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 -