Cool Things about the Cold

I have been highly amused at the chatter on Twitter the last 24 hours. Seems the lower half of the U.S. is suffering a bit of a cold snap. And my Southern friends are FREEZING TO DEATH RIGHT IN THEIR OWN HOMES.

For the record, our high yesterday was about 9, and our low last night was -13. Yes, that’s cold. But it’s also January in Minnesota. Read: It’s to be expected.

But those of you in warmer locales aren't equipped to deal with temperatures in the 20s or below. I understand this. And truly, you have my sympathy. I love to mock y’all, but I do it in love. Being cold stinks. And when you don’t have down-filled comforters on every bed or seat warmers in your car, I can only imagine it must be extra stinky.

To that end, I thought I’d share a few bits of encouragement I’ve picked up during my years in Minnesota. I’ve spent the better part of my life here (notice I said better, not warmer), so if there’s anything I should be an expert on, it’s the positives about winter weather.

Without further ado, here are a few Cool Things about the Cold:

1. Cold mornings are beautiful mornings.

Waking up to a sunny winter morning in Minnesota is like living inside a pearl. Everything is translucent white, and the sun’s first rays are the brightest pink and gold. The sky is as blue as the sea, and quite often, the moon still glows in the sky. The tree tops catch the new light and sparkle with icicles.

Corey says it’s the beautiful side of evil. But even he agrees – it's hard to deny God's glory is evident in that kind of a sunrise.

2. Sun dogs.

Sun dogs and/or halos are some of my favorite cold weather phenomenon. If you’re really interested in the science behind it, check Wiki. But in a nutshell, sun dogs are rainbow spheres or halos surrounding the sun, which are formed when light hits the ice dust in the atmosphere.

Here’s a picture of a sun dog I took in December on my phone.

It’s not the best shot – you can’t see the prism colors, for one – but it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

3. No bugs.

I realize this is obvious, but when it’s cold, the bugs die. All of them. Even Nazi cockroaches, presumably. We have about six bug-free months here in Minnesota. It’s glorious.

4. No worries about fashion.

This isn’t to say Minnesotans dress like they’re headed for Everest every day. (Well, OK. Some do.) But when it’s -10 outside, no one is wearing cute shoes. We’re wearing WARM shoes. And no one is judging your outfit, because it’s hidden under your coat (scarf, mittens, hat) anyway.

To be clear, I don’t dress in sweats every day. I love my jeans and sweaters, and I cherish a funky scarf and fun jewelry. But there isn’t pressure to keep up with the fashion trends in the winter. It’s like everyone gets a four-month pass to relax and just be themselves. Ahhhhhh.....

5. Tear ducts unclog and nose hairs disintegrate.

When I walked back to my car yesterday morning after dropping Natalie at school, the wind was whistling. Since the temp was about -9, I’m guessing the wind chill was around -25. And wind that frigid is impossible to ignore. Tears instantly formed in my eyes, and my nose felt more clear than it had in a week. Talk about easing sinus congestion. It's nature's Neti pot.

6. It’s possible to freeze-dry your hair.

I don’t necessarily recommend this one, but if you go outside with wet hair and it’s brutally cold, your hair will instantly freeze into glittering dreadlocks. And since super-cold air is also super-dry air, most of the moisture will be sucked out of your hair by the time it defrosts.

(Disclaimer: I did this one time when I was a teenager. I was on a missions trip on an Indian reservation in Northern Minnesota, and I stepped outside with wet hair when it was -35 air temperature. My hair was frigid, but it was also dry in about five minutes. Normally, my hair takes 10 minutes to dry with a hair dryer.) (And no, I didn’t catch a cold. That whole wet-hair-in-the-winter-will-make-you-sick thing is a myth.)

7. Cold weather fosters resilience and creativity.

This is especially true for kids, and one of the reasons I’m thrilled to be raising my family in this climate. After about two weeks indoors with only their siblings as playmates, kids are actually eager to go outside and play, even if it’s -5 at the time. I have wonderful memories of playing outside in the snow all afternoon – building snow forts and tunnels and hatching elaborate plans for snowball fights. Sledding is best when it’s 20 and below; any warmer, and the snow is too sticky for the sleds to really get going.

And when I finally did lose feeling in my fingers and toes and come inside, there’s nothing like sitting by the fire and drinking hot chocolate.

If it’s truly too cold to go outside, kids are forced to get creative indoors. Winter is the season of the indoor tent in the living room and the grocery store that used to be the dining room table. I love watching my kids learn to entertain themselves, without the help of TV, video games or playgrounds.

8. Cross-border unity: -40 is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Negative 40 is the point where the two temperature charts become one again. Unity. It’s a beautiful thing. More cold weather is probably the answer to world peace.

9. You instantly gain a second fridge and freezer.

I can’t imagine trying to bake dozens of Christmas cookies – most of which need to be chilled before baking, chilled after baking or cooled before frosting – without a cold garage. I can put my Double-Chocolate Mint Brownies outside for five minutes, and they are instantly ready for the first layer of icing.

And this weekend, when I bake Teyla a birthday cake (she’ll be two; more about that to come, obviously), I won’t have to clear out space in my freezer to harden the crumb coat. I’ll just stick it in my garage for an hour.

10. Cold days are sunny days.

This is one of those phenomenon that might not be obvious, if you don’t live in a cold climate. But if it’s -10 outside, I can guarantee it’s also sunny. Clouds in the winter act as a atmospheric blanket, trapping ground heat near the earth’s surface and keeping things warm. When that blanket is pulled back, the heat quickly dissipates and we get completely sunny and brisk days.

And vitamin D? It’s a happy drug.

So what did I forget? Fellow Northerners, chime in.

And Southern friends, take heart: According to the Wall Street Journal this morning, temperatures should be on the rise later this week.

(And if the rest of the story is right and this continues to be one of the coldest winters we've seen in years, you can always come back here and get a cup of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, on me.)


  1. As a fellow Minnesotan, I love this. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Great post, very interesting for this So Cal girl. Tony is traveling to Alabama next week and I have no idea what he will take to wear. It's been in the 70s here for the past week, beautiful.

  3. Great post! One thing that I would add is an appreciate for what's to come. There is nothing like that first 45 degree day when it feels balmy outside. The coats are off, there's a spring in people's step and smiles on faces. I love that! And that first 60 degree day! Oh my word! The window is rolled down and the music is cranked. Love it!

  4. It's been in the lower 20s here this week, and we kinda feel like spring has come early. Although I would welcome the cold if it meant we got more sun--these gray days are killing me. Your points are all very well-done and SO TRUE!!!

    And don't forget the Winter Olympics every four years. So much better than the summer, hands down!

  5. I love this list! I'm a MN girl too, and I admit I don't always remember to focus on the positives of winter when it's 20 degrees below zero.

  6. Nature's Neti-pot? That made me snort.

    We're a balmy 37 today, but bracing for the cold! I think that cold temps in the winter make you appreciate the summer SO much more, don't you?

  7. Oh my friends, I beg to differ.
    I'm on down here in Memphis, TN and is creeping into the single digit lows and there ARE BUGS. My bathroom has never been so infested with ants. The LADYBUGS are taking over the world- I never see ladybugs but in the past few months they are becoming an incredible nuisance. They are everywhere and your vacuum cleaner will smell terrible if you suck them up.

    And yes, the main problem is that we rarely even hit thirty degrees down here and are woefully unprepared when this happens.
    My child didn't even own gloves until last week. Snow tires, shovels, even sleds and things like that are simply not sold here. My Target brought out the SWIMSUITS last week- nary a jacket to be found- but you can buy flip flops and bikinis!!

    But any southerner will tell you, it isn't even the cold or the hot that brings us down- it is the fact that you NEVER EVER know. Week to week brings such drastic changes. Not even 6 weeks ago it was in the high 70s (I distinctly remember a day in december that I wore flip flops- it was 79 degrees).

    On a more serious note, we have children and the elderly that die every single summer from the heat. There are many many programs in place to help keep this from happening (free fans, "air conditioning centers", etc.)
    We had 3 people die yesterday from the cold just in our city. 2 were homeless men and one was an elderly man who just didn't turn his heat on until it was too late. We have no programs in place for this- we can't house enough of the homeless, we just don't have a plan. I very much fear this will not be the end of the deaths this winter as it is about to get colder.

  8. I snorted (and learned!) through the entire post. Love it!
    As for me, I especially love the fashion break. And the chance to cover up bad hair days with fun hats :-)

  9. Oh this is good stuff Kelly. I needed a positive perspective ;)

    A benefit to the negative temps is that when it finally hits 20 degrees again, I'll think it's warm enough to wear my ballet flats without socks.

    Good times.

  10. YES.

    Those extra holiday pounds help keep you warm. And the bulky but warm sweaters cover it up.

    We often don't have to deal with falling snow because it is literally too cold for it.

    I don't feel bad about not having my car washed, because it's too cold to wash it.

  11. I just came inside from shoveling for 45 minutes. It's -8 F (-22C with the wind) and I just said to myself, "well at least it is not -30C (-22 F)."
    Winter makes one an optimist.

  12. I agree with Mrs. Hawk on the appreciation that comes with spring--since we have to wait 6 months for it, we glory in the grass and budding trees all the more!

    And for some reason (except when I'm pregnant), I seem to lose weight in the winter, even eating all those holiday meals, rich soups, and yummy hot dishes.

  13. none of these made me any happier with my 25 degree arkansas day. i want my warm back!

  14. Two. She's going to be 2. That kills me. Five minutes ago Natalie was 2. Well, at least Josh knows by the way I respond to your kids growing up that I will be a nutcase for a mom. He can start preparing now.

    Oh, and the -40 thing is no joke. It's been a godsend in describing to Namibians what MN feels like ; )

    And seriously? There should be no more mention of double-chocolate mint brownies on this blog- ever. Or at least until I get to eat some. Just rub it in.

  15. Natures Neti-Pot made me giggle because I thought of the same thing walking into work this morning! lol

    Okay, don't forget banana hammers that Jonathan Yuhas does each year, it amazes me every time.

  16. Amen to the no bugs and the extra refrigerator! The garage does work better. I once put a pan of bars out the back door on the deck to cool and next thing I knew, a squirrel was taking a taste. Yuck. Use the garage.

  17. I was amused to figure out that your cold Minnesota weather is actually the same as my "warm" Ottawa weather. Not that I'm complaining. I think seat warmers are a brilliant, brilliant invention. And I'm definitely in agreement with the positives about winter weather (except that sadly we are too far north to get any vitamin D from our cold sunny days, but at least they are pretty!)

    Did you know that your blood gets thicker over the winter in cold climes? That's partly why your Southern friends actually have a legit reason to feel colder than you do (and why the same temps feel so much colder in the fall than in the spring). You'll cope better too if you have shorter limbs and a "stockier" build. So the next time someone tells me I'm short and still need to lose my post-baby belly, I can tell them it's actually just that I've evolved to adapt to our weather. Right???

  18. I'll admit.. I'm a Southerner (AL) who's complaining about the cold!! I think I'd enjoy it more if I had warmer gear to wear! We just don't keep that kind of stuff around! I am excited about the snow possibility.. we never get snow! My three yr old has asked me several times here recently when it is doing to snow! I know he'd love to play in some snow!

    I agree, winter is beautiful.. the crispness of it all..

  19. Great list/post! :)
    Cold, like heat, is only fun if you're prepared. Here in Morocco, it is not really all that cold. It's in the 50s or 60s (F) most days. But it's really damp, and the houses are cement block with no insulation or heat (or AC) and the windows have cracks all the way round. Add in some torrential rain, and no dryer so that jeans and towels can take up to 3 days to dry. So it's cold! But if it got as cold here as in MN, people would die. So

  20. This was perfect, Kelly. A nice dose of positivity coupled with making fun of our Minnesotan selves.

    Unity was almost my favorite(you funny lady), but #9 took the lead. This year we made gazillions of Christmas cookies together as an extended family. We chilled them on the front porch, which is where they were when the neighbor's dog found them.

  21. Down here, cold days are often dreary and rainy. Double yukk!

    And what's this about later this week being warmer? We're supposed to be in the low 20's at night and only 30's during the day tonight through Sunday.

  22. Great post! I've lived in NH for the past 15 years and have learned to appreciate many of the same things about winter that you have. I especially love my winter hair drying system: leave the house with totally wet hair (hopefully avoiding the freeze-dried effect by wearing a hat and making a quick dash to the car); turn on car heater full blast; and voila, by the time I get to work, my hair is completely dry. (I can't be bothered to use a hair dryer, and in the warmer months my hair is often barely dry enough to be presentable when I get to work!)

    I also love how the long winters have made me pay more attention to the natural world and God's creation. Growing up in a more moderate climate, I was pretty oblivious to nature. I now know, and love, and actively watch for every tiny sign of the arrival of spring.

  23. The only time I remember experiencing weather as cold as what you all have up there was a ski trip I took as a kid. And the part I remember most about that trip was putting our milk out on the porch and waking up to frozen milk. I think it's brilliant to use the outdoors as an extra fridge/freezer. I just wish I couldn't do that today here in Oklahoma. It is too cold!

  24. Love it! As you know I live here in the South where cold weather catches us by surprise more often than not, but I love it. The cold, that is, not necessarily our regional complaints thereof.

  25. We chilled some champagne for a late anniversary celebration out on the back porch in a snow drift. I love that second fridge/freezer part too. :)

  26. The no bugs is my top reason for preferring winter over summer. I feel like a freak in that I don't like to garden or sit out on the lawn or whatever. It's not that I don't like to hike or fish or camp (I actually love the novelty of all three), it's that I don't like to deal with the bugs! I am perfectly content to bundle up in the cold if it means I don't have to dodge bees or sweep away spider webs in the woods.

    That, and the lack of humidity. Oh how I hate to sweat unless I'm purposely working out. Just keep my pantry stocked with conditioner and lotion!!

    I would move back to Minnesota in a heartbeat, but we are having a pretty great winter here in West Virginia so I'm not complaining!

    (Although this Christmas my husband had to step inside Barnes & Noble before the Holidazzle Parade ended, leaving me on the street corner to shiver in my hardy Minnesota pride alone.)

    Spring in Minnesota sucks. It's weeks and weeks of dirty slush and salt stains on your coat and purse from brushing up against the car. Ugh. Not a glamorous reward for braving 8-foot drifts and black ice for those long bitter months...

  27. Well and this year I especially love the cold winter because while I'm 28 weeks pregnant, when I go out in my pea coat nobody who doesn't know me has a clue! I certainly wouldn't be able to hide like this in the summer! Though I'm looking more like your 20 week pic, if that! :)

  28. Learned alot! Thanks for posting and being so positive about the freaking cold. I love weather just not severe weather.