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!

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What a clever and fun idea for this often frigid city. It just shows the good humor of the people Garrison Keelior’s “Lake Woebegone”.


    put this link in your browser, sorry, couldn’t make the image show up here

    this was posted on our local weather page.

    local amish snow humor – Amish cant have bikes but can have scooters

  3. CJ Armstrong says:

    How fun! Reminds me of when I was growing up we had to hang the laundry outside no matter the weather and, of course, it froze. Then we’d have to bring it in and hang it around the house to thaw and finish drying. I never understood what my mom was thinking! 😀

  4. Krista says:

    How funny! I would love to see some of those pants around my town. This is a good way to get a laugh on those gloomy winter days. Lisa, that picture is funny. I wasn’t aware they couldn’t ride bikes either.

  5. CJ Armstrong says:

    I”ll have to keep this in mind for our next snowy frozen winter!

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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

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Megan, this is really interesting. I did not know about the self expression symbolism of children’s art between ages 5-9 either. It would be a great idea to take your child’s art work and turn it into a softie toy. Such a unique way to celebrate the child’s creativity and one that they could share as a gift to others as well. I hope you will post a photo of what you choose to have made for your daughter’s upcoming birthday. I want to see!

  2. Krista says:

    This is such a cool idea. I remember when I was a teacher and how proud the children were of their work. I always made sure to hang their work up on the walls for display. When their parents came to pick them up they always had to show off what they made that day. I would have loved to have given each one of my students one of these plush toys of their most prized artwork. It would also be fun to have your child draw a picture of themselves each year and turn it into a softie and see how much their vision of themselves changes over the years.

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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

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Ohh, Megan, what a lovely piano deal you were able to purchase! I remember when my girls were little and we got our piano. It was fun learning to play duets together too as they got a bit better. Plus, it was fun to watch them increase in skill and play beautiful songs. For a few years, I even took lessons. I agree with you that having a musical instrument like a piano in the home just brings out great opportunities for family enjoyment. Tell, Stella and Mia that I wish them the best with their lessons and exploration of music!

  2. How wonderful for all of your family ! Congrats and keep on ticklin’ those ivories, the girls will be popular at parties all their lives even if they don’t grow up to be concert pianists.

  3. Bobbie calgaro says:

    I can buy into a lot of what was said about what music can do except the math part. My mind wants no part of math and my grades all through school reflect that. I took about seven years of piano lessons so it should have rubbed off in the math area at some point. But not so much. Lol

  4. CJ Armstrong says:

    Yay for your girls . . . and your family! I’m a pianist having started learning before I even started school. So, I’ve spent my life at the piano keyboard. It’s a “whole body exercise”. The brain training that takes place is amazing . . . your left hand and your right hand are doing entirely different things. You have to play the right notes, get your timing accurate, get your dynamics in there . . . and make it MUSICAL!
    Enjoy the ride, girls!

  5. Linda says:

    So nice you got a great deal on a piano. There has been a piano in my life from day 1 – my mother played every day. I took piano lessons from age 4 and then started violin in 3rd grade at school. I have always been good in math and love math – to this day I love working with numbers. It helps in designing quilt blocks. Now science, that is a different story. I’ve never been great at science. But I think music helped when I was having to type computer code for engineers I worked with. Several times I pointed out something that just looked strange to me – there was a series of code with repeats, and yet something looked wrong. I was right! LOL! Music is great for kids of all ages.

  6. Krista says:

    Megan, what a great find. I’m glad you were able to find a piano and give your girls such an amazing gift. When I was younger I played the violin, the piano, and the flute. To this day I still have a love for music and can agree with the experts on the benefits. During school I was good at math and science, even though I didn’t care too much for math. There is just something about music that can completely change your outlook. I hope that your girls continue to find joy and passion in playing the piano and you will have a year full of wonderful tunes.

  7. Cindi says:

    That is a very nice looking piano ~ congratulations on the best investment ever 🙂 Those girls can take music with them to the end of time. Not so with many other types of extracurricular activities. You might have to push them through a ‘piano lessons are borrrrring’ phase at some point, but they will thank you in the end.

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