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February is here, and that means one month of 2011 is already behind us! We love February because not only is it the month of love, chocolate kisses & paper valentines, it is also the month we celebrate opening our 'sweet' shoppe five years ago! While we are always trying to change things up to keep Sweet Shoppe Designs fresh and exciting for you, one thing we strive to stay consistent about is finding ways to help inspire you to create pages about your life stories. That's why we love our monthly Treat of the Month feature. Not only do we get to learn a little more about some of the wonderful scrappers we have in our community, we also love having an inspiring new gallery every month to give us ideas for our next masterpiece!

This month, we are especially excited because for the first time ever, we are shining the spotlight on one of our very own SugarBabes as this month's Treat of the Month! Lynnette Penacho has been one of our Babes for quite a long time, and her distinctive style is one that really shines in our gallery. Lynnette is a military wife, currently living in San Antonio, TX. She started scrapping in 2006, and she uses Photoshop CS3 to create amazing pages of the photos she takes with her Canon Rebel XT and her Nikon P&S.

Lynnette's gallery is simply spectacular! Full of pages that share her favorite memories, her gallery is vibrant and whimsical and screams with her distinctive style. Lynnette is a master at combining patterned papers, and is a self-described 'paper-centric scrapper'. She really knows how to use lots and lots of patterns in a kit on the same page while keeping it clean, stylish and visually pleasing at the same time. She is a masterful artist when it comes to titlework too, so if you're struggling in that area, you're sure to find some fantastic inspiration when you visit her gallery this month. There is so much to love about Lynnette's gallery, and we know you will enjoy going back again and again to get ideas for your own pages! We hope you'll spend somet time reading our interview with Lynnette below, and that you enjoy learning a little more about one of our favorite scrappers too!

Sweet Shoppe Designs: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

Lynnette Penacho: Well I'm a California native, born in the heart of the Silicon Valley. My dad is a computer engineer so I was exposed to the world of all things tech-y at a pretty early age. I love technology and it's rare to find me too far away from either my MacBookPro, my iPhone or our TiVo. I've always loved design and actually spent two years in college as a graphic/interior design major before eventually getting what seemed like a much more practical degree in Managerial Economics. During my junior and senior year of college, I worked as a layout artist for my university paper which I really credit for rekindling my love of design and introducing me to the magical world of Adobe InDesign and Macs.

As far as family, I've been married to my awesome husband Adam for five years. He's a Captain in the U.S. Army. Currently it's just the two of us, so no kids and no pets which I think makes me somewhat unique in the scrapbooking world. I'm the oldest child in a family of three girls so I have two younger sisters who show up quite a bit in my scrapbook pages too.

SSD: What's your scrapping story? How did you begin?

LP: In December 2005, Adam and I got married and literally a week later moved to our first military duty station in Seoul, South Korea. He worked very long days so in an effort to relieve my boredom, I would often take the short walk to the military base and browse the magazine aisle in the PX (which is kind of like a military Wal-Mart). I had never paper scrapped or known anyone who had but since I had a DVD of wedding photos I was intrigued by the idea of create some sort of album documenting our day. About a month after we arrived in Korea, I stumbled upon one of the Simple Scrapbook's special digital issues. I swear it was like a heavenly chorus of angels appeared. You mean I can use the computer to do this kind of thing?? Sign me up! It seemed like the perfect way to occupy my time while still keeping my design/computer skills intact. In the back of the magazine there was a list of websites which eventually took me to The Digi Chick and Scrapbook-bytes and the rest as they say, is history.

SSD: You've been a Sweet Shoppe SugarBabe for a very long time. How did you feel when you got the news you'd be one, and what is your favorite thing about being a Babe?

LP: It's funny because I still feel like it was just yesterday even though it's been like three years! Adam was actually deployed to Iraq at the time so despite my extreme excitement I didn't have anyone I could tell who actually got what a big deal it was. But I definitely had a perma-grin on my face for like a week afterword. Becoming a Babe was the ultimate dream gig for me.

As far as my favorite thing about being a Babe, the obvious answer here would be all the amazing goodies, but my favorite thing about being a Babe would have to be being part of the amazing team and community we have here. One of the toughest parts for me about military life is living far away from family and friends. I'm somewhat shy in person so making new friends doesn't come terribly easy for me and even when I do, the odds that one of you will eventually move away is pretty high. So I love that I have such an amazing online community that can be there for me no matter where I live. It definitely makes all the moves that much easier. And yeah, all the amazing goodies here don't hurt either, hehe.

SSD: You'll be opening your own template store soon. Tell us about it!

LP: Yes, I am opening my very own site called Nettio Designs. The current plan is to open on February 1st so if you're reading this and everything went according to plan, the site should be open! I'll be releasing new templates on Tuesdays for Template Tuesdays. I also have a blog where I'll be sharing a behind-the-scenes look at my scrapbooking process as well as sharing lots of tips and tricks I've picked up along the way. My ultimate goal is to hopefully inspire people to embrace their awesomeness, step out of their comfort zone and really take their scrapbooking (and life!) to the next level. I've got some big plans for this little site of mine so if you're a fan of my work, I think you'll definitely like it. It's definitely been a labor of love (and frustration, haha) but I am SO excited for everyone to finally see it!

SSD: Tell us about your scrapping environment. What's your workspace like, do you listen to music, watch tv?

LP: I'm lucky enough to have a separate upstairs loft space that serves as my office/scrap space. Since we just moved in the fall, it's a bit sad and bare at the moment, but one of my goals for this year is to really spiff it up. Since I scrap using a MacBookPro laptop, I split time between my office and the living room couch. I love TV so I almost always have some TV show on in the background when I work. I also love listening to the Paperclipping Roundtable and Paperclipping Digi Show while I scrap. (But not the episodes where I was a guest because listening to my own voice is weird, haha.)

SSD: Which of your layouts is your favorite and why?

LP: Oh gosh, that's like asking someone to choose which child is their favorite. "I love them all for different reasons" haha.

I would say my current favorite layout would be the me + love - $$$ = my mac layout that I created as part of the Battle of the Creative Teams competition. I tend to mostly be a kit scrapper so this was my attempt at mixing and matching kits and I absolutely loved the result. The bold patterns and colors are so very me and the photos totally make me laugh because they were a collaborative effort between Adam and I and I loved how they came out. I'm pretty sure Adam has seen that technology-related "oh please oh please" face more than a few times, haha.

I also really love the Favorites series of layouts I created in 2009. They were so much fun to create each month and I love looking back at them and remembering all the little things that I loved at the time. It's amazing what things you forget about even a month or two later! I missed doing it so much this year that I'm bringing it back this year for a 2011 edition.

SSD: Some people look to blogs, magazines or other scrapbooking galleries for inspiration - where do you find yours when you are creating a layout? Do you ever suffer from "scrapper's block" and if so, how do you get through it?

LP: I actually get a lot of inspiration from scrapbooking kits, either from the elements and papers within the kits, or the kit theme itself will lead to a topic idea for me. I love blogs, magazines and galleries too but I definitely think there's a point of oversaturation where it becomes too much of a good thing. Often I come up with my best ideas when I'm away from the computer and my brain isn't overwhelmed with having to process so much information at once.

As far as scrapper's block, I definitely have moments (a lot of moments really, haha) where things just don't flow together. I've just accepted it as part of the creative process, but when it does happen, I find the best thing I can do is step away for a little bit even if it's just for a quick walk outside or snack break. I also love to ask Adam for advice when I'm stuck on a specific layout as he's able to provide a fresh non-designers view of the page. Even when I don't agree with what he says, it almost always leads me to another idea that will work.

SSD: We know you are a military wife. How has that lifestyle affected your scrapbooking? Do you view the layouts you're creating any differently as a result?

LP: Scrapbooking has definitely become an outlet for me to deal with all the ups and downs that come with being a military wife. My scrapbooks have become in a lot of ways, more like journals, than a day to day representation of our lives. If you were to look through the pages I've created you'll see all the things I've struggled with as a military wife: living overseas, career/job issues, deployments. This was especially true during the past year when Adam was deployed to Afghanistan. By far one of the toughest things to deal with during a deployment is the fact that that one person who you know can make you feel better simply isn't available - you are on your own. So I found having an outlet where I could essentially pour my emotions out onto a page was a huge relief for me. A perfect example of this was a page I created after a particularly tough day called One Day at a Time. Looking at it now brings up a lot of emotions that I don't necessarily want to revisit but in that moment it was exactly what I needed. It's funny because when I'm creating pages, they are 100% for me and I tend to forget that someone else might actually look at them one day. It's not until I actually see someone physically looking at them that I start getting embarrassed and think "wow, did I really just put all that out there?".

SSD: The Sweet Shoppe is celebrating its 5th anniversary this month! As someone who's been on the inside for so long, what do you think is the secret to our success?

LP: Robin! She's the heart of the Sweet Shoppe Designs! She works so hard behind the scenes, and I love that she's not afraid to come up with cool innovative ideas for the site. The fact that we all love being a part of the site so much is a testament to the collaborative team environment we have here. There's no I in this team!

SSD: Looking through your gallery, it's so apparent that you have a very distinct style. Do you have any tips or advice for people who want to have a more cohesive gallery or develop a personal style?

LP: Look at galleries of scrapbookers whose work you admire and really pin-point what specially it is that you love about their style. Is it their bold use of color? Their clean, linear design? Their amazing title work? Then work on incorporating those elements into your own style. Don't worry about what's trendy at the moment - just focus on what you love and eventually you'll start seeing a consistent theme in your own work.

SSD: If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring one designer's products with you, whose would you choose and why?

LP: Zoe Pearn's, hands down. I've been on Zoe's creative team for longer than I've been a Babe - since November 2006. I absolutely adore her style and I really credit all her yummy papers for the evolution of my paper-centric style because it really grew out of a place of loving all of the papers in her kits and wanting to showcase all of them. Her kits are always such a joy to work with and I always love the layouts I create with them.

SSD: What do you like to do when you aren't scrapping? Do you have any other hobbies you like to do?

LP: I absolutely love to travel and experience new places - train, plane or automobile, whatever I'm there. I also love to be outdoors so anything like camping, hiking or just a day at the park is always a good day to me. As far as hobbies, I do an occasional sewing project here and there (most recently I made Christmas stocking for Adam and I) but I especially love anything related to home design - blogs, HGTV & DIY shows, browsing my favorite shops. I also love online classes. Right now I'm taking Ali Edwards One Little Word class at Big Picture Classes and the Goals Class at Simplify 101. And of course spending time with my amazing hubby.

Sweet Shoppe Designs also asked Lynnette to share some of her favorite creations with our visitors. It's fascinating to look through someone's gallery with our own eyes but seeing what an artist particularly enjoys from her own collection is always intriguing...

If you would like to see more of Lynnette's incredible work, be sure to visit her Sweet Shoppe Gallery where you'll find her amazing collection of inspiring pages. It's been such a pleasure to see the fabulous layouts our SugarBabes have created after spending some time looking through her gallery, and you'll be able to take a closer look at their gorgeous pages each time you visit as they'll be featured throughout the month on our homepage!

Finally, creating a lift of a page from Lynnette's gallery is one of the options you have in this month's challenge portfolio! So scrap along with our community as we create a meaningful monthly portfolio, and earn points towards sweet rewards while you're doing it too! Thanks for sharing yourself and your beautiful work with us Lynnette, it was such a treat getting to know one of our favorite scrappers better!

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