Growing Crystals and Going Slow
 
Isn’t it amazing how the world transforms when a winter storm rolls through? The way the cold air shimmers with tiny frost crystals and the trees and bushes sparkle, coated in icy diamonds. It is worth it to bundle up and take a slow walk through this wonderland of stark sun and bright snow and breathe in the fresh air and magical transformation of winter. 

This time of year, I like to wander. Slow, gentle, and serene. I take time to look at all the little details - the frost on the edge of a leaf, the snow in piles on the branches of the trees, the intricate beauty of each single snowflake. This winter has been a mild and warm one, and I have been missing the intensity of last year’s storms. With iced-in cars and snow-filled roads, my neighbors and I were forced to stay home and only venture out for essentials (no joke, I skied to the grocery store.) When the world is an icy wonderland, it gives us permission to slow down, to be gentle. But the energy of the season is the same, no matter the temperature outside. And that’s why I think it’s important to issue this gentle but assertive reminder: it’s okay to go slow.

Listen to your body’s natural rhythms. How do you feel this week? This moment? What is your energy level? What is your pace? I think that sometimes self-care is seen as an unnecessary luxury, all bubble baths and expensive chocolate. But the very definition of self care is taking care of yourself, whatever that means to you. It’s being honest with yourself about what you need and what you are capable of. It’s giving yourself permission to do what you need to do to stay happy, healthy, and relaxed. So sit down and savor that cup of tea. Work on an art project you’ve been wanting to try. Take a long bath. Sleep in a little later than usual. And whatever you do, do it slowly. The world will keep turning without your frantic stress. Shed the non-essentials and focus instead on what you truly need.

This art project is my way to remind myself during this warm, snow-less winter of the seasonal lessons that are all too easy to forget. Go slow, just as the hibernating creatures and slow-growing trees do right now. Relish the little moments, for they will melt away before you know it. Spend time outside, no matter the temperature because the world is full of little wonders. Listen to the ice and snow (or your memory of them) for they have lessons to teach you. 

Until Jack Frost makes his return to my neck of the woods, I’m going to be-glitter my own dazzling winter adornments. It’s really easy to grow sparkling crystals on a variety of items, and a fun little science project as well! 

Just about anything can be crystalized as long as it won’t dissolve in water. The crystallization itself can happen rather quickly; in just a few hours, your object will be covered in tiny sparkling crystals! If you leave it overnight those crystals will grow in size and become truly impressive. There are many uses for your crystalized objects; use them as decor; craft them into a magical crown; decorate a special event with them; tie them to the top of a special gift.

You can grow crystals out of several common household ingredients. Borax is probably the most common and the crystals grown from a borax solution will be small and slightly cloudy, but still beautiful. Sugar is another option, with the added bonus of being edible! But alum is my favorite, for it produces crystals with the most stunning clarity. It is often used in pickling and can be found in small amounts in the baking isle with the spices. It’s fairly cheap to order larger amounts online as well. (And if you have extra, save it to use as a fixative for natural dyes on fabric!)

Ingredients: 

items to be crystalized

white glue

crystal-growing ingredient of choice (see above)

container

thread, chopsticks or skewers, etc.

Directions:

  1. The first step in growing your own crystals is to prepare your items. It’s best if they can be suspended in the solution; otherwise they run the risk of becoming attached to the crystals at the bottom. If it’s possible to drill a hole or suspend in some way, do so. 
  2. Next you’ll need to “seed” your item. Simply dab on a little bit of white glue and sprinkle with the crystal ingredient, then let dry completely. (This may take several hours or overnight.)
  3. Prepare your container: decide what size of container will hold your object(s) and then start arranging your items inside. Suspend them if possible, but if not you can use a little polymer clay or modeling clay (oil based, not water based!) to create a little stand for it to sit on. Make sure everything is stable and suspended. 
  4. Prepare your solution: you’ll be making a saturated solution, which basically means you are adding as much of the crystal-growing ingredient as possible to water until it won’t dissolve any more. This needs to be done by feel, but plan on having a little more crystal growing ingredient as you have water. Add 1 part water to a small saucepan, then add 1/2 part of the crystal growing ingredient and stir to dissolve. Continue adding your crystal ingredient a little bit at a time until it stops dissolving. 
  5. Heat your mixture up over medium-low heat, adding a bit more crystal ingredient as you go and stirring to dissolve completely. Your solution is ready when it will no longer dissolve any more crystal ingredient. 
  6. Let the mixture cool slightly, then pour it into your container full of things ready to be crystalized. Let sit for a couple of hours, then check. You should see small crystals forming by now. Leave as long as you’d like; the longer you leave it, the larger your crystals will become. After a while the solution will become exhausted, with all of the dissolved crystal ingredient having been precipitated out by your items and by the growth of crystals on the bottom of the container. If you’d like to continue using it to grow crystals, just empty it all back into a saucepan and add a bit more water and dissolve all of the leftover crystal lumps. Then add more material to reach the saturated solution point described in step 5. Repeat the process of pouring it over your items and leaving it for a couple of days. 

Once you’ve crystallized your items of choice, use or display them in a way that will remind you of winter’s slow beauty. Every time you look at them remember: go slow. Be kind to yourself.