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