holiday gift ideas | under $20, $40 & $60

Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. A late Thanksgiving. 32 more shopping days left. ugh. All these pre-holiday stats just stress me out. And my husband just asked me the other day, “When are we putting up our lights?” Don’t even get me started on the holiday card fiasco. Family photo. no. Card design. no. Stop the madness!

Obviously it was time for me to give the holidays some thought. So I’m starting with the best part – the gifts. I found some great gift ideas while searching online and now I’m really feeling it. Here are some of my favorite gift finds for under $20, under $40 and under $60. I would give these gifts to anyone on my list – and I would also welcome any of these gifts myself…hint, hint.

Click on the links below to go to the original sources and then let me know if you have any reasonably-priced great gift ideas. And, although I may not have started my holiday shopping, I do have a lovely, ready-to-be-used wrapping station! I’m thinking, if you build it they will come. Right?

Christmas gifts w type

UNDER $20 ::

  • Double Pearl Earings from Etsy, $18.90 | Such a cute and clever solution for earing backs.
  • Personalized Journal from Minted, from $16 | They have tons of cover design options, and the front and interior can be personalized. You can choose different inside page styles too like blank, lines, graph, address book or planner and I love that it’s spiral bound. Perfect gift for teachers!
  • Burt’s Bees Hand Repair Kit, $13 | The Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Cream is the best ever – I keep a jar next to my kitchen sink. 

UNDER $40 ::

UNDER $60 ::

Hope you enjoyed my holiday gift ideas and please share any ideas you may have – I need them! Have a great weekend and get shopping.

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our Thanksgiving table

overview 7 with text

It almost feels like Christmas here! This year for Thanksgiving we’re going to my parents beach house on Cape Cod and the kids are over the moon! This is my parent’s summer house and we usually only go down in the summertime, so a Thanksgiving trip is something new. Even though we won’t be doing the normal summer stuff like swimming, crabbing, boating, tubing, we will still have tons of fun. There will be eight kids, eight adults and three dogs – and lots of laughs!

detail 3-pencils

The house is a great size for all of us but setting up a Thanksgiving dinner there is new and a little more formal affair than the usual after-beach dinners and cookouts we’re used to. But not too formal. I’m helping my mother do the centerpiece and we came up with the idea of using kraft paper and wrapping paper as the tablecloth. So not fancy. I know the paper tablecloth idea is done in family-friendly restaurants so the kids can draw all over them and we thought this would be a great idea for Thanksgiving. We’re giving everyone a sharpie {placed in a cute, homemade place card} so they can write what they’re thankful for right on the tablecloth. I’m also adding some colored pencils to the centerpiece if anyone’s feeling extra creative! I’m sure the guys will just loooove this idea. So in addition to this table cloth having a purpose, it is also very cheap, perfect for clean-up and gravy spills won’t be a big deal!

overview 3

Our first job is to find the right “tablecloth” combination. We knew we wanted the wide kraft paper but we have to fancy it up a bit for Thanksgiving. So I envisioned adding narrower white paper with gold polka dots to go over the kraft paper. Fancy, right! But no matter how much we tried, we couldn’t find said white & gold paper. And then it dawned on me, we’re meant to use what we got. This table was going to be created from whatever we have around the house. I like a challenge and I wanted to see what I could come up with without just going out and buying everything. And since we’re having Thanksgiving at the Cape in a very relaxed, beachy atmosphere it just seemed right to make it that much more personal and special.

detail 2

So, I did buy the kraft paper – but in my defense, I’m also using it to wrap my Christmas gifts. I had a roll of smaller white art paper from Michael’s that my kids love to draw on. So I laid these out on the table and tried to figure the best way to get gold dots on that &%^$ paper. My best option was a gold sharpie and I just started coloring circles. They fancied it up just enough and also kept that homemade look. Plus, look at how the dots mimic the dots on the vase I got at Target last month!

place setting 4

 

Then I shopped my house for the centerpiece stuff. I figured we’re not going to be putting all the food on the table since there is always. so. much. food. So creating a busier centerpiece would be ok. I gathered everything that was gold, white, cream and I also added a little orange because it’s fall and well, I love orange. I grabbed my China and silverware which is very simple but it has silver – not gold. oh no! Then I remembered my post about mixing metals. And I was ok again. And I just had to add some sea shells – we will be at the Cape. I didn’t include any flowers or foliage but between the shells, the sticks and the gourds, I think we have the natural, organic elements covered. Maybe on Thanksgiving we can pick a few greens but then again, we might be a little busy mashing potatoes.

After making my circles, which only took me about 20 minutes, I just started placing all the elements together until it looked ok. A few tips on arranging centerpieces:

– keep some consistency to the pieces you select such as color palette, theme or shape
– vary the heights of the pieces, stack things up using cake stands or even books make good pedestals
– vary the textures: feathers, sequins, seashells, sticks, material, netting, pinecones… can all work together if they have a common theme.
– keep the pieces close to each other so they work as a unit. Adding an actual connecting element helps. For this it was the gold netting. You can also use ribbon, sticks, branches, etc.
– add a bit of the unexpected – I added the seafoam color in the gourd and place card, which gives the white, gold, orange and beige color palette a bit of a kick. Or use unexpected items like a jewelry box, a candy jar, or a mini chalkboard to achieve the same goal.
– trial & error – just keep moving things around until you like it.

place setting 2

A couple of other details I added were two paper napkins per person. I don’t like cloth napkins – and even if I did, I didn’t have any that would go. Plus two napkins at Thanksgiving is always a good idea. Cute straws, and fun place cards, and oh yeah – gold turkeys. Everyone needs a gold turkey. We will have to buy these but aren’t they so sweet. Gold spray paint can make anything look good.

detail 4-dots

overview 6

I can’t wait to see how this all looks come turkey day. I’m sure we’ll have some modifications. Like where will the gravy boats go? And what if, say, two 14 year old boys get silly and write that they’re thankful for 14 year old girls. Not what I pictured when I set this all up. But then I wouldn’t want it any other way. Fun, quirky, homemade, and just a little bit of fancy. Just like our family. Can’t wait! Stay tuned for the Thanksgiving chore chart – you can’t have 16 people and three dogs in a house for four days without giving everyone jobs. Should be fun!

Better Homes article

Just in: I just saw this article in the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens. If they say it’s ok to use wrapping paper as a Thanksgiving tablecloth well then it must be ok!

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Logo design process

Print

I just completed a logo design for a client and I thought I’d share the steps I usually take when creating a logo. A lot of different ideas go into the final product. Here is a post I did featuring some of my logo designs from the past. When it comes to designing a logo, I follow a six step process that seems to work well.

Canvas texture seamless repeat pattern

Here’s my six step process for designing logos:

1. gather information

Before I start designing a logo, I do my homework. I research the company or the product and gather as much information as I can. And I ask questions. A simple creative brief is a great way to get your client to verbalize what they are looking for and what they like and don’t like. I usually do mine as an online form. If the client is not able to do this, I actually fill one out on my own from all the information I’ve gathered from conversations and research. It’s obviously not as accurate but it serves as a guide when I’m mid-design and struggling for ideas! Here are some questions I would include:

Who is your target audience?
Who are your closest competitors?
What type of product or service do you offer?
What is the main message you want to convey to your audience?
If your product or service was a person how would you describe that person?
What is the exact wording to be used in the logo?
Is there a tagline?
Are there any specific images or icons you’d like to incorporate into the logo?
Are there any specific colors you may want to use?
Are there any colors or images you would like to avoid?

 2. find some inspiration

This is the fun part for me. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Online is such a great tool – what did we do before the www? I also flip through design books and I even look through magazines. They don’t even have to be design magazines, inspiration can come from anywhere, although People might be a little bit of a stretch. I also research my client’s competitors – I wouldn’t want to have my client’s logo looking similar to their competitors’ logos. Then, study the logo examples that the client liked {and disliked}. This is a good guide for things like style and tone. Here are some of my inspiration resources:

- Print magazine – can find it here online too.
- Design books – I have some old books and will splurge and buy new ones every so often. But good logos never go out of style.
– Google, Google, Google. Lot of stuff out there. Just search.
– Pinterest – always a great source for ideas
– Stock image sites such as istock – sometimes yo can find conceptual ideas for graphics
– Blogs and websites of designers and agencies you admire

3. to the drawing board

I have learned that the computer is a tool and I have to force myself not to go to the computer before I have sketched out my ideas. I can save myself a lot of time if I properly prepare. So I draw but I also find it helpful to write down all the words that come to mind when I think of the product. It’s easier to create visuals this way. And referring back to the creative brief to make sure I’m staying on track and answering the questions is helpful at this point.

4. execution

After sketching out my ideas, I circle the ones that have potential and then create them on the computer. I almost always create my logo designs in Adobe Illustrator. This is the most versatile application for graphics and type. I try to keep it to about 6-8 different concepts to execute on the computer. Always design the initial logos in black & white and then add color later. And this is important for 2 reasons, first, the client might like a logo because of the color treatment and not necessarily because it’s the best design. Also, the logo will have to be used as black & white on some occasions and it should work well this way.

5. reassess & refine

Take your breaks and come back to your designs with a fresh eye. I especially need to do this if I’m spending too much time on one design. I find this helps me to see what’s working and what’s not.

6. deliver

I pick the best 6 or so logo designs and present them to the client either in person or over the phone. It is very important that you can explain your thought process for each design and how each one would work well for their brand. This is a good time to refer back to the creative brief – using key words they might have provided. Ideally, the client would then choose 2-3 of their favorite designs and I would work with them to develop these designs to find the best solution for their brand. Then a final design is chosen and created in all color variations and sizes. And a logo is born!

Logos are probably my favorite type of project to design. They are meant to set the tone for the entire brand and the possibilities are endless. Let me know if you’re in need of a logo and if I can help!

The-Logo-Board-Game--pTRU1-10696037dt

And I’m asking Santa for this Logo Board Game for Christmas. This looks like a fun, everyone-can-play game. And one I might be able to win! Have a great weekend!!

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mason jar winter wonderland | light ’em up

lighted jars

Mason jars are everywhere. And are being used for everything from light fixtures to drinking mugs, to candle holders and soap dispensers. I love them for their simplicity and versatility. And their history. The Mason jar was invented in 1858 by John Landis Mason, a Philadelphia tinsmith, to be used as fruit jars. He also invented the first screw top salt shaker the same year. Pretty cool. Companies such as Ball and Kerr are the most common U.S. makers of the mason jar.

I have several mason jars in my home for decorative purposes – and as food containers. I thought of a cute idea to combine these beautiful jars with lights and winter figures to create a fun, holiday decoration.

I found solar LED lids so you can add light to these winter wonderland creations. Because of this, these decorated jars can also be used as a night light for a child’s room or as decoration for a holiday party. Imagine how pretty a group of these mason jars would look all lit up in a centerpiece or on a holiday decorated mantle.

Here are the instructions to create these oh-so-simple holiday/winter scenes.

materials

Materials:

• mason jar(s) – I used pint sized jars and they can be found pretty much everywhere. I got mine at Michaels.
• holiday or winter figures – I also got these at Michael’s. I couldn’t find a great selection online, I think it’s best to get these at any craft store. I got the White Sisal Trees for their neutral color. I also picked up a yellow lab figure from the LeMax holiday series. Looks like a well-behaved version of our puppy, Oscar. You could also add in deer, miniature wrapped presents, the possibilities are endless. Or just keep it to the pretty trees.
• Solar LED light mason jar covers – again, from Michael’s and couldn’t find same ones online.
• gold spray paint – I love the Krylon Short Cuts 3oz. cans. Perfect size for small DIY projects and they come is tons of colors. Find online here. Or in most craft stores.
• fake snow – I got the Buffalo Snow Flakes at Michael’s. They have a little glitter to them. You could go with plain, non-glitter fake snow or even go really funky and get the gold glitter flakes.
• hot glue gun

lid steps

1. Tape off the solar panel on the new lids and spray them with gold spray paint. Two quick coats will do the trick. Let dry then remove the tape. If light is not working, leave in sunlight to charge.

figures and snow

2. Pick which figures you want to include and hot glue them onto the bottom of the jar. Some of the smaller figures are hard to place in the jar and I ended up using a pair of tweezers to place them in.

3. Sprinkle in the “snow”.

finished

4. Place cover on and turn on the light to see your winter wonderland. You could also tie ribbon or twine around the jar, just under the lid to add a nice finishing touch. Tie on a nice gift tag and it makes a cute hostess gift.

This is just one simple mason jar project. Click here to go to my pinterest page for some other great mason jar uses and projects. These were 2 of my favorite:

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mason jar crafts love

Mason-Jar-Superhero-Banks-Fireflies-and-Mud-Pies

fire flies and mud pies

I hope you enjoyed this super easy DIY. Do you have any great uses or ideas for mason jar projects? Send them along! I have a bunch more I need to fix up!

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And the winner is…..

stag giveaway winner

Congratulations, Missy on winning the matted stag watercolor with flowers art print!

Thank you to all who entered and for being a part of Greco Design Company’s community! This was my first giveaway and it was a big success! Be sure to check out my Etsy shop where you can purchase this stag watercolor, or another art print for your home or to give as a gift. Click on the button below to be directed to my Etsy Shop and keep checking back too – I’m working on lots of new stuff!

Etsy shop button

2015 watercolor art calendar

calendar details

I know there’s still almost 2 months left in the year but it’s a good time to get your 2015 calendar. And because of the timing, calendars are a great holiday gift idea so you can start your holiday shopping too! I just finished designing a calendar and wanted to share it with you. This calendar features twelve 5×7″ cards, each with a different watercolor image painted by me. Then each is digitally printed onto a white matte card stock.

calendar cover with clip

As a bonus, each calendar set also comes with a silver metal magnet clip so you can stick your calendar on your filing cabinet, fridge or a locker. Or, another option is to place the current month’s card in a frame and hang it on a wall or stand it up on your desk for instant art!

calendar framed

or use my favorite washi tape and stick to ANY surface!

calendar & tape

This is the perfect holiday gift for students, teachers, neighbors and anyone on your list!

Canvas texture seamless repeat pattern

Canvas texture seamless repeat pattern

Click here to order your calendar and get a start on your holiday shopping – Enjoy!

And don’t forget to enter the stag watercolor art giveaway – contest ends Friday, Nov. 7 at midnight. Click on the button below to go to the contest entry post. Good luck!

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watercolor art print giveaway – corrected link!!

Live & learn!! If you received my post via email this morning, you’ll see that I didn’t make it clear how to enter my giveaway. Ugh! I was doing a test for the entry site {Rafflecopter} and by mistake I published my post before I could work out all the kinks!! So here’s a clearer way {hopefully} to enter the giveaway for the stag with flowers print on my site. Be sure to also enter the big giveaway on The Nesting Place as I outlined below. Again, good luck and send me an email if you have any problems!

giveaway day 2014_5

It’s a win-win opportunity for you and I’m all giddy!

I was asked to participate in a online giveaway on one of my favorite blog sites, The Nesting Place. They do an annual giveaway {this is their 6th year} where ONE very lucky person wins a ton of fabulous items from very talented vendors and artists. And the items are amazing so I was so honored to be asked!! But I was nervous. I didn’t know what to include and I was in such awe of these artists and this awesome blogger that I was very hesitant to even do anything. I kinda had stage freight. Then I quickly snapped out of it {because I was on a deadline} and got to work. I wanted to do a print that was appropriate for the holidays, given the timing, but that could also be used all year round. So I decided on a stag silhouette and fancied it up with some flowers on the antlers. I really surprised myself and loved how it came out! I am loving working with watercolors these days!!

stag print

I thought I would pass this offer on to you so maybe one of my followers could win the super prize from The Nesting Place. Then, I thought… that’s not enough {like $1900 isn’t enough?} and I decided to do my own raffle for your chance to win the same stag watercolor print that I created for The Nesting Place. How ’bout them apples?

So you have 2 chances to win:

ONE: click here to go to The Nesting Place and enter the big, big giveaway for tons of amazing items with a total value of over $1900!!! Win this and your holiday shopping could be done!

TWO: Click this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter my own raffle for your chance to win your own matted {I’ll leave the framing for you to do} watercolor art print. This print is 12×16″, with a matte finished size of 16×20″. This will fit in a standard 16×20″ frame. This prize does not include the frame – way too many options for me to pick for you.

blue stag

I was very excited to be asked to participate in The Nesting Place giveaway. But another bonus for me was after showing my finished stag print to one of my friends, she hired me to paint her one in a blue & gray color palette – and without the flowers – so she can hang it in her boys room. So I guess this was a win-win for me too!

Good luck on both giveaways – and thank you for all your support!

halloween monster mish-mash

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Happy Friday everyone and Happy Halloween! It’s nice when the kids can go trick-or-treating and you don’t have to worry about it being a school night! Here’s a few of my Halloween observations – call it a monster mish-mash. Muwahhaha!

costumes:

Do you make them or buy them? Growing up, my Halloween costumes were always homemade by my mom. And I won the school costume contest every year. Except the year I had the chicken pox. That was a bummer. But my neighbor – who borrowed my ladybug costume that year – did win. My mom was good. These were not costumes that were over the top. They were fairly simple costumes that used common materials like posterboard, brown bags, markers, paper bags, string, etc. But she took the time and made them well. Some of my costumes I remember were a shaggy dog, a ladybug, a turtle, and my sister had one of the cutest costumes – a sunflower.

halloween costumes
I’ve made a few homemade costumes for my kids. Very few. One year my boys were Bob the Builder and Pilchert, the cat. I was Wendy {don’t ask}. All homemade. Another year, they were a fireman and a dalmation, somewhat homemade. And three years ago I made my daughter’s Smurfette costume. When I set my mind to it – I do ok. They’re not going to win any contests but the love and effort and creativity is there. This year, I walked in to the local party store and spent $80 on a batgirl costume and a hippo mask. ugh. Batgirl was ok, cheesy polyester and all. The only part that wasn’t wearable was the belt. And I got kinda excited because that meant I could make her a belt. Woo hoo! So I made the belt using a thick, stretchy black ribbon and heavy black & silver paper for the bat shape. That was it but it felt good to contribute something to her expensive-but-cheesy ensamble.
I wish I saw more homemade costumes when I open my door to the trick-or-treaters. I get it – it’s easy to buy them. And we’re all busy. Too busy to whip up some cleaver, well-made outfits. But those homemade costumes my mother made were special. And we felt special. And I know they didn’t take her weeks to make. Or maybe they did and she never let on.
Then our kids get too old to want us to make them costumes. And they just ask us to paint a t-shirt with blood and scars. Or ask to borrow our sequin dress and a wig. {yes I had a wig}. So they could dress up like a girl. Or just wear a morph mask. huh? Boy it goes by fast.

candy:

Do you hand out mini candy bars or are you the heavy hitters and give the full size? Or do you make your own goody bags? Before they go trick-or-treating, remind your kids to only TAKE ONE unless otherwise specified, be THANKFUL for whatever they are given and show that thanks by actually saying THANK YOU. We usually hand out the full size bars but went with the minis this year and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s my annoyance with the lack of thank you’s from year’s past. Those ungrateful, polyester clad kids don’t deserve the full size bars. Bah Humbug.

 pumpkins:

Did you carve a pumpkin this year? Or did you paint one? I’ve done neither. Bad blogger. But I will carve one today – hopefully, with my daughter – mainly for the seeds {I love them}. I might try painting one too – I think I can get away with still having pumpkins through November. I’m loving the color dipped trend now. Love these from Ciera Design:
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halloween dinner:

Is there such a thing? I have never been able to feed my kids on this night. They are too excited, or have plans, or are busy trying to get their costumes on. Then we run out of time and they go out and end up eating lots and lots of candy. Or what I now call their halloween dinner. So I decided I’m just making picky foods and hopefully they’ll eat them while getting ready. These are a few ideas I saw online but nothing too time consuming. These are more creative than I might have time for but super cute.
halloween recipes
So take a little extra time tonight to be involved. Make a picky-food dinner that they’ll remember – with ghost-shaped cheese if you can. Or carve or paint a pumpkin with your kids – let them do whatever design they want. And it may be too late to make a costume but you could make them their own halloween goody bag, containing a cute flashlight, glow sticks, and some of their favorite candy bars in case they don’t get enough of the good ones. Here’s my goody bag for my youngest:
  stuff in bag
And then wait for it… THANK YOU, Mom! Happy Halloween, y’all!

doorway brackets & small changes

column brackets final

My neighbors were having a yard sale and I picked up a set of wooden brackets that they had taken off their front porch columns. I had always liked them but there are a lot of columns on the front of their house so I think all those brackets maybe were a little much.

doorway before whole

But I loved their detail and I’ve been wanting to install decorative brackets in our oversized doorway between our kitchen and dining room. These were perfect. All they needed was a little cleaning, sanding and installing. Easy peasy.

before & after brackets

I liked their ivory color and thought they would look nice against our bright white trim. So no painting was necessary, but I thought they needed a more worn look. After washing them off, I sanded them with 60 grit sandpaper. It took a little while to sand all the areas but I liked the effect.

attaching

Next, I measured and marked off where they would go. I was lucky that they already had nail holes in them. I just had to buy screws and wall anchors. I drilled the holes then attached the brackets to the doorway.

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I love how they look and the bonus I didn’t expect was how these brackets mimick the style of my dining room curtains – the way they’re pulled to opposite sides. Kinda like that was my intention. Sometimes it’s the little changes that can make a big difference and enhance something in your home that might have been overlooked.

detail in doorway

Hope you enjoyed this post and maybe there’s a small change you can make in your home that will give you a unexpected big result?

white & gold | at Target and beyond

Target collage

The color combination of white & gold is so chic and clean. I just redid a record player rolling cart in this combination {see that DIY post here}, and I can’t help but want to add more to my white & gold collection. So when I was at Target the other day, I got super excited when I strolled down this aisle. Candle holders, pillows, vases, trays, snowglobes, holiday figures, decorative odds and ends, oh my! All part of the White & Gold Collection by Threshold and also The Nate Berkus Collection. And all so pretty. I picked up a gold polka dot vase and small gold tray. I would love to get more but I’m also thinking DIY – a can of spray paint or gold sharpie pens can jazz up any plain white piece. Or, I just might have to go back for another trip.

vases

Here are links to some of the hot white & gold items at Target:

geometric vases / x shaped candle holder / chevron pillow / bowl / polka dot vase / small tray / curtains / gold embroidered pillow

I have to admit, this white & gold combination is not new for me. I wore it to prom. Yes, white & metallic gold. Pouffy white & metallic gold. I loved it and no one else had that dress.

Unique White Julian Prom Dresses Gold Beads Sequin A Line Formal Gowns Jewel Neck 70th Globe Award

Obviously, this is not it. But I love this dress.

Here are a few other examples of the white & gold combination in other areas of design:

paperless post invites

invitations from Paperless Post

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pocketbook

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necklace

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prints

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coasters

What do you think of the white & gold color combination? Do you have any of this combination in your home or wardrobe? Whatever the case, I can bet you didn’t have a white & gold prom dress. Enjoy your weekend!

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