It's funny, the power in email.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a generic email from the good folks at Domino's Pizza. Usually, I dismiss such email as spam or consumer advertising, but this one said that for one month, anyone could watch their staff make pizzas via live video feed at one of their Utah stores. My kids love finding out how things are made and were thrilled to see pizzas being made in real time. Whenever we popped in around the lunch and dinner hours, we got to see a lot of action in that pizza kitchen! In some ways, it was even better than a documentary.
All that live action made us feel like we needed our own pizzeria, of course.
When my girls were like toddler-little, they loved playing kitchen and cooking and making meals for their dolls. As they got older, they gravitated towards the commercial aspect of the food-and-beverage pretend play scenarios - it was all restaurants and cafes and delis and shops and online orders and delivery services. It had to involve money, packaging, marketing, advertising, order chits, inventory, special promotions and customers. And display windows. Oh, the displays were the most important. They had to be pretty so the customers would come, they said.
A pizzeria, therefore, was perfect.
I made them some felt pizzas - not the slice-apart kind, but the bulk-risen lumps-of-dough kind. Ours were 12".
Incidentally, these pizzas make perfect indoor frisbees. Actually, outdoors, too. I know because the girls tried them as such.
Instead of a brand-new pizza dough tutorial, I'm reposting photos from an earlier cookie tutorial here. Different size, but identical method.
The only additional feature is a row of topstitching about an inch from the edge, to create a crust rim.
The sauce was just blood red felt circles.
We cut cardboard circles for trays.
Then came the toppings.
All felt. All hand-cut. Took less time than it looks.
Especially the cheese -
see? Just run the rotary cutter over it in narrow lines.
The kids were incredulous when I asked them if they preferred shredded cheese or one big circle of melted cheese. Mom! Obviously! As if there were any doubt as to the answer!
Veggies - peppers, mushrooms, olives, pineapple:
Meats: pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon (we just call it ham):
I'm still in conference with the kids over whether or not to treat the felt toppings (except the cheese) with Stiffy. I think that Stiffy would prolong their play-life but the girls like them soft and floppy.
Here's the Deluxe aka Supreme aka The Works, made by Emily:
And here's a fun slideshow of it being put together:
Ah, felt food. Nothing better, right?
Unless it's felt food with cardboard.
Cardboard, as we all know, makes everything better.
Do you remember the Good Cardboard I got in this post?
It became nine pizza boxes.
so the girls could design their own brand and logo (welcome to The Magic Pizza Cafe):
All those toppings were a lot to write down each time a customer called, so we made order forms for checking off:
Totally, unrelated, I bought a pack of 10 plastic ramekin-type containers at the dollar store the other day,
and the girls hijacked them for dipping sauce freebies:
Here are some pizza variations the girls created -
And just as proof that it wasn't just me, a boring adult, directing, here is a picture drawn by Kate. It's a Small Pizza For Bunny. She even found a small pizza box to put it in. Apparently, 12" pizzas are no good for lovies because they're too huge.
I got the point.
So yes, Magic Pizza Cafe pizzas now come in two sizes- human and lovie:
"We need an oven," the kids then told me.
Okay. I have spare cardboard, anyway.
Here's a short section of pool noodle, wrapped with flannel
with a random plastic stick shoved in the bore.
with a random plastic stick shoved in the bore.
And here's a cardboard box with a hole cut out of one end
for that pool-noodle thing to rest in.
Then a second pool-noodle thing is installed within an identical hole at the other end of a row of cardboard boxes.
Then some more flannel - a long strip of it, is looped around those two pool noodle things (which, if you've guessed by now, are rollers) to make a conveyer belt. Note that the flannel- both on the rollers and as the belt itself - is essential for good traction. You could use any fabric that has a slight pile to it, so it "catches" as it moves over the rollers.
and you put your pizza on one end and convey it to the other.
But that's just the conveyer belt. I'd always wanted to make one because it's such a versatile toy for the kids. I mean, it can be a library chute, a baggage carousel, a treadmill or travelator for dolls, a supermarket checkout ...
and an oven:
All it needed was a hood. We made ours detachable so the conveyer belt can be used on its own.
The hood slides in and out of a big slot at the back of the conveyer belt.
We stuck a string of battery-operated LEDs in it and lined it with foil for better reflectivity.
Indoors, it's quite realistic.
Here's the pizza in the oven, trundling along the belt, getting all hot and cooked.
Want to see the oven in action?
Here it is without the hood:
It was a very windy day on the deck yesterday!
And here it is with the hood on
and Emily turning the back roller
(check out the crank spookily moving all by itself).
Loads of fun.
The girls have been playing pizzeria every day since we made it.
And to think it all started with an email that I almost deleted without even reading.
I guess you never know where inspiration lurks, huh?