write Shanna every week, I often start out writing the same thing: “I’ve got so much to write about this week. I worked at the office, I worked at home, and I tended the kids.”

Of course, I’m being a little sarcastic with her. I don’t really lead a very exciting life, and so much of it feels pretty routine and mundane. I focus on the high points on my blog—trips to Stampin’ Up! events and family gatherings and enjoyable memories—but mostly my life is a lot like everyone else’s—business as usual.

That’s what this week has felt like a lot. I’ve been working at the office, and when I’m not working at the office, I’m working at home. It’s nice to be getting caught up, and I love the work I do and the people I do it with, but it doesn’t make for very exciting blog material!

Of course, there are a few things that are exciting that we’re working on, but most of it is product related, and you know I can’t tell you about that!

I’ve concepted a few Valentine’s projects for my family, so hopefully there will be a little something to catch your eye in the next day or two. And I’m also planning on posting the winners to the SoShelli Creative Challenge, so all isn’t as dull and dismal as it might be! Stay tuned. . . .

A Weekend Down Memory Lane

Last night I had a headache, I went to bed early (by 9!), and I was very grateful my days as a mother of young children are well behind me!


Don't get me wrong--the weekend Sterling and I spent watching Ashton, Cooper, and Phoebe was wonderful, but I was reminded how it takes all day long to take a shower! (I'm not kidding--I didn't get out of my exercise clothes and into the shower on Friday until 8:30 p.m.!)


We managed a couple-hour visit to Cousin Kona's house so the kids could play together, but that was our single outing. Other than that, we just took it easy and played and created fun memories at Grandma and Grandpa's house. I had a few work-related things on my to-do list, but I'd written the list before I remembered what it was like being responsible for three youngsters. I settled for getting an envelope half-addressed (didn't even get the letter written) and reading a few e-mails!


I didn't plan on a lot of sleep, but I got less than I planned on. Two of the three kids ended up having fevers at some point during the weekend. And the last night we had them (Saturday), Phoebe was stuffed up and couldn't breathe lying in her crib, so she and I spent the entire night sitting and sleeping off and on in the rocking chair in our family room.


So that's why last night was an early-to-bed night! I love my time with my grandchildren, and I'm so grateful we can be there for our children when they need us. But I have to admit that knowing there was a light at the end of the tunnel in four days made it a lot more enjoyable!