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Crys.jpg (9838 bytes)Yes, you and the little ones can actually grow a coral-like crystal garden. And the best news is, it won’t cost you but a few pennies (unlike the more expensive "crystal kits" you can buy at museum gift shops and toy stores for $20 and up). The crystals you’ll be growing will be wispy, will be colorful (especially depending on what food coloring you add), and will remind you of everything from an undersea coral garden, to a forest as viewed from thousands of miles above, to a stand of broccoli gone radioactive. Or, these growths could look to a mom like something in the back of the fridge that was food in its former life say, oh, about three years ago.

Here’s how to make these wispy wonders, which will begin growing in your dish within minutes after you pour the "recipe" over their growing medium. And the growing medium (and first ingredient) is a brick. Cover the brick with a cloth, give it a couple of whacks with a hammer to produce walnut-sized pieces, and then artistically arrange these pieces in a deep-sided, aluminum pie pan. (Believe me, you won’t want to use the pan for a pie after this!)

Next, mix—in the following order—four tablespoons of plain (NOT iodized) salt, four tablespoons ofRocks.jpg (29090 bytes) liquid bluing (available at any full-service grocery store), four tablespoons of water, and one tablespoon of ammonia. (WARNING: Ammonia can be harmful, and so this mixing should be done by an adult or with adult supervision.)

Next, stir the mixture until the salt dissolves, and pour it evenly over the shards of brick. Then take food coloring and put just a few drops of different colors onto the brick pieces. Now all you’ve got to do is wait—and watch if you like—as in a matter of hours the mix starts growing in brightly colored clumps of wispy coral. Be careful with the dish and the crystal garden can literally last for weeks (maybe even until the weather takes a turn for the warmer).

 

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