What inspired us today...in oh so many ways...

The flower said I wish I was a tree
The tree said I wish I could be
a different kind of tree
The cat wished that it was a bee
The turtle wished that it could fly
really high into the sky
over rooftops and then dive
deep into the sea

And in the sea there is a fish
a fish that has a secret wish
a wish to be a big cactus
with a pink flower on it

And in the sea there is a fish
a fish that has a secret wish
a wish to be a big cactus
with a pink flower on it

And the flower would be its offering
of love
to the desert
And the desert so dry and lonely
that the critters all
appreciate the effort

And the rattlesnake said I wish I had hands so that I could
hug you like a man
And the cactus said but don't you understand?
my skin is covered with sharp spikes
that'll stab you like a thousand knives
A hug would be nice
but hug my flower with your eyes.

-from Treehugger by Kimya Dawson & Antsy Pants

A day in the life

I often get asked about books we are reading, games we play, etc. So, once a week, I'll try to post the new happenings around these parts.

What we're....
READING (on my own): Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
READING (as a family): The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (The recently announced Caldecott Winner for this year which is incidentally, the first novel to have ever won the Caldecott (award honoring illustrations))
READING TOGETHER (just me and Zeal): The Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman
TALKING ABOUT: the intricate workings of Scooby Doo (I'm baffled by this dog's presence in our lives these days)
COOKING: a pot of rice and dal makhani
PLAYING: Monopoly (darn, this kid is a heck of a banker!)
WATCHING: the daffodils pop up! (Oh my, there are 8 now!)

My Own Wonder Kid!

Here he is hanging from a bamboo pole at last year's Oregon Country Fair, in all his usual zealousness!

A look back at Wonderwise

Wonderwise is the regular monthly email newsletter I write to subscribers. It is filled with creative ideas, projects, and often recipes and notes about upcoming projects. Here is a sample of what you’ll find in Wonderwise.

Dear Wonderers,
Happy February... this is one of my favorite months! Our holiday rush seems to have settled just enough to get us excited about sending Valentines. Yes, we're still heavy into writing letters via paper airplanes (can you guess what the valentines are going to look like this year?)

In this issue of Wonderwise, you will find:
-Gadgetology: The Science of Creatively Experimenting Together
-an update on my new book, Child of Wonder
-Putting Pizza-zz in your Party

Enjoy! Enjoy!

Gadgetology: The Science of Creatively Experimenting Around the House
gadget: \ ˈga-jət\ n. a device or an appliance that has a useful specific practical purpose and function, but is often thought of as a novelty.

Gadgets, the devices we stock our homes and garages with to somehow make our lives easier or simply more fun, may be considered novelties, but they surely have a necessary place in the home and learning environment of a child. From simple exploration and tinkering to inventing and creating anew, gadgets and their intended (or unintended) uses offer an outlet for thinking and expression to emerge and bloom. In fact, in the life of a child, this kind of play can be referred to as its very own science: Gadgetology.

The Science of Gadget Exploration
Like any science, Gadgetology begins in the home with pure and simple exploration, the foundation for developing a creative thinker. Without the investigation into materials, possibilities, and imagination, it is difficult for that creativity to emerge and then fully develop. In order to encourage that exploratory nature in our children, we must begin with the environment in which our children spend most of their time, the home. Within the home, we find many opportunities for exploring, tinkering, taking things apart, putting them back together in new ways, understanding their functions, and perhaps even making up new functions. From gear functions to exploring what floats and sinks, common “gadgety” household items offer many opportunities for science and scientific experimenting to emerge naturally. How do the items move? Do they float or sink? Can light pass through it?

Let children explore with combs and brushes, recycled materials such as paper towel or toilet paper rolls, and pieces of wire to see what they might invent. Keep magnifying glasses and magnets around and easily accessible for children to peek under the table, Offer mirrors for child to peer at teeth, check out an elbow, or see the back of a knee. And then use mirrors further to see patterns or make your own Fun House. If you have a piano or other musical instruments around, open them up while playing so that children make investigate the inner workings of how the music is made. Walkie-talkies are one of the best childhood gadgets that allow children to keep you close while playing on the other side of the house while you do laundry and cook supper. Do you have an old computer, keyboard, or television, in your attic? Allow your child to explore its insides, take the pieces apart, put it back together, or use the parts for a new invention. Clocks of all types offer a wonderful opportunity for children to exploring the passage of time and incorporate it into their play. Especially fun for children are simple stopwatches that let them time see how long it takes for their ball to roll across the floor, or explore how many times they can jump in a minute.

Kitchen Gadgets
The kitchen is the ultimate gadget friendly space; it offers a wide variety of tools for different purposes, which move in a multitude of ways. Allow children to explore with all types of kitchen gadgets such as funnels, colanders, measuring cups, sifters, or peelers. Let them explore color by using a tea strainer and all different types of loose tea. Easy enough for even young children to operate with guidance, an apple-corer-peeler-slicer is our favorite kitchen gadget. As the crank is turned, it offers lessons unparalleled. Children explore their apple being, just as its name implies, cored, peeled, and sliced, a fascinating process as it happens all simultaneously.

Even things you wouldn’t necessarily think of as gadgets, such as forks or bamboo skewers, can become a wonderful exploration tool for children as they use them to make a grand sculpture. And don’t be afraid to take your kitchen items into your art room or even in the tub. Potato mashers are wonderful tools to explore with out of the kitchen. Dip them in paint and see what kind of interesting patterns you can make. Explore a simple whisk, or a rotary hand blender, and make a bath full of bubbles become even bubblier.

Gadgets on the Go
Being on the go, in the car or in a bike trailer, can sometimes be monotonous for children. Provide a basket, box, or bag with exploratory, gadget-y items to take along on simple outings or long trips. Possible on-the-go gadgets include: a magnifying glass, binoculars, a simple fold out telescope, magnets and magnetic objects, a small jar of dough or modeling clay, a harmonica, and a kaleidoscope. If you can, also consider keeping a tray in your car or bike trailer to provide a usable workspace while you are on the go.

So here you go… Explore your world, your wonder, your home, and the gadgets you find there! Investigate the unknown regions of the mind, creativity, and all the treasures hidden in your closets, bookcases, and cupboards. Have a novel good time!

Update on Child of Wonder

Well, I am happy to announce that Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children has officially gone to print (yesterday!). Although the official release date is end of April, I will likely see copies in the next few weeks! Of course, they are available through your favorite bookstore or online bookseller, but you can also order an autographed copy directly through me right now. If you'd like to place a preorder, please send a check or money order to:
Common Ground Press
PO Box 51274
Eugene, OR 97402
If you'd like to order a copy with a credit card, please email or call 1-800-951-6375.

Copies are $16.95 each. Shipping is free for preorders!

Putting Pizza-zz in your Party
“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.”
-Jack Brooks, lyricist, That’s Amore

Pizza lands on the top of many “favorite food” lists. Unfortunately, pizza is an item often listed as one to remove from the diet. It is generally high in calories, fat, and cholesterol. As meals go, pizza, with the most common ingredients when children order (white bread and cheese), is even considered a “red light” food, one that needs to be avoided.

Enter your pizza with pizzazz, made with heaps of creativity, imagination, and love. The enter your friends and family, and you’ll really have a party!

Just Add Friends
February is a month that celebrates love and friendship. Just enough time has past since the holiday rush, which makes it a wonderful time of year to gather and reconnect with friends and loved ones, explore together, and share favorite foods. For the last several years, it has become a tradition in our house to gather on Valentine’s Day to make pizzas together. Gathering together for a pizza party is a simple way to get your creative cooking to sprout. If everybody brings a favorite topping, it becomes a potluck of sorts making very little work for the host. The pizzas you’ll find emerging from your oven will be as unique as the guests who made them.

Crusts of Plenty
Holding a pizza gathering is a simple way to get children (and their parents) excited about preparing their own food. And the crust is where it begins. With pizza crust, it is easy to begin your journey towards thinking outside the recipe. Make a regular pizza crust (recipe below), but then have fun by making individual pizza rounds, shaping them into interesting shapes such as hearts, simple flowers, or even the outline of a dump truck. Add even more pizzazz by using cookie cutters on a thin crust to make bite-sized pizzas; it’s all the fun of cookie decorating without all the sugar. If your pizzas are bite-sized portions, it makes experimenting a bit easier. For a spicier and very flavorful crust, try the Yum Cracker listed below. Once your crusts are ready, the real fun begins.

To Top it Off
Toppings for a pizza with pizzazz surely have no limits. And when you suddenly find yourself at the pizza chef helm, your creativity will have an opportunity to bloom.

Great pizza often begins with a sauce. You can go with a traditional red pizza sauce (Muir Glen makes a nice organic canned one) or break out and try a new base. Try Hazelnut Cream Sauce (recipe below) as an alternative to typical dairy sauces. Spin-Avo Sauce (below) is a creamy, phytonutrient-rich base that gets rave reviews from all ages. We know that when children are involved in food preparations they are more likely to eat the food and because both of these sauces are made in a blender, children love to be included in the making of them.

Once you have chosen your base sauce, set your pizza making area up as an assembly line and begin adding your other toppings. Again, you can choose traditional toppings such as mushrooms, tomato slices (sun dried or fresh), or olives. Beyond those, experiment further by adding roasted potato slices, cranberries, peaches, corn on the cob “wheels”, pine nuts, chopped walnuts, or candied pecans. Sweet roasted red peppers add a wonderful flavor to pizzas. Sliced, they are just the right shape for a large smile inviting your pizza maker in. Once you’ve added all the toppings of your choice, finish your pizza off by drizzling infused oils or vegan pesto, sprinkling fresh herbs, and then adding the cheese of your choice. Try almond cheese (there’s even a mozzarella flavored one), which melts nicer than other vegan cheeses. And if you still have room and a few crusts left over, try sweet toppings for desert pizzas: figs and cream cheez; strawberries, or try a piña colada pizza (whipped Tofutti, coconut shavings, pineapple slices, and a drizzle of agave).

Welcome pizza with pizzazz into your cooking repertoire. Your children and your friends will celebrate! That’s amore.

Party Pizza Dough
Makes six individual pizzas
1 T. organic granulated sugar or agave nectar
1 c. very warm water
2 ½ t. active dry yeast
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (amaranth, spelt, and rye flour also work, but will make a “tougher” crust)
1 t. salt
¼ c. olive oil

In a small bowl, dissolve sugar in water. Sprinkle yeast on top of water and stir gently. Let sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast mixture forms a frothy, bubbly surface.
In a larger bowl, mix flour and salt. Make a small well in the flour mixture, and add the olive oil and yeast mixture. With a spoon, incorporate the flour, oil, and yeast mixture. Once well mixed, remove the dough from the bowl and begin kneading on a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough feels smooth. Add a small coating of oil to the dough’s surface and return to bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise to double (about an hour).
Once risen, punch dough down and knead again for about 1 minute. Divide dough into six pieces. Roll out on lightly floured surface. Prick dough all over with a fork just before putting in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes in 425 degree oven. Remove from oven. Let cool. Add toppings, and place back in the oven until “cheese” melts and toppings are slightly browned.

Hazelnut Cream Sauce
1 1/2 cup soaked hazelnuts
1 large tomato
3 garlic cloves
½ water
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. sea salt
chipotle powder, to taste (optional)

Place all ingredients in Vitamix, and blend until smooth. Use as a sauce for pizza or a dip.

Yum Cracker
1 cup barley pearls
½ cup flax seeds, ground finely
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated finely
1 Roma tomato
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup water, more if needed

Soak barley overnight. In a Vitamix, combine barley pearls with water and blend. In a bowl, mix together barley and flax seeds. Add all other ingredients to the Vitamix and blend. Add vegetable mixture to barley. With your hands, combine all ingredients together. On a lightly oiled cookie sheet, spread mixture evenly to about ¼ inch thickness.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, longer if you desire a crunchy cracker. Let cool slightly, then use a pizza cutter to make individual crusts or crackers.

Spin-Avo Sauce
1 bunch spinach
2 large avocados
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. chopped parsely
1 t. season salt
water to thin, if desired

Place all ingredients in Vitamix, and blend until smooth. Use as a sauce for pizza or as a dip.

Thank you all for reading this issue of Wonderwise. As always, feel free to forward this email to anyone (parents, grandparents, teachers, day care providers, homeschool or church groups) who might find value or interest in it. If you have thoughts on something you'd like to see covered here, or a question you'd like answered, please reply to this email and tell me your thoughts.

Happy discovering together!

**Are you interested in receiving Wonderwise? Go here: www.gingercarlson.com/newsletter.html

Shine on!

Dear Friends,
Welcome to the official re-launch of The Wondershop as a blog.

As many of my readers know, The Wondershop is the name of the regular monthly parenting column I have been writing since 2005. I am happy to see it shining on in this format. I plan on posting at least weekly to the blog, so please check back for regular creativity-building tips or you can subscribe and be notified as material is added.