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.