MagicHeat. It's an interesting contraption that "harvests" the heat that would otherwise be lost as it flits up your chimney. The internal thermostat clicks on at 150F, and off at 120F or so, blowing only hot air into your room. The thing raises the temperature in the main living areas by as much as 10-12 degrees! I admit that when Gray said he was going to install this thing, I was hesitant. It was expensive (though his parents bought it for us for Christmas, thank all that's holy), and it didn't seem that an ugly box on a pipe could do all it claims. Well... it does. And then some!
It has improved the draw on our chimney, warmed the house, lowered the smoke in the house (which is a long story I don't want to get into right now), and gives us an oral warning when the wood needs more stove. When the thermostat clicks off the fan, which isn't all that loud but is definitely easily heard, we know the heat is dropping down. That lets us get wood on while there are still nice, cherry coals glowing in the fireplace. I think our wood is also burning more efficiently, but that's just an opinion.
Having this stove in our living room has done a few things for our family. First, we like to congregate there, because it's many degrees warmer than anywhere else in the house. Second, it's just pleasant to be around a crackling fire, and our lovely cast iron fireplace has two little chevrons of mesh that allow us to watch our fire as well as feel its heat. Third, it's allowed us to set our thermostat to 55F and make it this far through the winter (albeit a fairly warm one) with only a half tank of oil so far. Generally speaking, the only time the furnace goes on is if the fire dies out (sometimes in the morning this happens as the stove really isn't an all nighter) or if we have over friends who aren't inured to the cold like we are.
For me, this has become a place of refuge. I no longer hide away in my bedroom. I no longer have my computer in my bedroom, either. It's in the office, and there it stays. I go to it, rather than lugging it around with me. I've become much less dependent on this piece of technology. Don't get me wrong: I still use it, and love it. It simply has ceased to be my lover, my focus. This has resulted in a cleaner house, happier family members, children who are forced to clean up their messes while they grumble incessantly, and dinners that are tasty and healthy and rarely "thrown together" at the last minute.
In any case, this winter has turned out to be a very meditative one. I've had less feeling of stress and "run around syndrome" than previous years, and I just feel better about myself and my surroundings. It's been pretty peaceful here, and we've settled into decent routines that carry us from day to day with gentleness and love. My life is not perfect, by any means, but... who'd want that anyhow? I like my little deviations from normalcy.