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: 


Monday, 14 November 2016



The Garden Committee of the Place Under The Pine took the easy route this year relying on low maintenance plants such as the raspberry to make up the bulk of this years garden produce. The other extremely low maintenance plant, the parsnip, was recently unearthed, with happy results.

Why so late in the season? This particular vegetable requires a good frosting to improve the flavour.

How easy was the parsnip to grow? In early spring a few small seeds were buried...in late fall a shovel was pushed into the ground and a game of hide and seek (parsnip style...similar to carrot style) was played.

The result:

The parsnip is well loved by the citizens of the PUTP, especially when roasted. Great taste and low effort to grow makes this plant a new staple of the garden.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016



On Monday, Olivia (our 10 year old daughter) asked me, "Did Donald Trump win the election in the United States?" (we are Canadian to put this into context). She had run across a news headline while working on the ipads at school proclaiming 'Trump won and the world is going to end'.

I calmly replied that there is no way that anyone with common sense would allow a Donald Trump to run their country.

Lolli then started asking really tough questions. "Why does he want to get rid of Muslims? All the muslim people in my class are really nice."
"Why does he want to put up a wall?"
"He sounds racist, is he racist? That is not ok."
I tried to explain that the US is a different country, with different beliefs, a different social structure, a history of racism and slavery and all that...wow, what a complicated thing to try and explain and even harder b/c I don't understand the thinking behind a vote for Trump at all.

What makes it even harder is the extreme difference between Trump and our new prime minister Justin Trudeau. Justin is all about breaking down walls, helping refugees, bringing people together, trying to solve our own racial problems dealing with our native people, and he is just a happy positive guy...with great fashion sense to boot (when he is out and a'boot).

I'm very thankful that we have a leader I can tell my children to look up to.

PM Trudeau | "Wheels"

Monday, 24 October 2016



The Place Under the Pine is down one TV screen (good life lesson: toy cars thrown by three year olds and screens do not mix), but, that is not the Tube we are referring to. YouTube, that is the TUBE that has been generating a lot of discussion lately around the PUTP.
The PUTP YouTube channel / memory preserving experiment has gone extremely well. Dozens of weekly vlogs have been made and shared with friends and family.
Here is the latest - Apple picking | Sports | Rubber Boots
Recently, the channel has expanded with videos on cooking (Cooking With Olivia) and what the young ones take in their school lunch.
Lolli makes oatmeal choc chip cookies
The increase in Tube-talk has been about one of these lunch videos. We had one go 'viral'. Not take-over-the-world viral, but to put it into context, typically a video hits between 30 - 60 views ... this 'viral' lunch video's count was over 8,000 at last check (and still growing). 
Be the 9,000 or 10,000th viewer. Here it is:
This is very exciting for all the citizens of the PUTP. YouTube is probably the most popular site visited, and everyone has their favourite channel. Being part of the "Tube" is a way of life around the PUTP, which is why having a little bit of success generates so much buzz. 

Monday, 26 September 2016



Baseball has always been one of the underrepresented sports in the Place Under The Pine. Historical records indicate Matty played the '87 season with little success (other than a monster triple on the last game of the season!), there are no recorded stats but heresay says 'that's probably a good thing'.

The 2013 T-ball season was Lolli's one and only year. She posted a 1.000% batting average, but, hung up her glove after that long summer.

The most fun she had was posing for baseball pics
The 2015 T-ball season was Elli's first attempt with the ol' bat and ball. He had some skill, he had a good time, and was very successful. But, his mind seemed to be stuck in winter mode (aka hockey brain) and he also struggled with playing two summer sports (baseball and soccer) and picking a favourite...at that point soccer seemed to be winning the favourite-sport race.
It seemed that maybe baseball would follow the regular Place Under The Pine path and become a 2nd tier sport.

That was, until this year.

What a snag!

2016 has turned things around. The summer of 2016 saw hours and hours and hours of time spent on the baseball diamond (and not on the soccer pitch). The fire for Baseball has been lit in Elli. It seemed to be a mix of things that have brought Baseball to the forefront of Elli's sporting life.

Potential homerun swing
The format of the games changes slightly, from the casual 'everyone wins' to a game where there were actual outs (scores and standings were even kept!). Elli is that kid that thrives on competition. He wants to be the best and tries extra hard to get there.

Yes, another win!
He also had a great team made up of fun loving, spirited kids, who also seemed to be interested in being competitive. He also had a super duper coach who brought out more than the just the basic hitting and catching skills in every kid, but, so much extra. With bubblegum blowing contest, team cheers, and waterfights the kids had so much fun. Extra fun. That kind of fun that made them excited to go to every game, practice, and even head into their backyards just to throw the ball around with ol' Dad. All this fun (and time spent practicing) made the team better and better and better - it was a vicious circle...to a point where they were just slaughtering every team they played.

Waterfight! Perfect timing after a hot midday game.
Their coach went above and beyond setting up a home & home series with Napanee's rep team. It was amazing to see that our team held up pretty well against this all star team.
This year was such a great experience and not only for Elli, but, for the whole gang of the Place Under The Pine. It was so much fun that they are even considering rep baseball for next season. Yes, rep sports, an unprecedented idea in these parts!

Like the socks Elli!
And, with a .933 batting average, and a dedication by Elli to get even better, it would be a real shame to deny him a chance at higher calibre baseball - and most likely a career in the major leagues. Probably with the Blue Jays.
The elders of the PUTP have called this idea 'The Retirement Plan' (no pressure).

Wednesday, 21 September 2016



A brand new pair of rubber boots is a rarity in the PUTP. The typical rubber boot is bought used, passed down through all kids, and is still in good enough shape to resell. Rubber boots are one of those essential pieces that seem to last forever.
Recently a shiny new pair of Elliot sized rubber boots were purchased. Being brand new they had that brand new smell, that brand new shine, and that brand new stiffness - they needed to be worked-in before actually being worn to school for a day.
Here is how Elliott achieved the worn-in look and feel.
Step 1 - Fill in the rustic sandbox with water (get your little brother to help)
Fill mudpit until water reaches edge of boot top

 Step 2 - Swish around with tools (and boots) until the water and clay/mud form into a thick soupy consistency.
This will be a messy job so wear appropriate clothing
Shovel in extra dirt if needed
Step 3 - Submerge your boots in the mudbath. Ensure you push down hard to really get into the muck.
Step 4 - Remove boots from the mud hole. It is important at this stage to leave some mud on the boots, this will remove all shine from the toe. Allow to dry naturally outside.