Pellet Stoves–A Cleaner, Greener Alternative to Wood Fires?

For those of you on the edges of your seats waiting to find out if we chose a gas stove, wood stove, or pellet stove insert for our wood burning fireplace, I’ll end the suspense: we went with the pellet stove. (Read my  wood fire post here and my fireplace insert post here.)  At first I was worried that a pellet stove insert would look strange in our 1924 house, but we found a model with a vintage feel to it.  Here’s what the fireplace looked like before:

fireplace before inserting the pellet stove in a 1924 house

(This photo is from last winter. Don’t worry; I haven’t hung up the Christmas decorations already!)

Fire Place Inserts: Wood, Pellet, or Gas?

As I mentioned in this post, we had a few pangs of eco-guilt about using our wood fireplace.  Wood not only emits more pollutants into the air than other fuels, it doesn’t even do a good job of keeping our house warm during the cold winter months.  We started looking into a fireplace insert that would allow us to sit by a greener, cleaner fire.

First we looked into a gas fire insert.  We already have a gas line to our house, so we thought this might be the way to go.  Natural gas is the cleanest burning fuel out there.  However, we were not big fans of the fake-looking logs or coals that come with gas fires.

The Multipurpose Nursery

The multipurpose nurseryWho needs a nursery?  We thought we didn’t. We moved the changing table and dresser into our bedroom, co-slept for the first few months, and stubbornly held onto our idea of having an office in our home.

It worked for awhile, but we reached a point of frantic sleep deprivation when our baby girl reached four months.  She needed to sleep in her crib and the co-sleeper wasn’t doing the trick.

We decided to opt for a creative solution.  It was tempting just to head out and buy several items to accommodate our new plan, but we decided to first try to work with what we had to avoid the expense or environmental impact of buying more stuff.

The Upside of Deprivation

When we fill out those long registry lists and stockpile our homes with newborn garments, our thoughts often fall along the lines of “I want the best for my baby.”  After all, how could you scrimp on your infant?

simple baby less stuff more mom timeThe funny thing about babies, however, is that the monetary value we assign to things is totally foreign to them. They’re like little aliens who perceive a wooden spoon as being just as valuable as a fifty dollar bamboo teether. Often they’re more impressed with a cardboard box and wrapping paper than they are with the pricey stuffed animal inside.  Most importantly, they would rather have our time and attention than any gadget under the sun.

Thoughtfulness Trumps Cost When Under Indulging on Gifts

Underwear, socks, a basketball, and a typewriter. One Christmas, this was the extent of my holiday loot.  My sister and I (who had to share the typewriter, by the way) were always embarrassed about the sad gifts we received from our skinflint parents. Not only were they limited, they often seemed to miss the mark when it came to thoughtfulness.  As teenagers we developed a comedy routine to use when our friends boasted about their presents so we wouldn’t be quite as embarrassed.

You might be expecting me to declare that those limited holiday gifts reinforced love and unity rather than materialism. Here’s the truth—it was no picnic.

The Eco-friendly, Budget-friendly Postpartum Wardrobe

Some mothers leave the hospital wearing their pre-pregnancy jeans. For the rest of us, it can be depressing to return to our closets and find that we have to chose between maternity wear and clothes sized too small for our post-baby bellies.

thrifty post partum wardrobe for new momsMy sad little rotation of four outfits was giving me the post-baby body blues but I didn’t want to spend money on clothing that would only be used while I transition (hopefully) back to my old size. It also seemed like a waste to buy several new items to fit my temporary figure.

Finally I decided to bite the bullet and buy some better fitting duds at our local thrift shop, which was serendipitously having a half off sale on the day I took action.  I returned from an hour of shopping with twelve garments purchased for less than twenty dollars.  The clothes are beautiful and include such brand names as Calvin Klein, Gap and Dockers. Even after my body shifts, I think I’ll keep some of these pieces just because I have instantly fallen in love with them.

The Post-Baby Body Blues

For the past twelve weeks I’ve watched calories, joined Baby Boot Camp (an outdoor exercise class for a postpartum workout), and have breastfed this hungry baby of mine every two hours.  I’ve lost four measly pounds from my post-birth weight.  While part of me just wants to throw up my hands and cry into my steel cut oats, the other part of me realizes that patience is key.

losing weight after babySome of us shed weight easily while breastfeeding but apparently twenty percent of us have bodies that actually hold onto pounds while nursing.  I must fit into that lucky fraction because it seems that weight loss was actually easier before I had the baby.  How can that be?

Garage Sale Shopping for Baby Clothes

Your family and friends may find it tacky to search tag sale tables for tiny outfits, but I personally think it’s budget-friendly, earth-friendly and a bit adventurous.   Plus it gives you the chance to meet people in your community and pick up a thrifty toy or two.

garage sale shopping for babyAt a recent garage sale, we scored four high quality shirts for my son all for fifty cents apiece—plus a Ralph Lauren down winter jacket for a few bucks. Since he’s nearly three, my son will most likely be able to wear those clothes all winter long, but my baby stays in her clothes for a matter of weeks.  Spending fifteen to twenty dollars on just one piece of infant clothing means that some parents pay five dollars or more per use.  Imagine how the expense (or the savings) adds up over the course of your child’s first few years!

Were You Frugal Before the Recession?

The hand-me-downs, the homemade bread, the generic groceries—living a low-cost life is less than glamorous.  I used to complain about my ultra-cheap childhood, but in these rough financial times, I appreciate my lifelong education as a skinflint.  As more Americans struggle with unemployment and lower wages, it seems that all of us are moving away from consumerism and towards frugal adventurism.

saving money during a recessionHere at, we celebrate our nation’s new fascination with penny pinching, but we’ve been enjoying life on the cheap for decades.  Far before this recession or the arrival of our babies, we were living with less, buying used, and relishing the challenge of stretching a dollar as far as it could possibly go.

Camping with Baby

yurt camping with babyAfter three summers without s’mores or hot chocolate, we finally burst back onto the camping scene this week! How did we manage camping with a six-week-old baby and an almost-three-year old? We cheated.

Instead of pitching the tent and stringing tarps across tree trunks in case of rain, we simply rented a yurt. What is a yurt, you say? It’s a rustic shelter that makes “roughing it” outdoors a bit less rough.  Ours  housed bunk beds, a small table, and two chairs.

It means you don’t have to pack or pitch a tent—or deal with airing out wet tarps after the trip.  The yurt also provides soundproofing between you and the other campers when your baby screams at 2am. Plus, since yurts come with insulation and heat, renting one can stretch the camping season to year round here in Oregon.