Homemade Pizza Equals Family Fun

Isn’t pizza everyone’s favorite? It is with our family and we wanted to make it more fun and healthier. So, we’ve started making it at home. Talk about interactive science and learning! This fits right in with Nancy Larson® Science 2 and lessons teaching measuring, physical changes and flexibility, and chemical reactions (air bubbles). Everyone gets in on the action and we let the creativity flow.
We use a baking stone and place the pizza dough directly on the pre-heated stone. You can purchase pizza stones. We went to our local building supply store and picked out a 16″ square, glazed porcelain tile. It cost about three dollars and works perfectly. The basic pizza dough recipe I use is from Cooking Light magazine, May 2010.
1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pour 3/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook. Add flour and mix until combined. Cover and let stand 20 minutes.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup warm water with yeast in small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add yeast mixture, oil, and salt to flour mixture. Mix for five minutes or until a soft dough forms. Let dough rest for at least 30 minutes.
You can make the dough ahead, place in a plastic zip-closure bag, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
I’ve used gluten-free rice flour, wheat flour, and a 50/50 blend of wheat and unbleached white flour. So there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of what flour you can use.
After the dough rests, everyone gets a portion to make their personal pizza. The recipe will make four pizzas each about 10-11 inches across.

The little ones have a great time rolling it out.

Zach puts his muscles into it. He loves cooking.

Molly is sure she can do it, “Me self.” She’s very hands-on.

I couldn’t resist the fun of rolling the dough with her.

We place the dough on the pizza stone/tile and bake at 500 degrees for about two minutes on each side. You’ll want the crust to be a light tan. As it bakes, use the tip of a knife to prick the air bubbles created.
Remove the crust from the oven and brush the top side with olive oil. This keeps the sauce from soaking into the crust so there’s no soggy pizza.

I pour the pizza sauce into a bowl, give everyone a spoon, and let them spread the sauce on their crusts.

Koren couldn’t resist helping and getting in on the fun.

We put out a variety of toppings: meats, vegetables, and fruit.

Zach starts with pepperoni.

Then Zach adds pineapple. Molly started with ham.

Then Molly adds red and green bell peppers. Of course we finish with cheese, Mozzarella or an Italian blend. Koren made her pizza cheese-free with lots of vegetables and pineapple.When the creations are ready for the oven, bake them on the pizza stone at 500 degrees an additional 5-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly. More toppings require a longer baking time.

Here are some of our creations. We don’t worry if they aren’t round or square. We call them “free form”.

This one has fresh tomatoes, olives, and chopped, homemade meatballs.

Fresh basil is wonderful on pizza. I like to put it under the other toppings. This keeps it from being dried out while baking.

I hope you have fun with this. We’d love to hear from you and see photos of your creations.
Madon Dailey
Homeschool Manager
Nancy Larson® Science

Ad Astra Alpacas

I’ve always loved llamas and alpacas. There’s just something about their quizzical faces, soft dense fiber, and quiet nature that I find calming and intriguing. We had friends in New Mexico who allowed us to help with their llamas and alpacas, even on shearing day. It was such a treat. So I was thrilled when I visited Family Day at the Iwig Dairy Farm and found my friend Claudia and her Ad Astra Alpacas.

Claudia invited us for a tour of Ad Astra Alpacas located at Claudia’s childhood home. What was a dairy farm, is now home to about fifty alpacas, a few cats, and Pepper, their dog.

We began our tour in the store, where Claudia explained how the alpaca fiber is sheared, and then combed so that all the fiber strands are going the same direction.

Once the fiber is combed, it creates bats. These are like clouds of softness.

Claudia has a special felting machine that uses hundreds of tiny hooked pins to pull bats together, creating alpaca felt.

The felt can be used to make hats, bags,  and pet beds. Claudia has her own staff of pet bed testers, here hard at work.

Then there’s this amazing shawl. For this, two bats are placed perpendicular to each other and felted together. Then a delicate silk scarf is felted to the alpaca fiber. The result is a warm, soft alpaca shawl with silk scarf patterned on the outside.

We also saw the fiber before and after it was spun into yarn.

Claudia’s store has lots of handknit items. I picked up several pair of socks. I like wearing the socks and knowing the animals that help keep my feet warm and dry in any weather.

The boys were excited to see the alpacas. Animals that created such soft socks had to be special. Claudia led us outside to the girls paddock. (Female and male alpacas are kept separate once their are weaned.)

We were immediately greeted by the official “Welcome Lady”.

Following Claudia around the shed, we saw the rest of the “girls”.

Infant alpacas are called Cria. Claudia had two cria that were about three months old. Ad Astra is part of the Kansas state motto “Ad Astra Per Aspera” and translates, “To the Stars.”  In honor of this, Claudia names all alpacas born on her farm after stars, constellations, and celestial events.

She carried over Aurora so the boys could pet her.

Claudia’s alpacas visit schools, senior centers, and even the local cafe. So they are used to having strangers around them, and seem to pose for young photographers.

They are also willing to have their necks and backs petted, which I loved. “Hands on science” had a whole new feel as I had each hand buried deep in the softness of this lovely lady’s back.

It was great for the boys to see and touch the alpacas while Claudia answered every possible question, like “What colors can alpacas be?” We only had to look around to see most of the colors possible.
If you’re interested in learning about alpacas, check out: http://www.alpacainfo.com/.  You will probably find an alpaca farm near you that encourages visits. You’ll also find that alpacas are popular with homeschool families, so new friends could be just down the road.

–Madon Dailey
Homeschool Manager
Nancy Larson® Science




Warming Hearts, Hands, and Feet

For me, one of the best ways to bring warmth to the heart is to help others. Recently, we created holiday wreaths to give warmth to families at the local homeless shelter. This isn’t just for the holidays. Winter is here and there’s always need for warm clothing. You can use any type of wreath— evergreen, grapevine, wire frame, or even a clothes hanger bent into a circle. Decorate it with gloves, socks, scarves, and stuffed animals. Then deliver these to your rescue mission or homeless shelter.

Anthony, Stuart, and Stuart’s mother, Melanie, helped create these wreaths.

We started by tying pieces of ribbon, about 24″ long, evenly spaced around the wreath.

The boys took turns deciding where to put each pair of socks or gloves.  Then Melanie tied the pairs on the wreath, tying the ribbon in a bow, and curling the ends. This makes it easy to remove the items.
We also had some small teddy bears to add. I was able to find these at the Dollar Tree store. For about thirteen dollars per wreath, we created a fun time for the boys and Melanie. It was a good opportunity to talk about giving to others, what it meant to be homeless, how we want to help other people, and put the words into action.


Then we loaded everyone and everything in the car to make the delivery. The boys and Melanie sang and had a great time entertaining us with “A Hippopotamus for Christmas” and other songs I didn’t know.

Our shelter has all donations taken to their distribution center. The gentlemen working there were very gracious about accepting the wreaths. Later, they told me what a good idea they thought the wreaths were. So it was a win-win for everyone.

We topped the afternoon with a trip to Orange Leaf for frozen yogurt.

Later in the week Zach, Molly, and their mother, Koren, came by for a visit. They made a wreath with their favorite school colors.