Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snowy Books and Crystal Creations

So I don't know about everyone else out there, but we have had what I would call a very bizarre winter this year.  Like, one morning earlier this month we drove to school watching a rainbow out the car window! That's just not a normal January occurrence around here. Anyway, despite the strangeness it is still winter and we are still enjoying our wintry books. 

Here are 2 of my winter favorites!! 
(I love these two so much I put them on the our top ten holiday book list.) 

Snow by Uri Shulevitz
"But snowflakes don't listen to the
radio and snowflakes don't watch
television.  All snowflakes know is snow."

Snowmen at Night, by Caralyn Buehner
And I am so excited because I just saw a new edition,
 Snowmen All Year. I'll tell you all about it when the book order arrives!

And a new snowy book we discovered this year...

Sneezy the Snowman by Maureen Wright
My kids really got a kick out of a story where the snowman just can't get warmed up,
without melting that is. The only part I didn't like? One of the girls gives Sneezy her coat and
then she looks cold in all the rest of the pictures.  Anyway, it's got a nice little predictable
pattern which is great for building early literacy skills and then there is a fun twist at the end.
So, after you've cuddled up with one of these or a snow favorite of your own,  it's time for crystal creations!!  I saw these fantastic snowflakes at a craft fair.  They were all sparkly and pretty and I was just dying to know how to make my own.  Turns out it is pretty darn easy.
 Supplies: Borax (apparently it's important that it's the laundry boost and not borax soap), pipe cleaners, string, boiling water, glass jars, and pencils.

1- You just want to fold and twist the pipe cleaners together to make a cool shape.  The ones I originally saw were true snowflake shapes, made by much older kids.  We just bent and twisted and curled the pipe cleaners around our fingers until we got cool shapes we liked.

  The more holes and spiky parts, the more crystally it will get.  Also, the longer the 'snowflake' from end to end, the taller the jar you'll need.  Next time I'll cut the pipe cleaners shorter-- the one pictured above was too tall for a pickle jar (and I mean the big pickle jar from Costco), so we had to curl the ends.

2- Once your done folding and twisting, it's string time.  The goal is to suspend the pipe cleaners in the solution so the pencil rests on top of the jar.  (School aged kids could help with this.)

3- (adult jobs begin) Boil the water and add it to wide mouthed glass jars.  I used a pyrex cup so I'd know how much water I was adding in order to then add the correct amount of borax...

3 tbsp borax per 1 cup water

Of course, you could use all the same size jar and that would make things less complicated.  (I noticed today that the 15 oz con queso jars would probably be perfect.  Weird I know, but maybe after the super bowl party you'll be looking for something to do with all the dip jars-- here you go!)

We made a lot, so we needed a lot of jars-- might not want to get quite a crazy as we did...

4- Once the pencils are attached and the jars are filled with solution, drop them in and let them sit overnight.  You don't want the pipe cleaner to touch the bottom or sides of the jar (FYI).  You can add food coloring to the solution if you want them to come out colored, although ours weren't very vibrant in the end.

Above, some shots of ours crystallizing.  Also, here's a link explaining what happens.  The magic of science!  I also read you could use sugar or salt to grow the crystals (remember rock candy) but I don't know the ratio and supposedly they'd take longer.

Finally, the finished products.  I had a heck of a time photographing these so you could really see them sparkling. They really are pretty fantastic, even if the pictures don't quite give you that Hope Diamond lustre.

I think you could go a lot of cool directions with these. Kids' initials would be fun and crystallized hearts would be gorgeous for Valentine's Day. Oooh, maybe you could even make rings and bracelets.  Hmm, I might have to go buy more white pipe cleaners!

Happy reading!

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