Wednesday, 25 October 2017



The Food and Nutrition Committee of the Place Under The Pine has put together a series of videos documenting the School Lunch program. The general policy around food in the PUTP has always been focused on moderation, variation, and holistic nutrition. The school lunch program has tried to incorporate these values, but, there are challenges.

Finding the right container system is a challenge. The citizens of the PUTP have big appetites, and therefore, need big containers. Starting this school year, the lunch program began using a bento box style container - the GoGreen Lunchbox. The compartment system made it very easy to divide and conquer. The deep compartments also allowed for plenty of food to be packed away. Having only one box kept it simple.

Leftovers have been incorporated into lunches more often this year. There are plenty of benefits to leftovers - They are already made. They add variety to lunch. They are often healthy as well.

With three little citizens now requiring lunches daily, a production system to put everything together needs to be efficient. Watch the lunch making process in action.

There is also a need to ensure the food that is sent is enjoyed by the young citizens. That the correct amount of food is being sent. And, feedback documented and future lunches adjusted accordingly.

Research into improving lunches is a never ending task. There are plenty of resources on the web to inspire you. The PUTP has put together a youtube playlist of various school lunch ideas - everything from rainbow bread sandwiches to shaped cheese. Click the LINK to watch some of the best youtube school lunch ideas.


Thursday, 19 October 2017



The faint aroma of fire, fresh cut lumber, manure - primitive smells...smells that bring you back to a simpler time.

The buzz of people is loud, but, interestly not disturbing at all. It must be the lack of cars, wireless internet, smart phone chirps...modern noises...that make things feel natural, peaceful.

Even though there is excitement, running, and lots of activity...things feel slow. Not an annoying slow like a traffic jam, but, a slowing down of life.

It was a great experience to take a day off of the modern world. And, a great way to realize you need a little slowness, a little back to basics, a little less technology, in our life.


Thursday, 21 September 2017



Earlier this year the citizens of the Place Under The Pine removed the ol' piano. That big wooden box with the white keys that sat in a long line of family living rooms - for 60 years - had worn down and become somewhat of a burden. But, that doesn't mean it didn't have any value. No! It had mitt-loads of sentimental value. Which is why when the citizens broke the piano apart they carefully removed and put aside some of the special, in a visual sense, pieces. One such piece was the sheet holder. This is the part on the piano that held the sheet music. This was one of the main focal points of the piano, so the sight of it instantly reminds you of the old piano. Which is why repurposing it is such a great idea.

The sheet holder
It was not a big project, the citizens added some hooks and hung it on a wall. But, it has a big effect.
Hooks for hat or bags

Small hooks for keys

Even though the piano is gone, the memories are brought to life everytime a pair of keys are hung, or a hat is tossed over one of the hooks.

I can still hear Hot Cross Buns!

Here is a quick video of the process to help you along.

Friday, 18 August 2017



Changes are abound in the Place Under The Pine. Floors, ceilings, and even closets are being replaced, updated, or transformed.

The latest project has been one of transformation - turning a closet into a desk.

The closet was originally being used to hold coats, shoes, umbrellas...front door stuff. The problem was the location of the closet did not match the contents. The closet was not at the front door. Instead, the closet was in the living room - a few meters from the door and up three stairs. 
The closet never functioned well for the citizens of the PUTP. 

For years, Jen had the vision of this closet turning to a more usable space. A space for crafting, computer-ing, sewing, homework-ing...that kind of thing. The location was ideal being in the living room and not out of the way in a dark corner of the basement (where it would never get used). 
The citizen construction crew finally broke ground and cleared out the closet. Not too long later they ended with this:

Watch this citizens in action in this short documentary "Transforming a closet into a desk"

The citizens of the PUTP love reusing materials in their projects. Crazy ideas like an old door as the desktop were tossed about. But in the end the desktop and drawers were sourced by a retailer known for its easy to read assembly instructions - IKEA. Convenience won out on this project.

The drawers : $68 plain white 'ALEX' drawer unit

The desktop: $25 plain white 'LINNMON' board.

The floating shelves were found at Home Depot. They were easy, easy, easy to install and look very sleek. In a confined space like this former closet every extra milimeter makes a difference. So, a floating shelf, sans brackets, takes up less space.

The result of this project is more than just another desktop to place a laptop or write a letter (writing a real life letter, what, it could happen?). This space adds another dimension to our living space. It adds a much needed 'public' zone for the younger citizens to use the computer/internet. Our living room can now accomodate more activities of life and bring everyone into the same room at the same time. One way to think about this office nook is that it brings our family closer together.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017


Cherry Tree has its first fruits - ever!

The highlight of the year has to be the cherry tree. There are only two cherries on the tree, but, this is a giant improvement from zero. This is the first year there have been flowers...and cherries.

The first cherry!

The rest of the garden is growing, slowly, but growing. Here is a video update:

Sunday, 9 July 2017



The Place Under the Pine Garden Committee is having a difficult time describing this year's garden. Many adjectives have been ping ponging across the table, words like 'mediocre', 'blah', 'non-normal distribution', but none of these words seems to fit. It may be because of the variety in growth. Let us specify - the prized raspberry bushes are small and do not seem to be as full as normal, yet the lettuce is so abundant it has become a nuisance. The zuchinni is slow, but, the corn seems to be doing great! Then the brussel sprouts they are doing average, but, have ill-forming leaves. The peas do not want to climb, but, they are looking healthy and green.
The continuous rain this year may have something to do with the variable growth - we've had much more rain than normal and less sun as well. It may be the soil just needs the equivalent of a nutrient rich smoothie. It may also be the analyst, the human eye in all of this. Maybe the gardener is being overly critical to keep expectation low - playing it safe.

Here is a quick video showing the garden's progress and a recipe for a makeshift fertilizer soup.

On a more dramatic note, some of the corn plants were recently weed-whacked by our Condo Corporations landscapers.

Monday, 19 June 2017



We were out of the house for two months. The insurance people boxed up almost everything and we were sent off to a hotel/inn until they fixed the floor, ceiling, etc.

The Place Under The Pine has a vastly different look lately, that just graduated University look. The bare walls, boxes being used as tables, and folding chairs in the spot the couch used to sit, are the key factors. The insurance company kindly disposed of all the unsalvageable items, which included anchor pieces like the couch. 
Their is a bright side to all of this inconvenience. The floors - they are brand new, dark, grainy, and change the entire look and feel of the room. The ceiling is also brand new and (he says happily) lacking the 'popcorn' finish.
As we wait for our insurance claim to go through, and the money to replace our couch, we are still getting by as happy as ever. Two months in a hotel will do that to you. Two months of living with the bare minimum of your 'stuff' really makes you think about what is important in your life. We were initially given a three week timeline, but, that stretched out to eight weeks. This means we packed for three weeks - clothes for three weeks in the early spring does not translate well when the hot weekends in late May come along!
Lacking appropriate clothing was not a major concern for me personally, I still got along. In fact it was kind of nice having no choice. I had one weekend outfit, so I would just wear that. I also, only had a book and a camera for 'hobbies'. Again, I found it great to be lacking any choice - I could only delve into reading and making videos. 
No choices also gave us more time as a family - time we filled with activities we mean to do more, like play board games, do giant puzzles, those kind of things.

There were less things to get in the way.

When we were leaving the hotel Olivia mentioned this. She went into the hotel life kicking and screaming about having to share a room with her brother...and as we left she was worried about being lonely at night and our family not being together as much.
The time away showed just how adaptable Elliott is. He barely seemed to notice. He took advantage of the new bed with the extra pillow and settled himself in the first night and never seemed to look back. He really only missed his hockey net - which he spends a lot of idle time using in the backyard.
Oscar was similar, he adapted to a lack of bed (sleeping with us) just fine. He never complained about his lack of toys. He did want to go to 'our real home' often, and would ask about it...but, he seemed happy enough while we were at the hotel.

It was a very interesting experiment, if we could call it that. Taking us out of our home, taking away most of our stuff, and seeing how we react. 

How we reacted? Well, the first day we got home we filled two giant boxes with stuff which we donated away. We have dropped off van loads full of old clothes, toys, books, and clutter at the Goodwill and we continue to clear out our life of 'stuff'.

I asked the kids and Jen what they learned about us, themselves, life, after going through this experience -

Friday, 9 June 2017



The citizens of the Place Under The Pine were surprised this year to find the garden had started growing without their help and guidance. Mother Nature had worked her magic.

Lettuce, from last season, had somehow taken root or seeded it self and had gotten a head start on the growing season. Fast forward to now, early June, and the citizens of the PUTP are already harvesting lettuce! This is a new record. The quantity is also surprising, as there is already more lettuce than the citizens can eat. They have been gifting it to any and all that visit, but, there is still many square feet of the vibrant green leaf growing in the garden.

The prized raspberry bushes are doing well again this season. They have started to flower, which is a great sign that berries are on the way. The plant has also spread its wings and attempted to take root outside of the garden again. This year shoots have popped up in between the patio stones (a dozen feet away) and in random spots throughout the backyard. These 'offspring' will be dug up and given away to other local gardeners. 

The following video is 6 mins of lettuce, raspberry bushes, other sprouting plants, and a vinaigrette recipe. Set aside some time and enjoy:


I don't know about you, but, my tool of choice when out gardening is a good hoe. It can do everything from weed removal, tilling, mixing...and you look cool holding one too!
If you are in need of a good hoe check out amazon -

Tuesday, 30 May 2017



Parsnip seeds may take upto three weeks to sprout

The Place Under The Pine Garden Committee has been planning the 2017 garden for months now, spending hours and hours, late into the night even, going over the data from the past 10 years. The focus has been on what produce was actually consumed. Anecdotal evidence and common memories of what vegetable was 'the best' has varied year over year. The list of 'best' vegetables is what determined what the Garden will grow this year.
In no specific order the plants chosen for Garden 2017 are as follows:
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Parsnips
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Green Beans
  • Peas
Last year the garden purchasing committee could not find any Brussels sprout plants. This year, Home Depot had a six-pack of them. Due to space constraints only four have been planted in the garden. The remaining two have been passed along to other Places.

Brussels Sprouts - handy six pack $3.50 at Home Depot
Tomato plants from seeds do not produce the quantity of fruit and timeliness of fruit needed by the PUTP, so a cherry tomato plant was purchased, again from the Home Depot. 

Many varieties to choose from - Cherry Tomato was our choice
Parsnips were a hit last year, both for their ease (plant and leave until after a few frosts) and their taste (yum). Heirloom variety parsnip seed picked up at the Home Depot.

Parsnip seeds

Zucchini have always grown well from seed in the PUTP garden. What seems to matter is not the seed, but, the pollination of the giant flowers. We have had years of 30+ squashes and years of zero squashes. Be kind to the neighbourhood bees.

Zuch seeds

This year's experiment is going to be corn. A small corner of the yard has been turned over as a place to grow this big plant. Corn has never been grown in the PUTP, but, it has been eaten countless times. This experiment could turn out to be a great success or a total failure. Only time will tell.

Quick harvesting bi-colour corn

The Place Under The Pine Seed Bank 

Over the past few seasons the Garden Committee has made an effort to save as many seeds as possible. Success from saving seeds is not measured in monetary value (which would only be a few dollars saved per year) but in the feeling that saving the seeds brings the citizens of the PUTP. It is a feeling of being somewhat self reliant - we do not HAVE to go buy seeds, in theory we can grow a limited selection of thing. We can CHOOSE to purchase new seeds.

Peas were saved in an envelope. Beans in their dried pod.

Pea and Green Bean seeds from last year were saved and are going into the garden now.

A surprise gift from last year has turned the a patch of the garden a vibrant green colour. Lettuce from last year, that went to seed, was turned over into the earth in the fall. This was intended to be mulch/green manure, but, instead has sprouted into a patch of green oak lettuce. It is ready to eat before the rest of the garden has even been planted...thank you mother nature.

Don't step on the lettuce!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017



A few weeks ago we came home to a house full of water. It reminded me of a TV show, water pouring through the ceiling, us sloshing through water, squishing noises coming from every footstep over the carpet...

What happened was, our the bathroom, which is on our second floor, had a clogged toilet yet was still running. Water ran for a couple of hours while we were out of the house. The water seeped through the floor, which is right over top of our living room, and came through the ceiling. From there it pooled on the living room floor and slowly made it's way through that and ended up in the basement. So, all three floors drenched!
Luckily for us, we had insurance. And, insurance would cover all the damages. New floors, ceilings, carpets, and walls. However, since the damage was so widespread, and so much work needed to be done we were given the boot and told to move out for awhile. Again, insurance found us a great Inn to stay at, not too far away. So, we are now living in a motel - but, really it is a motel only by name. The place is the entire top floor of an old farmhouse which has been remodeled into an apartment - we have two big bedrooms, a good sized kitchen, lots of living area, and a bathtub with jets (so, no problem getting the kids to want to take a bath).
Of course it was stressful to move out for an undetermined amount of time - it could be three weeks it could be more than a month? It was a challenge to pack. Even though we tried to think of this as an adventure, there are times when you just want to be home.
We've been settled at the Inn for a few weeks now and overall we are managing well. Living a somewhat minimalistic life and without our regular household project our life seems to have slowed down. This weekend was a good example. It rained all weekend and forced us to stay in and get cozy. We had time. Time to relax, do a puzzle, play some board games, build some lego...there were no house project to do, no basement to tidy, no yardwork. So, it was different. Enjoyable, but, different.
I will be extremely happy when we move back into our house, but, for now I'm happy with our temporary life.

Friday, 10 March 2017



The Food and Nutrition Committee of the Place Under The Pine has put together a series of videos documenting the School Lunch program. The general policy around food in the PUTP has always been focused on moderation, variation, and holistic nutrition. The school lunch program has tried to incorporate these values, but, there are challenges.

There is the added constraints of time. The ideal time to prepare food would be immediately before consuming it, however, that is not possible with school lunches. One option is to prepare on the morning before school - which is, for lack of a better word - a hot mess. Another option is the night before. The PUTP has found preparing lunches the night before school is the best compromise. However, there are times when even the night before is not ideal - when extra curriculars end late, when school projects are due the next day, or when lunch makers are just tired out after a long day.
There are also container constraints - size and shape. And, further, many food options cannot even be considered due to lack of refridgeration, and no cooking/heating equipment. 

School Lunches are definitely a challenge.

After making thousands of lunches over the years the PUTP has developed a system that works well. Everything from timing, containers, and a customized repetoire of recipes that 'work' are the result of these thousand of 'experiments'. The PUTP took a leap earlier this year and made a few 'how to' or 'how we do' style videos in an attempt to help other parents take school lunches to the next level.

Analysis of the videos have shown the ups and downs that come along with the daily grind of making school lunches. There are periods when healthy, almost overzelous, lunches prevail. And, there are times when the quality is, let's be nice and say, less than stellar. But, as with the rest of life; there are good times and bad times.

Presenting the School Lunch Program video series:

The First Week Video - healthy lunches and improving with tinfoil.

Use Your Melon - Everything from classics like tuna salad to exotic fruits like mango!

Have Fun With Your Food - The process of making lunches can be an 'enjoyable' chore.

Healthy AND Realistic - A great mix showing some great lunches and busy night lunches (featuring things like Pogos)

Valentines Day and More - A Themed lunch for valentines day involves lots of heart shaped food.

The PUTP does not claim to be the original, be all end all, or pinnacle of school lunch videos, we play one small part. There are many similar videos on Youtube that share a different view, different food, different container system, etc. They are worth looking into - especially for those who are just starting the monumental task of making thousands of lunches in the upcoming years.

Here are a few recommended sites that the PUTP often views: