Wednesday, 17 December 2014



Pine Tree Post | Craft Page

Need a great gift for someone special, but, want to keep it simple and environmentally friendly?
Then the Stick Jar is the thing for you!


This multifunctional jar is not only attractive but can be used to hold sharpened pencils, dull pencils, pencil crayons, pens, and even most markers. Other things, non pencil related, that it can hold nicely include fresh flowers, striped drinking straws, or even really long pickles!

Now that we know how much this jar can do, how valuable it can be, how useful it would be in anyone's are probably thinking it will be out of your price range? Well you are wrong! This jar is almost free! Yes, FREE (almost)!
Do I have your attention? Are you still skeptical? Thinking the materials may be almost free, but, what's the catch? Is there a lot of work involved? Skill? A special tool that you need to buy? No, that is where you are wrong again (especially if you have children and make them do the leg work).
Let me show you how easy and affordable this stick jar really is to make. Again, make sure you include the children to do most of the running around.

Step 1: You need to collect a bucketful of sticks. Send the kids out into the yard, tell them to act like beavers and collect up food (aka sticks) for the winter. Make sure you go through the 'food' and remove any rotten sticks. Twigs or big limbs are also tricky to work with, so you may have to chuck them as well. Make sure you tell your little beavers they did a wonderful job - that will motivate them to do your bidding later.
Also, tell the oldest one to go hunting through the recycling box for a glass jar. Jam jars or mason jars are the ideal size and shape.

No rotten or curvy sticks in this bucket of beaver food.

Step 2: You need to measure for length. Ideally, you want the stick to be just a little longer than the jar. When you glue the sticks onto the jar it is nice if they hide the opening a bit. To measure, I cut a stick, held it against the jar, marked the other end and cut again. Then I put some tape on my saw to show me how long to cut each stick. Then, raar raar, I went to work sawing sticks like it was nobody's business.
However, the children started getting bored. To avoid a power saw accident I distracted them with saws of their own - see Step 3.

Just a little longer than the jar
Measure. Tape it off.
More power!
Step 3: Teach the children a lesson in sawing. This craft is a good opportunity to introduce the basic sawing tool - the mitre box. Again, measure out the length of stick you want and place a piece of tape on your mitre box. Show the children how to place their saw (I use a dull saw with the children) in the cut outs and let them go to town. You really should watch them, and you may even have to hold the box to stop it from moving around. Obviously, I encourage safety glasses too (whoops).

Saw, saw, saw...
Let the teeth do the work...hey, where are you safety glasses?!
Step 4: Use a hot glue gun and attach the sticks to the jar. This part gets a bit tricky with the children. What we found worked well was the children shot the glue onto the stick and the parent picked up the hot, glue covered stick and pushed it onto the jar. A child's hand seem to be more sensitive to hot melted glue than an adult's hand? They cry and the process is slowed down. Adults only curse under their breath and work faster.
We also glued a ribbon around the jar and tied it in a bow. This is another activity the children can do. Send them to the craft storage and allow them to pick out an appropriate ribbon (you may need to remind them that skulls are for Halloween only). They can cut it to length and possibly even tie a bow.
Add some ribbon for flare

 Step 5: Now fill up that jar - add pencils, pens, flowers, or turkey pepperettes. We found some wonderful pencils that look just like sticks! A perfect match for this craft.

Stick pencils

Fill 'er up
 This stick jar makes a wonderful Christmas gift, Birthday gift, Mother's Day present, or Father's day present. Go on, save the world, make your stick jar today!

Monday, 15 December 2014



Pine Tree Post | Food Page

Bread. The simple food. Made from only a few ingredients, it has sustained humanity for eons. This sounds like a food that should be simple to make and second nature to any human...right?

Not so, as Matt found out. His first attempt at making bread resulted in a loaf that tasted fine, but, left plenty of room for improvement - especially in the texture department.

The recipe he used was from Cold Antler Farm, a homesteading memoir book he recently read.
With only four ingredients and simple instructions this sounded like it should have been a cake walk.

1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups flour, half whole half white
1 teaspoon salt

To best describe the process we will print the correct instructions in black and we will print Matt's actions in RED.

Step 1: Add dry active yeast to warm water and wait 5 minutes until foamy/bubbling.
Step 1: Add boiling water to yeast and add other ingredients right away.
Step 1 - combine warm water and yeast, wait 5 minutes for yeast to activate
Step 2: Add flour to foamy liquid one cup at a time. Mix thoroughly.
Step 2: Dump all ingredients into bowl. Allow 2 year old to play with dough.

Warning : the dough may fly around the kitchen - it sticks to walls, appliances, pets...

Spoon may become stuck. Adult help may be required.

Dough is attracted to hands. Wash after mixing. You may want to wash before mixing as well.

Step 3: Cover bowl with a damp cloth and allow dough to rise for 8 - 12 hours. Dough should double in size.
Step 3: Cover bowl with damp cloth. Come back 12 hours later to find dough the same size. Do not worry and continue on with process.

Dough should double in size. If it does not, you should not continue the process.

Step 4: Fold dough over many times and allow to raise another 1 - 2 hours until it has doubled again.
Step 4: Fold dough over a few times, sprinkle counter top with flour, take picture for blog.

Step 5: Once dough has risen, place in oven at 450 for 30-35 mins.
Step 5: Ignore second raising process, 15 minutes should be long enough. Bake at 450 for 35 mins.
Picture perfect crust!

Step 6: Allow bread to cool before cutting into it.
Step 6: Allow bread to cool. Cut into it and be shocked by the colour and dense consistency. Do not swear in front of the children.

Dark interior is not a good sign.

Brave testers of this bread commented that the taste was delicious, however, the slightly doughy-hard-to-bite-through denseness of the bread was the major downfall.
Next time Matt will not kill the yeast with boiling water and will allow sufficient time for the bread to rise.

Kingston | 1:11

Wednesday, 26 November 2014



Pine Tree Post | Health Page

Hockey Fever - A common affliction to many inhabitants of northern climates, particularly Canadians, where the sport of ice hockey consumes much of their time and energy in the winter months.

The Place Under The Pine has come down with a viralent case of Hockey Fever this winter. It has taken hold of every citizen, young and old. The situation is a shock to many and is being labelled a medical abnormality by researchers. The disease seems to have come out of nowhere and afflicted even the most unlikely candidates (Lolli).
The most frightening aspect of this epidemic is the fact that the PUTP is not a typical breeding ground for this disease. The ideal environment for this disease to blossom and spread is in a 'hockey household', one where parents play (or played) hockey. Even the 'sporty household' is a place where this fever often takes springs up.
The place where this disease is extremely rare is the 'artsy' household. PUTP falls into this category. A place where the parents did not play hockey as kids, they do not self identify as 'sporty', they actively discouraged organized sports and encouraged their young to paint, write, and play music. Only a few short years ago the atmosphere was so anti-sport that sporting equipment such as balls were not kicked and thrown but covered with blankets and turned into 'babies'. Then along came E.
Soon after E was born the dynamic of the PUTP changed. The balls that once sat in cradles were now being kicked around the house. Youtube videos of hockey goals were being viewed on the laptop. Hockey Night In Canada was making a more regular appearance, mostly as a motivating (aka bribe) tool for E.
Then, almost two years ago now, Oskie was born. The addition of another like minded boy (rough and tumble who kicked balls before they could walk kind of boy) shifted the paradigm even more. The 'artsy' label was still as strong as ever, but, another label was slowly being formed as well - the 'sporty' label.

It is believed the PUTP contracted Hockey Fever the day E was signed up for hockey. Before this day hockey was a very small part of life. Other extra curricular sports, such as soccer, were given a backseat. Life was never allowed to be influenced, changed, scheduled by something as useless as a sporting event. E's passion changed all that. It is believed he was the carrier.

From the first day of hockey tryouts, E's joy and happiness radiated through the PUTP. He had found something he really truly loved doing. It was not an easy thing for all the citizens in the PUTP to understand, it was just a sport, but, they did see the happiness, confidence, and passion growing in E every week. That is when the hockey fever went rampant!

Last week the fever peaked:

FRIDAY NIGHT: All of the citizens of the PUTP were at the Kingston Frontenacs game. They all watched, they all cheered, and they all had a great time. Kingston won 5-0.

The horns for cheering were put to good use, even as hats for the toddlers in the crowd.

Oskie sat right through the entire game, cheering louder than many around us.

Jen and Matt have also been infected by the hockey fever.
The cotton candy was one of the highlights of the game for Lolli
In his element.
What kid doesn't like the Zamboni. Oskie waves to them.

The thrill after a goal.

It did get a little rough at the end.


Not only was Elliott at the rink playing hockey, but, Oskie (and even) Lolli were working on their skills too.

Oskie has some mad stickhandling skills

Lolli isn't afraid to dig in those corners

A couple of extra hours were spent at the arena that day. It was picture day, so the entire team lined up to get a shot of them in their uniforms. Practice was scheduled to happen about an hour later, so instead of heading home they all stuck around and played ball hockey in the hall.

A common sight in arenas across the country

Practice is always interesting. It amazes many how fast the kids pick up the skills, they go from constantly falling to skating like pros in only a few weeks. 

There are still a few falls, but, he is right back up and skating hard a second later.

Look for the orange laces. That is how you spot E.

Even after the practice, time is spend hanging out watching the other kids play.

He could sit their all day watching the 7 year old 'All Stars'.
The weekend was completely dominated by hockey. The citizens of the PUTP woke up at a certain time because of it, spent 10-12 hours in an arena watching or playing hockey, and Oskie's vocabulary is now half hockey jargon. This sport has taken over the hearts and minds of this household and they seem to be enjoying it - that is hockey fever at its worst.

#12 scores again!

Kingston | 6:30

Monday, 17 November 2014



Pine Tree Press | Rec & Leisure Page

Last Sunday, amateur miner, treasure hunter, and all round Rockhound - Unkey Al and his assistant Auntie Amber came to the Place Under The Pine with a mystery rock. A chunk of what looked like regular old limestone. The kind you could find near the lake, or on a road cut, or even if you just dig three feet down. But, this rock was from a special quarry - a quarry that mines diamonds, gold, and other shiny things.
The kids were told that if they smashed this rock up there was a good chance they would find some valuable gems. They quickly gathered around and started picking up the tools of the trade.

For Oskie - a strainer (the least dangerous thing)

For E - a sharp rock hammer (the most dangerous thing)

For Lolli - the sledgehammer

Chisels, brushes and knee pads are part of the job too.

Once everyone had on their safety goggles the smashing began.
Using a chisel and a hammer Lolli bashed away at the rock. E had many swings as well. However, the rock would just not break. This hard old rock needed the power of a professional - Uncle Al had to use his mighty swing to bust the rock.

Don't miss Lolli!

After what would have seemed like a lifetime to someone with a headache, the really loud banging stopped and the fine work of extracting the shiny stuff started. This tedious, but interesting work, captured the minds of the children and they worked away without complaint looking for hidden treasures.

In the end, two containers of high quality gems were collected, making the Place Under the Pine that much richer.

Once the gems were locked away in the safe, and the smashed rock bits were cleaned up, Uncle Al brought out his rock collection. Now we know that many young citizens of the PUTP have their own rock collections - bits of gravel they have picked up along the road, but, Uncle Al's was different. His collection was full of colourful rocks, crystally looking rocks, pieces of metals like copper, fossils, and even some gold dust! The children were captivated. They wanted to know the names and histories of every piece. They wanted to hold and inspect every inch of every rock. Their enthusiasm for geology was surprising, but, not unexpected.

One of many containers full of rocks.

Oskie was just as interested as the other children.

The light up magnifying glass was well used.
According to Uncle Al the mystery rock did not yield as many gems as usual. It was suggested that another rock be found and the rock smashing be tried again. So, there may be more treasure hunting in the future.

Kingston | 12:12:12

Monday, 10 November 2014



Pine Tree Post | Food Page

Over the years many outside sources have commented on the food eaten by the citizens of the Place Under the Pine. Most of the feedback has been of unabashed envy mixed with hints of health conscious confusion. Meaning a lot of comments such as, "wow!" or "...and your kids eat that?" or "how healthy of you, Mr & Mrs Green Giant from Organic Mountain!"
There have even been reports from school of the teachers gathering around Lolli's lunch and applauding...or that is how far the tale has grown.
If you ask any of the citizens about their lunch or dinner they will respond with something along the lines of - that's how we have always eaten and we are blessed to have such a great cook in the house (who can even make brussels sprouts mouth watering while keeping them healthy!).

In response to all of the inquires from the public, about what is eaten behind closed doors, this special food related post will give a glimpse into the kitchen of the PUTP.
A camera was kept handy, and all cookers and eaters were asked to randomly take pictures of their food for a week. Here are the results.
"The Tuesday Night Workhorse" - Fish on roasted vegetables, Risotto, Squash

Sole, carrots, zucchini


Oskie's plate - squished acorn squash, roasted vegetables, risotto, fish. Yes, he ate every bite.

Wednesday's Lunch - A new recipe for Taco Tarts was tried out and given rave reviews!

E's lunch - snack bowl (muffin, raspberries, trail mix), apples, pears, taco tarts, apple sauce

Taco meat in a tortilla baked in a muffin tray (sour cream on the side)

Matt's Lunch - banana, homemade salad dressing, salad, pita with peanut butter, muffin, grapes

Halloween treats for the classroom - One eyed purple people eater cupcakes (approx 60)

Even the eye is edible...mmm
Leftover cupcakes for home - Matt liked the lemon cupcakes with homemade purple buttercream icing! He wanted an eye though - poor Matt.
A Friday Lunch - the dreaded "please-don't-judge-me-it's-friday-lunch"

Pasta, pears, oranges, apple sauce (again), grapes raspberries, homebaked muffin

Matt's Friday Lunch - leftover chicken taco soup (must have had that for dinner the night before), olive bun, iceberg lettuce

Beef stew with dumplings - a classic with a twist (parsnips)

This is the stew heating up the next day for lunch - double meal **ARM PUMP**

"A weekend in Paris lunch" - Jen whipped up a quick brie on Saturday for lunch.

Brie with walnuts. Baguette to dip.

Daddy even did some cooking - twice!

First up - Classic Grilled Cheese

Oat and Honey bread with plain ol' cheddar - ketchup was added to plate seconds later.

Second 'Meal' - Pasta with alfredo sauce

Cook pasta, add sauce, serve - if Matt can do it you can too!
A couple of Banana bread loaves - one with nuts

The one on the left has the nuts

More Lunches - Looks like that banana bread (nutless of course) has some cream cheese on it. The sandwich (ham on croissant) is E's. The quesadilla (cheese) on the right is about to be cut up and put in Lolli's lunchbox. The yogurt has frozen mango pieces in it.

This is done the night before school. In the morning Jen will add even more food (cheesestrings or granola bars) as the kid's eat a lot - a whole lot!

Another Lunch - Left side is Lolli's. Outside of the picture is a tub of hummus, she had cut up pita and carrots to dip in it. The green thing is an avocado (fun fact, only 1 kid in E's class knewswhat an avocado is...scary, but, true). The snack bowl had mini muffins (homemade cranberry and lemon) and fruit.
Right side is E's Lunch. Apples and peaches. Cheese and crackers. Turkey pepperette things (from Costco) and a similar snack bowl to Lolli's.

Lunchtime is funtime.

Stuffed Pepper - when peppers go on sale this is one way to use them.

Stuffed peppers with roasted green beans in the background.

If you do not believe any of this report, here is actual proof - a verified picture of a child eating one of them strange, trendy, health foods - this one is an avocado (plain, no salt, no nothing...not even hot sauce!)
He is saying, "Yum"

*Not pictured in blog - bag of Cheetos.


The Food Board is interested in what other people are eating around the world. They are always looking for new food ideas. They encourage you to keep a camera handy and take pictures. Submit pictures (or links to pictures) in the comment section, via twitter, or on Matt or Jen's facebook page.
If you would like recipes on any of the foods pictured above comment below and Jen will be contacted - except for the grilled cheese recipe :)