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  • Jas

Together, Apart

We’re all probably tired of hearing how the holiday season is going to look different this year.

I know I am!

I don't consider myself an expert on things, but for a good part of our relationship, Greg and I have been doing long distance. Which means we've had to get creative about spending time together and showing each other affection.

Since we got married and moved to Illinois, away from both of our families, we've shifted that creative energy towards finding ways to let our families know that we're thinking about them.

So while, for a lot of people, this holiday season will look different, many of us have been in this position before.

So I wanted to share what we're doing to spend the holidays together, apart!

Earlier this year I ordered four of these gorgeous wooden advent calendars from Lowe's. One for my mother-in-law, my two sister-in laws, and one for our home. I originally wanted to shop small and order off of Etsy, however with international shipping delays and some of the reviews I was seeing, this seemed like the best bet in order to get a handful of advent calendars.

Not only are these advent calendars really beautiful, but the quality is great, and they light up! I was adamant about investing in these for a few reasons. First, they can be incorporated into holiday décor in any home. The wood finish is pretty neutral and the possibilities are endless!

I was set on wooden advent calendars because they are re-usable. I have been making an effort to be more eco-friendly around our holiday traditions, because it's the easiest time to get carried away in all the fun and gift giving. I wanted something that would last, and the idea of these advent calendars getting pulled out of the box every year, and a piece of us being with our family no matter where we are for the holidays was so romantic to me. Maybe one day these advent calendars will get passed on to children! I even saved and re-used the packaging they came in when sending them out after filling them up.

Lastly, because you can fill the calendars yourself, it gave us a chance to mix it up with little presents that everyone might enjoy. Chocolate every day is great, but that might not work for everyone. You might have someone diabetic in your family. I have a sister-in-law that doesn't really like chocolate. And a brother-in-law that's not a fan of sweets. Being able to fill the calendar ourselves gave us a chance to get more creative and include even more surprises for our loved ones throughout the month. They'll never know what's coming!

So what did I fill these calendars with?

  • Chocolate

  • Festive Masks (we want everyone to stay safe, but add a little holiday cheer!)

  • Mini bath bombs

  • Handmade ornaments (made from wine corks and mostly craft supplies I had on hand!)

  • Christmas keychains

  • Spices from Spicewalla

  • Nail polish from Sephora

  • Hair clips from Anthropologie

  • Snowflakes that stick to windows!

  • Pot lid holders from Sur La Table

  • Assorted Kitchen goodies from Sur La Table

  • Assorted knick knacks (little present boxes, a wreath ornament)

  • Handwritten Christmas jokes (only the cheesiest for our family)

It looks like a short list, but we got five kinds of chocolates, including these sugar cookie flavored Hershey's kisses! We also made five kinds of winter wonderland ornaments using wine corks I collected over the years; a penguin, a snowman, a reindeer, gingerbread, and an elf.

The masks and bath bombs I picked up from a local bookstore. Almost every mom and pop shop has a gifts/stocking stuffer section this time of year. It was a great way for me to support a local business, and also get the creative juices flowing! Sometimes you're not sure what you can put in until you see it, and it helps me get a better idea of what will or won't fit in the advent calendar.

The Christmas keychains were made with charms Greg picked out at Michael's, and I picked up some key rings from the local craft store as well!

The spice samples are from the Spicewalla Baking Tasting Collection, which comes with samples of 12 of their spices and blends. We figured, our family will definitely be baking, so why not give them something we know they'll use, like Pumpkin Pie Spice or Apple Pie Spice, and give them a chance to try one of our favorite brands? We were able to give two samples to each of the households and we were able to pick them out depending on what we think they'll enjoy most! And because we had some extras, I added the Golden Milk and Everything Bagel Seasoning samples to a care package for my BFF!

The nail polish from Sephora and hair clips from Anthropologie came in packs so it was easy for me to pick one out of each set for my MIL and SILs. When you look at stocking stuffers, you will find a ton of things that come in packs that you can easily divide up among multiple groups or households.

I did the same with the fun animal pot lid holders from Sur La Table. I also scoped out the store and found a few kitchen gadgets that would fit, that I could tailor to each household! I got Christmas light wine glass charms for my SIL and rolling pin rings for my brother-in-law who has started making his own pasta!

The little trinkets were just things Greg found while scanning Michaels that could be used as an ornament or décor, and the handwritten jokes we found online and wrote on strips of brown paper, rolled up, and tied into scrolls with some festive green ribbon I already had on hand! The window snowflakes came in a pack at Joann's and I cut them up to better fit them in to the different slots!

While I can't wait to countdown with our family, making these ornaments, picking out the goodies, and wrapping the advent calendars with Greg has already given us loads of quality time, just the two of us.

You may not have time to put together these advent calendars for your loved ones in 2020, but these items will make great stocking stuffers, and making the ornaments can be a fun activity for you and the loved ones in your immediate household!

I know many of us are struggling, and I know I'm posting this from a place of privilege, but I hope that you can pick and choose what works for you from this post, and make the most of this holiday season. We all deserve moments of joy. Amidst all the stress and ups and downs of 2020, I hope you are able to find at least a little love and happiness with your loved ones this holiday season.

To see what advent calendar Greg, Juniper, and I will be using to countdown to Christmas, you can check out my last blog post, here.

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