Friday, January 23, 2015

Ice Lantern Luminaries

Ice lantern luminaries -- celebrating their beauty, whimsy, and eventual ruin.

Winter is cold, the days are short, the streets and sidewalks are slippery, and the cables for the brakes and shifters on the bikes and trikes are frozen. What can we do to stay busy? We make ice lanterns.

We use the Arctic Ice Lantern molds to make most of our ice luminaries but have also tried the two-bucket method and the balloon technique (both of which have a couple of variants that are described in the photo descriptions). The Arctic Ice Lantern is easy to use and lends itself to large-scale production and to eye-catching decoration.

We freeze ice hearts, stars, snowflakes, gumdrop shapes, shot glasses (for columns), ducks, and penguins in silicone molds and weld them in place with a little moisture to decorate the lanterns. It turns the simple hexagonal ice lantern into a fanciful display that looks much harder to make than it really is. Food coloring in the water makes the ornaments more visible, but it tends to separate out during freezing. To produce a more uniform color, we pour the colored water into the molds at near-freezing temperature.

Sometimes, we freeze the first inch in the mold with foliage and flowers, or we color the first inch of water in the mold, freeze that, and add more clear water. These techniques are time-consuming and a bit difficult.

By using plastic stencils and applying water over them with a foam paint roller, we can make subtle designs that take some extra effort and require colder temperatures than the other decorating methods. These may be better for centerpieces than for street-side displays, but the best of them are spectacular.

Besides making ice lanterns, the Arctic Ice Lantern molds provide protection against late frosts for tender seedlings in the garden; the indentation that makes the opening in the lantern serves as a well for warm water to keep the plants from freezing.

For more than 200 photos of ice lantern luminaries, showing different ways to make them, a variety of decoration tips, how-to's for simple ornamentation, and a celebration of the beautiful way they fall into lacy ruins, see our Flickr album.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Trikes in Winter

Our retirement in April 2014 leaves us without a daily bike/trike commute to work. Bungee the Great Hunter, our rat terrier, is happy to run beside a trike for three miles or more, but we still end up with much less riding than before. We will be trying to increase our mileage in 2015. For January 17, we hitched four trikes together and rode to the annual Kite Festival on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, then finished up with a ride around the lake. This trike train of three Greenspeed Anuras and a Hase Kettwiesel has 7-wheel drive and would be great for riding on ice. Unfortunately, the snow that fell after the lake froze is too deep for riding, so we stayed on the plowed path. There had been a shoveled path across the ice, but more snow fell and only part of the path was cleared after that.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Making Spätzle

Spätzle: We've been gardening more and biking shorter distances -- mostly with Bungee, our rat terrier. This was a great year for tomatoes and peppers, many of which went into the sauce for tonight's meal. In this video, Dale makes German/Austrian spaetzle.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Monarch pupa

These monarch butterfly pupae are so splendid.  We have three of them now, and another likely to form today.  One failed part way through the pupation process yesterday, but there are still 13 more caterpillars eating and growing and looking good.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Going slow

Watch "Monarch caterpillar explores tropical milkweed." on YouTube

After retiring on April 1st, I resumed biking every day but added some time consuming other activities - - gardening and raising monarch butterflies.  The caterpillars came from Monarch Watch and are growing at a tremendous rate on tropical milkweed (Asclepias currasavica or blood flower).  Luckily, some local milkweed has also sprouted, because it turns out that the older caterpillars are avoiding the leaves on the tropical milkweed and eating only the flowers - - something about regulating the amount of the milkweed toxin that they need to accumulate, I guess.  They are happy to switch to Minnesota native milkweed though, so I think we should be able to get all of them to maturity without running out of food.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

385 days of cycling

We celebrated our 385th consecutive day of cycling with a trike train ride with friends on Lake Harriet. It's been easier to ride every day than to blog every month (outdated browser on a computer for which I'm not the administrator, and difficulty with my new smartphone or the blogging app -- not sure which). Some of our bike rides in December were very brief, and a few of mine were around the living room on a small folding bike, but as the days get longer, we're both commuting on our trikes. Last year, the the ice on the lakes never got thick enough for safe riding, but it's a foot thick now after a January cold snap, and relatively clear of snow. We let a couple of other cyclists try out the trike train on the lake while I took a short movie of it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Going strong

We're more than two thirds of the way through the year and have cycled every day.  My phone app for blogging about it hasn't been working since I got a new phone, so here's a summary:  We rode 100 kilometers for the Minnesota Ironman in early May, a couple of group trike rides with the MiNiTOT group in June, the Midwest Recumbent Rally in August -- with a 4-trike train trip through the old railroad tunnels on the Elroy-Sparta trail on the way home -- and the two Twin Cities rides in September (the St. Paul Classic and the Tour of Minneapolis).  The St. Paul Classic's 41-mile loop formed the backbone of our only 100-mile ride of the year;  we rode to and from the event, and took a long detour across Minneapolis and into the western suburbs and back during the afternoon. That ride, on September 9, has to serve as my annual 9/11 ride, which was interrupted when I was called in to work 30 miles out from the start, to cover for a sick co-worker.  It's been a great year for cycling so far. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

113 Days of Biking

We've been doing the 366 Days of Biking and are 22 days into the "30 Days of Biking" challenge, but blogging our year of cycling has fallen by the wayside -- in favor of actually riding the bikes for the past 113 days (and working). 

For Earth Day, we rode to the co-op and brought back four full baskets of groceries.  The bike baskets are from BASIL.  We love the way they can be hung on the side of a grocery cart and then just lifted onto the bike racks. 


Thursday, January 05, 2012

January 5

Today was a telecommuting day, but I found time to take a seven -mile ride in the evening to meet up with Dale on his commute home and to stop for groceries.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

First Commute of 2012

From Daily Rides of 2012
The streets are a mess, the sun goes up after I get to work and sets before I get out, it's cold, and the ride isn't particularly scenic -- but I really enjoy cycle-commuting.  It's easier to load up my computer and head off in the early morning to work than to take a recreational ride around the lake on a sunny winter afternoon;  having a reason to ride is a big part of my motivation.  (5.4 miles round trip)