Tips for Surviving Winter in MN


Some might confuse Minnesota for the South Pole, but there is a distinction between the two: One actually has a population that chooses to live here full time. 

Yes, as we are entering our FIFTH month of winter and after what fees like an eternity of subzero temperatures, I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips of surviving the remaining 2, maybe 3 more months we have to look forward to. 

1. Don’t let the media fool you, Polar Vortex is just another name for Arctic Clipper, and that’s no big deal, is it? I mean, we’ve been living through Arctic Clippers for years. Its an old friend to us in the upper mid-west. Polar Vortex sounds ominous and serious, but don’t be fooled by the media’s attempts to sensationalize, it really is nothing more than a regular old clipper coming down to visit from the north pole.  

2. Snow has many textures, and it’s prudent to learn which are necessary to get off your walkway ASAP, and which can lay there until you actually feel like shoveling. Wet snow is a back breaker, but your back will truly break if you leave it until the next day and it has turned in to a sheet of ice in the overnight subzero temperatures. (We get those a lot, subzero I mean) I recommend shoveling the nasty wet slop before nightfall. My husband’s broken rib agrees. 

3. Sunshine, does not mean it’s warm. In fact, it usually means the opposite. Don’t be tricked in to thinking you are getting a reprieve from the ‘Polar Vortex’. Oh no, it is likely -20 out there, so dress accordingly. Mittens are not optional and no sticking tongues to flagpoles. 

4. In -20 degree temperatures, boiling water really will turn to dust. I can attest to this fact, having actually done it. It was my early years of living here, when I still had enthusiasm and curiosity about the oddities of living in a frozen hell. (I hadn’t realized it was hell, but now I know better) My children were younger, in elementary school and I had read about this amazing phenomenon: If you boil a cup of water, throw it in to the air in -20 deg temps, and it will vaporize. Well, let me save you having to live here, it does. Moving on. 

5. Snot can freeze in your nose. Tear drops will turn to ice. Yes, its not many places that can brag about such amazing feats of nature. When my friend called one year complaining about being so cold (50 deg) and that she had her heating blanket on, I politely informed her that the snot hadn’t frozen in her nose, as had mine, going out to get the mail. Silence, then nervous laughter. There really isn’t a comparison to that, now is there? No, there isn’t. Moving on. 

6. Do not leave unopened bottles of water in your car, and for the love of pete, never carbonated beverages. Not unless you are curious to see the physical results of water expansion up close and personal. All over your car. 

7. Never judge an eskimo. They have polar survival down pat. Fur actually works. New modern materials are a godsend also, but a pair of woolen socks and fur lined boots will keep your little piggies toasty warm, and prevent frostbite. Hate fur? Try living here, then come talk to me. You’ve not seen the damage frostbite can do. Purple/black toes of the dead? Don’t judge until you have live the life. Trust me on this. 

8. Never underestimate the power of wind. There is a vast difference between -20 with no wind, and -20 with wind. I recommend staying inside. There are all kinds of ways to deal with -30 to -50 wind chill, but why? Why not stay inside and just pretend you are living somewhere else? Thats my recommendation, and something I’ve practiced many times over the years. It works. Go with what works. 

9. Forget fashion. I’ve looked at the fashion magazines for winter clothes and I laugh. Heartily. Winter fashion is for southern climates. Up here, with the Arctic Clippers for companionship, its best to be warm. For about 6 months we all resemble the michelin man more than humans, but hey, we live to survive another year. Resign yourself to boots and sweaters. When you make that mental shift, you’ll be so much happier. That, and its a free pass to eat more. 

10. And finally, winter never really ends. Sure there are some years (like last year) when it snowed in May, so it literally felt like winter would never end. But, I’m talking more about a state of mind here. Winter never really leaves your mind, no matter the season. When it finally releases its grip to spring, all the talk is about what an awful winter it was. During summer no matter how nasty, unbearably hot and humid it becomes, (90deg + 80%humidity is not unheard of here) comments always fall to “It could be -20”. All of fall is spent trying to eek just a few more moments of warmth before the world sinks into the sub-zero. One never really escapes winter here, so stock up on vodka and let the party roll. Hey, it works for the Russians, right? 

Domestic Goddess Tip: Pet Pill Pockets for Pennies


With Big Girl being diagnosed with a thyroid condition, she now gets a daily dose of hormones. Add to that challenge, in a recent visit to the Vet, Little Man was diagnosed with allergies and so now he also gets a daily pill. I’ve done the whole ‘down the hatchet’, i.e.: shove the pill down their throat; but, the concept of doing that daily for the rest of their cute little lives was just not in my bucket list of things to do. The pet supply store carries a ‘Pill Pocket’ that you can buy, but holy cow are they expensive, especially if they are needed EVERY, SINGLE, DAY.

Being a little on the thrifty side, I came up with a couple of alternatives that my dogs absolutely go bonkers for. Both incorporate the concept shown above. I tried many alternatives and this is the best one I’ve found so far, and really its’ just so inexpensive, (and the kids love it) that I am going with what works.

One option is to take a cheese stick, (no need to get all fancy here) any brand/price point is fine. Take a knife and cut a small cylinder off, and gently insert the pill. As you can see, this works for both a capsule and standard pill quite nicely. You may adjust the size of the wad to fit the pill but really try to keep it as small as possible. You want your furry friends to gulp it down without much, if any, chewing. (Little Man doesn’t even taste it, I swear) Also, I would only recommend cheese once a day. Dairy is not the best for dogs (cats however are a whole ‘nother story!) and so if your pet needs twice or more a day medication, choose the next option.

Spam. Yes, that ham in a can. It is like crack for dogs. (Hey, what can I say, I like it too!) I simply cut a rectangular block that is larger than the pill, (this is a little more delicate and it can break apart, so you might need a slightly larger piece for it to hold together) and then stuff away. If the Spam starts to break apart, no need to worry. Spam is kinda malleable, and simply gently press it together, just enough to cover the pill and get it to the animals mouth. I personally alternate, depending upon what I happen to have on hand or in my pantry. (Yes, I am a Spam horder. It’s the one thing I get every time I shop Costco. Yum, Spam and eggs in the morning…) Spam is a little bit more expensive than the cheese stick, but one can will go a LONG way. I have cut the loaf in half and frozen it, so that it doesn’t go bad before I get to the second half of the can.

So save yourself more than a few dollars and trips to the pet store. If your four legged companion is on medication, give this a whirl. And while your at it, make them do some tricks to earn their treat. Trust me, they’ll be jumping through hoops!