A Glorious Stamp Class

Shalae had her monthly stamping class at our house last night. . . another great one. We had about 9 people there, which is the perfect number—prep time is short, we can all fit around the kitchen table, and it’s warm and cozy!

Our project was easy and simple (the best kind, right?)—10 cards for $10, and everyone got to customize their own cards. They started with basic notecards (with a Crumb Cake front) and got to choose their own pre-cut strips of International Bazaar Designer Series Paper, coordinating ribbon, and sentiment.

I demonstratored the new stamp pads, and we had treats (Megan’s homemade salsa, chips, and other snacks) and lots of fun. One guest mentioned how much she hates to use store-bought cards now; she had to buy one recently and actually “dolled it up” before she sent it! Everyone was definitely thrilled to leave the class with 10 cards ready to be used.

I actually didn’t stamp much—I spent the entire time chatting and holding/feeding Liam, so that made it a glorious night for me!

 

Good-bye and Thanks!

Yesterday we attended a retirement party for a long-time employee, who has been with the company more than 20 years, the last several as a manager. As we attended the activities (lunch and a lighthearted “roast”), I got teary-eyed as I thought about the hard work, dedication, and commitment this man has offered through the years. He’s been a remarkable employee and a wonderful example, and I’m so grateful for the chance I’ve had to know him and work with him.

Of course, from there my thoughts went to all the incredibly dedicated, hardworking employees we are blessed to associate with. . . simply good people who are so inspiring in the way they live their lives and do their jobs.

Thanks to all our wonderful employees—we are so grateful and appreciative!

 

Our Strawberry Ride

Sterling went on an endurance ride this weekend, and I went along. Those who know us know that I don’t ride, but I’m a great cheerleader, and I love to take long hikes while he takes long rides!

We left on Thursday—he actually left in the morning and I followed him in the afternoon (wanted to attend a few meetings during the day). We got up there (near Strawberry Reservoir), set up camp and settled in, and the first ride was Friday.

Sterling rode with two of his riding buddies (the other two didn't ride this ride with him), and they started out last of the pack—and came in first! That was kind of cool! You could tell when they arrived back they were on a high. . . everything had clicked and they couldn’t stop talking about what a great ride it had been.

Today both riders and horses were a little tired, but they still had a great time. Didn’t come in first, but that’s not the reason Sterling rides anyway. 

While they ride, I love to hike. I took a long, two-and-a-half-hour hike both days, just loving every minute of the calm, serene surroundings. It’s the perfect time to think! There were hundreds of butterflies and gorgeous spots of wildflowers both days.

Friday my phone, which I use both as a camera and to take notes, was dead, so I missed out on capturing both my thoughts and any photos, but I charged it overnight, so this morning I was prepared. I took notes during the whole hike, but was halfway down the mountain before I realized I hadn’t taken a single photo! Silly me. . . the two best views were long past, but I managed a few photos of the surroundings.

It was a wonderful ride—close to home, terrific friends, two days. . . all the elements of a perfect little getaway!

 

 

The Perfect Incentive Trip

 

Returned yesterday from our Europe Incentive trip—one of the best Europe incentive trips yet! Perfect location (Vienna), perfect weather (the warmest I’ve ever experienced in Europe), perfect agenda (nice balance of free time and planned activities), perfect company (25 achievers, who got to bring guests this year for the first time!).

Sterling and I arrived on Tuesday and forced ourselves to stay awake until evening so we could minimize the jet lag. We went to dinner that evening with Dave, our vice president of Global Operations, and his wife, Jennifer. It’s ironic that in our first photo from the trip, the one thing that captures my eye is the Burger King sign in the background; you can find fast food restaurants everywhere!

Wednesday, our demonstrators and their guests arrived throughout the day, and it was a great chance to see friends from previous European events and meet new friends too. We had a “hospitality desk,” which was a small room where demonstrators could check in, spin a wheel for a prize, and spend a few minutes before heading out for the day.

At least that was the intent.  

It turned out that as demonstrators dropped by, they started visiting with each other and just didn’t want to leave. The room filled up quickly, and became a wonderful (albeit slightly crowded upon occasion) place for us to enjoy each others’ company. Note to self: Next year, we need a bigger gathering place!

It was so fun, though, to see how much everyone enjoyed being together! And I certainly enjoyed the time I spent with our demonstrators!

Wednesday night we had our welcome dinner, and I was reminded of something I’d noticed before—Europeans love to dress up. Another note to self: Don’t forget to dress up for the European event next year! We had listed “resort casual” as the dress for the welcome dinner, and many demonstrators leaned toward the fancier end of the spectrum.  It was great to see how many demonstrators took advantage of the opportunity to make this a special event by dressing up.

Thursday morning, we all went to the Schonbrunn Palace, a former Imperial 1,441-room residence that is one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. We toured the palace and gardens on our own, and then all met together, donned baker hats and aprons, and made our personal apple strudel creations, which was a wonderful hands-on experience.

The dough was premade, as was the apple filling, but we got to be a little creative with our pastry making. At the end of the event, everyone was called up, received a certificate of achievement, and got to show off their strudel. Some looked great, others not so much, but the entire experience was so fun, and we all shared a sense of pride and accomplishment in what we’d done.

Thursday afternoon and evening was free, as was most of Friday and Saturday. During free time, demonstrators did some sightseeing, sat around and relaxed, and chatted with each other. Sterling and I took advantage of a few Vienna tours/attractions that were offered; it was especially fun for us when we met demonstrators along the way.

We visited museums, walked around the city, and simply enjoyed the rich culture of this amazing place. We spent several hours at the Spanish Riding School, watching their morning exercise. Sterling was in heaven—he loves horses. And even though I’m not nearly the horse lover he is, I found it fascinating as well. Check out the elegant surroundings (chandeliers, etc., with the dirt floor!).

We also found a local restaurant, Overlaa, that served the creamiest, most delicious gelato. We found our way there several times; after all, once we discovered it, we felt obligated to share our discovery with others on the trip!

In addition to the free time, we had several organized get-togethers—a breakfast buffet every morning was one place you knew you’d have a chance to visit with demonstrators, the Saturday morning swap that was scheduled for an hour and lasted at least two because (once again) everyone enjoyed being together, and our Saturday evening goodies and goodbyes. That was designed as a come-and-go event, but people mostly came. I think I was one of the first to leave because I was so tired!

The most breathtaking activity, though, had to be the Friday Night Gala. Dress was semi-formal, which set the mood for the evening. We met in the hotel lobby and rode horse-drawn carriages through the streets of Vienna to the Museum of Fine Arts. Amazing! Then we walked into this magnificent facility, with incredible décor and architecture. The museum was closed, so it was an exclusive evening, just for us.

We had a fabulous dinner, with a page announcing every new course, accompanied with a tap of his cane. We had a museum mini-tour (way too much to see in such a short time), and then dessert.

But the crowning moment of the evening was an intimate performance by the Vienna Boys Choir. It was truly a memorable event—a world-renowned choir performing in an incredible venue just for us. Wow! Words can’t describe the emotion of the moment, and several demonstrators commented to me on what a memorable experience it was.

Sunday it was over, and demonstrators headed home, hopefully as happy with this year’s incentive trip as I was!

 

 

Our flight home didn’t leave until Monday, so we took advantage of our extra day and headed to Salzburg, which included a wonderfully relaxing three-hour train ride (one way), a brief visit to Sound of Music land (didn’t have time to take the tour, but so enjoyed seeing it), a visit to the Salzburg Cathedral (one of the lightest, most welcoming cathedrals I’ve seen), lunch at the  Hohensalzburg Fortress (fantastic views of the entire valley), and a tram ride to the top of a mountain.  

None of the photos I took at Salzburg, or throughout the incentive trip, do the experience justice. The scenery and buildings and atmosphere everywhere amazing. I didn’t get as many pictures of demonstrators (sorry!), but at least I got some. Hopefully, for those who went, these pictures will spark fond memories of an extraordinary event. And for those of you who weren’t with us, you were missed!

 

Best Powell Trip Ever!

The photos pretty much say it all, and there isn’t much to say about this annual Gardner Family vacation that I haven’t said before—we have the same menu, follow the same basic schedule, do pretty much the same things. But this year was the best yet for several reasons.

First, location, location, location! We had the best beach we’ve ever had. . . long and flat, with plenty of room for the kids to play. That’s huge!

The weather was the best ever. There were a few record days while we were there, and there was hardly any wind! Woo hoo! (It’s always stressful when there’s wind. . .)

All the kids got up on the water in some way, either a wakeboard or kneeboard or bum buster. . . . loved watching them! The water was perfect, not too chilly, just the right temp to give you a break from the heat.

The one downer was that we did miss Shanna and Jared and Liam and Abigail. Liam is still on oxygen, and I know there really wasn’t any way they could have made it, but we thought of them often and are hoping they can make it next time.

Most of the family were on Powell for a week; I only got five days because I was in Australia for our South Pacific convention. I know we all wanted to stay longer. . .it was so hard to get off the lake!

 

One interesting story. . . on our way to the dock to turn in the boat, the ranger pulled us over and boarded the boat. When he came on board he looked at us (it was just Sterling, me, Shalae, and the Brown kids—everyone else had already left) and then said, “I was obviously misinformed.”

Turns out he’d received a report of some lewd behavior on a boat that matched the description of ours. We laughed, and I was glad that he could tell just be looking at us that we were a pretty not-lewd group.

We're definitely already looking forward to our next Powell trip--this one will be a hard act to follow. Can’t wait . . . but I guess I’ll have to!

And now Sterling and I are off to Vienna for our European incentive trip. I’m certainly well rested and am looking forward to the chance to spend some great time with our European leaders! I’ll let you know how that goes when I come back.

 

An Exceptional Experience

Back in the United States after a wonderful convention in the South Pacific!

      

 

I don’t love the long airplane rides, but I do love the time I spend with our demonstrators. This convention we upped our game a bit. There were several new additions that made this event better and more memorable than past conventions, and since we have a goal to improve and “better our best,” I was thrilled to see that happen at this event.

 

  Much of the credit goes to our staff in the South Pacific office; they planned much of the convention agenda, and we all worked together to make it happen. I was very proud of all our staff there—we were small in numbers, and we all worked extremely hard to create an amazing event for our demonstrators.

The event started on Thursday with an early VIP check-in for our leaders. Because we had optional leader classes that morning, our leaders got to check-in early, as well as visit the Memento Mall before the rest of the crowd. It was fun to provide our leaders with that extra recognition.

  

Regular check-in began Thursday morning, and then Thursday afternoon we had our opening general session. Friday and Saturday we had more general sessions, Make & Takes, and classes.

The general sessions included great stamping demonstrations, inspiring Workshop Wows, and other pertinent presentations (Aaron’s state of Stampin’ Up!, etc.). Classes were taught by both demonstrators and staff members, and were outstanding!

Some new convention features included our Demonstrator Resource Center, which included a product playground where demonstrators enjoyed valuable hands-on time with new product and a career plan booth where they met with a career plan expert to create a customized career plan for their individual goals.

We also had two outstanding guest speakers: a representative from the DSAA (Direct Sales Association of Australia), which we are a proud member of; and a fascinating speaker who shared relevant insight into a group of people (creative women ages 25-35) that we are hoping to reach out to more successfully.

Thursday night was our Managers’ Reception, a memorable opportunity to tour the Parliament House, as well as chat and network with our managers and above. During that activity, I shared some thoughts and perspectives about the company, we had an informal Q&A session, and enjoyed the chance to spend some great time together.

 

We ended the convention with our annual Awards Night, which included a delicious banquet dinner and then an evening spent honoring some of our highest achieving demonstrators. Demonstrators were recognized on stage for achievements in sales, recruiting, and leadership, as well as time spent with the company. We also recognized top demonstrators and Rising Stars and our Heart of Stampin’ Up! winner (a demonstrator who exemplifies our Statement of the Heart).

Ending the convention with that particular activity was wonderful—I love the opportunity to thank and recognize our hardworking demonstrators, and that is the total focus of Awards Night.

Now we’re all heading back to the post-convention world . . . confident that we did our best to provide our demonstrators with an exceptional experience and already looking forward to what’s next. That’s the great thing about Stampin’ Up!—there’s always something exciting and fun as we continue to move forward!

I have some catch-up work to do (you all know how that goes, when you leave town for a few days), but I’m taking it with me on our annual Lake Powell family vacation. That means I probably won’t blog for a few days; Internet access on the lake is unlikely. I am looking forward to getting caught up on my sleep, caught up on some work, and spending a rare but wonderful few days surrounded by family!

 

I Definitely Stuffed It!

I’ve learned—and lived—a new term while here in Australia for our annual convention. The term is “stuffed it,” and basically it means to blow it big time. And boy, did I!

Typically I don’t blog during a Stampin’ Up! event because I’m focused on what’s going on and spending time with our demonstrators. But I had to tell this story before others did, although I’m sure they’d tell it very sweetly! And I didn’t want to taint the convention wrap-up blog with this sad story either, so I just figured it was better to get it out of the way.

During most Stampin’ Up! events, I do an onstage stamping presentation. Although I’m never flawless (I’ll mess up words, forget facts, or even mention a product that isn’t available), I have never done quite as poorly as I did in Canberra yesterday!

I won’t go into great detail. Suffice it to say that my first project featured two products that aren't even available in the South Pacific market, and it went downhill—fast!—from there. I called our country manager by the wrong name, I literally forgot dozens of words, I messed up projects and . . . well, basically, I stuffed it!

And in case you think perhaps it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, let me share a few things with you. Partway through the presentation demonstrators in the audience organized a cheer (on three, they shouted, “We love you, Shelli), our country manager later confessed that he was considering coming up on stage to give me a much-needed hug (our events producer refused to let him because he was afraid that I would start to cry—and he was probably right!), and when I finally got off stage, I was met by Pam Morgan, a corporate team member, who gave me a big hug and then started laughing.

“It was terrible, wasn’t it?” I asked.

“Well . . . ” she hesitated, “it certainly was. . . (another long pause). . . remarkable.”

I’m so grateful it’s over; there were moments on stage that I thought would last a lifetime! When I ended, I apologized to our demonstrators, telling them that if I hadn’t inspired them, at least I’d entertained them! And throughout the afternoon and evening, dozens and dozens of demonstrators came up to me, hugging me and reassuring me that they understood.

Hopefully this is a once-in-a-lifetime blog, and I’ll never be sharing this type of experience again! And in the meantime, I did have a guest or two, as well as some new demonstrators, mention that they had been hesitant to join because they were worried about demonstrating in front of others and making mistakes. “I thought you had to be perfect,” they said. “But if you can mess up, and you’re the CEO, then I figure it’s OK if I mess up too.”

Glad I could be an. . . inspiration?