[The 2004 St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace as photographed by MNkiteman.]
No matter what you're celebrating this time of year, many of us choose to express our holiday spirit by giving gifts to the people we love. Expanding on last year's short list of alternative gift ideas, here are my picks for the "Holidaze 2008". They might just bring you a little sanity and humanity during the coming hustle and bustle.
Changing the Present on Facebook | For my friend Kristin's birthday this year I sent her a virtual gift through the social networking website Facebook. Just a small image that she can display on her profile page, it's essentially a virtual expression of our real-world friendship. It cost me $1. Well now Changing the Present, whom I featured in last years Holiday Like You Give A damn, has partnered with Facebook so that your $1 gift purchase can go to a non-profit of your choice. If you're linked into Facebook, just run a search for "Changing the Present". Happy gifting!
NEED magazine | Now 4 issues strong, the quarterly NEED magazine has really come into its own since I featured it last year. The magazine proclaims "We are not out to save the world, but to tell the stories of those who are". Stephanie and Kelly Kinnunen, the creators of the magazine (and Twin Cities residents), have been doing an amazing job of it. You can watch Stephanie talk about their work here. A quick and exciting aside: issue 4, now hot off the presses, features a story on the AFHMN/ MNSLFF project in Sri Lanka and photographs by AFHMN's own
Q-BA-MAZE | The Q-BA-MAZE is another very cool gift idea with a Minnesota connection. Andrew Comfort, the inventor of Q-BA-MAZE, studied architecture at my alma-mater, The University of Minnesota. In the same vein as Froebal Blocks and Legos, the Q-BA-MAZE is a beautifully simple set of objects designed to let the user's imagination express itself through the act of building. A gift for children of all ages, I can tell you from experience that you will likely loose hours playing with it. Andrew also writes a blog called Play and Design that features some great posts on the Q-BA-MAZE design and development process.
XO Laptop: Give One Get one | So you probably know the scoop by now: you buy two of these tiny yet robust laptops; one goes to a child in a developing country and the other gets shipped right to your doorstep. Twin Cities blogger Aaron Landry recently "gave one got one" and wrote about his first impressions of the laptop, it's definitely worth checking out if you're interested in the project. The Give One Get One program has been extended through the end of December, but after that you won't really be able to get your mittens on one of these, so act quickly.
Solar Panel Messenger Bag from Voltaic | I can't attest to the functionality of this bag, but I love the concept: 3 photovoltaic panels make it a mobile power generator designed to charge all of your electronic gadgetry while you're on the go. The bag includes a battery so that energy you've collected over the course of the day is stored and can be used to provided a constant charge, day or night. If you're in the Twin Cities metro region, get over to locally owned and operated Sunny Day Earth Solutions to check out this bag and other eco-conscious gift ideas first hand.
Smart Generosity | There are so many non-profits and great organizations out there deserving of your charity that the shear breadth of options can easily become daunting. So how to best figure out where you should donate your hard-earned cash? I think the most important thing is to choose a non-profit working towards goals that are important to you or the people you are gifting. As with any gift, the more thought you put into it, the more it will mean to both you and the receiver. If you're still looking for a place to start, NEED magazine recently published a list that has some truly unique organizations looking for your help.
Happy Holidays from Architecture for Humanity Minnesota and Blog Like You Give A Damn! See you in the New Year!