As I wait for the wedding pictures to come in from our esteemed photographers, I thought I’d take this time to share with you my recent adventure at -109°F.
For my birthday this past year my folks gave me a Soda Stream! As a passionate seltzer drinker, the soda stream is a soda dream. Custom carbonated water on demand is surprisingly convenient. Jen and I drink seltzer every night with dinner, so it really makes cents… or does it?
The machine operates using CO2 cartridges. Each cartridge claims to produce 60Liters of carbonated beverage. For Jen and me, this quantity is likely inflated because we are generous, some might even say profligate, with our bubbles. But for the sake of math, let’s presume the 60L thing works out.
At the local grocery store, we can get two liters of setlzer for $0.89. That’s a mere 44.5cents a liter. Frankly, the fizz fades furiously once one opens the orifice – but still, that’s cheap! Soda stream refills run about $15/canister. That’s $0.25 per liter. A savings of 19.5 cents per liter!
With a $100 price tag on the machine and the price of the refills, it would require ~360 liters to break even after initial investment. Better than the store brand? yes. Much better? no.
Now if only there was a way to refill one of these canisters myself.
ENTER: DRY ICE.
I did some research online. While many lauded the use of paintball gun refilling methods, I was hesitant because of the whole ‘food grade’ thing. While CO2 is CO2, I was worried about the oils used in lubrication of the paintball CO2 valves. There was, however, a video online that suggested the use of Dry ice to refill the canisters. Dry ice is the solid form of CO2. It is safe for food and except for the fact that it’s so cold it burns to the point of disfigurement. (Fun Fact: Dry ice is about -109°F)
The plan would be to partially fill the empty canisters with dry ice. As the temperature of the canister stabilized, the dry ice would melt under pressure into liquid CO2. When that liquid was released into water it would rapidly depressurize into gas. Ta-da! Seltzer!
I decided to give it a shot.
I have two canisters, making refills extra convenient. I picked up 5lbs of dry ice at a local ice store for $11.99 and the adventure began!
First, I used a release valve on the side of the canister to make sure that both canisters were completely empty. Next, I used a vise and a wrench to unscrew the valve atop the bottle.
Next, I put on my safety glasses and thermal gloves, covered the ice with a dish towel and smashed it to pieces.
Admittedly, I thought that the dry ice would be cold enough not to stick together. I imagined it pouring from a cup like dry sand. Such was not the case. It clumped up like snow.
This made my make-shift paper funnel completely improbable. Even with a plastic funnel I had to jam the dry ice into the hole using a skewer.
I filled each container up to about 50% full. Then capped ‘em.
For the most part, this was not a frightening endeavor. HOWEVER, it sketched me out a bit that after I finished filling them, both containers frosted over somethin’ fierce. This isn’t surprising because dry ice is COLD. Yet it freaked me out enough to isolate the canisters in the garage and wait inside while the canisters warmed up.
Once the canisters were room temp, I transported them gingerly to the condo where we installed the first of the two canisters into the soda stream. I depressed the switch… and FIZZ! Beautiful fizz at half the price!
Things I would do differently:
1. At the ice store where I purchased the dry ice, 5lbs was the minimum. I really only needed 4lbs for two canisters. For my next refill adventure, I will most certainly be seeking other dry ice vendors.
2. $12 for this is CRAZY EXPENSIVE. As a comparator, my quick online searches suggest that I should be able to get dry ice for about $1/lb. See #1.
3. I need to improve my crushing method. Dry ice went everywhere. It was hard to contain underneath the towel. Apparently you can order dry ice in 0.25″ pellets – this would be awesome. See #1.
4. I should have weighed the canister before I started so I’d know precisely how much dry ice to add. I wrote above that I filled each to about 50%. It was probably closer to 75%, but I had no precise gauge. As we all know Pv=nRT. If you add too many Moles (n) your pressure could be higher than the defined limit of the container – this could lead to trouble (i.e. exploded canisters). This is why I let my canisters warm up in the garage far away from my body. If I had weighed the containers when they were new I would have been able to closely approximate the moles of CO2 (~44grams per mole for dry ice). I was reassured however by the release valve on the canister. I figure if I added too much, that release valve would have failed and the results would not have been catastrophic.
5. I had/have mild concerns about the O-ring in the container. With the excessive cold of the dry ice I worried about the failure of the o-ring a la the Challenger. When we finish consuming the fizz, I will carefully inspect the o-ring and report back.
At 2:30pm, with Jen tucked away in a preparation room, the guests began to arrive. We had about 50 people total, and as they arrived I greeted them, gracious but nervous about the upcoming event.
Alicia began playing her flute around 2:30. Shortly thereafter, mugs of apple cider in hand, family began to take their seats by the Pergola.
And right at about 3pm, Steve, Michelle (our officiant), and I headed to the Pergola to await the bride.
Also, how epic is this Pergola?
Noah, our faithful MC/music guy, started up the processional: Air on a G String – J.S.Bach
My folks walked down the aisle first, followed by Jen’s mom and brother, Kelly (the maid of honor – heretoafter “MoH”), and finally Jen escorted by her Dad.
The Ceremony was fast and furious. It started with a brief story by Michelle where she described her and Noah’s frequent attempts to get us hitched. Then, a first reading by my sister T ‘The Art of Marriage’ by Wilferd Arlan Peterson
The Art of Marriage
The little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through all the years. It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have wings of an angel. It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor. ?It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. ?It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal. ?
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.
Our second reading was read by Jen’s sister Kati: Celebration by Carl Thitchener
We celebrate the love that brought you to this day.
With love that deepens through many years, may you know its meaning and its mystery – how we become truly one in sharing ourselves with one another, and yet, remain truly two in our own uniqueness.
May your house be a place of happiness for all who enter it, a place where the old and the young are renewed in each other’s company, a place for growing, a place for music, a place for laughter.
And may those who are nearest to you and dearest to you constantly be enriched by the beauty and the energy of your love for each other.
Next, we read our vows:
[insert name] I take you to be my (wife/husband), my best friend, and my future. Whatever lies ahead, good or bad, we will face it together. Today I take my place as your (husband/wife). Please accept this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness.
THEN, Michelle made it real and it was the kiss the bride part.
Jen and I stumbled across The Wadsworth Mansion during one of our frequent Connecticut exploration adventures. She and I got our hands on an insider’s guide to CT, and the Wadsworth Mansion (and the accompanying falls) were on the list.
(That’s totally their professional promotional photo.)
The Mansion was built in the early 1900′s, designed by Francis Hoppin. It was built in much of the same style as some of the Newport Mansions with a greater focus on the landscape. Trees were planted in mass to visually support the structure and its surroundings. This was extra awesome for our event what with the trees in full regalia.
The Wadsworth family owned and operated the estate until Colonel Clarance Wadsworth died in 1942. After this point the estate changed hands from the state, to a catholic institute, to a private developer. After a fire in 1990 the property was stagnant for a bit, but finally landed in the hands of the town of Middletown in 1994 where it was renovated for a grand opening in December of 1999.
Inside the mansion there are two ballrooms and a dance area as prime people places, with a bar off the kitchen and a beautiful terrace off the back framed in Hydrangeas. Upstairs? Some rando accounting or insurance firm. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to work here daily?
We decided to use one ballroom as a dining room with the other as a reserve for the ceremony in case of rain with the center area as a dancing spot.
The inside was decorated all fall-y with pumpkins at the bar, fall colored flowers everywhere, and red napkins.
The organizers were very friendly and pleasant to work with. Setup went smoothly and we really didn’t have any major disruptions to the plan. I’m pleased with our venue choice.
Four days before the wedding Jen got a call from the Wadsworth. The wedding planned for the night before ours had purchased a pergola for use.
Pergola: noun An archway in a garden or park consisting of a framework covered with trained climbing or trailing plants.
As the structure would take some time to deconstruct, and they really didn’t want to have to take it apart Sunday morning, they asked us if we’d like to use it. It was a good looking structure.
Jen and I agreed that it’d be nice to use, though the offer came with a warning. The structure was setup about 100 feet further away from the mansion than we wanted. That means we’d have to move it.
Once the pergola was set up by the preceding wedding, Pat, T, and I went to the mansion to check out the structure and see how hard it would be to move. That pergola? 12 feet tall, ~8feet long. i.e. HUGE. I admitted that this would be too challenging to move, but Theresa, perhaps enamored by its beauty, encouraged us to reconsider. After a brief discussion, we agreed to give it a go.
I didn’t want to take any chances, so I asked that our Pergola team report to the Mansion at 9am on the day of the wedding.
The Pergola Team:
Sunday morning, after an episode of star trek, I loaded up the car with some tools. Steve stopped by and we headed to the mansion. T brought coffee and doughnuts.
First task: remove the ornamentation
Second task: we had no idea.
We had two guesses for moving this thing. The columns were hollow, so the first idea was to lift the columns up and carry the structure as a whole. This didn’t work as there were significant stakes in the ground beneath the columns.
Our second idea was to lift the top structure off the columns, and then move the columns individually. We had four ladders, and at their highest A frame height we were able to just barely lift the structure. The problem here was that we were extremely unstable on the ladders. There was high risk for disfigurement.
We struggled with this for about an hour before Dad D recommended we remove the top cross members to lighten the burden. The annoying part, and why we didn’t try this out of the gate, was that the pieces were secured with torx head screws and we didn’t have the right tools.
After discussion, we agreed with Dad D and Steve and I went off to Home Depot to buy the a set of Torx head screw drivers. This was much quicker than driving home.
Once we’d decided on this method, the deconstruction went pretty quick.
Please note the extremely large stakes that were used to secure the pergola columns.
Repositioning and Rebuilding begins
Yes, once we figured out what to do it was a quick process but with so many failed attempts, the process ended up taking 4 hours for 6 people. What an endeavor!
We were extremely glad to have taken on the task. The Pergola was a beautiful structure and in retrospect was a very fun distraction from pre-wedding stresses.
Jen and I chose October 20th for little reason other than venue availability. We knew we wanted the event at the Wadsworth in Middletown, and with our late booking there were only two options:
Sunday, October 20
Sunday, October 27
Jen chose the 20th because she likes even numbers and she didn’t want our holiday too close to Halloween. Because we were looking at a Sunday, we wanted to make sure that our guests could make it home and still have a pleasant sleep before work on Monday. With the 9 hours of open venue time, we opted for a 12:30pm – 9:30pm window, with a start time of 3pm.
Let’s talk weather! The following charts show the historical averages for temperature in Connecticut for the date of October 20th. We’ll start with a look at Hartford.
3pm start time was right in the prime of the day! Perfect!
And now for Middletown specifically:
In retrospect, we made a great statistical choice! But the last few years in Connecticut certainly gave us reason for concern.
October 2011: The Great October Snowstorm
18.6 inches of snowfall, 10 deaths, 830,000 power outages, $160M in damages
October 2012: Hurricane Sandy
Winds at 85mph, 4 deaths, 625,000 power outages, $360M in damages
Granted both these events were pushing the tail end of October, but the significance of their devastation made us more than mildly worried. As the day approached we kept a close eye on the forecast. Ten days out? Uninspiring, but not horrific. Rain with temperature in the mid-fifties. Thankfully, the news continuously improved. Come our wedding eve the predictions were were a mostly sunny day with highs around 63°F – looking good!
As the day dawned, we realized we couldn’t have asked for anything better. Further, the foliage was near peak!
It was warm enough in the sun that the ladies didn’t need shawls and the men didn’t burn up in their suit jackets. Truly an epic day for a party.
Episode one: The Weather
Episode two: The Pergola
Episode three: The Venue
Episode four: The Main Event
Episode five: The Party
Jen: We really have to do something about that rogue eyebrow hair.
Mike D: Jen. Stop picking my face all the time.
Jen: It’s not all the time, it’s only when your eyebrows are saluting me from your forehead; standing at attention going “heeeeeeeeeeeey!”
Marriage comes in two days and admittedly, I’m a little nervous. It turns out there’s a lot of planning in these events and timeliness and orderliness are fairly important. Really, I’m just hoping all parties involved have fun.
This one will be a very small event. Still, fun potential is high. The weather looks beautiful, and the trees are colorful like whoa. We have an awesome array of music planned for the afternoon with some jazz via my guitar teacher and some flute work via Alicia. And the food will not disappoint.
Jen and I are taking Monday and Tuesday off to relax after the big day.