Freezing Pants

A good sense of humor can go a long way toward combating the doldrums of a dreary winter.

That’s why I want to share this funny story about some wise-cracking residents of the city of Minneapolis. Residents there are creating statuaries of frozen pants around the city.

It all started a few years ago when Minnesota suffered at the hands of what is called a Polar Vortex, which left the city with dangerously cold temperatures for weeks on end.

photo by Frank Kovalchek via Wikimedia Commons

To lighten the mood, local resident Tom Grotting decided to pull a prank. He soaked a pair of jeans in water and then hung them outside. As they were freezing, he shaped the pants to look like a person was wearing them and then placed them in public locations around his neighborhood.

Photo: Heidi Wigdahl, KARE

Now he’s doing it every winter, leaving pants busting through sidewalk snowdrifts and standing in front of coffee shops, and he’s gaining accomplices. Since then, others are taking up the prank in the name of winter fun and frozen pants are appearing all around the city. Tom says he does it mostly to bring a smile to the face of his neighbor, who doesn’t care much for winter. That’s definitely a RAOK in our book!


With another holiday on the horizon, I’ve been doing a little gift browsing. Of course there are all the usual pinks and purples and hearts this and hearts that, but I stumbled upon an enterprise called Child’s Own Studio that claims to have perfected the art of “softie-making” from children’s drawings.

In other words, they can take your child’s drawing and turn it into a plush toy … but I like the term “softie-making” better. And why might you be interested in one of these softies? I learned that young children draw from their imaginations with pure self-expression, and it’s based on an understanding of what is being drawn rather than on observation.

Around the age of 5, children develop a visual vocabulary, or their own unique symbolism. When they draw a cat, it will always be the same basic image, maybe altered with stripes or color. It’s not until around the age of 9 or 10 that children begin to be influenced by realism and often lose their passion, frustrated that the object being drawn doesn’t look exactly like what it represents. From what I can gather, there’s a sweet spot of self-expression from about 5 to 9 years of age, and these plush toys serve as an excellent way to preserve that.

Snail Softie via

Inspired by a drawing from her 4-year-old son, Wendy Tsao started Child’s Own Studio in 2007 as a home-based art venture in Vancouver, B.C., but she’s had so many orders that she’s had to expand. The softies start at $70, but that seems like a small price to pay for such a unique and personalized gift that was hand-stitched just for you. The average size of a toy is about 16”, but they also offer super sizes up to 5′. And to top it all off, Child’s Own Studio is enthusiastic about helping fundraising campaigns for non-profits and schools.

Scorpian Softie via

Sweet Harmony

I recently shared a titch about the sweet, sweet harmony reigning in our home since both of my girls started music lessons in September. But I was skeptical about squeezing a piano into our tiny living room. A piano is generally a big-ticket item, and I really, really want to instill an appreciation for frugality in my children.

Well, it turns out I know a guy who knows a guy who is a professional tuner by day, and he gave us a great deal on a 1950s Kimball that’s in super good shape. Not excellent shape, which is perfect for me, because I’m happy to give it a little cosmetic love. So with plenty of encouragement from a music teacher that I am thankful to have in the girls’ lives, my hubby and her hubby carefully hauled it up our front-stoop stairs and into our living room.

Photo Jan 16, 2 03 34 PM

Here’s what the experts say: Playing an instrument is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout, especially for children. Learning to play an instrument develops physical attributes in the fine-motor-skills department for sure, but research is now showing that learning an instrument aids in emotional and behavioral maturation as well. That means the little ones are honing their attention skills, managing their anxiety, and gaining control of their emotions, because playing an instrument actually thickens the parts of the brain used to fight depression, aggression, and attention problems.

In school, music-makers generally understand math and science concepts more easily. By learning about note lengths and how they relate to the whole piece of music, students exercise the part of the brain that processes proportional thinking, and that kind of thinking is required to understand math and science at higher levels. It also improves spatial-temporal reasoning, which is the ability to see disassembled parts and mentally put them back together.

Wow, all that from a little ivory tickling. The results I’ve seen in the short time we’ve had our piano are rather astounding. The girls even play it while they brush their teeth! To say the least, they are appreciating it far more than I ever dreamed. This year, I’m anticipating a year filled with sweet, sweet harmony and music.

American Trade Cards, Boston Public Library via Wikimedia Commons