Spice Up Your Winter….with these Winter Spices!

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kitchen has always been a place where people would gather – at birthday
parties, celebrations, holidays, and family gatherings. The act of breaking
bread around a table is more than just a tasty experience, it is a way to provide
nurturing and show love. We see these same traits reflected around the globe in
many different cultures.

When we prepare a meal for special occasions,
especially during the holiday season, there are always certain spices that feature
in our winter dishes. So, let’s talk about herbs and spices. Generally, herbs come
from the green leaves of plants or vegetables. Spices come from other
parts of plants and trees. For example, cinnamon comes from the hard outer
cover of cinnamon plants. The spice ginger comes from the part of the ginger
plant that grows underground!

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It is hard to imagine, in an era where spices can be found in almost every supermarket, how valuable they once were. Wars were fought, fortunes made and lost, new worlds discovered, and civilizations built for the spice trade. Spices were central to all important aspects of life: beauty (as perfume), health (as medicine), spiritual life (via their role in ritual), and, of course, sustenance (as a seasoning). From the regal orange pistils of saffron to the warm, woody bark that rendered cinnamon, they made food memorable and delicious. The fact that they came from faraway places added value. Exotic spices evoked foreign lands and stirred the imagination.

Historically, the lack of fresh produce in the winter months led people to rely more on spices. The winter months can be characterized by the rich, filling, and warming fragrances created by a selection of classic spices known as winter spices, or also commonly referred to as pie spices. Included under this title are anise, allspice, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger.

take a deeper dive into these spices! Each spice is explained below along with
a suggested use.

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Native to Sri Lanka, cinnamon can also be found in India, Myanmar, and South America. This popular spice is brown in color, has a fragrant aroma, and a warm sweet flavor.

Cinnamon can help in relieving
indigestion and nausea. The next time you feel sick or
overwhelmingly full from a huge meal, try some cinnamon tea! Just simmer three
or four cinnamon sticks in two cups of water and sweeten with some honey.

Cloves are the unopened flower buds of the clove tree. Native to Indonesia and India, the clove tree produces flower buds in clusters. These clusters are pale in color at first, then become green, and then bright red when ready for harvesting.

Have you run out of candles this holiday season? Let cloves be your hero by sticking some into oranges and placing them around the house as decorative air-fresheners. You might also want to try chewing on a clove to get rid of bad breath, but do not swallow it! If you find yourself with muscle or joint pains, roast some cloves for a couple minutes, wrap them in a towel and apply to sore spots for relief.

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Nutmeg is the spice made from a seed that grows on a tropical evergreen tree. The tree is native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. The spice nutmeg has a distinctive pungent fragrance and a warm slightly sweet taste. Did you know that the name nutmeg is also applied in different countries to other fruits or seeds, including Jamaica, Brazil, Peru, and Madagascar.

helps digestion, settles stomach aches and helps you fall asleep. Just add a
small pinch of ground nutmeg to a cup of warm ginger tea to help with stomach
problems. On nights you can’t fall asleep, heat up some milk and sprinkle in
some ground nutmeg.

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Native to southeastern Asia, ginger’s use in India and China has been known from ancient times. The spice has a slightly biting taste and is used, usually dried and ground, to flavor breads, sauces, baked goods, and many other foods. In Japan, slices of ginger are eaten between dishes or courses to clear the palate.

helps increase circulation and relieves congestion and nausea. Make ginger tea
to help reboot your system. Steep one or two teaspoons of freshly grated
ginger or ½ teaspoon of powdered ginger in a cup of boiling water for 10
minutes. But beware, ginger can be pretty spicy! You can always make things
sweeter with a touch of honey.

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Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. Native to Europe and the Middle East, the plant is cultivated all over the world. Peppermint has a strong sweetish odor and a warm pungent taste with a cooling aftertaste. Mint flowers are often dried and used to flavor candy, desserts, beverages, and other foods. Its essential oil is also widely used.

Peppermint can be very helpful as it stimulates digestion, eliminates nausea and toxins, and helps freshen your breath. If taking after-dinner mints or mint gum is not enough, try a cup of freshly brewed mint tea. Take two cups of fresh mint leaves and steep them in a pot of boiling water for a good 8-10 minutes and enjoy! 

as you plan your holiday menu, which of these winter spices will make the cut and
appear in your favorite dishes? The benefits of using these spices go beyond
simply tasting great, but also provide plenty of health benefits too!

High Touch High Tech wishes you and your family a happy, healthy, warm, and spicy holiday season! And if you would like to keep the kiddos busy with some FUN, at-home science experiments during the holiday season, check out our STEM Gingerbread House Building Challenge. Find a list of what you need and instructions here: https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/gingerbread_engineer.pdf


Mission to Mars

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
Red Planet Day
November 28th!

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Red Planet – Mars

Who’s ready to go on a mission to Mars? If you are like me, you have already been on a mission to Mars, thanks to the classic ride at Disney World. Mission to Mars was an attraction located in Tomorrowland at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. I remember being on this ride as a child in the 1970’s. As you entered Mission to Mars, you were greeted first with a control room, featuring then cutting-edge animatronic figures that talked about what the first crewed mission to Mars would be like. While footage ran on screens, a robotic scientist talked about things like “the way crystals form in zero-G.” After that you were ushered into a circular theater that looked a lot like the inside of a modern airplane. Side screens showed the diagnostics associated with the trip, including how far away you were from earth and how close you were to the red planet. Narration would play about the nature of the voyage, with phrases like “Mars acquisition velocity” and “hyperspace penetration commencing”. Dangers like meteors and black holes were detected and barely avoided. There were also references to how this kind of space travel was “routine” but back in the 1970’s and 1980’s seemed like science fiction.

Let’s fast forward to 2020!

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SpaceX Space Craft

The SpaceX Mars & Beyond program has
a robust plan to facilitate the eventual colonization of Mars. Is this
even a real possibility?

It took billions of years for Earth to
become a hospitable planet for humans and I think you would agree we’ve been
very comfortable living on earth. So why travel to Mars? Because it’s the red
planet in our night sky! Because it’s there! To paraphrase President John F.
Kennedy, we want to go to Mars, not because it is easy, but because it is hard!

The program includes fully reusable
launch vehicles, human rated space craft, on orbit propellant tankers, raid
turnaround, launch and landing mounts, and local production of rocket fuel on
Mars via in situ resource utilization (ISRU). SpaceX and Elon Musk have named
2024 as their goal for an un-crewed mission, with a crewed mission to follow

A key element of the program is the SpaceX
starship, a fully reusable super heavy lift launch vehicle under development
since 2018. To achieve a large payload, the spacecraft would first enter Earth’s
orbit after launch, where it is expected to be refueled before it departs to
Mars. After landing on Mars, the spacecraft would be loaded with locally
produced propellants to return to Earth. The expected payload for the Starship
launch vehicle is between 100–150 tonnes (220,000–330,000 lbs.).  

SpaceX intends to concentrate its
resources on the transportation part of the Mars colonization project,
including the design of a plant based propellant utilizing the Sabatier
process that will be deployed on Mars to synthesize methane and
liquid oxygen as rocket propellants from the local supply of atmospheric
carbon dioxide and ground-accessible water & ice. Sound like
science fiction?

It’s an ambitious plan! Any successful
colonization would ultimately require involvement from many more economic
participants, whether individuals, companies, or governments—to facilitate the
growth of the human presence on Mars.

Here are some compelling reasons why this
plan is a good idea:

1. Enhanced national prestige, national
security, and economic vitality

2. Technological leadership and the development
of new technologies for non-space applications

3. New scientific discoveries not obtainable
from robotic missions to Mars

4. To inspire both the American public and the
next generation of scientist, technologist, engineer, and mathematician (STEM)

Some have suggested other reasons for colonizing
the Red Planet that are more catastrophic in nature, including Mars as a safe
haven for the survival of the human species and as a possible solution to the
exponential population explosion on our planet.

The trip will
take about nine months each way with a stay time on the surface of Mars of
several hundred days. The long length of the mission will provide an excellent
opportunity to engage the public and inspire students to pursue STEM-related
professions, products, and industries. We last witnessed a significant increase
in students studying STEM following the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957.

Why Mars? Scientists
think that early Mars was more hospitable and more Earth-like than present-day
Mars. Early Mars most probably possessed an atmosphere considerably denser than
its present-day atmosphere. The surface of present-day Mars is devoid of liquid
water. However, photographs of Mars from orbit and from the surface suggest
that early in its history Mars possessed abundant and widespread surface liquid
water in the form of lakes, rivers, and even planetary-scale oceans.

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Astronaut Exploring Mars

Why humans? Humans have unique capabilities for
performing scientific measurements, observations, and sample collecting. The attributes
needed for exploration and scientific discovery include intelligence,
adaptability, agility, dexterity, cognition, patience, and problem solving in
real-time. We possess the abilities to adapt to new and unexpected situations
in new and strange environments. With state-of-the-art scientific equipment and
instrumentation brought from Earth, the increased laboratory ability on Mars would
allow for dramatically more scientific return. Exploration of Mars would be
performed as a synergistic partnership between humans and robotic probes where
probes could traverse great distances/terrain too risky for human exploration.

However, the most exciting role for the human explorer/scientist is just beginning as we start the greatest adventure in human history, the human exploration of the Solar System starting with the Red Planet.

At Home Experiment:

The surface of present-day Mars is devoid of liquid
water. But if humans were to colonize the planet, water would be critical. Much
of the fresh water on Earth is contained in aquifers. Aquifers are layers of
soil, gravel, sand, and rock beneath the Earth’s crust. The water in aquifers
has been there for thousands of years. Check out our at-home experiment and
make your very own water aquifer – you never know, it may come in handy if you
ever find yourself on Mars!

Exploding Colors

We offer a fun experiment called “Exploding Colors” that represents
the relationship between milk and common dish soap that can be found at your
home! Milk has fat in it and the food coloring floats on top of the fat. The
fat is all connected with bonds. Think of it like the little pieces of fat all
holding hands with each other. Dish soaps are used on greasy or oily dishes
because it breaks the bonds in fats allowing them to separate. Make sure to check
out our experiments page for the full experiment!

First, we add food coloring to milk. This does not change the
chemical reaction, but rather it allows for us to have a clear visual of what
is actually going on when the experiment is done. When you add the dish soap to
the milk, the fat separates and moves making your colors explode! As soap is
added, the soap wants to bond with the fat molecules that are found in the
milk, and it creates a beautiful reaction easily seen with addition of the food

Ice Cube Fishing & Freezing Point Depression

Sometimes, when we add a compound to water or ice, it can
change the freezing temperature of the liquid. The process of lowering the freezing
temperature of a liquid is called freezing point depression.

This is a concept that those who live in areas with very
harsh winters see in action very often. Consider a day when the temperatures
are far below freezing. For these areas, large portions of salt are typically
used to keep roads from icing and making conditions unsafe for drivers. This is
an everyday example of freezing point depression! The salt changes the temperature
at which the water freezes, and cars can continue to drive on the road safely.

At High Touch High Tech, we have an experiment called Ice
Cube Fishing that utilizes this scientific concept while creating a fun game
for children to better understand the concept. During the experiment, string is
added to a cup of ice, and salt is poured in the cup. The salt lowers the
freezing point of water causing the ice to begin to melt. As the ice melts it
becomes colder and the string freezes to the ice, making it possible to “catch”
many pieces of ice with the string.

Chlorophyll is for Smarty Plants!

What’s Chlorophyll? It is a natural chemical that makes plants green! Chlorophyll is found not only in plants but also in algae and some bacteria.

Chlorophyll has a molecular structure in which Magnesium is located at the center, and plants that contain chlorophyll are autotrophs, meaning that they are able to create the nutrients that they need internally. Chlorophyll is found in tiny organelles called chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are the food producers for plants. They make the sugar and starch to give plants energy.

Chlorophyll is the molecule that allows for plants to undergo the photosynthetic process. This allow for plants to utilize light from the sun to create the necessary nutrients for continued growth and health. During this process, chlorophyll uses sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to create food energy for the plant.

Chlorophyll keeps plants green and alive! By performing our Smarty Plants experiment, found on our experiment page, you can extract or remove the chlorophyll from spinach leaves. In concluding the experiment, you will end up with a green liquid. That is chlorophyll!


The Arctic is one of the coldest environments on Earth.
Winters are long with few hours of daylight. The Inuit people must adapt to
this extreme climate. They need thick, warm clothing made from animal skins and
furs. They make boots, hats and warm jackets called anoraks. The Inuit people
build sturdy shelters to protect themselves from the harsh winds and bitter

The Inuit word for home is “igloo.” Igloos are used as quick
shelter to protect oneself and their family by trapping body heat in the mostly
enclosed space.  The size of the igloo depends
upon the size of the base, but the shelters can often hold a family inside, and
someone who is experienced in the art can create an igloo in less than two
hours! During the summer, the igloos are made from a wooden frame with animal
skins and whale bones. During the winter, however, igloos are made from blocks
of ice!

Originally, any snow used in creating the igloo was carved
out of bone, but now more modern tools are used. Inuit people carve large
blocks of dry, hard snow. First, they place a circular ring of blocks on level
ground. The second row of blocks are tilted slightly inward. As each row is
stacked, the walls grow taller, and the blocks begin to arch together. The
structure is a dome. Finally, a key block is placed on the top. The builders
cut a hole in this key block for ventilation. This hole allows air and smoke
from a fire to escape.

The entrance into the igloo is a tunnel. This prevents warm
air from escaping and cold air from entering the structure. The doorway is
small, and one must crawl inside. The blocks of ice act as insulators. There is
gradual thawing on the inner walls. But, when the people leave the igloo to go
hunting during the day, the hardened snow refreezes into ice. This thawing and
refreezing actually strengthens the blocks.

Experiment of the Day: Bird Migration

During the cold winter months, you may wear a big winter
coat, play inside more often, or even eat different foods. We change our habits
and adapt to the changes of weather, and animals do the same! There are different
species of birds that travel from cold northern locations to warmer locations
further south during winter months, this is called migration. Birds will
migrate to find more abundant food and better weather!

There are a few types of migration patterns that birds take.
Some birds are called obligate migrants, meaning that the timing of
travel is dictated by instinct. No matter the weather condition, obligate
migrant birds will fly south, because they are “obligated” to spend the winter
in the deep tropics of South America. Songbirds, raptors and shorebirds are all
obligate migrants.

The other type of migrating birds is facultative. Facultative
migrants make their migrating decisions by the slight changes in weather and
begin to migrate once the weather dips below a certain point. Unlike obligate
birds which travel to the southern tip of South America, facultative birds
migrate shorter distances, often staying within the United States.  Ducks, geese, swans, cranes, orioles, and
warblers are all facultative migrants.

If you enjoy spending time outdoors, birdwatching might be a
fun new hobby for you! You can spend all four seasons observing birds, and you
may even see non-native birds on their yearly migrations!  Pick up a pair of binoculars, and utilize an
online bird seeing tracker! The eBird website allows you to find the name of
species, photos, identification tools, and their specific calls and songs!
Search the bird sightings in your local area at: https://ebird.org/home

High Touch High Tech has the perfect experiment to attract
new, rare birds in your yard! Build your own bird feeder and see our
recommendations for the type of seed to attract new birds! Visit our Bird
Migration experiment at: https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/bird_migration.pdf

Bee Pollination Game

Did you know that there are over 20,000 different kinds of

Bees are pollinators and live off the nectar from plants.
These insects are attracted to the bright colors and sweet smell of flowers and
vegetables. While pollinating, each bee will collect pollen from up to one
hundred flowers!

The concept of cross-pollination is something that can be easily
understood, by noticing how bees pollinate! When the bees land on the petals,
the plants pollen sticks to their bodies. The bees move from plant to plant
carrying the pollen. The pollen is transferred to the other plants and moves
down to the plants’ eggs. Once the pollen meets the eggs, a seed is formed.
This is called fertilization. These seeds will create new plants. When a bee
pollinates multiple flowers, they often carry a bit of pollen from each flower
along with them. This cross-pollination allows for new species of flowers to develop
and bloom!

Bees also collect nectar from each flower and put it in a
special sack, called a pollen basket, attached to its hind legs. In this sack,
the nectar reacts to special enzymes. This reaction begins the process of
turning the nectar into honey. The bees bring this sugary nectar back to their
hive and pass it to another worker bee. This bee continues the job by placing
the nectar in a beeswax comb. The bees produce this wax through secretions from
the nectar. The nectar sits in the beeswax comb and slowly forms into honey. Bees
know all about teamwork, as each one will create a fraction of a teaspoon in
their lifetime.

Experiment of the Day: Chromatography Flowers

What is chromatography? Chromatography is a technique
that scientists use to help separate and identify the components of mixtures
(solvents), such as those used in making commercial inks and dyes. Many types
of ink, like many materials, are made up of two or more different substances.
By passing a mixture through a liquid, most often water, you’re able to
separate out the components of that mixture!

In High Touch High Tech’s Chromatography Flowers experiment,
we use water’s powers to assist us in chromatography. Water is sticky, meaning
that water molecules want to stay close together. Cohesion is the force
that keeps water molecules together, while adhesion attracts water
molecules to other substances. Water is pulled up the pipe cleaner using
adhesion and cohesion, and then begins to stick to our coffee filter, climbing
across the filter and spreading outwards.

Once the water reaches the coffee filter which we have drawn
on, the chromatography process begins! The water is absorbed into the ink left
by the marker and continues to climb across the coffee filter, separating the
components of the ink!

Access the full Chromatography Flowers experiment at : https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/chromatography_flower.pdf

Understanding Compost

Have you ever wondered how plants continue to sprout, grow,
and bloom year after year? How can they continue to receive the nutrients that
they need to continue growing in the same soil? This is because the soil
naturally renews itself with the nutrients from other plants, and with the help
of a few other organisms. As plants die they become a part of the soil again,
and something new can grow in their place. Compost forms naturally nearly
everywhere! Leaves drop from trees. Grass clippings are left after mowing the
lawn. Plants and animals die. Over time, these organic materials break down or
decompose. The rich, dark brown, crumbly, soil-like material that results is
called compost.

Tiny living things do much of the work of breaking down
organic materials to form compost. These tiny workers are called microorganisms
and include such things as bacteria and fungi. Animals living in the soil help
microorganisms break down organic materials. Worms and pill bugs are examples
of organisms that help change organic waste into compost.

We can create some of the best plant food by putting our
food waste to good use, feel good about making a positive impact on the world
around us, and even use the compost to grow more plants for ourselves. The
organic materials provide many of the nutrients that plants need for growth and
activity. Eventually, these nutrients are returned to the soil, to be used
again by trees, grass, and other plants. This is nature’s way of composting and

Composting is an easy way for us to do our part in allowing
the soil to regenerate itself. The compost that you make at your home or school
can be used as mulch or mixed into the soil. Compost is one of nature’s best
mulches and soil amendments. By composting and mulching, you can save money by
reducing your fertilizer and landscaping bills, lowering your water bill, and
spending less on trash pickups or disposal.