Kelly Lee-Creel

Making Valentine’s Day Cards with Scratch-Off Sticker Paper

Some of my favorite childhood memories took place around Valentine’s Day. I loved sitting at the kitchen table with Mom, a freshly-opened box of valentines, and a copy of the class roster. (It was important to Mom that we didn’t accidentally leave someone out.) While she checked off each person’s name, I shuffled through the cards and stuffed them in their tiny envelopes, triple-checking to make sure I didn’t give a mushy sounding one to a boy by mistake. I don’t know if the other kids spent as much time studying the wording on the cards as I did, but what can I say? I was studious even then.

While I don’t have kids, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to buy a box of valentines—just for old times’ sake. This year, I decided to indulge myself by making cards for my nieces and nephews.

The kids in my life range from toddler to teen, so I tried to come up with an idea that would appeal to a wide range of ages. I decided on scratchers so they’d be more interactive. I’m not going to pretend that these valentines are going to impress the teens and tweens. However, they’ve been putting up with my oddball sense of humor for a long time, and this is pretty much what they’d expect from Aunt Kelly. 

If you want to try making your own, I’ve included some details below. You can also see a video I made of the scratch-off stickers in action right here.

P.S. – I know some of my mom friends might read this. Let me tell you—if I had kids, I would 100% head to the grocery store and buy a pack of ready-made cards for $3.99 and feel GREAT about myself. However, sometimes it’s fun to embrace my role as Aunt Kelly. The kids will be the first to tell you that I’m known more for my crazy ideas than for being practical.

Project Instructions:

  • I designed the cards in Adobe Illustrator using jokes I found on the internet. If you google “kids Valentine’s Day jokes,” you’ll find the same dozen or so puns over and over again. I tested them out on my husband and then chose my top 4. When I printed the cards, they looked like this and included the answers:

The scratch-off part of the card (in gold) is made from Silhouette Scratch-Off Sticker paper. You peel the scratcher off the backing and apply it just like you would a regular sticker. If you don’t have an electronic cutting machine like a Silhouette or Cricut, you can buy scratch-off stickers on Etsy in simple shapes like hearts, circles, squares, etc. For me, the fun part about using the Silhouette Cameo for the project was being able to do special sizes and shapes.

  • Silhouette Cameo Settings for Scratch-Off Sticker Sheets: These are the default settings for Scratch-Off stickers recommended in the Silhouette Studio software. If you need more help, there are lots of similar projects and tutorials on Pinterest.
    • Blade: 2
    • Speed: 7
    • Depth: 14
  • I was pretty excited when I found this Silhouette Sticker Sampler Pack, since I only needed to make 10 scratchers total. The sampler pack came with a variety of other sticker papers that I plan to experiment with for future projects. Please note: There is a pretty strong chemical odor when you first open the package, so I let mine air out for a while.

If you decide to make your own scratch-off cards, I’d love to see them!

Putting Love in the Mail (Plus a FREE Printable Card)

A few years ago, while lost in Wonderland (also known as the Bullseye’s Playground / Dollar Spot section at Target), I found a set of note cards that said Hello Beautiful on them. I immediately snatched them up. I think they were supposed to be for Valentine’s Day, but I loved using them for all sorts of occasions (birthdays, encouragement, thank you notes, etc.).

Well, the day has finally come. After years of carefully rationing them, I used up my last one.

The good news is that I decided to make my own and share them with you! I used the same wording, but a different color scheme and design. If you’d like to send someone a note, you can download a FREE copy to print at home. (Click on the link below to download a PDF.)

I’ve learned a lot about writing meaningful notes from some of my friends. Sending a note can be an opportunity to reaffirm someone’s identity and point out their best qualities. This is how I see you: as beautiful, lovely, full of possibility.

I think most of us could use more reminders like that.

Free Download:

Click here to download the Hello Beautiful Card.

Printing Tips:

  • I printed the cards at home on plain white card stock (8.5″ x 11″). The folded card measures 3.5″ x 5″.
  • If you don’t have a color printer at home, I’ve had good experiences sending things to Staples to be printed.
  • Feel free to print as many as you’d like. These are for personal use only. Thank you!

2021: Goal Setting When You Don’t Know What Comes Next

This year, I find myself both more hopeful and more uncertain than I have been in a long time. I’ve always loved setting goals, and I’m not ready to give that up—even in the face of uncertainty.

For the past five years, I’ve been using the PowerSheets Goal Planner from Cultivate What Matters. I love the questions at the beginning and the monthly planning pages. Over the years, my goal-setting process has evolved, but at its heart, I want it to look like this:

  • Less of me trying to force my vision on the future.
  • More soulful listening.
  • Less wanting a fresh slate so I can do everything perfectly this time.
  • More being open to change.
  • Less copying ideas that seem to work for other people.
  • More taking ownership of my life and making choices that resonate with me.

Giving Myself Some Extra Time

One thing I’ve learned (through trial and error) is that I set terrible goals when I’m tired. It’s hard to dream big when you’re worried about how much gas you have left in the tank. After the craziness of 2020, I knew I wanted to give myself some extra time.

So here it is, the end of January, and I’m just finishing up my list. I promised myself that I would share my goals publicly, and now, I’m almost embarrassed. These are the simplest, most bare-bone goals I’ve ever set!

However, I’m going to post them anyway, because I think it’s a good reminder that it’s okay to have goals that look unimpressive, simple, or even “obvious” to someone else. The only important thing is that they matter to you.

My No-Frills, No-Fuss Goals for 2021:

1. Set clear daily priorities and reachable goals for each day.

I’m a list-maker at heart, but this year, I want to make a fundamental shift in how I decide what to tackle next.

In the past, I’ve tried the advice of identifying 3 things you want to accomplish each day. But I’ll be honest: I was always sneaking extra items onto the list OR putting entire multi-step projects that were completely unrealistic to accomplish in one sitting.

I was trying to “shoot for the moon, but reach the stars.” Well, after missing the moon repeatedly, I’m completely exhausted! 😉 I don’t want to get to the end of the week and feel demoralized, because I didn’t cross everything off the list.

Over the break, I re-read the book Organize Tomorrow Today by Jason Selk, Matthew Rudy, and Tom Bartow. (The title may sound basic, but I found it to be practical and insightful.) The authors suggest putting 3 ambitious but small, carefully-chosen next steps on your list.

My goal is to get better at identifying and flagging the next step in whatever project or task I’m working on. I’ve started doing this over the past few weeks, and it’s already making a big difference. I’m setting 3 clear priorities that are 100% possible for me to cross off each day.

2. Take regular breaks on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Before 2020, I used to be much better about taking breaks. Even if it was just running a quick errand, I made it a point to step away from my desk and use a different part of my brain for a while.

With my husband and I both working at home, it’s easy to fall into orbit around his schedule. This year, I want to create some better habits and routines. I especially want to find a way to take a short, enjoyable break after lunch so that I can do better quality afternoon work.

3. Create content that I’m excited to share on a cadence that works for me.

I’m looking forward to this one! Last year was so busy with The Life-Giving Path Conference that I didn’t have much extra bandwidth. For 2021, I have some fun projects up my sleeve.

One thing I know is this: on the internet, it’s easy to find examples of other people who seem to be doing more, sharing more, or creating more. However, I want to find a steady rhythm that works for me. This looks like: keeping my eyes on my own paper and remembering to be my own pace car rather than trying to match someone else’s speed.

4. Writing Goal: Focus on process + preparation.

I always try to have one goal that’s just for writing. This year, I’ve decided to focus entirely on effort instead of word or page count.

For me, this looks like:

  • Marking up the next day’s work, so I know exactly where to begin when I sit down.
  • Taking a moment to visualize the scene I’m writing about before I start.
  • Nurturing my creativity by planning some adventures and personal retreat days that re-inspire me.

5. Create sensory-rich memories and moments with my husband.

Lately, we’ve been recreating meals we’ve eaten on trips and creating new dinner themes.

For example: We kicked off this year by celebrating “Jam-uary” and experimented by making—you guessed it—jam. I hope to share more about our adventures in a future post!

6. And finally—the last one: Get back to basics at home.

Like many people, we’re using our home differently now. While some of those changes have been great, others could use a few tweaks. This year, I’ve decided not to tackle any huge projects. I just want to focus on basic cleaning and maintenance.

I suppose this goal might sound anti-climactic, but when I wrote it down, I felt nothing but RELIEF. I think some of the best goals are like that.

Well, there you have it! If you haven’t set goals this year and still want to, I’ll tell you what I told myself: it’s not too late.

In addition to answering the questions in the PowerSheets, I always ask myself some version of the following:

  • What is something I loved doing last year that I can’t wait to do again?
  • Is there something that I didn’t finish that I still want to work on?
  • What do I absolutely NOT want to do ever again? (If I can’t get out of it, is there a way to make it more pleasant?)
  • Have I created any arbitrary rules for myself about the way something has to be done? Are those rules serving me or is it time to let them go?
  • Have I filled my calendar with the people and projects most important to me? If not, can I clear some space by saying “no”?

I hope this helps!

Like everyone else, I don’t know what to expect this year, but choosing goals puts me on the path of discovery. For me, goal setting is about prayerfully choosing a direction and then starting—even when I’m not sure how it will all work out.

If you have a goal you’re working on, I’d love to hear it!

Hope for Christmas

I wrote this for last year’s Christmas newsletter. Despite all that has happened in 2020, I think it still applies, so I decided to share it again. If you’re not quite ready for Christmas, you’re not alone! I hope this helps.

Thoughts on Faith:

When I sat down to write this month’s newsletter, I’d planned to talk about the New Year. December is my favorite time for dreaming and reflecting. Outside, nature slows down, reminding us that it’s okay to pause, too.
However, over the past few weeks, I’ve listened to friends and bumped into strangers who are struggling with Christmas. While I hope this letter finds you full of joy and good health, I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look too far to find someone in need of kindness.
There are broken hearts. Family rifts. Disappointments of every shape and size.
At church, we talk about Advent being a season of preparation. We prepare our hearts to receive the gift of Jesus.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Mary on that first Christmas. Mary had many wonderful qualities, but when we picture her placing baby Jesus in a manger, the word “prepared” doesn’t exactly spring to mind. Nesting probably looked different back then, but even so, no one wants their baby’s nursery to be a stable. I’m sure she would’ve preferred to be near her family instead of 70 miles away from home.

I think it says a lot about God that He didn’t wait for Mary to get herself organized or “more together” before Jesus arrived. God could’ve chosen a different time and place. Instead, He picked the moment before she was ready when she probably felt like a failure.
That’s the thing about Jesus. He doesn’t wait for us to sort things out before He arrives. He shows up here. Now.
Preparing our hearts is a noble idea and a worthwhile way to spend our time. Still, perhaps it’s comforting to know that there’s nothing we can do to be fully prepared.
Jesus is not waiting for you to finish decorating so you can put your feet up and start thinking holy, spiritual thoughts. He’s not waiting for your family to reconcile, so He can finally show up and bless your celebration. He’s not holding out until good news arrives in the mail.
He is Emmanuel. God with us. He shows up in the middle of the mess.
Things might feel chaotic or stressful or disappointing right now, but Jesus says, I’m here. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
As Christmas approaches, I don’t know what you’re facing—great joy or mind-numbing sorrow or, most likely, something in-between—but if you can still fumble your way to the front door, there’s one guest you might want to invite in early.
He won’t mind that things aren’t finished or perfect. He’s not bothered by stuff that’s tarnished or broken. And He’d never ask you to put on a brave face and pretend that everything’s okay when it’s not.
In fact, He’d love to show up early and help you with all that. I’ve needed His help this entire season. This has been my prayer (and perhaps it’s yours too):
Lord, I’m so grateful that You don’t wait for us to get our acts together. Instead, You offer us the gift of Yourself. Help us to be willing to acknowledge the things that are broken or imperfect and release them into your care. Above all, I pray that You would give us the courage to leave the doors of our hearts unlocked.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! I’m taking a few weeks off so I can rest, play, dream, and plan. I look forward to seeing you in January.

Thank you for being here!

P.S. – Want to join the mailing list? You can sign up here.

Making a Wreath: Following a Floret Flower’s Tutorial

One of the silver linings this year has been learning to use and appreciate what I have. 

When I thought about my Christmas decorations, I started craving something fresh. I remembered this tutorial for an evergreen wreath in Erin Benzakein’s book, A Year in Flowers. I’d always wanted to make a fresh wreath, but growing up in Southern California, it wasn’t something I’d ever tried.

Every now and then, there are benefits to hoarding craft supplies. I found a 12″ wire wreath form and some floral wire tucked in the back of the closet just waiting for this moment.

At first, I was intimidated by the list of ingredients. Could I really find that many different types of branches? However, it turned out that the hardest part of foraging for supplies was changing out of my pajamas and putting on my gardening boots. Once outside, I found more than enough variety.

In the book, Erin talks about selecting unusual ingredients like ivy berries and seedpods. She has an eye for using unexpected, textural elements, so her wreath is a mini work of art. Since this was my first attempt, I kept things simpler, replying on battery-operated lights for some extra sparkle.

When I look back on this season which has felt bittersweet, I hope I always remember making this wreath.

Here, at the end of the year, I’m tired. I’ve been trying to be intentional about only choosing activities that speak to me. This one hit the mark. I loved being outside in the crisp air and slowing down long enough to notice the difference between a spruce tree and a cedar.

And the smell! You probably don’t need me to tell you that, but all those pine-scented candles have it wrong. My laundry room is now filled with a sweet citrus scent that smells like Heaven.

If you want to try making your own wreath, I added a few notes below. I also made a very short video that shows the process start to finish. (Confession: I’ve watched the clip 83 times now, because I love pretending that it only took me 30 seconds to make it. HA! You and I both know that it took slightly longer than that.)

Supplies I had on hand:

  • Wreath form (12”)
  • Floral wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Something to cut branches with (not pictured): I used various tools I found in the garage plus some hand-held pruners for cutting the branches into smaller pieces.

Practical matters:

I won’t repeat all of Erin’s instructions here, but I did learn a couple of things:

  • The secret to the wreath is to cut your branches into pieces 8″ long and create miniature bundles wrapped with wire.
  • I used 4 types of evergreens I found in my yard plus some fern leaves and holly.
  • Full disclosure: The fern leaves didn’t last very long without water, but while they were fresh, they were showstoppers. It’s possible that there’s some special trick I missed. However, if you want something extra special and lush for a day or two, they might be worth the trouble. You’d probably want to swap them out later for something else.

The Start of Something New

There are few things I love more than opening up a brand new notebook.

To be honest with you, I went through a phase where I found all those blank pages to be intimidating. For a while, I only bought journals with disappointing artwork on the covers. That way, I couldn’t ruin them.

I think I’ve recovered from that stage. Now, I’m grateful to have room to spread out with my thoughts. I certainly feel that way about this space.

I’ve felt a little cramped trying to fit my words into a quick post on social media, so I’m giving myself some extra room to work. Just like my real-life notebook, I expect to make mistakes, ask questions, and use too many dashes. However, I think it will be worth it to see these pages fill up with words, images, and ideas.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.