AmEx Points Awarded!

I signed up for an AmEx promo with their Gold card at the beginning of the year. They where running a bonus point offer, 50K points if you spend $1000 in the first 3 months. Well I knew spending the $1000 was not going to be an issue.

I was happy to see that they awarded me the bonus points the other day, what a nice thing to see.

Point wise, if you use them for travel it works out well, in my case I am going to use them for some Gift Cards. Works out to $500 in Gift Cards. Wish I could do this promo more then once 🙂

points pic

Loving My Pellet Stove, Harman XXV Part 3

Harman XXV Enamel

Harman XXV Enamel

We are now season five of heating our place with our Harman XXV pellet stove, all started in the October 2009-2010 heating wise.

Still super very happy with our choice to heat our house with our Harman pellet stove.  Can’t imagine how much our place would cost to heat with oil, especially given how warm we keep our house.

Damn our house is hot, each year the  temperature we keep our house at seems to creep up. Keeping our place at 70 seemed amazing the first year, now our house is rarely below 76. It’s not very green of us I know, but the cost seems so minimal.

Cost wise, we are still using between 750-1000 dollars worth of pellets a year to keep our house in Vermont at 76.

A pellet stove is a lot of work (false), I still hear this one, and think people confuse wood stoves (especially old ones) with pellet stove. Since they both burn wood, many people seem to think you need to always be cleaning them, filling them, they are a pain to start etc all things so far from the truth. With a good stove and pellets, there is little in the way of maintenance besides carrying a bag of pellets to our into the hopper. Who couldn’t use a little exercise of carrying a bag of pellets a day?

Discussion with friend on heating with Oil, oh my!!! I am sure sometimes my jaw must have hit the ground.

  • 5000 a year to heat your house to 68?
  • Well I am on a payment plan it is 260 a month. SO you pay 3100+ a year to keep your house barely 60?
  • 3500 a year and my house is so cold.

I was agast, with the cost but at 3.80 a gallon for oil, doesn’t take long to spend that amount.

I know each house is different but at what point do you stop and think, that you need to make some changes in how you heat your house. Add insulation, install a pellet stove or wood stove, etc. Can’t see spending thousands of dollars a year on Oil heat that seems to only go up each year.

Buy a good pellet stove, if you plan on running the stove 24/7 during the heating season. Everyone I know that has a Harman, which is a lot of us, seem very happy with their stove, and most run it 24/7 like I do for months at a time.

I am sorry to say but you cannot compare a cheapo stove you fire up once in a while and say it works just as well. I find it similar to comparing how old a car is without mentioning how many miles you put on it. A big difference with a 10 year old car that gave you no problems that was driven 250,000 miles and one that is always breaking down that you drove 30,000 miles. Pellet stoves are very similar, if you plan on running your stove all the time buy a good stove.

Buy good pellets, I had the experience at the tail end of the heating season the past few years of using cheap pellets. Oh my what junk most of them are, and yes they do burn sort of. The ash content was not even listed, a bad sign, or a BTU count, or could be found tested by any pellet site via google. I opened some bags to find so much dust and smashed pellets it was not even worth burning them for fear of jamming my stove. The old, you get what you pay for.

Buy a Safe stove, I know on our stove there is multiple safety devices and sensors. The one I run into all the time is the hopper air lock. There is not just some simple contact switch where you put the pellets but an air lock. As soon as the air lock seal is broken, by opening the door to put pellets in, the air fan and augur feeding the pellets stops. It is a great feature, the stove won’t continue to feed pellets and keep them burning hot with the hopper open. There is a small risk of the gases coming up the hopper chute, so a great safety device in case it is kept open. On more then one occasion the stove went “out” because I did not fully shut the hopper door, sometimes when it looked like it was shut too. I was glad of that feature, no matter how small the risk of gases entering the house, I was glad the stove went out.

Purchase for the long view, have a friend who mentioned this week she was going to buy a pellet stove and was wise about it. She was not interested in how much she would save right now but how much the next 5/7 years. The added flexibility of having multiple heat sources. She heats with wood, cheapest option in most cases, but having a pellet stove means she can have a continual source of heat. Her Oil furnace won’t kick on when she is gone all day, or forgets to load wood. Flexibility was key in her looking at pellet stoves with a secondary emphasis on low maintenance.

Maintenance wise, the augur on our stove was replaced 2 years ago. The augur was making a lot of noise and being still under warranty, we felt it wise for them to replace it. The technician that was sent to our house agreed hole heartily.

Future projects for my pellet stove

I am going to be looking at installing a battery backup and/or maybe even a solar source for my pellet stove power. I have been measuring my stoves electric draw, which fluctuates between 60-100 watts, not a huge amount but enough of a draw in any case given I run it 24/7. As a hobby, I tinker with solar projects,  and have built my own panels with the help of my daughter and have a small solar system with battery bank in our backyard. Not enough of a battery bank to power our stove reliably 24/7 though.The panel ends up putting out between 60-90 watts, but with a good but lower cost inverter, not enough headway without some expensive batteries.

Top on the list is what happens if the power goes out? Having enough power to run the stove for maybe 1/3 the day would be a great. With our existing solar setup we have the ability to recharge the batteries during the non-running time. Maybe in the end we will have enough to run the stove off of just solar?

 

Yes, I know you can buy backup settups but what fun is that and?

 

 

 

Our Top 5 Rules for Getting it Done

1. Aim to do at least 30 minutes or so a day.  

We know what it’s like to feel like you have very little time to get anything done. Between the two of us working full time and raising 2 kids, after everyone goes to bed and other household chores get done it feels like negative hours in the day. But the more that never gets done, the more overwhelming that to-do list becomes and you just want to forget about it all. As tempting as it is to just put your feet up and watch a Jem and the Holograms marathon on Netflix (haters to the left!), it helps to pull your bootstraps up for a few minutes a day and feel that sense of pride when you can cross another something off your “GTSD” (Get That Shit Done) list. THEN you can watch Jem (those sneaky Misfits!!).

It doesn’t have to be all at once or even 30 minutes, either. If you feel like doing something for just 10 minutes, or feel like breaking up the task into 6 5-minute breaks, it really does make a difference on moving toward your goal. Kinda like exercise (yeah, like THAT ever happens, right?)

 

2. Keep your expectations of how much and how quickly you’ll get things done LOW.

Expecting to sail through your to-do list and go gangbusters or nothing every other weekend is like expecting your going to get a home-cooked Italian meal at Olive Garden. Sorry, Charlie, ain’t gonna happen. Unless you are superman or woman or have taken an inordinate amount of speed (in which case, can I have some? Just kidding, sorry MOM!!) I often find that keeping your expectations low makes them more manageable.It keeps disappointment to a minumum. Then you’re totally surprised when you get more done and get it done quicker than you expected to. It’s a pleasant surprise like when you find that 5 bucks in the pocket of your jeans or that extra fry in the bottom of the Wendy’s bag.

 

3. Don’t always look for the cheapest, easiest way out.

As tempting as it is, sometimes the cheapest and easiest way is not always what it’s cracked up to be. Often it ends up creating more work and money for  you in the end. I’m often guilty of looking for the cheapest items online and getting ready to buy when I run it by Chris and he usually sends me back all of the not-so-stellar reviews of the item saying it broke within 24 hours, etc… Alas, if something seems too good or cheap to be true, it usually is. Like the ab roller or bump-its. However, if we can find the most legit reasonably inexpensive and easy way to do something, a hack if you will, you can bet we’ll be on it like Justin Bieber on hair wax!

 

4. Run your ideas or purchases by your partner (or friend or pet or imaginary dragon) first.

I’m not saying you guys have to watch each other like hawks and give each other a hard time over every little purchase, but if you’re about to go for a big-ticket items, it helps to have a sounding board and a little voice of reality to keep you in check (see #3).

 

5. Start from the corner and work your way outward.

The reason we started this blog was not only to share with you our accomplishments and hopefully a few helpful tips, but also for us to hold each other accountable and track our progress. For us, the easiest way to do so is to start small in the corner of one room (and in this case, we even started in the bottom corner of our house, the basement) and work our way outward. Sort of giving us a panoramic view. Some people go top to bottom, some people go from one side to the other. There are as many variations of it as the Harlem Shake. What we’re trying to get at is you don’t necessarily have to do it the way we’re doing it, just find a way that works for you and stick to it. If it works, don’t question how or why it does, just go with it. (Kinda like when Rihanna changes her hair color).


Well, that’s our top 5 tips today for you out there in blogland, feel free to post your own or scoff at ours (but please do it nicely, we’re sensitive types). The kiddos have now gone to bed, so time to pop open a Sam Adams and get our 30 minutes under the belt!

Hello and welcome to our casa!

Hello everyone! It’s been quite a while since we’ve made an entry in blogland, so please excuse the huge jump in years as you see us move some of our previous posts to here. No, you did NOT time travel. Obama is still our  president and Glee is still a thing.

but in all seriousness, thanks for your patience and thanks for checking out our new digs!

End of July already?? Wahhhh….

Last weekend we went to the annual Dion/Casey/Martineau family reunion in Turners Falls, MA. (It’s my Dad’s side of the family).
It was a pretty quiet year with not much turn out, but kind of nice that way. Theresa came up with the kids which was nice. Jeremy’s favorite word is now “No!”, but he’s still awfully cute. Jakey is getting bigger (and heavier) by the minute. Chris’ nickname for him is “S.A.P (sack a’ potatoes)”, cause that’s what he feels like when you hold him!
We got to see some relatives from Virginia and New York, and of course we got lots of congrats and tummy rubs (mine, not Chris’ 🙂 ). The weather held up so all in all it was a pleasant weekend.
We even got to see some fireworks from my Aunt’s house as their was a boating festival on the river.

In other news, our house is yet again in a shambles as we try to prepare it for the baby. Note to self: starting several projects at once in a SMALL living space plus non-compliant weather for things like painting and spackling equals chaos. But we’re doing ok and I think we’ll be in good shape once the baby comes. Chris just laid the last tile in the shower, we just have to mud around it and do some trim and then we should be good to go! the project took a lot longer than we expected due to the walls in the condo being uneven. Who knew? Oh well…

This week we are going on our last official vacation without a baby–a “babymoon” if you will. Sigh… it’s kinda bittersweet.

Hopefully it will be fun though!
We are spending a few days in Montreal for the Osheaga music festival, and then later on in the week we’ll spend a few days in New jersey with my sis and go to the All Points West music festival. Since both festivals are outdoors, we’ll pray for good weather. I’m sure we’ll have a good writeup when we get back!

In other ramblings, Chris and I are addicted to the show Dexter (thank you Netflix watch instantly!). It’s macabre but the writing is really good and you can’t help but like the guy!

Here is a really yummy, simple summer recipe that we’ve fallen in love with since peaches are in season:

cut a couple of peaches in half and de-pit them (this is challenging but it CAN be done)
grill them for about 4 minutes
then put a dollop of ricotta on them (in the part where the pit would be)
and drizzle with honey.

Yum-tastic!

A weekend in Killington

Chris and I spent a weekend in snowy Killington with his sister and four of our friends. Chris’ sister’s friend owns a nice ski cottage near Killington and was nice enough to let all of us stay there.
We spent most of the weekend bumming around and sitting by the fireplace, playing games and chilling out. It was heavenly, despite the freezing temperatures outside!
Jen’s friend had everything you could possibly need in her cabin, including a washer and drier, a huge kitchen, 3 bedrooms and a hot tub.

A couple of our friends went skiing on Saturday but I couldn’t go (for obvious reasons). I’ve actually never skied before in my life. How strange is that? One of these days, after the baby of course, I’ll have to give it a try. I’m NOT graceful so it should be interesting!

Chris got some more of his Nightmare before Christmas tattoo done on Friday before we drove up north. He’s still in a bit of discomfort but it’s looking great (pics to come!).

And in other news, I had my very first ultrasound. It was neat to see little fingers and toes–and a tail! (Hope that goes away 🙂 ).
The doctor told me I have a heart-shaped uterus, but that there is nothing to be concerned about with that. How odd though. Just means I have a lot of love to share I guess 🙂

I’ll see if I can upload the pics of the ultrasound–I’m about 10 weeks along with a due date around Oct. 30th, and the baby’s about the size of an olive right now!

What’s a “Shirtain”?

To help with boredom on long road trips, Chris and I create little games to play on the way. Aside from buying a big box of Jelly Belly’s and guessing the flavors (which Leah is much better at than Chris!) and counting how many signs or restaurants of a certain kind we see along the way, we’ve started to invent new words and definitions for things. We’ve been doing it so often that we’ve decided to dedicate a whole blog category to it! This will be an ongoing post in which others are free to add their own made up words to.

First word: “Shirtains”. When an individual will use sheets or shirts as curtains in their windows. Often used by lazy college frat boys or individuals who live in trailors or “trouses” (see definition below).

“Trouse”: When someone decides to add an addition on to their trailor to make it look more house-like; for instance adding a porch, a master bedroom sweet, or an above ground swimmin’ pool. Often this new addition will lead to skimping in other areas of house upkeep–hence the usage of “shirtains”.

“Nass-crack”. If ,at a Nascar event, you chance to become the unlucky sap who is downstream of some heavy buttcrack viewage–Big Bertha’s thong might be showing from her low-riders, or BillyBob decided to skip underpants and join the plumbing profession. That, my friends, would be the “Nass-crack”. Will often cause visual trauma.

“Placist”. A form of prejudice involved with where people come from. Also known as, “y’aint from around here, are ya?”. A lot of times this is when an individual makes fun of someone who comes from the South, he or she is being “placist”.

Twinsington’s Syndrome (we were gonna call it “TSS” but those damn toxic shock people stole it!): A very heinous form of fashion adultery in which couples wear creepily similar clothing on a daily basis. We’re not talking about matching tats here, we’re talking shirts, pants, dresses…the whole 9 yards. If you see couple’s wearing identical holiday sweaters or matching fannypacks and t-shirts that say “I had fun in the Poconos”, you know that you ‘ve encountered this disease in it’s most acute form and you should notify the fashion authorities immediately. Next thing you know they’ll be finishing each other’s sentences and singing campfire songs about Schnauzers.