Want to add a little light to a season that hushes the sun’s glow quite early in the evening? I tested two ways to make luminaries — with balloons and water. One requires a lot of heat, and the other requires a lot of cold. Test both techniques to bring a little light and a lot of fun to these long winter nights.
Remember how to create water balloons? If you are a pro from your younger days, you will have an easy time with this project.
You may want to use the laundry tub faucet to fill up your balloons with water — or any that you can fit the opening of a balloon around. If you blow up your balloons with air first, it will help them to stretch. Place the balloon on the faucet and turn it on keeping your fingers around the mouth of the balloon so it doesn’t slip off.
When your balloon is the size that you would like your ice lantern, shut the water off. Slip the mouth of the balloon off the spigot to tie it in a knot. Repeat these steps for as many luminaries as you would like.
Place the balloons with the knots up in the snow overnight. If the temperatures won’t support freezing, you may want to place the balloons in the freezer. I put my balloons in a plastic bin to help them stay upright.
The goal is to freeze the balloons long enough to have a thick outer shell but not solid all the way through. You will want to break the ice in one spot to allow water to run out. This will allow a cavern for the candle to reside.
To test one of your lanterns, snip the balloon at the knot and continue cutting so the balloon slips off around the ice as shown in the picture.
You will find that the luminaries last longer if they aren’t melting with the heat from a flame. So, I recommend using a flameless, battery-operated tea-light.
Unsure of how this project was going to go, I found that the results of these wax luminaries are quite fun. Despite my warning below, I also warn you that it will be hard to make just one!
Warning: Adults should make this next luminary with extreme caution as boiling water, the resulting steam, and hot wax can cause burns.
Follow steps 1 and 2 of the ice luminary instructions, using lukewarm water.
Fill your large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Place the double boiler and wax on your large pot, which will allow the wax to melt from the heat of the steam and not burn from the contact of the stovetop. I used a tempered Pyrex glass bowl that I was willing to sacrifice and forever be used for paraffin wax.
Once the wax gets to around 160-180 degrees, it will turn to a liquid. Be very careful of this hot wax, the steam and hot water as you remove your bowl from the pot of boiling water. I learned my lesson on this one! Steam hurts!
Prep your cooling tray by placing a sheet of wax paper on it. Place the tray close to your bowl of wax.
Holding your balloon just below the knot, dip it into the wax and out of the wax. Continue this many, many times until you are satisfied with the thickness of the layers. You will want to allow a little time in between dips to allow the wax to harden slightly.
Place your balloon on the tray allowing the bottom to flatten out. You may have to hold on to the balloon for a moment so it won’t begin to lean one way or the other. The wax will harden over the next few hours — please allow enough time for it to solidify. For best results let them sit overnight.
To remove the balloon, work over a sink and cut a small hole just under the knot of the balloon in order to let the water leak out. The balloon will shrink away from the wax.
Place a flameless candle in the hole and enjoy the glow!
Mary Rasch is a Duluth artist, mother of two and author of "Fleece Hat Friends and Playful Hoodies."