It happens every year. The birds start singing, and the sun is shining, and the house needs cleaning.
And I get the fever.

I try to keep a steadfast rule about housecleaning. If my family hasn’t worn it, used it, or eaten it in six months…throw it out. But it is hard living with a couple of pack rats. Every empty coffee can or clam dip carton would be perfect for holding car grease or worms.

Every inch of cleared countertop, tabletop, and furniture is covered with the weekly masses of 505 school papers from school, and that’s only math class. If one paper just happens to find itself on top of the trash can and is found by the student, your picture is placed with the most wanted at the Post office.

Why I think it is perfectly fine to have a junk drawer in the kitchen where you can keep usable items that really have nowhere else to go. Where else do you put a dog collar, one claw hammer, playing cards, rubber glue, and fondue forks? I mean, they can fit in a drawer…but coffee cans?

I stood before the hall mirror and thought, “It’s not your imagination. There is clutter falling out of each room, and”…a voice at my elbow interrupted my thoughts. “None of this junk belongs to me,” said my husband. I stood there with my mouth open.

He bent down and came up with a sock, Barbie and Ken, a hardened glob of Playdough, and a flashlight with no batteries.

“I don’t want to panic you,” he said, “But I think you have forgotten the house rules: the inside of the house is yours, and the outside is mine. “Are you crazy?” I gasped. “What is it you do on the outside?”

You could have slung a gaggle of geese through the air and not heard them through the silence from my husband’s raised eyebrows and tilted head. He must have put in 300 man-hours on our newly refaced kitchen cabinets. Every night in the garage, I heard him sawing away. I guess I had kinda forgotten about the deck he had just built, and didn’t he rotate the tires last night on the car too?

I smiled nervously. There was little more good I could do now but chew my lip and think quickly. I was not about to sulk away. Plenty of clutter inside the house had his name on it. “If you ask me,” I said, pointing toward the floor; you have lived with the illusion for too many years that this is not a community property state. Let me show you a few things inside this house that belong to you…”

I was prepared for an argument; nothing would sway me from determent of his junk, and nothing did…until his eyes began to mist.

It has been several years since that day. Yesterday, my husband caught me trying to squeeze a coffee can into the kitchen drawer. He didn’t say anything, and of course, I didn’t either.

If you are lucky like me, you will have several empty two-pound coffee cans with plastic lids. Pick one and grease the inside generously with shortening. Now gather the following:
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
3 tablespoon sugar
1/8 tablespoon ground ginger
1 can (13-oz.) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon salt
4 ½ cups flour
2 tablespoons salad oil
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Then add the ginger and one tablespoon of the sugar. Let it sit for about 20 minutes while you brew a cup of coffee; this may take a while.

Now, add the rest of the sugar, plus the milk, salt, and salad oil. Add the flour gradually ’till the dough is heavy, stiff, and unsticky.

Knead it for at least 5 minutes. Use a timer. Put it into your greased coffee can and put the lid on. You let the bread rise till the lid pops off—say about 1-1 ½ hours. Then, with the lid, off, bake the bread in a 350 F oven for 60 minutes for a two-pound can.

Your finished coffee can bread will look like a tall chef’s hat!