Ah, Winter. The days are short, the nights are long and there’s an ever-present chill in the air. And yet there’s a beauty to this time of year, cold as it is. Ice skating, snowball fights and hot cocoa fill every winter’s to-do list.
But here at Yies we’re never quite satisfied with the mundane. And so we took a good look at winter’s bounty, hoping to discover a few of this season’s hidden treasures. Whether you’d rather run out into the cold or sit by the fire, we’ve dredged up some fun for you. None of which was likely on your grannie’s winter activities list
Make Your Own Snow
One of the most charming silver linings to be found through the winter is the falling of fresh snow. But what are we to do if Mother Nature just doesn’t seem to want to play ball? Just head on down to the local hardware store and pick up the parts you’ll need to crank out your own, that’s what! Sure you’ll spend some extra time out in the elements, but after following a few simple instructions, your house will be blanketed in a nice layer of snow, even if no one else’s is.
Make Ice Ribbons
Snow is fun, but these things are just downright elegant. And what’s more: ice ribbons are much easier to make. A few years back a professor at the University of Illinois noticed images of ice extruding from metal fences in these gorgeous ribbon formations. Through trial and error, he figured out how to replicate the process. Follow his 6-step process — which is mostly just sealing a pipe except for a small opening and filling the pipe with cold water — to make your own!
Make Ice Bulbs
AKA frozen, glowing balls of awesome. All you need to pull these off are a couple of wires, an LED, a battery and a balloon. And a freezer. And 5 minutes for assembly. The result speaks for itself. Whatever you do with this little ball of wonder, it’ll be awesome. Leave it out in the snow and drive people insane with how neat it looks. Chuck it while yelling “Haduken!” The possibilities are nearly limitless.
Make Ice Shot Glasses
Turn the power of ice on its head by filling it with stuff that keeps you feeling warm inside. These little suckers, available at ThinkGeek, just might be the best of the novelty ice cube tray concepts, and they’re just perfect for winter. After all, they’ll have to last longest this time of year, right? Whether or not you find these charming, they’re the perfect prep work for our next activity.
If you’ve completed items one through four on this list already, then it’s time for a break. And what better way to utilize those icy shot glasses than with a bit of wintery boozing? Created by the bartending progeny of a Swiss mother, the Delightful Dede is a mixture of citrus, dark rum, marzipan, brandy and berries. One swig and you’ll likely conjure up images of sugarplums and shortbread. Knock back a second round and you might even try eating your shot glass.
Copper Plate Some Ornaments
Now that you’re warm behind the ears, it’s time for science! Dust off that chemistry set you unwrapped a decade ago and grab some of those now-gaudy metal holiday decorations. Prepare a beaker of copper nitrate solution and dip your decoration into it until you get the copper coating you’re looking for. Pro Tip: cover parts of your decoration with masking tape and then carve designs in the tape to add copper designs instead of a uniform layer.
Grow a Silver Tree
Since we have the chemistry set out, let’s have a bit more fun with it. This time we’ll start with copper. Wire or a sheet of the stuff will do. Just form it into the tree shape you want, whether it be an evergreen or a weeping willow, and dunk it into a silver nitrate solution. The silver will begin to appear on your tree within an hour, but for prime growth leave you festive little bonsai in the solution for a day or two. When it pops out, not only will you have a cool new knick knack, but you’ll be a lvl 2 alchemist, too!
Make Glowing Crystal Snowflakes
Alright, just one more chemistry set idea and then it’s back to the drinking. I swear. This one’s a real throw-back, too. First you make a snowflake with pipe cleaners, those great childhood arts and crafts standbys. Then you coat that sucker with some Glo Away paint and let it dry a bit. Prep some borax crystal solution and hot water in a glass while you’re waiting and then drop your dry pipe cleaner snowflake into the solution. Let it sit overnight and boom. Permanent snowflake that glows in the dark.
Mistletoe and Holly
Let’s forego the ice shot glasses for this drink. In fact, let’s forego ice altogether and serve this one hot. To start with heat up some cranberry juice in a saucepan and then add peppermint schnapps and creme de cacao. Pour this hot goodness into your glass and float a bit of lightly whipped heavy cream on top. Garnish with peppermint flakes or matcha for a final splash of awesome.
Make Snow Rollers
After a second round of drinks we’re hoping that you’ve lost a few inhibitions, because this next activity requires a bit of luck and a sense of adventure. We’re headed outside again with a specific set of conditions in mind. Ice should be on the ground with some wet snow covering it, but not sticking to the ice. If that’s what is going on outside, you’re in luck. Find a hill and make a small snowball. Roll the snowball downhill with the absolute minimum of speed. The result should resemble a rolled up rug made of snow.
Chase Sun Dogs
Now that you’re outside and there’s a bit of ice in the air, its the perfect time to try and catch a glimpse of a rare phenomenon. When the sun is low in the sky and ice crystals are in the air, bright spots can appear on the sun’s halo. Known by the arctic people as “the sun’s dogs” these bright points are also known as “mock suns” and were historically seen as good omens. Refraction and the angle at which hexagonal ice crystals tend to fall is responsible for their intensity, so here’s hoping you’re in the right place at the right time.
Hunt Mother-Of-Pearl Clouds
If you’re not quite cold yet and want a bit more outdoor fun, try hunting down these rarest of cloud formations. You’ll need the right geography and a cold, cold day to find them. Hunt out the downwind side of a mountain that is covered in snow and ice. On a particularly windy and cold day, you might just see these clouds flowing like rainbow rivers close to the mountainside. The clouds are made of ice crystals and can only exist when the temperature in the stratosphere is a chilly -121 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make Rainbow-Burning Pine Cones
Whether or not you were able to find Mother-Of-Pearl clouds, there’s no such thing as having too many rainbows. And having them join in on the warmth of your cozy little fire at home makes them all the better after a day out in the cold. To prep the pinecones just dissolve a bit of boric acid in a small amount of alcohol and then soak your pine cones in the mix. Allow them to dry, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top and then toss them into the fireplace. The alcohol will burn blue and the boric acid will change from green to purple and red.
Baked Apple Sazerac
It’s time to sit back and watch the rainbows dance in the fireplace with our version of a nightcap. Absinthe and cinnamon. There’s a minimal amount of prep for this drink, and the payoff is a very cool visual. Just pour some high-proof Absinthe into a glass and light it with a match. While the alcohol is producing its little blue flame, shake some ground cinnamon down into the glass. The flames will cook the cinnamon as it falls, producing a glittering display as well as a lovely taste for your drink. You’ll be sipping your drink by the fire even if you don’t have a fireplace. Just remember to blow out that flame before you sip!