Outhouses On Our Road

Well, get acquainted with your ancestors.

My road was re-made this last summer and while I sometimes cussed fate to have such a happening right at my front door, at other times it was downright hilarious.

One afternoon I called  my friend Marie DeNiro Davis Fairbank, who lives across the road, and we laughed like a couple of fools as we looked out our front windows and there, in front of  her lovely  home, shining brightly for all to see, including everyone in every passing car, and in vivid orange color, was today’s version of the old fashioned outhouse.

Now, several decades ago, when I came here to make my home, one could still find one or two of such backyard structures, and in fact, there was one in Gram’s vacant field, hidden by an old tall hedge of Lilac Bushes, and if you were curious and really looked closely, it wasn’t the only one that could be spotted, used, not used forgotten, in this area.

But today? ? ? Well, of course, it’s against the law, and not to be tolerated in any circumstance. (Ho, ho. Keep reading) but just the same for most of the summer there were several of those old time ‘conveniences’ right here, and could be seen from my window, Marie’s, everyone in any passing car.  And . . . there was no question that they were often and visibly well visited.

Of course, they were there as necessities for the many men who were re-making our road, but to such as Marie and I, it was still funny.  Yes, there are laws against such things, but just the same only a few feet from Marie’s well kept lawn and home that bright orange ‘small room’  stood, and I can well imagine the laughter that would have come from Marie’s parents, Joe and Helen Clay DeNiro, if they had been still with us to see the things.

The men working on the re=make of our road took such structures quite casually.  They are just something that ‘comes with the job’ and would dare anyone to question its position, and I love it.  Well, not exactly IT, but the circumstances that require IT being there. I must be easily amused, but I grinned.

And funnier still, there was one long, long day during the re-make, when the culinary water in several  homes  had to be turned OFF, and we were cautioned  that circumstances just might force them to keep it OFF for perhaps as long as eight or so hours.  I laughed to myself as I wondered what would be people’s reaction if a few of those bright orange conveniences were to be re-located for the day in our driveways? ? ?

Now everyone, including me and Marie would  have been aghast at such a happening, but just the same, it would  have been just as logical as all the others along the road, and also just as funny.  And, dang it, I betcha it wouldn’t have been just Marie and me who would have laughed, either.

Don’t tell me life isn’t one big joke.

Now, the following vignette really has nothing to with the story of my road re-make, but it’s true, does tell of Jordan River, not too far away, and is also too good to be lost.  So, again, stay with me.

I remember as a 10  or 11 hear old, going to visit a school friend who lived west on 3900 South, and still vividly recall my shock and surprise to see that 3900 South dead-ended right there at the edge of the River.  And there was no way to get across it at that point, either.  Dead end.  Period.  Zilch.

And as all this was going on before there was plumbing in all the  homes,  those living in almost every home along the river . . . on both sides . . . built their outside toilets so that they hung over the river.  Absolutely.

I do hope the Jordan was used for transportation only, but when I visited with kids who lived in such homes, and in such places, I was too scared to use their ‘bathrooms’.

And in places where there was no handy river, there were dozens of canals criss-crossing the valley, and, sorry to say, but they were used in the very same manner, and is why parents insisted their children never play or swim in the canals or ditches. 

Oh me. Those were still pioneer days for many a family.

Micros and iPods

Maybe someone will ‘bake a potato’ for me

My two grown sons tell me how wonderful their various ipods and such are and I smile at them, but know in my heart that I’ll never spend even one cent for such a thing for myself. After all, what can an ipod do for me that I’m not already doing?

Then I recall a certain episode with my friend Merlin and my micro-wave oven, and wonder.  Yeah, you see it really wasn’t too long ago when those kitchen necessities were actually ‘new on the market’ and every cook was torn between wanting one or not.  After all, we’d been cooking for who knows how long without needing one.

But, what with TV programs and commercials, a few friends using one, and ads in the media, I weakened and within a month after the purchase, could not imagine not having one.  After all . . . look at all the wondrous things it does.

Life went on, too, but Merlin was not only a friend, but farmed my vacant lot, was constantly in my yard and home, and just as often ate meals with me, at my table.

He saw the micro on my counter and was very vocal with his ideas of how  useless the ‘thing’ was, and the waste of money I’d spent to get it.  But finally, as long as it was there in my kitchen,  we both kept our mouths shut about it  (not an easy bit of discipline for me) and Merlin never ever knew how often the food he was eating at my table had either been cooked or at least heated in the micro.  Why mess up a good friendship?

Then one evening I was late coming home and, as it was midsummer, he had been working all day long, like the proverbial dog, out in the garden and we both were bushed. We needed and wanted food, and we also wanted it fast.  No time for long cooking, so I fried a couple of steaks, fixed a huge, nourishing salad with chunks of boiled eggs, tomatoes, green stuff from our garden, good pumpernickel bread and no one in their right mind could have complained.

Yet, right as the meal was coming all together, it came to me that a couple of baked potatoes would make it all better, and so, quick as a wink I brought out two nice Idaho’s and bang, right into the micro they went.  Not a word was spoken, but I saw his eyes.  He hadn’t missed one thing about those two potatoes that I was cooking.  In that fool micro, too.

Neither of us said a word and as I dished up the rest of the meal, set the table and all that stuff, those potatoes were doing their thing, and when the steaks were done, and a bit of sauce (a thin gravy) made from the bits on the bottom of the fry pan was made.  The potatoes were baked just right.  I cut them open, put a pat of butter with in them, along with a spoonful or so of the sauce, and as such also went on the table.  One on each of our plates.

Still no word was spoken, well at least about the potatoes, and I began eating just as usual.  Cut a nice bite of steak, and just as openly dipped into the open potato, added a bit more salt and pepper to it and began eating.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Merlin looking at his plate.  And the set of his chin was one that told me there would also be a baked potato sitting on his plate when the meal was over.  But by then it was “Tough luck, Merlin”, eat it or not, at least you won’t go home hungry.

Again, as we both talked along about lots of things, I saw him gingerly take a bite of his potato.  The sauce from the steak had seeped into it, the butter added to the bite and, by golly, he swallowed it, said not a word, but within a moment or two, the second, then the third and finally the entire micro-ed potato was eaten. 

And  not one word mentioned about it.

So when the meal was over,  we tidied up the kitchen, tossed plates into the dishwasher, and with both of us worn out, we called it a day.  Merlin went home and I went to bed.  Neither of us hungry, either.

Funny, but I swore to myself that the incident of the potatoes would never be mentioned and it wasn’t, but danged if a month or so later, he off handedly mentioned that had picked some of ‘our’ string beans, added slices of ‘our’ carrots along with a few young onions, and that within five or so minutes in his micro he had cooked them, and created a perfect dish, too.

Oh, I prided myself greatly that I didn’t laugh, smirk, tease, or gibe him about his quick conversion to the now kitchen stand-by, but let it pass, and finally he quietly admitted that my  Baked Potato was what  had sold  him on wanting one for himself.  And he bought one.

And so . . . when I smirk about how much an ipod costs, and how life can go on smoothly and nicely without one . . . I now hold my breath.  It just might be that one of these days, one of my sons will, in an emergency “bake a potato” for me and in not too long a time, I’ll be telling them that I simply must have one.  How can I really live without one???  You tell  me.

* See excerpt from “Our Road” by Ethel Ohlin Bradford,  WWW.BradfordDesigns.com


Happiness, After Your Life Changes

It’s an entirely new life.  Enjoy it, what else?

Some years ago, a friend asked me to write about how ‘people like me’ survive the deaths of those close to you and then able to go on and lead happy lives. At first I pretended to be puzzled, and asked what she meant, for I eat, sleep, work, play, worship. What else is there?

But, truly, I knew what she meant. She was saying, “Ethel, in the time of only one short year, you lost your husband, your Gram, and your children grown and living their own lives, so what did you do…what do you do…to be as happy as you are?”

So I figured it was time to look back at the Ethel I was, and the Ethel I suddenly became the startling moment when I sat at my desk and received a sad phone call telling me that AW was dead. And no matter how it’s worded, there are no ‘right’ ones.

So I took time and compared ‘the two Ethels’  and Lordy, Lordy what a lot of difference there is.

At first there was absolute trauma. Paralysis. It was an event so new, so unexpected, so out of context to my life,  that I lived through the immediate events as if hypnotized. The awful arrangements of cemetery, funeral, casket, what clothes for him to wear, should I take off his rings or not?  And horror of horrors, questions were very carefully asked, what about all that gold in the teeth ?  Yeah, that, too. Terrible questions.

And then…there were so many people (thank heaven’s) helping and telling me what had to be done, that I had to be careful to make sure my husband’s funeral was what I wanted, and not what others wanted it to be. Hard.

But after the excitement (yes, there is excitement) was over, came the long haul. And it is a long haul, and I can speak only for myself.

I was scared. Scared as I never had been before in my life. Could I survive? Emotionally? Mentally? Financially? Spiritually? I felt utter terror, absolute isolation, and it was only the established routine of work, eat and sleep that saved my life.

Emotionally I didn’t think or feel, and almost became a robot and taking each day, hour and minute as it came. Not looking ahead. Not even for a day.

Mentally? Well, again, a demanding job kept me balanced and busy and I still thank God for it.

Financially, I did not spend one dime that I didn’t absolutely have to, until I found out that I could ‘make it’ on my own, but I must admit, there were many times of worry and fear. And over and over I asked myself, ‘Has anyone else ever, ever, ever  been left as alone as I was?’

Spiritually? Oh, there is the saving grace that saw me through and remains my foundation. It saw me through the anger that came. Anger to think that I could be left alone. Anger at AW for dying (Oh yes, don’t be surprised, there is that, too.) Anger at the world that it could laugh, play, travel, visit and love, while I walked around wounded and bleeding.

It saw me through the despair of lonely days and nights and gave me the wisdom not to join clubs “guaranteed to find a companion.” It gave me courage not to cling to my sons for emotional support. You see, I’d seen young people crippled by a sorrowing parent and swore not to do likewise to mine.

It saw me through the fear of changing my life style from the one I had known into an unknown one.  What else?  My life had changed and it saw me through finding new friends who, first, did not replace those who had died; second, do not take the place of children, and third; did not become crutches for me to lean and weep upon.

No, but it brought me friends and activities that were new. But, you can’t be in a hurry, for it takes time. Took a long time for me not be feel guilty when I found myself laughing and happy  with people, and in situations that neither my husband, sons, or dear Gram had heard of or known.  I can tell you,  it’s a weird feeling, for it truly becomes a new life.

Yes, the spiritual life brought me through the guilts that clung to me as I carved out a new life filled with people I hadn’t even heard of while Brad lived. They, of course, now know my grown sons and all is well and good.

For me it is the only way. For me, that of  sorrowfully clinging to the old life, after it was irrevocably gone, would have not only crippled me but crippled all close to me.

So I chose to survive and be happy. It’s not knocking the old one bit, it’s just ultimately being able to say “That life is over. Now, Dear God, what ever comes next, bring it to me, for I’m ready.”

And that’s how ‘people like me’ again become happy and able to live a full and good life.  None of those I lost that terrible year would know those who now make up my life now, but that’s okay.

Have a Good “Post Pregnancy” Life

 A woman is pregnant for nine months, but remains a woman for the rest of her life

There was a doctor,  Peterson, I believe, who was ‘assigned’ to me when I was a quite pregnant young woman, when my husband had been sent to work at a plant that was part of the Manhattan Project.  It was more than a year before we knew the facility was part of Atomic Research, but that’s what it was.

Anyway, home and everything was paid for, such as housing (5-room, 2 bdrms bsmnt); all utilities, furnace (coal checked and supplied monthly), large lawn space, and including all medical care.  All pure GI. (Government Issue).  Which at least partially explains why I can’t remember that man’s real name, but he changed my life.

That part I remember well, very well, and I’ve passed his words along many times just as I’m doing so today. Never once did I ever tell him “Thank you”, for WW2 soon ended and all of us were again tossed around.  But others have thanked me for his words, because I’ve passed them along.

But anyway . . . there I was, a long, long way into my pregnancy . . . bewildered,  scared, in a new ‘town’ and tossed into his care.  So it was a long time before I knew how marvelous his words were. Before I had any way of knowing their worth, and so I excuse myself.

He was a young doctor and after the preliminary exams were over he told me I was in great shape, but a little overweight.  I was surprised because I had been watching what I ate, etc.  BUT I WAS PREGNANT, dang it,  WHAT DID HE EXPECT ???

Well, he didn’t expect anything, but he hoped for several things.

First he told me, “A woman is pregnant for nine months, but remains a woman for the rest of her life,” and I agreed with him.  So, he said, “When I see you on your first visit AFTER the birthing, I want to see you looking like you did before you became pregnant.”

Well, dang it, I had the same hopes, and had just taken it for granted, but the Doc wasn’t there for a conversation and went on with his directions.

“From now on”, he smiled at me, “I want you to pay attention to women who are older than you.  Wherever you are, restaurant, store, church, anywhere, silently seek out the women who are 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years older than you, and then choose which ones of those women you would like to look like when you become their age.”   

Oh, I silently said, for  he went right on,  “And, also decide which ones you do not want to look like.”  Oh, that’s different.  Okay, okay.

“And when you see one in her 60’s and not bad looking at all, watch her.  If in a restaurant, casually see what she eats.  If you know her in your neighborhood, pay attention to how she spends her days.  What she does, or doesn’t do.”

At the same time, he went on, “Find those women that you would NOT want to look like at their age.  Do the same silent checking.  What do they eat?  Do?  All that stuff.

“Make a casual habit of this.  For heaven’s sake, don’t intrude, but check up on women older than you, and notice what foods they order, how they exercise, and spend their ‘free’ time, handle their children and all the rest.”

He stressed that unconsciously, each of those women had chosen the bodies they now walk around in,  by their choice of food, exercise, or no exercise.  What they read, study, dress and all the rest that makes up a woman’s life.

And he noted it doesn’t take a lot of money, but happens just by making the right choices.

I heard him. There I sat long ago with a ‘baby bump’ as big as two balloons, and while I’m now no paragon of beauty, but my weight is good, I still have a waist line, my mind is active, and my family does not have to apologize when introducing me as their mother.  Just watch, copy or not, but learn and do the best one can.

Watch older women and CHOOSE which one you would like to look like in 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years, and which ones you do NOT want to resemble, and then go on from there.

I dunno where that good Doc got his info from, but it was good, and I for one followed it.  Hope some young women reading this will do the same.  Thank you Dr. Peterson, where ever you are.  You helped form my adult life, and I think the lives of several other women  who’ve heard your (my) words over the years.

Alcoholism Part Two

It’s a progressive and ruthless disease

My recent words about “Are You An Alcoholic?”  brought lots of responses, some anonymous, some not, and so I decided to tell a few more things I know about that disease. 

And remember, it IS a disease.  Oh, certainly not in the genre of Measles, Chicken Pox, Whooping Cough or even the Flu, for you ‘catch’ those diseases from someone else, while now it’s known that the trait of Alcoholism is within one’s Genes, and, God willing, that just maybe some smart person will find a ‘shot’ for it as they now have for prevention or cure of Pneumonia, Polio, Diabetes, even inching in on AIDS, and such. 

So, call it whatever you wish, like the color of your eyes, you’re either born with it or not as a potential Alcoholic.  It’s just there, not ‘caught’.

Another odd trait of Alcoholism is that it is progressive, developing into more and more drastic results, and the results of how just one serving of  alcohol affects you as a teenager is far different than how that same serving would affect you ten, fifteen, twenty or more years later on.

A person can go to Alcoholics Anonymous or other groups now available, and learn how to keep the disease under control, and be able to live a very normal life, with out alcohol.  

And when, at some dinner or dance, they are offered a choice of alcoholic drinks, they NEVER say,   “No, thank you, I’m careful because I used to be an alcoholic “. 

Instead, very openly and truthfully you learn to smile and say, “No thank you.  No drinks for me, because  I’m an alcoholic.”

You see, one NEVER recovers from being an Alcoholic, and anyone with such an allergy must remember that they will always be an alcoholic . . .  there is no recovery.  Only abstinence.

It’s a hard one, and I go on, for in my years as a non-alcoholic counselor, with AA, I’ve seen them all.  

There are those who grow into adulthood without any alcohol in their life, but perhaps when in their 40’s or so they see others enjoying a simple glass of wine, and desiring  to be ‘one with the crowd’ they choose,  just to be friendly,  to take a glass and sip it.  Not bad, perfectly normal and often done, but for the one with the alcoholic trait, it’s murder.  Well, not that, but it’s a life changer, for that one simple glass of wine triggers the trait within the genes and they are ‘hooked’. 

There are those who begin drinking in their youth, become alcoholic but finally in desperation “fight the fight” and learn to live sober.  Wonderful.  But after 8, 10, 15 years they think that so much time has passed that surely now they can take just ONE drink with no harmful results.  They know how to handle it now and so just one drink and  no more.

They’re wrong.  Not only wrong but also caught in a web that stuns them.  For they no longer re-act to the alcohol as they did when they ‘quit’, no matter how many years before,  but find the disease has progressed even when they were not drinking and the results are unexpected and terrible.

The disease progresses whether you ‘feed’ it or not.  A person who has never drunk In their entire life can . . . even innocently . . . take alcohol in some form and suddenly are lost and bewildered in a sudden addiction to it.  And the response will not be the same as a teenager taking his first drink.  The disease has progressed even though the person never drank and no one knew the trait was present.

It’s mean.  It’s cruel.  It destroys lives, families and careers.  If there’s even a hint of that trait within the genes of your family, leave the stuff alone. Because, for you it might be the end of the life you have been living. 

However,  with marriages bringing new and clear genes into a family, it may become so ‘watered down’ that  generations can go by without it showing up, and is why it can be such a surprise to both the victim and the family if and when it does.  It’s a hard trait, buried deep within one’s genes, and it’s mean, progressive and ruthless.

Strange Seeds

Growing things . . .

I was cleaning a package of dried beans the other night, preparing to toss them into a bean pot along with a nice hock of ham, when a wave of nostalgia engulfed me and I was back in my mother’s kitchen doing that same chore for her.

Coffee beans, navy and lima beans and rice all came from countries and climates far from here and, inasmuch as the laws weren’t as strict then as they now are, you found strange seeds and small clods of dirt along with the dried food.

It was often my task, as a child, to pick out those bits of dirt and odd seeds.  Mom didn’t care about the dirt (as long as I found and discarded it) but the small seeds she wanted and saved.

She  would plant those seeds and often on our window sills would be found pots filled with unfamiliar vines and strange plants making their way sociably alongside the everyday geraniums, coleus, begonias and ferns.

Where she learned her love and lore of growing things I do not know, but she had it and her way with plants was something that had to be seen to believe.

I recall one long ago day watching her pick up an 10 or 12 inch twig that had broken off a tree which a neighbor was planting.  I thought she was just being her usual tidy self in clearing up the debris from the planting, as she carried it with her while we walked on home through the fields.  And those fields we walked through are naught by homes and sidewalks now.

That no longer matters, but I watched with the idle curiosity of a child thinking she carried it absentmindedly, but there was nothing absentminded about Mom.  She knew what she was doing and she couldn’t stand to see any living plant tossed aside and wasted.

Nope, I watched as she carefully made a slanting cut at the end of that 10 inch twig and then, just as thoughtfully, take a small potato and with a nut pick, poke a hole in the potato to fit the prepared stem.  Into the potato went the tree slip and then the whole thing was planted into a flower pot and kept moist.

The tree grew and eventually was transferred outside to grow in our yard.  I drive up Seventh east today and sometimes look at that tree, large and tall, that recent builders have thought worth saving, and think of that odd chance beginning on Mom’s window sill.

Mom and Pop made a good team and between the two of them knew and used many of the ‘old’ ways of growing and propagating trees, plants and bushes.  I watched Dad one time as he grafted ‘starts’ of a desired tree onto the already growing tree of the less desireable strain of fruit.

Once again he prepared the ‘start’ by cutting it on a smooth slope making sure it was on a leaf notch.  Then he made a like cut into the growing tree.  He inserted the prepared slip, packed the implant carefully with wet mud and then bound it all up with torn strips of cloth Mom found for him.

He must have kept the pack moist (the details are gone) but I do know that within a few years Pop had the desired fruit growing on the stock of another tree.

All of which ran through my mind as I cleaned beans the other day, and knew it was no longer even a needed task, but habit is strong.  Dang it, there wasn’t a stray odd seed or bit of dirt in the entire pound of beans.  Oh, we’re terribly clean and sterile with our food supply today, but some of the fun is gone.

Just once in memory of Mom, I’d like to have found some strange seed  to put it in moist soil and watch with curiosity to see what unfamiliar leaf and vine would grow from it,  Oh, well, the baked beans were good and so plentiful I  had plenty to freeze some for another day.


Are You An Alcoholic?

Ten questions can tell you the Yes or No of it all

I’ve hesitated about writing today’s words, but no matter how I’ve pushed the idea aside, it’s persisted. I’ve even wakened from sleep with some of the phrases forming in my mind, and so, I bend to fate and here goes.

During the Holiday Season I met this delightful person who, I’d be willing to bet, will become Alcoholic or already is. Oh, how I wanted to talk to him\her about it, but I didn’t. There would have been anger, indignation and I would have been told, entirely truthfully, that it was none of my business. But at one stage of my life I was active in Alcoholics Anonymous, and while not alcoholic myself, I learned an awfully lot about the disease.

So I finally shuffled through my long unused AA files to find this list of questions, and I use them because they were true then and are just as true today.

If you answer ‘Yes’ to even one of them, the chances are you have a problem, and if you answer ‘Yes’ to three or more you are alcoholic. It may take years before you admit it, but the course of the disease is absolutely down-hill, and will worsen until admitted and faced.

You needn’t tell your answers to anyone, but for heaven’s sake listen to yourself, and, oh, I wish/hope that wonderful person I talked to will see, read and act.

1.  Do you ever take a drink in the morning?

2. When people mention drinking do you walk away in anger, thinking they were speaking about you, and wish they’d mind their own business.

3.  Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you stopped drinking?

4.  Have you ever said, “I can stop anytime I want”, and then poured yourself another drink?

5.  When having guests or going to a party do you ever pour yourself a secret drink beforehand just to ‘get in the mood’?

6.  Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or two and then find yourself drinking again within one or two days?

7.  Does your drinking ever cause trouble at home? At school? On the job?

8.  Do you have blackouts? Partial memory loss?

9.  Have you ever gotten drunk when it was the last thing in the world you wanted to do?

10. Have you ever switched from one kind of liquor to another in hopes it would keep you from getting drunk?

Simple, aren’t they? But their very simplicity is deceiving, and all the disbelief in the world won’t change the truth of them or your answers.

Like question No. 8.  A blackout doesn’t mean ‘passing out’. ‘Blacking out’ means that you were on your feet, talking, laughing, dancing, but the next day you can’t remember one thing of what happened. You ‘blacked out’ and it’s a mean thing, for no one there would have seen one thing odd in your behavior.

Now, it doesn’t help if a spouse or parent recognizes these traits and tries to help by telling the person. The one who has the disease will fight back, maintaining ‘there is no problem’, (see No. 4) and, anyway, ‘living with you would drive anyone to drink’.

And if question No. 7 is brought up, it will always be someone else’s fault. Always, always, always, and never, never, never, theirs.

But thank heavens today we all know about alcoholism from TV, Internet, radio or magazines. You will find AA meetings in your own neighborhood, across town, or, if you wish to be truly anonymous, there are even groups which absolutely insist upon it and one’s Last Name is  forbidden from use and Nick-Names used.

It’s not an easy journey, but the sooner the alcoholic realizes the disease, and only then, can it be controlled. And, as I once learned, it is not a case of just the alcoholic needing help, but everyone whose life has been touched, needs help. Which is why meetings for the non-alcoholic, teens, adults, and even for adult children of alcoholics are so well attended.

Oh, wouldn’t it be great if someone, even if not the one I met so briefly, would read these words and get the help that is now to easy to get. Well, miracles do happen, you know.

Brioche, That Wonderful Heavenly Bread

Breaks your arms, but French Cooks don’t fool around.

Ever so often I surprise myself…as well as a few others, by making a batch of bread.  It is wonderful and eaten to comments such as “Why don’t you do this more often?” and “Now this is what I call good eating.”

Now my friends and family say this whenever I make bread, but, I tell you, this was special.  It was French Brioche.  It was golden.  It was light. I was springy.  It had a crisp, brown crust.  It was rich and it was full of calories.

But it also took two whole days to make and left both my arms in slings.

The recipe intimated that a heavy duty mixer or a strong arm might be needed, but pshaw, I thought, what’s at little mixing to me?  Those people were talking to an old hand at bread making.  Why, my mother had me mixing bread like a veteran as a 10-year old child.  Their cautionary words were for some neophyte, not Ethel.

What they didn’t have the nerve to say, however, was that the muscle work involved was more in line for stevedores rather than some homemaker.

You mix 2 packages yeast with ¼ cup warm milk.  Then add ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp, scalded and cooled milk along with 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. salt.  “See,” I said to myself, “they’re making it complicated, but I’ve done this kind of bread making hundreds of times.”  Nothing to it, I thought.

Next, you add 1 cup (2 cubes) soft butter.  Beat it in and then add 5 eggs, alternately with 4 ½ cups sifted flour.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Yeah, I thought so, too.

I soon found out, however, that it becomes a sticky doughy mess.  It climbs the shaft of the mixer and if you use too high a speed, you’ll see daubs of it fly all over the room. I quickly called out for help, and one reluctant helper operated the controls, up and down, off and on, while I fought to keep the batter in the bowl.

It looked like nothing but “ugh” at this point.  Here, though, is where the work starts and the difference between Brioche and good, plain bread becomes evident.

You put the mixer aside.  Grab the dough with your hands (yes, this is what the directions say) and then vigorously slap or throw it right back in the bowl, or prepared counter top.  It sticks to your hands like glue, but you must ignore that and keep this slapping of the dough until it finally begins to pull cleanly away from your hands and the bowl or counter.  No nice and tidy kneading as with regular bread at all. 

With patience and hard work, it does respond just as the recipe says it will, but before reaching that point, I could think of several places I preferred throwing it instead of keeping it in my kitchen.  However, it all of a sudden surprised me when, eventually it did became nice, stretchy and easily handled.  It must have also been good to eat, as people passing through the kitchen would reach out, and pinch off samples to pop into their mouths.

After doubling in bulk, you punch down, mix again, cover and refrigerate until the next day.  I suppose the batter becomes less oily, but I’m not certain as to the why of this time in the refrigerator.  But then the next day, you shape it into loaves, let double again in bulk, brush with a glaze of one egg yolk mixed with 1 Tbsp. cream and then bake in a moderate 350 degree oven as you would any loaf of bread.

It is supreme.  It is worth all your time and more.  Even though you can’t use your arms for at least a week, you forget all that as you eat and ponder, “Was it really me who created such perfection as this?”

Yes, sometimes the gods (and the French cooks) are kind.  They sent us Brioche, but boy oh boy, do we ever have to work for it.  And though I often mistily recall that wonder I created . . . I’ve never done it again.  And I excuse myself saying, “Well, you see, I’m Swedish, not French. You gotta have some kind of an excuse.


Bang! Crash! Splinter!

Call the Police ? ? ?

Yes, it was Bang!  Crash!  Spinter!  And I was scared and shivered as the shattering of glass broke the stillness of the midnight hour.  It seemed so loud that I wondered if the neighbors heard and were calling the Police.

There are few sounds at that hour as terrifying to the heart and ear as the breaking of glass, especially when you know what’s breaking.  And I knew it was the glass in my own back door.

I actually giggled in my nervousness.  I shook.  I looked around to see if anyone . . . anyone . . . was there to hear. Or to help.  But I was alone.

But then the back door opened and the broken glass crunched as footsteps hurried into my kitchen.  A light snapped on . . . the door closed  and . . . yes,  it was I who stood there, scared and shivering  In my own kitchen, laughing foolishly, feeling guilty for some reason, and, half a-waiting for the sound of the police siren.

Yeah, you know the answer.  It wasn’t a burglar breaking into my home.  Oh, it was broken into, yes, yes, yes, but I was the one doing the ‘breaking and entering’.  How else, I ask  you, was I going to get into my  home when I was absent minded enough to step outside for a moment and (out of sheer  habit)  flip the lock switch, and naturally, the keys were inside.  And I was out.

It seemed so foolish.  Only a minute ago I was serenely in my home and then suddenly . . . I was outside, cold and locked out, too.  A dozen ideas went through my mind and not a one of them was any good to change things back where they’d been only moments before.

Wake the neighbors?  I didn’t have the guts.  Climb through the bathroom window?  Too high, and anyway  I couldn’t get the ladder out of the locked garage.  Call the police?  But what could they do?

And, so, so, so, so.  It didn’t take me long to make up my mind.  It was cold and I wasn’t dressed for such shenanigans anyway.  I looked around and found a fairly big rock. . .  giggled at how foolish it all was and gave the glass in my back door a whack and dang it, nothing happened. 

In fact, it seemed to almost bounce back at me.  Well, I said to myself, we’ll have none of that, and gave it another, stronger bang.  Still it held.  What do they make this stuff out of, I muttered.  Rubberized plastic????

 So, in desperation and feeling foolish, nervous and who else knows what other emotion, but I stepped back a goodly pace, wound up my arm just like the pitchers do in baseball games, and let that rock fly. And suddenly there was broken glass flying all ways, too.  I tell you that time it broke!

I was far enough back to be out of the way of the flying glass, but saw  it flying all ways, and each piece broke into more little pieces as it hit the concrete.  It was like a chain reaction and I thought it would never end.

I looked guiltily towards the neighbor’s window,  almost certain they’d hear the commotion and be calling 911.  And I then could just see myself trying to convince some cop that after all, the house is mine, and if I want to break glass windows at midnight, I have the right to break glass windows.  It just might be something I like to do if I get bored around the midnight hour. 

But my house or not, there was  something about breaking into it that made me feel guilty and nervous.  I forgot what  I’d been doing before I locked myself out, and even forgoten  why I had wanted/needed to go outside. 

Anyway, within half an hour or so I had half-way cleaned up the broken glass from floors and steps, stuffed the broken window with crushed up newspapers, locked the door (from the inside this time), turned off the lights and crawled into bed.  Let to-morrow take care of the rest.

Bang!  Crash!  Splinter!  Should we call the police?  No, no, no don’t bother, it’s probably just Ethel doing some late night outside chore.  You can never guess what she might doing. And that I happen to know well, for you see I happen to be Ethel  


Cloud, Cloud, Go Away . . .

Be a kid again and give it a try.  It works

The sky outside my kitchen window was wonderful blue and I found myself watching the big globs of white clouds against that clear sky and suddenly was 10 years old again. Ten years old and playing that ages old childhood game of ‘making the clouds disappear.’ And, I’m glad to report, it still works.

Later on I was telling a few others about it and was astounded to find that their childhood hadn’t held that game. They really didn’t believe me, and laughed as if I were crazy, but danged if three of them didn’t call me during the week saying things like…My gosh, Ethel, it works… Hey, it really does make them disappear…or, Ethel, I thought you were crazy, but by golly you were right. You can make them go away.

I laughed and said, you know, every kid I grew up with did it. No big deal, it just was a fun game to play when there was nothing else to do on a nice sunny day.

But then, because it was new to so many of them, I thought that maybe some of you don’t know about it either, and, dang it,  no one should grow up and never know how to make clouds disappear. Here’s all there is to it.

Get outside on a nice day like one we had day last month when the sky is full of big and small white clouds. A nice hot summer day is best, or at least more comfortable, but it works in winter just as well,  but for heaven’s sake don’t try it on a storm cloudy day ‘cause you won’t be able to do it. Oh, I know the Indians can control those big rain clouds but they must know some secret I don’t. Nope, I don’t even try to compete with them. At all.

But, anyway, find a nice lil ole cloud. For beginners try just a little wiff of a one. One standing all by itself so you won’t get all confused when it begins to disappear, and you begin to wonder if you’re still looking at the one you began with.

Okay, now look at it. Look at it hard, for one, two or three minutes. Concentrate on it, and not get caught up in wondering what you must do later on.  We kids would chant silly things like…cloud, cloud, go away…but it isn’t necessary. It just made us feel great.

But concentrate on that little cloud and mentally tell it to go away. Keep your eyes on it with concentration and darned if, little by little, it does begin to disintegrate right there before your eyes.

Course, there are all kinds of explanations nowadays. I’ve read recently that we send out heat by our concentration and that heat reaches into space and vaporizes (or whatever is necessary) to make that cloud disappear. Maybe.

I’ve also read where it is all will power. That God created all the world and everything in it and then gave us dominion over it. Maybe so, maybe so. I’m no expert at such things so don’t ask me. I just know the results, not the cause.  Who, me????But, the next time the fleecy clouds are filling the sky, with lots of clear blue sky in between, go out and stare at some little ole harmless bit of fluff and do your stuff.

You’ll laugh. You’ll tell your kids. You’ll hesitate to mention it at your office for fear others will think you’re weird, but that’s all right. Just tell them Ethel told you about it on everyone knows that I’m a bit weird, so no one will be surprised.

Your kids will think it’s neat too, except they probably already know about it and will think it’s funny that it’s a new one on you. They’ve probably been doing it for years.

Cloud, cloud, go away, come again some other day.  Fun.