Wednesday, 25 February 2015


Having 'Fun' In The Cold

Pine Tree Press | Winter Special

Jack Frost uses Lolli's window to make an icy masterpiece
Winter can be terrible; the cold, the ice, the lack of sun, the potential for frostbitten toes!
But, the brave souls of the PUTP take on the challenges of winter (and the potential for frostbitten toes) to do the things one can only do in the bitter cold. This self induced hardship seems to be ingrained into the PUTP culture - very similar to the influential Canadian culture.

If you are not from a northern country, where snow covers the ground (as well as small trees, cars, igloos, people under the height of 1.5 metres, cats, purse pooches, etc) for months at a time, you may be wondering what activities can be done in the snow?
Scooters and skateboards are out. Bicycles are use at your own risk, that is assuming you can dig them out of the shed. Lawn darts just get lost. The pool is converted into a makeshift hockey rink. Gardening leads to flying ice pieces and broken shovels. Even a simple after dinner stroll around the block turns into a complicated affair with three layers of clothing required and constant rerouting according to snow drifts and snow plowing schedules. Not to mention a basic umbrella stroller would not make it five feet, so a cross country, big wheeled, monster truck of the stroller world is required...and in the deepest depth of winter, even the monster stroller will not cut it and a sled is the only way to move your precious baby around.

I wanna be warm!

Ice Skating - One winter activity, which many consider a form of self abuse, is ice skating. What other culture thinks it is fun to strap sharp metal knives on the bottom of an uncomfortable hard shoe and try to move on the slipperiest surface known to man? 
Sources have reported seeing the citizens of the PUTP skating on many occasions and at many different locations this winter. Poor little Oskie, who has just turned 2, was put on the ice this year. After countless attempts he, apparently, reached some successful milestone by being able to stand still long enough for his parents to get a photo. The rest of the hour or two he spent 'skating' was mostly him rolling, crawling, or being held up by another skater.
And, to make matters worse, the bragworthy skating event, is doing it outside. Being inside a semi-heated arena was, apparently, not torture enough! Throw in -20 (and windchill) to make those plastic (non insulated) skates feel like you are wearing blocks of ice. One youngster took it even further by removing his coat and skating in only a thin shirt!
One psychologist reported that behaviour like this is, for lack of a better word, kooky!

Inside the 'warm' arena (remember, the temperature need to stay cool or the ice will get 'soft') is apparently a good way to start the season. Like easing yourself into a cold lake on a summers day.

All smiles. Ready to skate.

Skating is for all ages.

Oskies first time on skates (age 1.9 years...under 2)

Apparently, dangerous activities like skating are how boys and their fathers bond.

It is typical to wear ties when skating.

The lack of safety equipment is appalling. Knee pads, elbow pads...gloves?

The practice is so engrained in the children they even role play skating through their toys!

Apparently a joke. Spending time in the penalty box is seen as cute and funny.

The highlight of the season is skating outside. According to ice experts, the colder the better as it makes the ice is harder and therefore faster.  The already dangerous activity is made ever more reckless!

Here is one brother initiating another in the world of skating.

A milestone! Standing on skates. He weeps with joy.

In an attempt to outdo all other winter skaters, this young man took his coat off and skated as fast as he could. What kind of social pressure makes a sane person do this?

Tobogganing - This activity is also known as 'sledding' outside of Canada and the PUTP. Sleds are a very useful method of transporting goods and people over snow covered lands. Using them to slide, out of control, at insane speeds, down ice and snow covered hills (without helmets or jocks!) is crazy! But, apparently not to the citizens of the PUTP. They add another level of 'fun' by racing down against other sledders. Pushing the sleds to their limits of speed and controllability...crashes are common. Snow flies and so do tears (mostly due to lost races). This kind of behaviour is encouraged and exposed to the youngest citizens, such as little Oskie. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the screams of laughter are actual laughing or screams of terror masked as laughing due to the social pressure put on children to enjoy this experience?
Another irrational event than any logical person would avoid doing.

The 'best' hills are unsheltered and typically very windy. A potential hypothermia risk.

Races like this lead to crashes!

Playing in the Snow - The equivalent activity in the summer is to play outside, however, instead of water, dirt, and bugs, the wintertime provides ice, snow, and weather so cold you can see your breath and pretend you are smoking.
When the youngsters of the PUTP are thrown out into the backyard to entertain themselves they often find their world shrunk down. Mostly due to the lack of movement b/c of the deep snow. With snow up to their waists, moving anywhere is very hard work. In some cases it is impossible. They are left with the following options: dig or throw snow. Again, common sense seems to be missing. Why expose children to uncomfortable, even dangerous, temperatures so they can stand around throwing snow in the air?
As a side note I do not see the little Osk man anywhere in the pictures. Was the snow over his head? Was he buried or digging unstable tunnels under the snow?

Two children trapped in the snow

An apparent highlight of outdoor play - the straight up snow toss.
Hockey - First off, the already proven 'kooky' activity of ice skating, now paired with sticks and competition is none other than a surefire recipe for injury! On top of that, this activity has a huge monetary and time consuming cost associated with it. The ultimate example of this happened last weekend - The citizens of the PUTP were up bright and early Sunday morning at 5:30 am! There was a hockey practice at 7. What rational minded person gets their entire family up hours before they would naturally wake up, on the one day in the week that they could sleep in, to head out into the freezing cold to sit in an equally cold arena (Centre 70) to watch their kid fall down, run into other off balance children, and possibly get hurt?
Then, on this particular Sunday, only a few hours after getting home from this frigid hockey practice, they packed up the family again and headed out to a Kingston Frontenacs hockey game. Elliott had the opportunity to play a small game with his hockey team during the intermission of the game. The citizens packed up the equipment, drove downtown, paid for parking, paid for tickets into the game, dressed Elliott, undressed him, missed part of the game....all for a 5 minute hockey game on the big ice. I will not repeat the possibility of injury again, since we've established this already.
What I will ask is, what rational/logical minded adult would approve of this idea?

As with the other winter activities, the ultimate form of this sport is to play it outside (and again, the colder the better). After hearing about this, I'm surprised the citizens of the PUTP still have all of their toes, fingers, and ears.

Cave men used similar looking sticks as weapons.

The best days to play are bright and sunny, which paradoxically mean the coldest days of the winter.

Summary: the cold weather seems to have turned the citizens of the PUTP crazy! Over and over again, irrational decisions are being made, children put into danger, and fingers put at risk of frostbite...all in the name of 'fun'. Perhaps the geese have it right and migrating south is a good idea.

Kingston | 15:55

Tuesday, 17 February 2015



Pine Tree Post | Food Page

The first weeks of 2015 were full of warm, delicious, food keeping the citizens of the Place Under The Pine toasty warm.

We'll start with the hot eats.

Lots of soups were made to warm the tummies:

A mexican flavoured concoction (Chicken Fajita Soup) made with beans, a can of cream of something soup, and some salsa. It was a big hit with all citizens young and old. Topped with cheese and avocado and eaten with nachos...warms the soul.

Sausage and lentil soup. So thick, like a big down filled duvet, it warmed the body deep down to the core.

A regular, almost staple meal, in the PUTP; broccoli cheese soup. This is one of those dishes that everyone loves. It's tasty, warm, filling...and according to the resident chef it is fairly easy to make. Stay tuned for a tutorial on how to make this soup.

A vegetarian curry made with veggies and chick peas. A very warm dish both temperature wise and spice wise. To tone down the spicy heat (and make it a tad richer) a scoop of sour cream does the trick.

On throw-back-Thursday, aka retro night, a tuna casserole was cooked up. It was given mixed reviews by the children.

Another retro looking meal, which is a rarity in the PUTP, was the classic meat, starch, vegetable plate. Experts predict this style of dish will likely not be seen for another few months. In this instance a seasoned pork chop roasted to perfection, cinnamon syrup squash, lentils & brown rice, and corn.

One special meal, perogies, were prepared by our budding chef see her cooking show 'perfect perogies' click here.

Pulled pork pizza - what a handle - made with Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. Mmm, the sauce is the boss.

One of the keys to a good pizza is the crust. The secret ingredient/crust around the PUTP is Naan (from Costco). Naan seems to work better than a pita, they are the ideal size, and they cook up nicely.

Burritos, as seen in production below, are something that Jen makes in abundance. The PUTP does not end up eating burritos for days, but instead they freeze many. Burritos are a food that freezes well. One pan for the oven and one pan for the freezer seems to be the burrito motto around these parts.

This month's grilled cheese winner is the rye and gouda. Congratulations!

This month's trashiest meal goes to the chicken burger on white bread. This ingenious meal was created as a 'main' for a school lunch. Obviously, it was grocery day. Great creativity!

The most photogenic meal had to be this simple dipper lunch of veggies, homemade pita chips, and hummus.

Baked goods, as always, crowded the counter almost every day or two. It is amazing how fast the children of the PUTP can devour a dozen muffins!


Banana chocolate chip

Blueberry flax and yogurt muffins (don't let the healthy/cardboard sounding name throw you off, they are delicious) and cheese rolls.

Mounds of chocolate cupcakes. With both Oskie and Elli's birthdays in January, almost on the same day, a quadruple batch of cupcakes were needed!

And, along with cupcakes comes real birthday cake...

6 already!

Lunches remained predictable, with a repetition of meals. Small variations brought a bit of excitement.

Pouches of chocolate covered blueberries (from Costco) were popular.

A side of lentils and brown rice held up well.

The classic ham sandwich was modified slightly using a croissant and the good gouda cheese.

Mini-Wheats as a snack is a great idea. The kids love them b/c they are covered in sugar. Parents love them b/c they are healthy and the true amount of sugar is deceiving (it is far less than you'd think).

Frozen fruit with a dollop of the bitter, rich, balkan style yogurt is always eaten.

Tip #145 -The addition of a small container of salad dressing or dip exponentially increases the odds of vegetables being eaten.

A much requested item in January was a fried egg sandwich. Paired with a container of ketchup it is something different in the lunchpail. Word of caution - remind the children to do up the ketchup container after eating. A lunch bag washing may be in your future if you do not.

One area of cuisine that is lacking in the PUTP is drinks. Water is the most popular beverage holding approx 95% of the drink 'market'. Coffee and Tea take a majority of the rest. Juice is almost never seen, so when this photo was taken it made news...

Tomato juice with a celery stick

One last shot to leave you drooling was a late night snack...paired with a DVD of Call the Midwife. Yummers.

Thursday, 12 February 2015



Pine Tree Press | Sports Page

The big, heavy, need-a-parent-to-carry, equipment bag filled with the goalie equipment has been circulating around the Blue Team players. If a player wants to try goal, no problem, there is a complete set of goalie equipment to borrow. Elliott took up the challenge and the bag was brought home to the Place Under The Pine.

It only took approximately a half hour of struggling to get him suited up. After he did some jumping around making imaginary diving saves he was all ready to make this video promoting his upcoming game...

Game day was exciting. After squeezing on his jersey and doing up the last buckles on his helmet he stood with his team watching the Zamboni finish clearing the ice. He was jostled and pushed by his teammates until he was at the front of the line - b/c one of the customs in this hockey subculture we are learning about is that the goalie always hits the ice first.
It did not take long, only one fall, before he got his skates under him and looked as steady as he always does. Similarly, in net he took a little time to get his bearings set and learn the ups and downs of going up and down on his pads. A half hour later he looked like a veteran goalie, which was a good thing because that is when the game started.
With his team and his fans behind him he took to the ice and headed for his net...

In a quick after game interview in the locker room Elliott commented on his game. "Did you see at the end? I made four saves in a row! Wasn't I awesome."
Spoken like a true athlete. Focus on the positive is what we say around here.

Kingston | 12:12

Monday, 9 February 2015


FROZEN - Not just a great movie, but, a garden as well.

Pine Tree Press | Garden Update

As expected the garden is frozen solid. The only sign of life, or previous life, is the broken down stems from the brussels sprouts plants - which are surprisingly still a vibrant green colour. With the daily temperatures hovering at around frostbite-in-one-minute levels there is no hope of anything growing. However, the recent cold snap has the citizens of the PUTP longing for the warm days of summer and the fresh things from the garden. This has inspired both a planning session for the 2015 garden and the analysis of the 2014 garden.
One sad looking brussels sprout plant

Still colourful...and possibly edible

These brussels sprouts have been put in the deep freeze


2014 Analysis

A first for the Place Under The Pines - a December harvest! Over two cups of brussels sprouts were picked off the still standing plants in early December. They were roasted up and eaten for dinner.

The brussels sprouts were one of the few plants to have any success this year. However, their total production did not get anywhere near expectations. Overcrowding is suspected to be the main cause of this underproductivity.

Two major stories tell how the 2014 garden did. 1) The Raspberry BOOM 2) The Zucchini ZOOM


Raspberries: 13 - 42

As shown by the chart to the left, the production of raspberries skyrocketed (for lack of a better word), from 13 cups in 2013 to 42 cups in 2014.
An increase was expected due to the addition of some new canes, but, nothing this large. Based on previous years, this particular type of raspberry plant seems to peak in its third year. 2015 is the third year for a majority of the new plants, which has experts suggesting an even bigger haul this summer.

Zuchinni26 - 0

The truly tragic garden story of 2014 was the zucchini. Last year a record of 26 good sized zuch's were harvested. This year - zero (see chart to the left).
This is an unheard of number, where even five years ago when garden knowledge and plant care was very, very low, zuch's sometimes seemed to be the only thing that would grow.
Overcrowding was ruled as the problem. The 2014 garden was crammed past capacity as gardeners 'pushed the boundry' of recommended spacing between plants. Zucchini require space and sunlight. Both of which were restricted due to overplanting. One lone straggler flowered, but, the fruit rotted soon after as it pushed up against the boards boxing in the garden. 

The rest of the garden did produce at median to poor levels. Tomatoes were late this year and hit by frost, the early lettuce was delicious but it bolted quickly, beans grew but were not in high demand by many of the citizens, the eggplant died, and the strawberries grew very well but were tasteless and mealy. Again, the suspicion is that overcrowding and possibly poor soil conditions are to blame.

The plan for 2015 is to significantly scale back on the number of plants to prevent any overcrowding. Additional fertilizers, compost, and any manure that can be obtained will be added to the soil.

Suggestions for 2015 plants include:
  • Carrots

That is it for suggestions so far. Feel free to send suggestions the Ministry of Urban Agriculture or comment below.
Hoping for more scenes like this next fall.
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