Baby essentials you absolutely must have – tried and true items from real-life moms

Baby essentials you absolutely must have - tried and true items from real-life moms | Cardstore Blog

Oh, babies!

There is nothing more exciting than becoming a parent for the first time. But once the joy of caring for this tiny little human starts to sink in, you realize that they’re going to need some stuff—actually, a BUNCH of stuff. And if you’re a first-time parent, chances are, you currently own none of it. No problem—they’ve got whole stores for this, right?

By the time I was pregnant with my son, I’d gone shopping for other people’s baby shower gifts plenty of times and never thought twice about it. So, off my husband and I went to register—let’s grab that little “gun” and get to scanning!

As soon as we stepped in the door, the once cute and snuggly baby-wonderland morphed into a massive jungle of baby bits and pieces. What do you mean there’s 17 different kinds of bottles? And what on earth is a (insert item of your choice here)—and I do WHAT with it?  For a moment, my head exploded a bit. Oh, boy. We were in for some good times!

While we all have different needs and wants for our babies, a few starter ideas from some “been there, done that” moms would have been great.

Considering that we’ve got a mom-to-be on our team, there’s been a lot of talk about baby stuff lately. So, I asked some of the moms around here what their favorite baby essentials were, and I thought it would be fun to share them with you. I actually ended up with so much great stuff that we decided to split it up into a few posts (which you’ll continue to see over the coming months).

Let’s get started with the basics. While there’s sure to be way cuter things for your baby, here are some of the true workhorse items that will make life with your new little one a lot less messy, itchy, stinky… You get the picture.

Baby essentials you absolutely must have - tried and true items from real-life moms | Cardstore Blog

1. Dreft Laundry Stain Remover
I give this miracle-in-a-bottle with every shower gift I buy. I can’t tell you how many little outfits this has saved. It even works wonders for grown-up stains too!

2. Soothie Pacifiers
These are the ones they use in the hospital. And for good reason—they really do work! They’re also latex and BPA free, durable, and easy to clean.

3. Pinxav
There is simply no match for how well Pinxav coats your baby’s bottom when they’re dealing with diaper rash. It cures those really horrible, red-inflamed, make-you-cry-for-your-baby’s-butt rashes that spring up. And I have no idea why, but it’s extremely difficult to find in stores, so it’s good to have a couple tubes on hand for when you need them. (Be careful applying it because it’s pink in color and WILL stain clothes!)

4. Newborn Diapers (with pee strip indicator)
If you’re going the disposables route, these are great at taking the guesswork out of all those diaper changes. And in the beginning, there’s going to be a lot of those!

5. Roll-up Table Mats
For eating on the go!  These were always in my diaper bag—we used them for several years and they held up great!

6. Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment
This awesome little ointment comes in handy for all kinds of baby needs. Great for dry skin, cradle cap, and healing little boy parts…

7. Sidesnap Shirts
These help to keep your baby’s belly-button area from becoming chafed or irritated before the cord falls off.

8. NoseFrida the Snotsucker
I know. It sounds super gross. …until  you need it—and then you’re so thankful for it that you’ll never make fun of it again. (Yes, there is  a foam filter that separates your mouth from the boogers.)

9. Terry Cloth Towels (for use as burp cloths)
These are an excellent alternative to tiny burp cloths, because babies DON’T have tiny burps. (At least mine didn’t!)

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Whew! Lots to think about, huh? Hopefully these things will get you going in the right direction! If you’ve got some other tried-and-true baby essentials to share, we’d love to hear from you!

And stay tuned for next month’s post about our favorite baby gear and toys!

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My most favorite Mother’s Day card of all time, and where it came from

With Mother’s Day coming up, I thought it might be a good time to a share the story behind one of my favorite Mother’s Day cards.

Last year, when we sat down to brainstorm some new Mother’s Day ideas, I couldn’t help but think about the Mother’s Day gift my niece, nephew and sister made for my mom a couple years ago.

It was a laminated sign meant to be displayed in the kitchen (it ended up on the fridge, of course), and it featured the kids’ adorable little handprints as the main design. At the time, they were 1 and 4, respectively, so my sister helped them with the writing, which said “Lola’s Kitchen” (“Lola” is the Tagalog word for “grandma”). At the bottom, she listed out all the other super-important things my mom does, which we like to say (half-jokingly) are available 24/7.

When the team was brainstorming for Mother’s Day, we knew the chalkboard look was still going strong, and I thought this idea would translate perfectly to a card. Of course, we couldn’t replicate the cuteness of the kids’ actual handprints, but we were  able to turn the idea into a chalkboard that you might find at an actual café!

My most favorite Mother’s Day card of all time, and where it came from

I was pretty pumped to be able to give this one to my mom last year, and while it might not be quite as cute, I’m proud to say that it’s still hanging on my mom’s fridge, right next to the one the kids made.

My most favorite Mother's Day card of all time, and where it came from | Cardstore Blog

And in case you were wondering… No, I didn’t pay the kids any money for their idea, but they HAVE been the recipients’ of multiple lunches, trips to the zoo, and rides to saxophone lessons within the past year :)

Little treats with big personality: fun appetizers on a stick

Little treats with big personality: Fun appetizers on a stick  | Cardstore Blog

If you’re like me, you’ve been inundated with all sorts of blogs and pins of absolutely PERFECT looking parties and wonder, “who on earth has time to do THAT?” Well, over the coming months, we’re going to show you a few simple tricks and tips to add extra zestiness to any event. This is the first in a series of posts to help you take even the simplest gathering to the next level.

We’ve all seen how cake pops have forever changed party tablescapes and diets (it’s just one little bite, right?), but let’s not stop there! Serving fun appetizers on a stick is a great way to hold things together—everybody knows a mess-free guest is a happy guest—AND one-handed appetizers leave the other hand free for a drink! Add in a little washi tape and creativity, and they can become the perfect recipe to add fabulous functionality and whimsy to any party or event you’re hosting.

Marshmallow Pops

Little treats with big personality: Fun appetizers on a stick  | Cardstore Blog

Whenever I see a marshmallow, it brings out the kid in me! Whether you’re throwing a kid’s party or just want to add a fun treat to an adult affair, these are quick and easy.

I started these by adding a washi tape flag to a lollipop stick, and cutting a small “V” shape into the tape. Then, I used my little “flag poles” to dip some good ol’ marshmallows in melted dark chocolate and rolled them in colored sprinkles for an extra festive touch. Feel free to use your creativity—chocolate and pistachios would be a nice combo, or you could use graham crackers to make S’mores on a stick!

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BLTA Burgers

Little treats with big personality: Fun appetizers on a stick  | Cardstore Blog

Will guys be there? Chances are, those cute little finger sandwiches aren’t going to cut it… Try this mash-up of bite size burgers with everyone’s favorite sandwich on top!

I started by toasting up rounds of sandwich bread and cut them out with a 1 1/2″ round cookie cutter. Then, I took BBQ skewers (cut down to size), decorated them with torn washi tape, and stacked them with tiny little burgers, bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado for a super tasty and fabulous-looking treat!

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Caprese Skewers

Little treats with big personality: Fun appetizers on a stick  | Cardstore Blog

Everybody loves a salad, but they’re admittedly hard to serve as a starter. So here’s a fun way to do one!

For these, I used the same kind of BBQ skewers I used for the BLTA burgers (you’ll need something sharp that can pierce through the tomatoes), and accented them with sparkly metallic washi tape. To each one, I added a cherry tomato (cut in half), a mini fresh mozzarella ball (baby bocconcini), and a piece of fresh basil. Drizzle with some balsamic vinaigrette if you like, and you have a dish that’s beautiful, healthy and easy-to-eat!

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I hope these get your party-planning ideas flowing. Stay tuned for more fun and easy ways to add special touches to your entertaining!

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Card-making just got WAY more fun for kids (and adults!)

I love Saturday mornings at home with my little man. My husband works on Saturdays, so Carter and I make breakfast together, play games, and just generally spend quality time together. It’s usually easy for us to stay busy, but winter has been LONG this year in Ohio, and lately we’ve been running out of things to do. Meanwhile, my to-do list (of responsible, grown-up things) just keeps growing longer and longer.

So, I could hardly wait for our new Creatacard kids app to be released on the iPad, and I was super excited to try it out with Carter by making a few Mother’s Day cards for Grandma. (Something that’s fun for him and  lets me cross something off my to-do list? Sold!)

Carter making his very own paper greeting card on the Creatacard app!

We fired up the Creatacard app, which has two options: to start from scratch or to choose a card template. He made his own card from scratch first, using the virtual crayons, paint, markers, stamps, and stickers. (He loved  the stickers and stamps.) I helped him by adding some text for him to draw around.

Carter making his very own paper greeting card on the Creatacard app!

Then, we tried option 2 (the one we ended up sending). We looked through the card templates, and he picked one that he could add his photo to and send to Grandma. We used the camera on the iPad to take a silly picture of him, signed the inside, put in Grandma’s address, and voila! A beautiful paper card that we made together was on its way to Grandma, professionally printed and mailed for us—just as if we’d created it on the Cardstore website.

The finished paper card we made on the new Creatacard app!

I can honestly say I LOVE this app (and not just because I helped make it)! It’s so easy and fun, and Carter feels like he actually made the card for Grandma, rather than me helping him sign one I brought home from the store. The only problem is… now he keeps asking to make more cards :)

If you download the Creatacard app, stop back and let us know what you think!

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Graduation gifts – way more fun by the box!

Graduation gifts - way more fun by the box! | Cardstore Blog

Graduation season is just around the corner, which means graduation parties—and graduation parties mean graduation gifts!

Sure, you could just go to someone’s high school graduation party with a check—which is always super useful, and very much appreciated—but if you’re sick of just giving boring old money (*note: I did NOT type that with a straight face), then how about a useful collection of things they can really use once they get to college?

Back around Valentine’s Day, we did a Date-in-a-box post, and that got the gears turning for other gift-in-a-box ideas. Thus was born the awesomely spectacular idea of the grad gift-package… in-a-box! It’s almost like a prize-package that people get just for graduating high school :)

So, we’ve taken a stab at putting together a package meant for someone going away to college. It’s pretty much a random assortment of items that a high school grad might not realize they need—at least not until they step into a dorm (or a dorm shower stall) for the first time.

The College Survival Kit

  • flip flops
  • a shower caddy
  • this book
  • a microwavable soup bowl
  • laundry detergent (in “pod” form, because it’s easier to carry around)
  • some college cuisine (a gourmet selection of ramen noodles and some mac ‘n cheese)
  • a subscription to Neflix (or your HBO Go password, depending on how cool you are)
  • this classic graduation gift book
  • a gas card (so they can get away from campus, or even get home if they need to)

See? The only thing better than a graduation gift is a whole BOX of graduation gifts—and there’s still plenty of room in there for a check, if you so choose :)

I know we concentrated on putting together a package for someone going off to college, but this was just the tip of the grad-gifting iceberg! There are plenty of options for grads who are traveling, planning on living at home for a while, or going straight into the real world. (And we also came up with quite a few gift ideas for grads going to the military, but felt we could do that topic a lot more justice in a post of its own.)

Hopefully, this gets some ideas going for you, but if you think I really missed out on something, by all means, let me know!

7 cool things to do with kids art (that don’t involve the fridge)

7 cool things to do with kids art (that don't involve the fridge) | Cardstore Blog

When we were kids, my brothers and I created so much “artwork,” that I’m sure finding room on the fridge for all of it was a real challenge! But somehow, my mom always found a way to make it work (and to this day, I’m pretty sure she still has all of it stored in boxes). Looking back, though, I’m sure she would’ve loved a few more ideas around what to do with kids art (BESIDES using your fridge as a gallery). :)

I’ve listed some of my my favorites that I’ve seen online, and hopefully one of these will spark your interest and inspire you to do something creative with your child’s art!

1. Turn your child’s art into a toy

I absolutely LOVE this idea. You can work with Child’s Own Studio to create an amazing stuffed animal that your child can play with, but the best part is that the toy is a recreation of your child’s drawing, brought to life as a stuffed animal!

Though this is my very favorite idea, I should add that there is a wait list to have these made, so if you’re looking for something more immediate, this may not be the right option for you.

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2. Preserve their artwork in a photobook

My next favorite (and it’s a very close second) is a photobook. This is a great way to preserve your child’s art and show it off to your friends and family! You can even include pictures of your little ones mixed in with their masterpieces.

I recommend using Blurb because they have a variety of sizes and lots of options. And in the meantime, the Artkive app is a great way to store all your pictures until you’re ready to make your book.

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3. Showcase several pieces on a curtain rod display

Apartment Therapy always has some clever, out-of-the-box ideas on decorating your home, and this one’s no exception. I love this idea for hanging your kids art because it allows you to hang more than one piece, and  it’s easy to add or switch out pieces as your child brings them home!

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4. Let them create their own card art

The Creatacard app allows your child to create their own artwork using virtual crayons, paint tools and stickers. Once they’re done with their digital art, they can then turn it into a real-life paper greeting card that they can send to whomever they want (with a grownup’s help, of course). On the inside of the card, they can even add a photo and their own personal message!

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5. Turn it into a mobile

With this step-by-step walkthrough by Warm Hot Chocolate, you can combine your child’s art with a little of craftiness of your own to create a decorative mobile.  Now, you and your kids can enjoy your creative hanging artwork for years to come!

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6. Make it a permanent installation

7 cool things to do with kids art (that don't involve the fridge) | Cardstore Blog

Dear Lizzy / Elizabeth Kratchner

This idea came from Elizabeth Kratchner, and it’s a good one! You can easily turn your child’s art into a permanent installation by placing it in a shadow box and adding some decorative pieces to it. Love the use of the crayons in there.

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7. Showcase more than one, even in a limited space

Making a collage of your kid’s art is perfect if you have limited wall space! Emily, from Merrypad details out how she made hers and shared it for anyone who’s interested. There are lots of ways you can do this though, so make sure you decide what kind of layout works best for your wall space.

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I can’t wait till my daughter is old enough to paint, because I’m dying to try out some of these super cute ideas. As always, I’d love to hear any of your creative ideas on displaying or preserving your child’s artwork!

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Arrr you ready for a party? Free pirate party printables

Arrr you ready for a party? Free pirate party printables | Cardstore Blog

After Elizabeth provided her tips for planning a party like a pro, I really wanted to do a little more to help make your own party look and feel really special. So, if you’re planning on having a pirate-themed kids party, you’re in luck! I figured the best way to help you out (since I can’t throw each of you a party) would be to create some free pirate party printables.

Arrr you ready for a party? Free pirate party printables | Cardstore Blog

I love this pirate party invitation, so I used it as my inspiration to design 7 different free pirate party printables for your very own parrrty! Included you’ll find a pirate hat, water bottle labels, cupcake toppers, treat bag labels, food tent cards, a party banner (whole alphabet included), and straw flags.

Our treasure chest shown above was purchased from a local craft store and painted with black and gold – similar.

Arrr you ready for a party? Free pirate party printables | Cardstore Blog

All the items are set up on 8.5″x11″ paper to fit any standard printer, and the treat bag labels are designed to fit perfectly over sandwich or treat size baggies, so they are super easy to use! (I highly recommend printing on a lightweight card stock if you can.)

Arrr you ready for a party? Free pirate party printables | Cardstore Blog

The cupcake toppers are best cut with a 2″ circle hole punch. I turned the punch upside down so I could see where I was cutting (the designs are slightly larger than 2″ so you won’t have white edges). Then, I glued them back to back (I used a glue stick to prevent wrinkles), placing a toothpick in between the two layers. Finally, I added crushed graham cracker and edible gold pearl decorations to my cupcakes to look like sand with buried treasure!

Arrr you ready for a party? Free pirate party printables | Cardstore BlogArrr you ready for a party? Free pirate party printables | Cardstore Blog

Click on the links to download your pirate printables: 1) hat, treat labels, food tents 2) cupcake toppers, straw flags, water bottle labels 3) party banner.

Arrr you ready for a party? Free pirate party printables | Cardstore Blog

Have any other ideas for a pirate-themed party, or another theme you’d like us to try? Let me know!

Look what I made! Homemade Mother’s Day gifts for grown-ups

Look what I made! Homemade Mother's Day gifts for grown-ups | Cardstore Blog

For a lot of moms, Mother’s Day means adorable, homemade Mother’s Day gifts created by little hands, and it’s no secret that kid-crafts like these can become some of a mom’s most favorite keepsakes.

But now that you’re older, it doesn’t mean that you still can’t give your mom a totally sweet, nostalgic, homemade Mother’s Day gift that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds her of the good old days when you were a kid.

Are we saying you should paste some uncooked macaroni to a homemade card? No (and we promise not to judge if you do), but if you think about it a little, there’s usually a grown-up version of your favorite kid-crafts. So, why not let Mom know how much she means to you AND show off those far superior motor-skills you’ve gained over the years?

Here are a few ideas to get you going.

1. Homemade jewelry

If you’re like us, you probably remember making your mom necklaces out of things like yarn, beads, colored pasta, or even popcorn. You can bring that same kind of creative joy into the world of adulthood by crafting a necklace out of more grown-up items (which you might even already have around the house). Here are two of our favorite how-tos: a woven bead necklace by Brit + Co., and a super-cute ribbon necklace by I Spy DIY (both pictured above).

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2. Hand-decorated flower pots

Remember how, when you were a kid, you’d plant things in the bottom of styrofoam cups and watch them sprout on the window sill? How about recreating that same joy for Mom by giving her a flower-pot containing some early-blooming spring bulbs? You can buy flowers anywhere, but if you plant them yourself, you can decorate the pot, or have your own little ones help you!

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3. Face-time for real

Look what I made! Homemade Mother's Day gifts for grown-ups | Cardstore Blog

foodbeam | American Greetings | Laura Spector

Spend some quality time with Mom, just like you did when you were little. If you loved baking cookies together when you were a kid, you might try filling a large mason jar with your favorite cookie-dough mix, and attaching an invite for Mom to join you. Or, if you think she’d enjoy it, you might consider making (or having your kids make) a pinch pot, and presenting it with a gift certificate to a pottery class that you can attend together.

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4. Childhood photos

It might not necessarily be a kid-craft, but recreating a photo from your childhood is not only a great way to relive those moments from the past, but also celebrate how far you’ve come. That photo from your family vacation in 1987? Your favorite photo from a picnic in the park? Go back to that place, take a picture of yourself in the exact same spot, and present it side by side with your old photo. If you’ve got kids of your own, maybe you can re-enact the photo with your kids in the picture. Depending on how you treat it, this one could be really silly or really heartfelt—it’s all up to you.

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5. A homemade card (kind of)

If you’re looking for the grownup version of a homemade greeting card (but with a lot more production value), look no further. Cardstore has more than a few Mother’s Day cards that are so customizable, once you choose a template, you’ll be creating a completely one-of-a-kind piece art. If you’d still like that box-of-crayons feel, and you’ve got kids of your own, their artwork can still stay front and center on with cards like this one or this one.

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6. A handwritten recipe

Do you or your mom have a recipe you’ve been cooking or baking together since you were a kid? Better yet, do you have a recipe actually  written out in your mom or grandma’s handwriting? Turn it into a framed keepsake, or if you’re feeling especially motivated, you can have it engraved on a cutting board!

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So, what do you think? Ready for a little extra nostalgia this Mother’s Day? Here’s to always being a kid at heart!

How to make newborn cheesecloth wraps for photo shoots (totally affordable and SO EASY!)

How to make newborn cheesecloth wraps for photo shoots (they're totally affordable & SO EASY!) | Cardstore Blog

Ever since Emily’s gender reveal a few weeks ago, I’ve been in newborn-photo-shoot-prep-mode, anxiously awaiting the day I get to take her sweet little baby’s photos! And that’s pretty much where the theme behind today’s DIY craft comes from: how to make newborn cheesecloth wraps for photo shoots.

A swaddle is a great thing to have on hand for a photo shoot because it’s such an easy way to get your newborn to relax and fall into a deep sleep, allowing you to move around them a little more freely. (Sound familiar? You might remember this from my post a few weeks ago, where I shared some of my favorite newborn photography tips.)

But before we get to the actual how-to, let me just start by saying that these are SO EASY to make. I was actually shocked just how easy and  inexpensive they are! The cheesecloth was only $1 per yard, and the dye was $4 per bottle. I was able to make 7 of these with the cheesecloth I had, and I still have enough dye left over to make approximately 3 billion more wraps :)

How to make newborn cheesecloth wraps for photo shoots (they're totally affordable & SO EASY!) | Cardstore Blog

How to make newborn cheesecloth wraps:

Supplies:
2 yards of white cheesecloth per wrap
RIT dye (this handy RIT Color Formula Guide will tell you which dyes to mix to get your desired color)
A large bowl or bucket you don’t mind getting stained by the dye
A stainless steel spoon for stirring
Measuring cups & spoons
Scissors
Mesh laundry bag (optional but helpful)

Directions:

1. Cut the cheesecloth into 2-yard pieces. It’ll feel like it’s got some serious static cling going on, so unfold it, spread it out, and help it get unstuck from itself.

2. Fill your bowl or bucket with about 8 cups of hot water. (This seemed to be just the right amount so the cheesecloth could move freely in the water.)

3. Add dye according to the formula in the RIT Color Formula Guide. The formulas in the guide are per 1 cup of water, so remember to multiply the amount of dye times 8 to account for the 8 cups of water. (All my colors seemed to come out a bit darker than the guide showed, so if you start seeing that with yours too, you may want to add a couple extra cups of water to dilute the color.)

4. Let the cheesecloth soak for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Rinse it in warm water, and then gradually cooler water, until the water runs clear.

5. If you have a mesh laundry bag, put the cheesecloth inside the bag and wash it on the delicate setting, using free & clear laundry detergent. Then, place the bag into the dryer and dry on low using a free & clear dryer sheet. If you don’t have a mesh laundry bag, hand wash the cheesecloth and air dry.

6. Clean the sink or bucket with a chlorine-based cleaner.

That’s it!

Here’s the 7 colors I ended up with:

How to make newborn cheesecloth wraps for photo shoots (they're totally affordable & SO EASY!) | Cardstore Blog

And as always, if you give this a try at home, come back and let us know how they turned out!

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Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years)

As a newlywed (I just got married in October), I’m excited to have “official” anniversaries to share with my husband. We’ve always enjoyed celebrating special days in our relationship, but now it’s the real deal!

I was aware that there were different anniversary gifts by year because my parents (who’ve been married for 45) always have fun with this. But, as far as I knew, the first year was a paper gift, and then… no clue.

Like the naturally inquisitive person that I am, I went to find the answers—and came across some great inspiration, too. If you’re like me, and you’re wondering what’s on deck, here are the first 10 years (we’ll cover more years in future posts)—complete with a few fun, personalized gift ideas.

Hope you have a good time creatively celebrating your love!

Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog
first (clockwise from top right):  paper wedding hearts / “open when…” letters / letterpress couples stationery
second: cotton tote bag with monogram / personalized team apparelmonogrammed robes

Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog
third: leather wrapped cocktail shaker & ice bucket / leather bracelets / leather photo album
fourth: fruit of the month club / key shadow box collection (mounted on linen) / flowers

Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog
fifth: LOVE sign on reclaimed wood / personalized wine barrel  / wood tray with monogram
sixth: handcrafted gothic letter / cast iron skillet / custom candy gift (with all their favorites)

Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog
seventh: personalized wedding plaque / copper mugs / wool throw
eighth: bronze statue / bronze pocket watch / personalized bronze disc necklace

Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog Awesome anniversary gifts by year (the first 10 years) | Cardstore Blog
ninth: willow branch necklace / take a couples pottery class at a local studio / produce pun plates
tenth: wrap the gift in aluminum foil / craft beer in cans / pic-nic box

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