But on Sunday, wildfires overcame Christie Williams' dream house, reducing it to smoldering ashes.
"It looks like the moon," she told CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric. "The ground just looks like the moon."
Couric accompanied Williams on her first trip back to the home she shared with her husband and three young children, it was as if she was on an archeological dig.
"Our microwave, brand new microwave right there," she said.
But this time, she was sifting for pieces of her life.
"You know what, if you have to start with a ladle," she said. "If you gotta start somewhere, right."
Was she able to take anything with her when she evacuated?
"I got the hard drive to my computer," Williams said. "I got a couple of books of pictures that I took before I had a digital camera. But I wasn't able to get the 2nd container and it had all the pictures of my little one, my baby, she just turned a year. All of her firsts. Her first everything. I don't have anything from her first smiles, her first laughs."
What did this house mean to her and her family?
"Well I guess about a year in the marriage we bought this house. And we worked so hard to be able to live here," she said. "I loved it."
For every step through the rubble, there was a story.
"My kids made this for my husband for Father's Day," she said. "Their handprints."
And everywhere, signs of loving, devoted parents.
"My husband spent a lot of time on this play set right here. Built it from scratch," she said. "It was so cool."
With each remembrance of things past, there were questions about the future.
"And when I told Leela that our house wasn't there anymore, she said, 'what about my playset?'" Williams said. "And I said 'its gone.' And she said, 'my daddy worked really really hard on that.'"
But amidst the rubble, a spirited vow to go on.
"You never want go to a brand new house. I love the old homes; I love the quirkiness. But I guess I'm just going to have to change what I love, and adapt," Williams said.
If you want to help the Williams family, click here to get to their Web page.