Borealis gift guides: Minnesota-made gifts for play


Here’s Borealis’s curated picks for gifts that are fun to shop for and get, for the kids and adults in your life. These Minnesota-made gifts would be welcome under any tree (especially ours!)

beka blocksBlocks are possibly the best toy ever invented (though they may share that honor with Legos), and quality blocks will last your child’s entire lifetime and more. (They will never be retired; my 13-year-old still plays with them when Rube Goldberg engineering is required.) Just down the road from my house in a little storefront building, Beka Natural Wood Products has been making eco-friendly, all wood blocks and toys for more than 40 years. I have several little nieces and nephews who’ll be getting some Block Block Buddies and Whimsies this year. Or, splurge for one of the big sets full of special building shapes or a lemonade stand or puppet theater. An older child might like a weaving loom. So fun!

AA Collage
Local art studio Aesthetic Apparatus has an amazing selection of Minnesota-themed prints at affordable prices (also tees and pints). If you’re looking for a great value and an adventure, get their “Mystery Tube Sale” — for $30 they send you 5 frame-worthy prints of their choosing. I bought a tube last fall and we had a blast unveiling the contents (I’d requested kid-friendly art, and got prints containing a dino, pizza, Abe Lincoln, a creature called “Doombuddy,” a blue bird, a tiger, and a bike. I actually got 7 prints – 2 more than the promised 5!). It was so fun I’m itching to do it again, but I only have so many walls…

arrow necklace

Larissa Loden‘s playful jewelry is a favorite of ours, and with their prices ($20 for the arrow necklace, above) you can afford to have fun. I have this arrow one and love it (I followed the advice my friend Kristen gave us to coat inexpensive jewelry with clear nail polish so your skin oils don’t degrade the finish.) From mini books to compelling hexagons to wee adorable axes, Loden has something for everyone. Patina carries a nice selection.



I can’t think of a kid I know who doesn’t love dress up — one of the best and longest-lasting toy investments ever. Fairy Finery in Golden Valley makes capes, butterfly wings, hats, wands, and costumes, including one that looks positively “Frozen”. (Oh, and there are adult capes too. Just sayin’.)

paloma tin

I consider candles a winter necessity (kind of like ice scrapers and snow boots). Their cozy light and freshening scent help make the early evenings seem special. Local candle company Illume makes the best candles — the most interesting scents, well packaged, and for affordable prices. Their “Naughty” and “Nice” candles are adorable, and their $9 mini tins are great to have on hand when you need a little gift. Stock up so you won’t be caught off guard, and if you end up not needing them, well then, more for you!


The 16 oz. Society (makers of those great t-shirts featuring Minnesota brews) has a set of two or four “State of Beer” pint glasses featuring our state’s iconic shape and breweries. The price is nice too – just $10 for two or $18 for four. These make my list! (Readers from other states take heart – they’ve added a few more states to the product mix!)


For your little artists: Handmade jumbo crayons in a canvas roll for $15! Made from local, organic beeswax by beekeepers in Barret, Minnesota. (Their pillars, birthday candles, and tea lights are beautiful too.)

minnesota-mapNo lake cabin is complete without a cribbage board! This maple board is made by D & D Custom Laser Designs of Randall, Minnesota. They also make boards featuring other states, lake maps, and military seals.

winter is the warmest season

This is the coziest book ever made. I love reading it to the girls — it makes me feel warm and toasty inside. A great option for the littles in your life.

Borealis Holiday 2014: Our picks for gifts made in Minnesota

made in minnesotagift guides collage 1We love writing gift guides and are so excited to bring you this year’s series, featuring gifts made here right in Minnesota. Some by artists and craftspeople, some by world-renowned (yet home-grown brands) — all reflecting the practical, artistic, playful, smart, humble, and beautiful spirit of this northern life.

Our series starts today with “Indulge in Minnesota” — luxurious gifts you secretly want too. “Play in Minnesota” is about fun — for you or the kids in your life. “Work in Minnesota” features problem-solvers as hardworking as Minnesotans themselves, and “Life in Minnesota” featuring great ways to experience the good life with family and friends.

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas from Borealis!

Love, Jen & Breanne

P.S. We still love the gifts on our guides from 2012 and 2013 if you need more ideas!

Borealis gift guides: Minnesota-made gifts to indulge

indulge featured image

How do you define an indulgent gift? Is it a little me-time, something delicious, or something that makes you feel confident or playful? Something glittery and shiny or simply something well-made that transcends trends and time? (For us practical, realistic, and resilient Minnesotans, indulgent may simply be defined as really great boots.) Here are a few Minnesota-made gifts that […]

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What preemies need most — thoughts on World Prematurity Day

kangaroo 1

November 17 is World Prematurity Day and today — like every July 22 and every time I learn that someone I know has just had a preemie — I remember the days of denial, terror, tears, and emotional exhaustion as we waited eight weeks in the NICU for that elusive day when things would be “normal.” Our first […]

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Clickery for October 31, 2014

mpls kit

Welcome to Clickery, a weekly feature where we share things we like because maybe you’ll like them too. (We missed Clickery this year and are glad to be back!) Breanne’s Links Bookmarked for a point in my life when I have more time to sew: A DIY Map Quilt Pattern for Minneapolis from Purl Soho.  Wouldn’t […]

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Four favorite pumpkin recipes

Four favorite pumpkin recipes from Borealis Blog

Memes are funny because they are true, and this one made me laugh out loud. While I am not a pumpkin spice latte drinker, I am a white girl wearing yoga pants at this very moment and I do like fall. (Image found here, or all over Pinterest.) So here’s my (possibly inevitable) entry into the […]

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How to switch to natural deodorant

how to switch to natural deodorant and make your own deodorant

Remember my New Year’s Resolution to go more organic with my health and beauty supplies? Well I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned about natural deodorants, because they can be kind of intimidating. I’ve been using natural deodorants for years, but had gotten lazy and drifted back after Blythe was born. This year […]

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You should tri it

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If you start running for health or because it is on your bucket list (or to lose baby weight like I did, seven years ago), the first question, real or in your head, is always “are you going to run a 5K?” Once you’ve done that, the question becomes “how about a half?” and when you’ve […]

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