Hi, Debbie. Stain color is a matter of taste but you can have problems with blotchiness on pine. There are 3 solutions. One is to apply a "spit coat" or wash coat of shellac. This is best if using a mineral spirits based stain. You make a spit coat by mixing one part 3# cut shellac with 5 parts denatured alcohol and slopping it on. The alcohol evaporates quickly and you can stain in an hour or so. But there is a problem with that much alcohol in the winter. The alcohol fumes are a definate fire and explosion hazard. If you do decide to go this way, close the doors to the room you are working on and open the windows. Be sure that there are no sources of ignition available like your furnace, water heater or stove pilot light. Block off the heat ducts and cold air returns with plastic and masking tape. Electric fans or anything with an electric motor is also a source of ignition. Don't take a chance of burning down your beautiful new house and remember that alcohol burns with no visible flame. You really should wait until summer when you can get better ventilation to do this. The stain also is flammable and the same precautions apply.
The second choice is to use a polyurethane with an amber tint. I have used Parks Pro Finisher Oil Modified Polyurethane on stairs and was really pleased with it and its durability. I just finished making a table of Southern Yellow Pine and used it with a spit coat first for a finish. I like the way the amber hue affects the beauty of the wood and allow the natural markings to come through, moreso than with a stain.
The third choice is to use water based stains and finishes. Carver Tripp, Varathane and Deft are some of the manufacturers of water based stains and there are many manufacturers of water based poly for floors. Water based stain will raise the grain of the wood and you will have to do a light sanding or screening if you use any water based product on your wood. I tend to stay away from water based polys because they do tend to look milky in some light, but that also is a matter of taste. Manufacturers of both oil and water based polys have told me that their water based products are no where near as durable and recommended the oil based poly.
There are both water based and oil based gel stains available but they do not penetrate into the wood as well as regular liquid stains. The other side is that they are much safer to apply inside at this time of year.
I have probably confused you more than answered your questions. One thing that you do want to do is to choose a satin finish poly. This will be much more forgiving than a high gloss finish.
Be sure to read, understand and follow all the label directions and safety warnings on the various products. Many of the manufacturers have web site with excellent information on the product. But don't go by their color samples. Try to find a sample on pine at your dealers as that will be more accurate.
Good luck and let us know what you decided and how it comes out.