Homemade gifts hold special meaning

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Homemade from the heart: Handmade gifts such as Christmas cookies lend a special feel to the giver and receiver at holiday time. | Photo by Fotolia

Each year the quest starts out the same: find the perfect presents to show our loved ones how much we care. We brave the crowds, navigate convoluted websites and keep our fingers crossed we bought the right size and color. No worries, when all else fails there’s always a gift card. In a culture of tenuous economics coupled with consumer burnout, handmade gifts are hitting high notes with both givers and receivers.

As an unemployed teacher, Jessica Staley-Carroll of Mokena plans to incorporate many handmade gifts into the gift-giving season. “I’ve always liked to do something handmade – especially cookies or sweets. I love baking and enjoy giving people a gift that tastes delicious,” said Staley-Carroll. This year, Staley-Carroll is making personalized bath bombs for all her girlfriends.

“We all stopped exchanging gifts because it just got too expensive and we need to buy for our kids and families, but I wanted to do a little something special for each of them just to show them I’m thinking about them. I found a recipe to make fizzy bath bombs — just like the ones sold at (high-end retailers),” Staley-Carroll said.

For 30 years, Pam Jurkowski, of Oak Lawn, has been making handmade Christmas gifts for her family and friends that stemmed from a gift she received from a friend.

“When I was first married a friend gave me a homemade tree skirt,” Jurkowski recalled. “It was little with just a circle with a ruffle on the end, but every Christmas when I took it out, I thought of her. So I decided to give that memory to each of my sisters as a Christmas gift.”

Once her nieces started getting married and having children of their own, Jurkowski decided to pass down the tradition by presenting a personalized Christmas tree skirt every bridal or baby shower.

Sisterly love

Jurkowski reminisced growing up with five sisters who were her best friends in childhood and still are today. She says each year she tries to come up with an idea that will give her sisters a piece of her heart.

“A lot of my ideas are not completely homemade, but I’ve put a spin on them to make them my own. This tradition stemmed from a book I read about sisters. I asked each of my sisters to write a little description of each of their sisters and then took pictures of them and added their stories and pictures to the back of the book, which I had purchased for each,” Jurkowski said.

One year, Jurkowski bought cookie jars for all her sisters to remind them of the days when they sat at the kitchen table and played “who stole the cookie from the cookie jar.”

“These were just a creative twist on gifts that I hope meant something to my sisters since they all came from the heart. Not quite homemade but ‘heart-made,’” noted Jurkowski.

Jurkowski and Staley-Carroll believe the best gifts come from the heart. While Staley-Carroll cautions that they are not right for everyone on your Christmas list, when it’s the right person, it makes a big impression.

“A homemade gift can be something as simple as homemade cookies or a framed picture that you personalize with a special photo memory; a homemade bookmark with pictures or a memorable quote. I just received one from my best friend that I will cherish for a long time,” Jurkowski said.