January 31, 2015

Ice Lantern Fun

With winter in full blast - especially lately here in New England - its always fun to have an activity, or five, to keep spirits up and to enjoy the season. I love snow, being outdoors and everything that entails. I love it so much, that I was on the Dartmouth Winter Carnival Council for four years, and ran the Carnival for two of those four. We built 40 foot tall snow sculptures that loomed over campus, even using zamboni shavings from the hockey rink when snow was sparse.
We were so high-tech in our construction! Trash barrels of snow lifted up higher and higher, all the while pouring water on it and stomping the snow (like winemakers stomping grapes) so it became a frozen block to carve.
I must be giving directions here, but I love that I bothered to accessorize with my favorite code flag necklace and madras hat. 
Who doesn't dress up to sculpt snow? 

That love of winter never left me, I guess, for there's not much more fun I can have than being outside with my family and friends celebrating the white stuff. So over a weekend at my family's house in NH, we had bodies galore, mouths to feed and festivities to match, including making ice lanterns!
 This is what it looks like when there are too many kids and not enough closet space...
…and it just kept growing, along with my smile :)
I don't know why I took the picture like this, but after so many meals, and a few (ha!) glasses of wine, this is how it came out. Tenderloin, pulled pork, rolls for sliders, garlic bread, homemade guacamole, chips, salsa and my corn chowder from an earlier post, http://www.bloomingblog.com/2014/12/cozy-post-christmas-dinner.html, was for dinner this night.
During the days, everyone either skis or skates. Being on a lake, we have lots of impromptu hockey games. This one came complete with funny pj onesies that added to the color of the competition. My grand puppy, Oakley, doing her best to ref the game.
Before night came and the big celebrations were to be had, some preparations needed to be completed.
My husband got the fire pit ready while it was light enough to see, and I was getting ready to unveil my ice lanterns that I started the day before.

Before you start making these lanterns, make sure that you have approximately 24 hours to spare since it takes a while for these globes to freeze to the desired thickness. 

For supplies, all you need to make one lantern is:
a punching ball balloon
a chip-clip that snaps shut, not the clothes-pin type
a thin lid from some kind of jar (I used a pickle jar here)
a bowl for the balloon to freeze in 
a votive candle
Here is the balloon, without the punching ball elastic attached. You can find these at toy stores and even grocery and drugstores.
So, just like making a water balloon, attach a balloon to the faucet and start filling with water.
Because the balloon fills with a lot of water, be careful that you have it tightly on the faucet or else water will spray everywhere. I know from experience!
 Once filled, quickly snap the chip-clip shut so the water doesn't pour out.
Using one of my mom's nice bowls, (thanks Mum!), I placed it on the deck railing to freeze naturally. If you aren't experiencing freezing temps like we were, you can always stick your lanterns directly in your freezer if you have enough room.
We are pickle lovers in my family, and the thinness of this lid worked perfectly for what I needed.
The lid is necessary because you have to have and indentation on the bottom of the lantern to feel for the frozenness of the globe, and also a starting point from which to carve out the space for the votive candle.
 And here my lantern sat for about the next 24 hours. I actually made three of them and next time I'll make more because I love them so much!
After feeling the ball and making sure it was firm enough but still sloshy inside (you can't see that but you can feel it, kind of like feeling if an egg is hard-boiled or not), bring the lantern inside to drain the water.
Using the sink's drain to hold the lantern steady, I unsnapped the chip-clip...
 …and then cut the top off the balloon
sort of looks like a watermelon
Then I cut the balloon off more, slowly peeling it off my globe of ice.
Looks pretty just as it is, but wait, there's more!
I flipped the globe over so that the bottom that rested on the lid was facing up. Then I took some kitchen scissors, but if you're careful, you can use a knife, and I started to work in circular motions to make a hole.
This little hole will have to get bigger if I'm going to fit a candle inside.
I used hot water from the sink's faucet to help melt the opening bigger.
And once it was bigger, I drained the water from the center, and worked to make the opening a little bigger.
And when it was all done, this is what it looked like.
 Before it got too dark, I started playing around with the candles and the lanterns. Make sure you also carve a small hole at the lantern's top for the smoke to come out. Otherwise, you'll just continually suffocate your burning candle.  Things were heating up!
 The fire at the beach was blazing...
…the fireworks show that my son and nephew put on was a giant success…
 …even the impromptu "Olympics" was a big hit! It also included some reluctant boyfriends and girlfriends who were all great sports (no pun intended)!
And glowing, just outside on the deck, were the most beautiful ice lanterns. 
Whether you like them au natural…
…or mixed with Christmas lights, they are super easy and worth the effort for any winter party!