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DIY BACKYARD ICE CASTLE


My husband often has the urge to run away from me when he hears the words “I have an idea!”

And it’s not just the words that scare him.

It’s the size of my eyeballs and the off-the-charts enthusiasm radiating from my entire face.

Interrupting some sort of a sports game.

Sometimes an “important” sports game.

In this case, an NFL playoff game.

With no eye contact between us (and a hefty side of annoyance), I share my idea anyways.

He rolls his eyes.

I march to the Dollar Store.

And the rest is literally historic

This same day, he kindly opened the door for me 42 times (during a playoff football game) so that I could set the dream in motion. What a dream boat, he is!!!

Ha! Here is all the information you need to make your very own ice castle, sweet friends

Note to Self: The Super Bowl is NOT a good time to suggest a neighbouring ice castle.




WHAT YOU NEED:

  • flat(ish) outdoor space

  • food colouring

  • spoon

  • aluminum foil pans

  • tap water

  • large bucket

  • bowls or pots or both!

  • snow shovel

  • waterproof mitts

  • warm clothes

  • time & patience

HOW TO MAKE THE ICE BLOCKS:

  1. Fill the aluminum foil pans 3/4 full with water.

  2. Place the pans outside.

  3. Add food colouring to the individual pans and mix together with a spoon. We decided to leave some of the blocks clear too.

  4. Allow pans to sit overnight.

  5. In the morning, you can gently pull away the sides from each block and then flip them over to let the block fall out. This is one of the easiest parts in the whole the process

  6. Don’t forget to reuse the pans for the next batch of blocks!


Sidenotes:

  • You can add the food colouring indoors too but shaking hands or running dogs and children can cause spills. If you’re hoping for speckled floors and furniture, this could be an ideal strategy

  • In terms of how much food colouring to add, I had a 6 and 7 year old adding “just a couple of drops”………let’s just say that the really vibrant ice blocks *may* be from a lack of supervision That, or it was the odd chance I got to colour the water with my Wilton food dye.

  • We recommend putting the ice blocks in the snow, not on a deck or porch. We made that mistake a couple of times and they never froze all the way through. It’s a big disappointment in the morning!

  • Watch the forecast to make sure it’s going to be nice and chilly and that you’re not getting snow overnight

  • The pans lasted 3-4 ice batches before we had to introduce new ones. You’ll know if you’re at that point because they will leak from the bottom!

SETTING UP THE BUILDING SITE (HA, I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M SAYING THIS):

  1. You’ll want to choose a place in your yard that is relatively flat. We wanted a bigger structure and so we had to settle for a slight slope and do our best to counteract it as we built. You could get all technical with a level here and you could even build on a legitimate hill and report back to all of us

  2. We created a circular base by standing in one place with the end of a hockey stick. Next, we created a giant circle with the hockey blade by turning around slowly in the centre. The blade carves out a perfect pathway for row one and also, how Canadian is it to use a hockey stick for this?!

  3. Next, decide where you want your castle’s entrance to be. We wanted it to be a wide entrance because we imagined a dog and two kids trying to get into the castle at the same time! Maybe your household is more patient.

HOW TO MAKE THE “GLUE”:

  1. The “glue” (as we like to call it at our place!) is a snow/water mixture. Please note, what follows is far from scientific and I promise I am much more exact when it comes to baking

  2. Fill a bucket about half full with snow.

  3. Pour water into the bucket and mix. We used the top of the shovel for mixing.

  4. You’ll know it’s perfect when you’ve formed a wet slush that can be easily manipulated with your hands. If it is too wet, you can add more snow. If it is too stiff, you can add more water.


This is how we transported water into the backyard for “glue” making! I’m sure there’s a more efficient way, so please report back!!!


This is the inside of the bucket. We had to put the bucket in the bathtub overnight two times, because the slush formed ice throughout the day. It made the bucket weigh SO GOSH DARN MUCH. Luckily, we got two large ice lanterns out of it that now sit on the front porch!

HOW TO BUILD WITH THE ICE BLOCKS:

  1. This really is a block by block process. Hang in there!

  2. To start (first row!), you will add a layer of slush mixture to the ground and then set your first block on top. Only add the slush to the area that you will be placing the block onto. If you slush the whole perimeter, it will freeze before you have the chance to adhere your ice blocks! I repeat….block by block

  3. Once the first block is in place, add slush on the ground for the second block.

  4. To “glue” the first and second block together, you will use slush to fill the space between the two blocks. You will need to do this from both sides (outside and inside) and to the very top (where the blocks meet).

  5. Continue this process around the perimeter, leaving space open for where you decided the entrance would be.

  6. Ta-da! Now you just gotta build up! You will repeat the process above, laying slush on the previous ice block, adhering a new one on top, and then “gluing” additional blocks together with the slush.





Sidenotes:

  • It’s helpful if you can delegate one person as the water retriever – someone who can continuously re-fill the bowls/pots so the slush-making can continue.

  • Your mitts are going to get cold and wet! And by wet I mean, sometimes you will need to wring them out because they are soaked with water. We rotated our mitts – placing wet pairs on the mitt dryer when not in use. I highly, HIGHLY recommend a mitt dryer!!!

  • If it’s really cold, your mitts may freeze to the ice blocks. Practice patience in this case! Let the block set for a few minutes, then gently peel away your mitts without pulling the block off with you!

HOW TO CREATE THE “UP & DOWN” PARTS (AH-HEM, THE BATTLEMENT?):

  1. Count the number of blocks around the perimeter.

  2. Make a sketch to plan out your highest layer. We wanted our “up parts” to be 3 blocks wide and, to space them apart somewhat evenly, we had gaps of both two and three blocks.

  3. Follow your plan and use the previously outlined method to add your last blocks!


HOW TO FINISH THE ENTRANCE:

  1. Initially, we were hopeful to create an archway, but – even during an extreme cold warning – we couldn’t get the blocks to stick safely and so we opted for something much simpler.

  2. We decided to “glue” blocks together on each side of the entrance, just to give it a little somethin’ somethin’.


The “Somethin’ Somethin'” Entrance

Phewf.

I think that’s all!

The only thing let to do is play inside! A hot chocolate party is speculated to be the first royal event and it is also speculated to NOT take place on Super Bowl Sunday as a thank you gift to the patriarch


Happy building, our fellow Ice Castle Architects! We can’t wait to see what you create!


XOXO,

Lindsay

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