Thursday, January 12, 2017

An Illuminating Story

The Quest
Last year, right about this time, I was on a quest for Light Up Balloons. This year, the adventure is luminaries. Yes, it’s that dark time of year.

Not for us, the paper bag luminaries. We have cold and we have ice. Years ago, we used to try to make luminaries by freezing water in containers, but (like Jello molds), I’ve never been able to master the remove-from-mold part. They always reverted to water. But then we discovered balloon luminaries.

Balloon luminaries are frozen water balloons. When the water freezes, it pops the balloons, and you’re left with icy globes. Or icy blobs. They assume their own, orb-like shape. Something extraterrestrial.

The Theory
The way it’s supposed to work is that the outside of the balloon freezes first, leaving unfrozen water on the inside. You make your hole in the globe, drain out the water, and voilà – a hollow for a candle!

Well, it’s voilà if everything goes right. Last year, it was too warm for them to freeze. Colored balloons rolled around our front door … until some of them popped. Then we had water around our front door … until it froze.

But this year, with temperatures hanging around the single digits, it was perfect for freezing. I filled up my balloons and carried them outside. I plunked one down on the snow bank beside the driveway. Yikes! Where did it go?!? It sunk right into the snow, just a bit of color peeking out.

“Tim, do you think the snow will insulate the balloons and they won’t freeze?”

“It’s 2 degrees out. Everything freezes. You’d better check on them tonight before they freeze solid.”

[overnight interlude while I forget all about luminaries]

The Failures
The next morning, I go outside to try to remove a frozen solid, colored bowling ball from a snow bank in 5 degrees. I realize this is no quick venture and race back inside to get gloves and jacket. I dig the bowling ball out, race back inside. Remove shoes, gloves, jacket, and throw bowling ball into the kitchen sink.

Shoes, gloves, jacket on. Dig out another balloon. Shoes, gloves, jacket off. Throw the balloon in the sink.

Shoes glove jacket on. Dig out another balloon. Shoes, gloves, jacket off. Throw it in the sink.

This is getting old and cold fast. I decide to go really fast so I can skip the gloves and jacket part. Attempt to dig out a balloon. Balloon isn’t really cooperating, nor are fingers. Not sure if I have fingers anymore. Get inside and stick fingers in sink, try to recover both sensation and situation: rock-hard, solidly frozen bowling balls do not luminaries make.

The Rescue Attempts
Discover that one balloon has a tiny bubble floating around in it. Stab the bubble with a knife a few times and manage to make a little hole. Amazingly, when the hole drains, A LOT of water comes out, emptying the globe. This could work after all!

Run outside with maybe-successful luminary. Grab another balloon. Grab door handle. Uh, oh.

Y’know the stories about licking pump handles?
Stick fingers back in sink, in towel, under armpits. Examine to see if I still have fingerprints.

Grab another solid bowling ball, find its bubble, stab it with a knife. Do this to a few more bowling balls. Until a bowling ball splits in two.
The Victory
Welding is so easy when you’re working with ice, water, and freezing temperatures. Let there be light … while now I look for candles.


  1. I have a bucket of water in my unheated garage, frozen solid because I forgot to monitor it for the proper level of frozen-ness. Starting over tomorrow.

    1. Make that 2 tries. I'm about to try for 3 - it's all about remembering to check every couple of hours when it's this cold!


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