Freezing nights make for beautiful natural ice sculptures

An ice spike is seen on Jan. 13, 2013 near Seattle.

We haven't received very much snow of late despite the punch of a fairly cold air mass, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways for Mother Nature to make things pretty around here.

In fact, ordinary items can transform into a palette for some winter-time beauty.

For example, just in my backyard, a summer-time water toy left outside that collected the near-record autumn rains has become home to not only an impromptu skating rink for my daughter's dolls, but now has a handful of interesting "ice spikes."

These towers that appear to magically rise from a frozen surface are caused when the surface of the of water freezes first, sealing in the water below. As that water begins to freeze, it expands, creating higher pressure under the ice lid. Eventually, the pressure will either cause a small crack or opening in the ice where water will start to dribble out -- sort of like squeezing a tube of toothpaste.

However, as that water squeezes out to the surface, it too freezes. The pattern repeats until this refreezing process.

Aside from the photo gallery up top (which also showcases some of the frost patterns I found around my yard. That space-ship looking one is just the frozen top of one of our solar garden lights) here is a video tour of my daughters' water squirt toy:

With freezing weather expected to continue through the week, you can try this at home. Put a plastic cup or something similar (I wouldn't use glass) about 3/4 full of water then set outside in a shady spot and see if you can get one to form yourself. Or you can just put it in your freezer :)