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Category Archives: Bastrop fire

Normal Boring Day

It is days like today, when I am caught up in my very normal, mundane daily activities, when routine and kids and chores are all that I think about, it is days like today that I am thankful. Thankful to have a normal boring day. Thankful to have a friend to go with me to thrift stores just to see what hidden treasures they might contain. Thankful beyond words for my mischievous and beautiful baby who is already keeping me on my toes at only 12 months old. Thankful that my 5 year old is adjusting so incredibly well to the vastness of kindergarten despite all of my fears and trepidations (and hers) for all these many years.

I am thankful because it is in this normality that peace settles in and one can move beyond the day and live in the now.

I am thankful for this day because on this day, this very particular day, that normal has not always been my experience. The first year, everyone remembered. The second year – and perhaps it is only my own myopic perceptions, but it seems as if those of us in this exclusive club fear to mention it, even amongst ourselves.

I have had other traumatic events in my life, as nearly everyone has. Those life defining events that you remember the date of from year to year. For myself, it was the death of my most beloved dog, Carbon. He was a puppy that I got while a Peace Corps Volunteer – we grew up together in a sense. He was my soul mate, my best friend, the “Best Dog” in my wedding. And 8 years later, the loss of him still takes my breath away. The first years after his passing, I always remembered, always grieved. And then, as time went on, I began to live that day as normal, forgetting its significance in the history of my life. And then I would grieve even more fiercely for having forgotten him, as if that somehow indicated my lack of love for him. Reaching that point took years and I am sure that some therapist would say that it is a good sign of my healing. To me, it is another loss of one of the few things that I have left of him.

So today, it took me rather by surprise that my day went as planned, normal, routine, boring. A state of which I had longed for as much as I have ever yearned for excitement. That it was not until an hour after the time of the event that it occurred to me. I did send a text to another club member hoping that she was OK today. But, from the many people that I know, I saw nothing on their Facebook posts indicating the date. The only people that seem to remember, and are willing to talk about it, are the news media. They talk about recovery, or lack there of, of dead trees and missing houses. Of the state park and the fun run to raise money to replant the trees.

They don’t mention the exhaustion, the weariness of soul from the never ending task of rising from these ashes to reach that ephemeral state of “recovery”. The knee buckling gratitude to strangers with a debt to people unknown that can never be repaid. They fail to mention the joys of the mundane. The anxiety of potential repeat loss. The deep instinctual knowledge that the odds don’t always play in your favor; that at some point, you will be the 0.05% of people affected, no matter which god you honor. The understanding that it really isn’t the loss of “stuff” that is so traumatic but rather the effort to return to and find… normal.

Our house isn’t totally done, we have much yard work to do, tree stumps to take out, grass to plant. Our vista is full of blackened skeletons of the true “Lost Pines” and of small green spires of the future growing from the ashes of their parents in the form of baby pine trees. We cannot forget simply because the mere act of looking out of our windows reminds us every day. But it seems that we can reach the much despised phrase of “new normal” – despite how far we have left to go both in a physical landscape of our property and in the psychological acceptance of our hearts.

Strength comes from hardship, of trials and trauma. We are stronger people because of today – both this day 2 years ago and because of where we are right now. It is an anniversary of endurance and honor and it is as much a part of me as my beloved dog.

So I will say it aloud. Today is the day that the nations worst wildfire ever started*. Today is the day that our lives changed. Today is the day… and we are just fine.


* (by financial losses per capita in the county – 3rd worst in general)

Household Inventory

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emergencyPrint available at Esty shop Whisker Prints.


Name every DVD or CD in your collection.

What brand of underwear do you have?

How many of each color?

How old are they?

Can’t answer all of that?

Then welcome to the club – most people can’t.  Yet, if your house is robbed or you are in a natural disaster, you WILL need to know this!

The disaster is the first of many insults and traumas  if you ever get to go through something like this.  After the disaster the turmoil will largely be a result of what you have done to prepare before hand.  As in – do you have insurance?  Do you have enough?  Do you have a list of EVERYTHING that you own?  Do you know what your individual insurance agency requires if something happens?

LIST EVERYTHING YOU OWN.  Why?  Because in the case of massive disaster, you get money not just for the TV but for ALL of your stuff.  It’s called contents insurance (renters insurance is the same if you don’t own your house) and is generally a total value, not individual (though this varies by provider – check your policy for details).  After a disaster, you will have to list ALL of your stuff and then will be given a DEPRECIATED value of your posessions.  So while your undies and ketchup in the fridge may not matter much, they add up fast and add to the total value of your contents.   Including a general list of what you keep in your pantry for food.  (And the freezer – think of the value of all of the meat and frozen fruit!)  If you don’t have enough on your itemized list to get ALL of your contents money – you just won’t get it.  Some insurers will only give you 25% of your total content value if you don’t itemize (I believe State Farm is like this among others) – so you want a total list.   You will NEED all of the money you can legally get from the insurance that you’ve paid for for years because it will take more money than you ever expected to replace all of those little things.  And getting back to normal is worth making this list NOW.

Also, many insurers will not accept pictures and serial numbers as proof of ownership anymore.  You will need a copy of the receipt!  And be careful – receipts fade over time so either scan it or take a picture of the receipt and add that to your database in your inventory.

We never think that it will happen to us.  And I don’t know the statistics (but would love to find out) but if you figure everyone involved in Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, Rita, Ike… the wildfires like Bastrop of 2011, Colorado 2012… Just because the odds are 1 in 100 (or whatever it really is)


It could be you.  It was me.  It was nearly 1700 homes in my town.

Be prepared.

And the folks in Colorado learned this lesson last year, as is reported in the Denver Times.  Good information on why and how to make an inventory.

Overwhelmed with the idea of making a list of all of your stuff?  You’re not alone.  I still don’t have a complete list.  Me.  The one who lost it all.

But, on the local news today the president from the Insurance Information Institute was on the news.  They have apps for apple and android to help you to make the list.  I haven’t tried it yet but you’d better believe it that I’m going to look into it. (And the reviews are only mediocre… so I won’t be using this app.)

Want to go old school and make a paper list?  The California Department of Insurance has a nice PDF file that you can print off, fill in info and tape in pictures.

However, at least in our fire, fire safes didn’t actually protect anything from the fire – so I would ignore their advice on using those.   Best bet?  Use a safe deposit box at a bank.  Even if you don’t have the key to get in to it, the $150 fee to drill the lock out is cheaper than what you’ll loose if you don’t have your list.


After looking at MANY programs and organizing systems, I have finally found the method that I’m going to use.

This has PDF forms that are editable and list major items per room – plus a blank form that you can use for your special stuff that isn’t included on their pre-made forms.  I am planning on going through and filling this in and also taking pictures of all of the stuff, including clothes (adds up fast!) – then, saving the pictures in folders organized by room.  It’s not quite as organized as I would like it with the picture next to the item description, but it’s the best I have found so far.  And it is FREE.  And it is on my computer and not out there in the cloud.  Once I am done with this huge project, I am backing this up to a jump disk and having my husband keep it in his office at work.  And as things go into the house or out of the house, I will edit the list, too.

Issues involve baby clothes – they grow out of them so fast!  And fabric.  Ack – how do I inventory that?  And yards of fabric add up fast as do their prices!

This will not be a quick project but it is one that must be done.

Whatever you do – start on the list.

Because I know that lightening does strike in the same place twice.  That it can happen to me again.  And this time, I will be better prepared.

Vintage Mixing Machine

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I need a mixing machine.  Mine went with the house and before, with wedding money from my parents, I had a beautiful Bosch mixing machine.  It was strong and durable and I really didn’t like it.  Why?  That annoying and silly center post.  I know that is central to making it work but it meant a lot of scraping… and it just wasn’t my thing.  (However, MANY bread making folks out there adore it.)

So, after the fire, after we moved into the new house, I had to start filling in with something.  And I started looking.  And again, like on my quest of a food processor, I realized that most modern machines meant to mix breads and cakes are just lousy.  And so, here I am, still without a mixer.

Part of my struggle comes with our new diet, at least for a couple of us in my little family.  And more of this will come on a later post but basically, baby Eleanor has had some tough GI issues since about 2 months old.  Basically, severe constipation.  And after working with our amazing pediatrician in Austin, and talking to some family – I went gluten free to see if it helped.  Eleanor is still on Miralax, though at a low dose, and that keeps any day to day issues at bay.  In the rare experiment where I cave to gluten (and the stuff is stinking everywhere – especially in resturant foods) she quickly becomes clogged up again.  As in 24 hours of my bad meal (though the seafood while at the beach was really yummy).

So, since it appears that she will be gluten free for the undetermined future – do I need a heavy duty mixing machine that developes gluten like a dream?  Does the $700 Verona Assistent justify its expense on a gf diet?  And in all of my readings I keep hearing about the wonders of machines made in the US in the 50s and 60s that were durable and did what was needed of them and are still going strong – where are those today?  No where.

What does it leave a girl to do?


Do what her grandma did of course!  Buy a vintage machine.  Please realize that my sewing machine, my Bernina 830, is a 40 year old machine and I heart it deeply.  So, it’s not a big leap to figure that I might equally come to admire the virtues of an old mixer.  The question is – which one?  Unless you’re a fair bit older than myself, you likely aren’t familiar with a Dormeyer mixing machine.  And yet, it seems that they were amazing mixers of the 30’s to 60’s.  And I’m currently considering a Dormeyer 4400 or 4300. 

There are other mixers of good breeding out there, too.  Vintage (40 year old or older) Hamilton Beach model k.  Or the much revered Kenwood.  Or the Sunbeam model 12 (not to be confused with a 12 speed, which makes ebay shopping tricky).

If you are like me and are also looking down vintage lane because of the lousy stuff currently being made (plastic gears – really?) here are a few resources that you might be interested in.

Tips on buying a vintage machine.  Be sure to read the comments for more good info.

WACEM yahoo group.  We Actually Collect Electric Mixers group.  No really, it’s a really yahoo group.  With lots of good info that you can read in their messages without joining and proving what a dork ahem collector you are.  And yes, I’m thinking about joining just so that I can ask questions.

Neslson EZY vintage mixer repair service.  You might reconsider buying vintage when you see what it will cost to get your old machine back to new working order but consider this.  If it lasted 50 years the first go around, it will likely last another 50 years… and what current machine on the market now has the chance of doing that?  And, I have no idea of the quality of repairs from this guy so use the service at your own risk.

So, I’m currently waiting to see if I am outbid on a Dormeyer on Ebay.  My max bid is $20 with shipping being another $17.  I’m rather regretting bidding on it and hope that I get out bid this morning as I don’t want to miss out on a different machine, also a Dormeyer, for $20 more but that has a buy it now option.  And I might cry if I miss out on both at the same time.  Why the Dormeyer?  Great reviews (what few there are) and metal bowls.  And I have 2 little kids – metal stands a great chance of surviving another 50 years than glass, at least in my house.

I’ll keep you posted on what I end up with.  It’s an adventure to be sure.  And if you have one to sell to me – I’ll happily buy it!

Finally – I have my food processor again!

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food processorPlease ignore the nearly dead plants.  And the bottle of hootch.  Which is amazing and made locally by people I know.  Click on the picture for a link to their page.

Yup, it’s true.  I bought this pretty lady the January before the fire.  It’s taken over 1 1/2 years to get to a point of replacing it.  Why?  Because it’s stinking expensive!  (And, we bought the first one with a gift card earned via credit card points earned with work travel … so really pretty much free.)

If you are anything like my husband, you would like to be able to buy things made in AMERICA and not in places like say, China.  Not that there is anything wrong with China per se BUT – first – we’d like to have our own country actually employ people and support those people as they make real things.  Second – China is rather like the Wild West – few regulations and lots of cutting corners and who knows all what…  Stuff is made in China because their production costs are cheaper (and they’re likely cheaper for a reason – it’s just not as good).

But, I DARE you to find a food processor or nearly anything else NOT made in China or another Asian country.  First – there are no food processors made in the United States.  Second, I’m totally happy with supporting higher standards and pay of employees of the nice folks in Europe.

So what did I get?  A Magimix!  This lady, she’s speaks French!  And comes with a 30 year warranty.  And is crazy awesome and I missed her greatly and even looking back half way wished I had packed her into the car, too.

Because… I was wanting to buy her again 2 months ago!  But, for whatever reason, there were NO MORE in the US.  And the snooty store William Sonoma is the only retailer of Magimix and so I was just out of luck.  Now, there’s a long story to go with the purchasing saga of this little machine that I won’t bore you with but… do yourself a favor.  Don’t buy via Williams Sonoma over the phone or on their website.  They are lousy.  As in not emailing receipts, computers not accepting orders, store managers on the phone not even having a clue as to one of their higher priced items… blah.  (But, if you do, sign up for their emails – you get free shipping and 10% off your first order, and with these prices, you’ll need the discount.)  (And, I should say, that for all of my drama they finally gave me a 25% discount – doesn’t make me much happier but it I’ll take it.)   If you do need to buy this machine (and really, it’s totally fab) then go to a real store if you can.  Just saying.

Anyways. … I made dinner last night using cabbage.  A real cabbage not a bag of pre-shredded cabbage bits.  And I made crinkle cut carrot slices (I decided to go for it and got the extra blade pack while I was at it) and I have a LONG list of stuff to make in it!  Not to mention – baby food!

I’m just thrilled with my new machine, less than happy with the purchasing experience, and happy to be able to really cook again…

Which leads me to a post in a couple of days.  A new vintage recipe from my new vintage cookbook.  I’m SO excited.  I can’t wait to share!

Happy Wednesday!


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line b

So, after nearly 2 years of whatever it is that we have been doing, my clothesline is back in business.  The hubs put it in 2 weekends ago and I promptly washed some vintage tableclothes so that they could dry on the line.  Rosie had to help me of course.

Part of the rest of the clothesline is the steps out the back door.  So that I can walk out the back door in the laundry room right to the clothesline.  Going around the burned double tree stump and past the little oak tree regrowing from the old oak stump to get to the line.   I don’t have pictures yet – they still need to be painted, but they are functional and fabulous.  We thought of buying the premade concrete steps but they didn’t come tall enough for what we needed, so hubs spent several hours building a set from wood and hardy plank.  Considering that he’s never built stairs before I think he did a great job.  Thank heavens for the internet and instructions on how to do everything.

The line being back is a milestone of sorts.  Another step closer to … to what I’m not sure.  I really hate the phrase “new normal” and yet, it is new and it is sort of normal.  Normal before the fire was one kid in a house that needed a lot of work.  Normal after the fire is 2 kids in a house that is pretty OK but with a yard that needs a LOT of work.  It’s different.  It’s great.  It’s normal?

I was talking with friends recently, and trust me when I say that there are a lot of folks in this area who are also in the fire club, and what we concluded is that people who have never been through something like this or who don’t closely know someone who has – they don’t get the recovery process.  Nearly 2 years out and we’re still fighting our way back to the top of the hole.   And that it is the little things, like a clothesline, that mark a small victory.

I remember last year emailing a friend and telling her that I can’t wait until life returns to boring.  To a time when I’m not making a zillion decisions about a new house or baby or… when we get back into everyday routines and occasionally, delicisouly, find ourselves bored.  To me, that is probably the definition of recovered.  When life becomes routine and mundane and I think about a bit of excitement…  I’m not there yet.  There’s to much new in our lives still.  Kindergarten, the baby hopefully soon learning to crawl (and the chaos that that will cause) and the work on the yard… so much to do and think about still.  Being bored means that I have time to mentally recover, to not be so exhausted just getting through a day and have more of a buffer between being OK and wanting to throw rocks at the world.  Disasters take that buffer away and it is seeming to take an exceptionally long time for the buffer to return.

Little things though, they seem to help on the buffer issue.  Being able to hang out wash by myself on my clothesline while looking at my chickens and a couple of newly planted baby trees… it helps.  Planting flowers around the clothesline poles (I put in 4 oclocks) and hopefully watching them grow and bloom.  That helps, too.  Sewing 45 baby bibs… and working on my next project (details coming later this week)… I think that this is why recovery is so long though.  It took ages to get to the point of putting the clothesline back in, it wasn’t high on the priority list, but yet…

So, here’s to small victories, and growing buffers – a load of wash on the line at a time.

Baby Bib Give Away!!!!!

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Eleanor in her bibIsn’t she cute?  8 months old and LOVING food.  Especially MANGOS.  I have no idea why.  But seriously, you’ve never seen a baby so excited about any one particular fruit.  It’s funny!


And because she needed bibs, I decided to make a FEW bibs.  So, I pulled out the fabric that I had (much of it donated or yard saled) and started cutting out.  And, as I tend to like to cut out a bunch of anything at one time and then spend weeks sewing… well, I cut out a few.  Just a few.  Like as in enough for 35.


My idea was to send bibs to people that I know who have or are about to have little babies and would be able to use and appreciate bibs.  Part of my “Pay it Forward for the rest of my life” plan.  So, about half of these are already spoken for.  The rest I planned on putting in my stash to use as baby gifts to people I know or don’t know in the future.


The pattern I used was the Bapron bib pattern that is currently for sale for $6 at Craftiness is not Optional blog.  I saved the pattern a couple of years back when she still had it up on her blog for free.  Even at her current price – it is a good price!


I also made ALL of the bias tape used in all of the bibs.  First, you should know that each bib needs about 2 1/2 yards of bias tape.  Each.   Yes, you did the math correctly.  That is over 80 YARDS of bias tape that I made by hand.  80.  Yards.  I got the fancy Clover Bias Tape Maker and bought flannel fabric…. and realized that flannel doesn’t work in bias tape makers.  So, 2 yards of flannel had to be ironed into tape.  By. Hand.  Sigh.  At over $2 for a 4 yard packet of less than wonderful store bought stuff in boring colors… I got 20 yards or more from each yard of fabric that I bought for $5.  So, I saved a bit of money ($5 vs $10 for store bought) but it is MUCH prettier!   And really – not that hard!  It was almost fun all of the ironing while listening to NPR (which is what I do most of the time when I sew).


I bought normal fabric for the edges and really, small print is best.  The browns and purple came from Walmart of all places (about our only local option and I wasn’t going into the city any time soon) but worked up really well and was a surprisingly nicer weight fabric.  But, because my brain is a bit slow on baby sleep, I had to resort to on-line tutorials to figure out how to make the tape.  To get the most tape out of a yard of fabric, I used this tutorial at Whipstitch Fabrics to cut the fabric on an angle and then sew it to the other side – so the entire yard of fabric can be cut into strips on the bias.  But, they then wanted it to be cut all in one long strip and honestly, drawing lines on the fabric and then pinning and then cutting – blah… too much!  So, after I got my yard cut and re-sewn the right way, then I switched over to Dana Made It and used her tutorial on how to cut the strips and then sew the strips together once they’re all skinny.  For me – much easier!  Plus, Dana has a fab description of what bias tape is and the different types of makers and sizes and… good basic info!


As I was sitting in my little space sewing, I was thinking about the year past in this house of ours.  You see, this past weekend was our 1 year anniversary to move into the house.  It wasn’t done (still not entirely finished – still no steps out the back doors and some trim still needs to be painted) but it was time and I was hugely pregnant and not fitting so well into the RV any more and…  We were so relieved to be back into a real house.  We still are.  And we are so grateful to the huge number of people that helped us get back to this state of “normal”… Part of my  “Pay it Forward” campaign is to have give aways just because.  To share the love with people that I don’t know just as people that didn’t know us helped me helped during my time of disaster.

bibs give frontsm

So, I am giving away these two bibs.  (Above and below pictures – they are the front and back shots.)  Both gender neutral so good for little boys or girls.

bibs give backsm

To enter, please comment below, be sure to include your email address.   Please tell us what random act of kindness you’ve done recently.  Big or small doesn’t matter…

Like me on Facebook at Life on the Clothesline  and then leave a comment on the contest post on FB for an extra entry.   If you already follow me on FB, please leave a comment on that post, too.

Contest closes May 19 at midnight.  That’s two weeks.  Please tell your friends and share the love.  More importantly, be kind to each other and help when you can.  Even if you never hear the words “thank you”  it doesn’t mean that your actions didn’t matter.   Thanks to you all…

House in Pictures

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Sorry for the exceptionally long delay in posting.  I have lousy excuses other than the insanity of mentally getting through a disaster.

A few things have changed since last I posted…

ImageRight now, I’m 32 weeks pregnant with our second daughter!  We very much wanted to have another child, but I had a very hard time getting pregnant… needless to say, chlomid (an entry level fertility drug) and disaster recovery make for some interesting mood swings.

Eleanor Edna is due August 29… but as I will likely have a repeat c-section, she will probably come a week earlier.  And, the first anniversary of the fire is Sept. 4, so apparently we decided to have as much change in one year as possible.

We also got a new kitty in November.  A calico named Ruby.  She turned 1 around June…


We also got a new house.  But, as people were asking what it looked like here before, I am doing a series of pictures below.  From before, right after, during and now…


March 2009, the day we moved in.  Rosie was 8 months old then.


This is spring 2011 I think.


Fall 2010.


September 2011



And then, today.  the new house, which is currently in the process of being painted by volunteers.


The new house was built by a group called Christian Aid Ministries, which is a cooalition of Mennonite and Amish volunteers who go to disaster areas and help.  We paid for materials, Russ did a LOT of the labor, but they did 3/4 or so of the house building, the stuff that was beyond our tool and capacity set.


The carport has been taken down, Russ will put it on the left where the car will park eventually.  The shed will be pulled to behind the house.  The RV sold.  And we still have a lot to do after that.


There’s a lot more sunlight than before.  A lot fewer trees… we’re slowly planting back trees and Russ had planted annual rye grass to stabilize the soil over the winter.  He’s since planted tall native grasses around the perimeter – we’re not used to being so exposed and are wanting some privacy back.

Officials say it will be 60-100 years before the trees return to what they were.  Maybe Rosie and Eleanor will get a chance to see it.

I really hope to be posting more now that I’ve braved it all again.  My stress is getting less, with each step towards normal that we take.  I have even started sewing again this week!  More later… thanks for stopping by.