after the fire

One night a few weeks ago I unintentionally left a pot of bone broth on the stove and forgot to turn the burner off before we went out for four and a half fun-filled hours of dinner and dessert at Abby’s.



The worst.

We came home to a house filled with smoke, and a burned out stainless steel stock pot (my favorite) and the first few licks of flame reaching toward the cupboards.

The timing was so lucky.

I was able to remove the pot from the stove (without getting burned).  Turn off the burner.  Open every window and door.  Quickly grab some clothes, our toothbrushes, my computer, two toy horses and the dogs.  Within about 5 minutes, we were back in the car and headed to a nearby hotel for respite from the fire.  (NOTE:  The Cowboy wasn’t home yet from his job in Los Angeles … it was just me and the kiddos.)

Let me first say, I could have turned around and taken the kids and dogs back to Abby’s.  Or I could have called my sister-in-law and stayed with her.  Or our niece Samantha.  I could have called her, too.  There are plenty of people I could have (and probably should have) called.  But it was 10 p.m. on a Sunday and all I could think about was getting the kids and dogs to safety and to bed quickly and easily.  And I assumed it would be less drama to have the kids in a hotel room for 10 hours than to call and wake folks up and make arrangements, et al.

Our night in the hotel was its own adventure.  I’m not really ready to relive it (maybe one day I’ll be able to share it … but I will say that if it were ever to happen again, I might leave the 65 pound small-bladdered dog in the backyard rather than bring him to a hotel room.  I think I maybe forgot that he wakes up two or three times a night for potty-breaks … and potty-breaks from a hotel room on a main street with two sleeping toddlers … not what I would describe as fun).

henry pic

Okay … so that brings me to the next day.

Even with the windows wide open.

And the doors.

And a strong breeze blowing (it was one of the coldest night’s we’ve had this fall with temps dropping to the low 20s and a wind that had it feeling more like temperature in the teens).

The house (and every piece of clothing and every unfinished wood surface and every linen and every pillow and every drape) smelled like a campfire.

And I love campfires.

When they are at camp.


But not so much in our intimate 1940s cottage.

So we borrowed ionizers from Abby and my sister-in-law.

And the kids and I cleaned.

I washed every piece of clothing in our closets.  The sheets.  The pillows.

I scrubbed every surface with a combination of Hydrogen Peroxide and Water with a few drops of Lemon Essential Oil.  And when that didn’t work, I used the non-toxic cleaner Angel Scrub from the Elf Natural line that was developed by my sister-in-law’s friend Janine Elf.  (Not a paid endorsement … just beaming enthusiasm because this stuff is amazing.  I’m not sure it’s designed for use on wood, but it just about saved our cabinet fronts and ceiling above the stove.)


But all the scrubbing in the world didn’t take the smell out of the house.

Enter my beautiful and super-smart sister-in-law Kelly with a genius idea …

j and k

She did all sorts of research (I don’t know anyone who researches better than she does) and came up with this miracle fix for when your house smells like a campfire.

CLOSE ALL THE WINDOWS.  Yes.  Close the windows.  I swear, this is the answer.

TURN UP THE HEAT to 80 degrees.  Yep.  I said 80 degrees … it’s only for a short time … and it’s imperative.

COMBINE 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts water and 15-30 drops of Essential Oil.  We used Young Living Purification (affiliate link) and bring to a boil.

When the mixture boils down, TURN OFF THE STOVE (!!!!), lower the heat and open the windows.

Let the house air out for a few hours and REPEAT.

Let the house air out again and REPEAT.


THEN … take a piece of cheese cloth and pour a few drops of the Essential oil on it.  Put the cloth against the air intake of the ionizer and let it run.  Reapply as necessary.


The “incident” happened on Sunday.  We scrubbed on Monday and Tuesday and had ionizers running non-stop.  Finally got the vinegar-essential oil remedy going on Wednesday.  And by Thursday the smoke was gone!!!

In fact, we even had a guy from a restoration company come out to check on the house and he said that our method had worked just as effectively (if not a little more ghetto) than the method he uses.  He explained that turning up the heat and boiling the water-vinegar-essential oil concoction “opens the pores” of the wood and fabric in the house allowing the smoke to be “pushed out” by the cleaning solution.

And as far as the idea for the cheese cloth and ionizer … HIS idea is to take a Bounce dryer sheet and use that on the air intake for the ionizer.  So I was basically doing the same thing … only without the poisonous chemicals in the dryer sheet!  Yay, me!

I hope I never have to do this again.

I hope you never have to go through this.

But glad that we now know how it’s done.

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