Chemistry For Every Kid

So, we're back to doing science experiments this year. We did them a few years ago, but took this last year off for biology studies. The kiddos really enjoy these experiments, and they're super easy to put together. Otherwise, let's face it, I probably wouldn't bother.

I picked up this Janice VanCleave book, Chemistry For Every Kid. You can get the hardback on Amazon for under $3. Fer reals.
Aside: we also have the Janice VanCleave Math For Every Kid, which is really good for explaining basic math concepts to kids (grades 3-8). Janice is also a Houston, TX native so, we're keeping it local here.

With the chemistry book, there are over 100 basic experiments covering a variety of topics.
I choose about 8 to do at a time. I type up a notebook page template sheet that has the name of the experiment, a one line description, a large space for the kids to draw a picture of the experiment, a few blank lines for them to write what happened, and a short paragraph describing why this AMAZING THING occurs.
I'm basically copying all this verbatim from the chemistry book.
So, for each experiment, each kiddo gets a corresponding notebook page to fill out while we're doing the experiment. We then put these notebook pages in our science journals after we're done.
So, for example, in the picture above, in the two small wine glasses, we actually have apple juice and pineapple juice in the glasses. Along with vinegar. The experiment is to test for the presence of iron and have it settle in hardened form on the bottom of the glass.
The coke and salt...well you can imagine what happens there. My 12yo daughter was so impressed with that experiment she posted the video on Instagram.
INSTAGRAM! (It's almost like I'm a celebrity)

In the penny experiment above, we have pennies coated with vinegar to see how fast they turn green!
Lightening speed, people, lightening speed...

And in this cool experiment, called Naked Egg, we learned how to take the shell off an egg without cracking it!
OMG it's like MAGIC

I only pick experiments that use household items we have on hand. Most of the ones in this book require salt, baking soda, vinegar, bleach, fruit, sodas, etc. Like I said, anything that requires a trip to the store or super advanced planning probably ain't gonna happen here. Another reason to love love this book book.
Anyway, my kiddos enjoy science and it's so easy to set these up I don't mind indulging them in a little chemical fun every now and then.
 If only school WAS fun, right? wink wink.

Homemade Chai

So I gave up coffee earlier this year. It was sometime in the spring, after we got back from Seattle. Ironic, I know. I've been drinking coffee off and on for many MANY years. I tried quitting last year but then for my birthday my mother bought me a Keurig and a lifetime supply of different flavored coffees. I felt obligated.
But, to be honest, I don't like the after-taste that comes with those flavored 'instant' coffees. If you read the labels, most of 'latte' coffees contain aspartame or sucralose. Which is essentially the same after-taste/sweetener you get in diet foods and drinks. Google it. It's not good for you, and it tastes bad - if you haven't acquired a taste for it.
Also, many of the flavored coffees on the market today contain gluten. Weird, I know. But true.
And I'll admit, most of my coffee addiction was to the creamers and lattes - not the actual coffee. So, giving up the coffee meant giving up the artificial-ness of the creamers and sweeteners.
I don't miss it.
Though, I will occasionally indulge in a redcup from Starbucks.
I mean, come on, I'm not an animal.

But, since I AM only human, I had to replace one addiction with another.
So, I chose Chai (tea).
Now, I've learned that Chai means 'tea', so to say, "I like Chai tea" is basically the same as saying, "I like tea tea"...which, probably isn't true, and probably not something grown women should say, ya know, out loud.
But, I do like Chai. A lot. Like, in an obsessive I want to make out with it and swim in it kind of way. Kinda the same way I used to like The Guinness back in my beer drinking days. I guess I'm just drawn to strong dark drinks. At least this one is fairly healthy. Or, at least not UN-healthy.
The problem is finding a good loose leaf Chai. The Chai that comes from Starbucks is a syrup (and yes, I realize I'm capitalizing 'Chai' and I have no idea if that's correct or why I'm doing it, but let's just go with it for now). And here in San Antonio we don't have any loose leaf tea stores. I found a great one in Fort Worth, in fact their Emperor Chai is what inspired me to make my own. It's wonderful stuff, but expensive and has to be shipped so I can't just run to the store and get some when I run out. Gah!
Whole Foods has a decent loose leaf Chai but so far has been out of stock the last few times I've gone. It's also expensive, and not as strong (read: cinnamon-y) as I'd like.
So, I decided to try making my own.
I googled a few recipes and basically came up with my own by combining a few of the recipes I liked. I purchased my spices, got out my mortar and pestle and got to work smashing up cinnamon and cardamom...

and star anise.

and peppercorns...

and candied ginger (oh my...who knew THIS stuff existed! What heaven!)

My kitchen smelled so I said, I think I could have made a bath of this and swam in it. I mean seriously, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom...bless it, people.

Once I had everything broken down I toasted it in the oven for a few minutes (5 minutes, to be exact). Let it cool, then combined it with the ginger and loose leaf black tea (this I purchased in bulk from Whole Foods - I think it's Asaam, but any black tea would work). And threw it in my jars.

So, the one on the left is the large pkg I purchased from the Fort Worth store online. It cost me over $30 and barely filled half the jar. The jar on the right is the batch I made myself, which cost me about the same amount, over-filled the jar (I had to put the overflow in a different jar) and I still have muchos spices left over to make more batches. I'm also able to adjust the spice - so if I want more cinnamon and less star anise, I can haz it!

I keep mine in mason jars...chalk painted the tops. I love me some hot tea.
Here's my recipe (I doubled this recipe to fill up the large mason jar):

Loose Leaf Chai
1 cup loose leaf black tea (Assam or Darjeeling) 
4 cinnamon sticks
6-8 star anise broken up (or 3 tsp anise seed)
1 T fennel seeds
2 T whole cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds 

24 green cardamom pods
1 tsp black peppercorns
6 T crystallized ginger
1 T ground nutmeg or allspice

Crumble cinnamon sticks into small pieces. Split cardamom pods in half. Crush other spices with rolling pin or mortar and pestle. Place cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cloves, coriander, cardamom, and peppercorns in a pie tin and toast in oven at 350 for about 5 minutes.
Toss spices, ginger, nutmeg and black tea together. Store in airtight container.
YUM! Also makes a great gift!
*Here are a few links I found useful: