Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!

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Views on The Virginia Corridor Trail

“Tracks Come Out Along the Virginia Corridor” This was the headline of a story David wrote in June of 2003. As a teenager, our son was a volunteer reporter for city of Modesto, writing community interest stories like this. His stories were published in an information newsletter, City Pride, an insert for the city’s monthly water bill.

David’s story was the first we knew of the biking and walking trail our city planned to build along the site of the old unused Union Pacific railroad track. I had been very sad, years ago, when the trains stopped running through the city of Modesto – the end of an era. But now we were happy to learn that the forlorn and neglected strip of land would have such a glorious future, and we eagerly watched the progress of the Virginia Corridor bike and walking trail.

The groundbreaking was May 23, 2005, and in January 2007 the “Centennial Junction phase” of the Virginia Corridor Trail opened to the public.

Walking with friends, and walking our dog, we have used that trail a lot! It begins at College Avenue, and future plans take the trail all the way north as far as Pelandale.  How exciting – to be able to bike or walk essentially from one end of Modesto to the other!

David actually bikes from his house all the way to his job downtown on the partially completed trail, but for months now we have walked to the end of the trail and looked impatiently toward the new construction.

And finally, last Saturday, the newest section of the trail opened.  John and I walked over the beautiful pedestrian bridge that spans Briggsmore Avenue!  What an exciting day!

Biking and walking across Modesto is getting easier — and much prettier!

Today we were talking to our mechanic, Marty Miller, who is an avid long-distance biker and writes for a biking magazine. He had just written a piece about the bike trail and I asked him if I could quote him here in my blog:

Marty writes, “ It will benefit everyone, but particularly the bicycle commuters who live north of Briggsmore and west of McHenry, but that’s not the best part of the Virginia Corridor improvement. When the last Tidewater Southern train rolled down that track, it ended a congestion problem on Ninth Street that had been plaguing Modesto for years. Also the miles long row of gray hopper cars that took feed to the chicken plant on Prairie Flower Road west of Turlock no longer leaked product as they moved, virtually eliminating an insurmountable rodent problem in some of Modesto’s premier neighborhoods…”

(I never thought of that back when I mourned the loss of the train running through Modesto, right down Ninth Street and up Virginia Avenue)

Marty continues, “…My own commute used to include riding in the dark in the rain up Virginia Avenue with car headlights smearing through the water on my glasses, which made seeing the black 90 gallon (trash) containers in the road on Wednesday before Thursday garbage day a real dance with danger.  All a memory now as I ride home on the lighted bike trail with cars and headlight off to the distant right.”

So check it out!  Take your bike or your feet and start at College Avenue. Take the trail to Bowen and back for a pleasant easy four-and-a-half miles.

(Click here if you’d like to know more about the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club, or read some of Marty’s articles.)



Orange and Black Birthdays and Books

The library is our first destination every Thursday morning when Nathan comes to visit. I want my grandson to love books, and I want the library to be one of his favourite places.

And so it was, that last Thursday we had looked at lots of books, played with puzzles in the children’s library, and were heading toward the door when I stopped short. I had just heard the words, “Matt Cain”

Books and Baseball – the marriage of two of my great loves! I stopped to eavesdrop.

Two young library employees had paused in their work, to talk about Matt Cain’s perfect game the previous day. Their arms were full of books and their faces were full of animation.

A lady librarian looked up from her desk and saw me standing there. “May I help you?”

“No, thank you.” I smiled, “I’m just enjoying these guys’ conversation about the Giants.”  I spoke loudly, intending for the guys to hear me. They laughed, and I was admitted into the conversation.

We talked about Matt Cain of course, and Buster Posey. And how the whole team had worked together so well to create the perfect game.

Then I told them that it was really special for me because June 13th  was my birthday. I had hoped the Giants would win, but I didn’t expect them to give me a history-making game.

One of the guys, Brian, stared at me. “Yesterday was my birthday  too!”

“Are you kidding me?!”

He grinned. “I was so excited that it happened on my birthday, and I was wishing I was at the game.”  He told us he usually gives himself Giants’ tickets for a birthday present, but he had decided to go to one of the weekend games instead of the middle of the week.

“Wait a minute.”  Brian and I both looked over at Josh, who was shaking his head in disbelief. He pointed at Brian, “Yesterday was your birthday…” He pointed at me. “…and it was your birthday…?  Yesterday was my birthday!”

What are the odds? Of course we were dumfounded! Three distinct generations – 26, 41, 60 – all book lovers, all Giants’ fans, and all three having our birthday on the same day.

(We agreed that none of us consider Friday the 13th to be a bad luck day. In fact, both Josh and I were born on a Friday.)

I told them I don’t know very many people who share my birthday, and Brian agreed. He said he didn’t know anyone else; and he didn’t even know of any famous people who have a June 13th birthday. (Except he had just read that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen do.)

But Josh knows someone else who shares the date with him. More than one date, actually. It’s his girlfriend, Jennaca. She was born on June 13th the year after Josh. And Jennaca is as much of a Giants’ fan as Josh.  He said they love to go to the games together, and they have both been Giants’ fans for as long as they’ve followed baseball.

Baseball has always been a tradition in Brian’s family, but it wasn’t always the Giants. He grew up as an American League fan, especially following the Kansas City Royals. He said his dad didn’t care for the windy, cold Candlestick Park, but once in a while they went to an A’s game. Then in 1986 Will Clark caught his attention, and the Giants became Brian’s team of choice.  Now he’s passing the tradition on to his daughter, Kaori, as they make plans for a family outing to AT&T Park.

Humm Baby, it’s gonna be more fun than ever to go to the Modesto Library now! Listen closely as you walk along those aisles of beautifully organized books. You might hear the faintest strains of “Take me out to the ballgame.” And whatever you do, Don’t stop believin’ – There’s definitely a Giant influence in the place. Say hello to Brian and Josh (You gotta like these kids!) And remember, “Together We’re Giant!”


He Knows My Name

I love to think about how God knows us by name before we’re remotely aware of him. He’s laying the groundwork for some really own great plan or surprise for us, before it ever occurs to us to ask for direction. So many times we look back on the way things came together and we say, “If I hadn’t been in such and such a place…this or that might not have happened….”  But I’m convinced that there are no simple coincidences.

I didn’t know this at the time, but now I can say I’m very sure that it was God who gave me the idea to take a certain sociology class.  I didn’t need that particular class to graduate; It was a lot of hard work and there were other choices that would have fulfilled the same requirement. But for some reason this one caught my attention. So there I was, writing a sociology paper – a huge project! – about the three-gereration Americanization of a family from another country.

Fortunately I had just “happened” to meet a guy who was full blooded Italian. Third generation in this country.

John and I had been on only a couple of dates when we took a drive over to Novato so I could interview his Grandfather, and see the family roots.

Zippity-doo-dah!  It was a day to be happy! Glorious blue skies over one of the lovliest little towns I’d ever seen. I met Grandpa Guido, and chatted with Aunt Anna. I met Uncle Cherubino, and saw the house Grandpa built, where all the little Paladini cousins played. I even took a picture of John standing beside the street sign that said “Paladini Road”.

I already had lots of material for my paper when John came up with still one more idea. “Let’s drive down this road and I’ll show you the house where my Grandfather worked for shares of the crops before he built his own place.”

We drove down a long shaded lane and stopped a little distance from the white farmhouse. We didn’t want to go too close because it was private property, owned by someone we didn’t know. I drank in the view – the most picturesque little ranch!  We stood by the car talking, and enjoying the day, and that first shy feeling of falling in like.

“Hallooo,” a man was walking toward us. “Can I help you?”

John apologized for trespassing, and explained that his Grandpa had worked here, and that this was where his dad grew up.

Mr. Weidemeyer knew all about the Paladini family and became instantly hospitable!  “Come on!  I’ll show you around.” He explained that he worked in San Francisco, and it was sort of a hobby for him to be a weekend rancher, working a few acres of his land land with some of the antique farm equipment.

He knew all about the history of the place, and the Paladinis. We traipsed around, looking at this or that, and finally ended up in his kitchen where he offered us a drink of lemonade or something. He introduced us to his wife.  “This is John Paladini, and this is Andrena.  Andrena Paladini — what a beautiful name!”

“Thank you.” I may have blushed, but I didn’t correct him. Neither did John. Even though we barely knew each other, I think we both were thinking that there was a certain ring to it!  (And, of course, the Lord had that name in mind for me all along.)


Wind Surfing

The sail of my windsurfer went suddenly slack, and my board slowed nearly to a stop. I was adrift more than half a mile from shore. That’s when I noticed the unmistakable sleek form of a shark following close behind me.

They say your life flashes before your eyes in moments like this, but all I could see was that it was gaining speed and rising rapidly below me.

Riding a windsurfer is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn to ride one, you never forget. But learning to ride the waves involves hours of practice and dozens – even hundreds – of falls, and the perseverance to get back on and try again. The hazards, however, are different. No scraped knees or broken arms thankfully. But drowning is a real possibility if you ride without a life jacket like we did in those days. And then there are other dangers; the perils of the deep, and creatures that lurk in dark waters.

“I’m your favorite senior citizen” a robust, athletic Deet Eichel would say, putting on the feeblest voice he could muster. The ranger at the gate would wave us through because seniors get in free. A couple of times a week Deet would swing by the cabinet shop to pick us up, windsurfers strapped to the top of the car.  In thirty minutes we’d be gliding across the water, our sails full of wind.

John wind surfing at Modesto Reservoir (circa 1978)

Like sailing, windsurfing is a peaceful solitary sport. There are no motors and no noise, only the sound of your board rippling across the top of the water. Maybe now and then a “WooHoo!” from one of your partners. It requires strength and stamina and, oh yes, wind. It is not uncommon to find yourself alone in the center of a huge body of water far from shore with no one in sight. And that‘s exactly where I was when the wind died.

Balancing on a windsurfer without any wind is like riding a bicycle at zero miles per hour. I’ve seen Lance Armstrong stay upright on a fully stopped bicycle, but then, he’s a professional. I was beginning to lose my balance, and was about to drop into the water when I saw it. My mind began to race, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. It was at least six feet long. “What kind of giant fish live in fresh water? Sturgeon…Shark? There was no mistaking the fact that it was getting closer. I began to see long green tendrils protruding from the top of it as bright sunlight illuminated the ground around it.

Then I realized…the tendrils were grass, and my “shark” was the shadow of my windsurfer! I hopped off the board, laughing. I stood on solid ground in three feet of water in the very center of the lake. It was an underwater hill with grass growing on it that would be an island when the water level dropped a few feet. But for now it was one of those uncanny things that turn a regular day of windsurfing into an adventure on the high seas.

(Thanks to my husband, John Paladini, for sharing this story.)

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Memory Prompts

There are almost 60 birthday cards taped to my kitchen wall, thanks to my sister who is helping me celebrate my 60th birthday this week.  The cards have been coming for almost two months, a few each day.

Many of them have tongue-in-cheek condolences, and witty barbs about aging.

I don’t really feel like I’m getting too old and decrepit yet, so it’s still fun to laugh about it. But I have to admit that my mind is not as sharp as… um, I forgot what I was going to say…..

So starting this week. I’ll be doubling up on the crossword puzzles and reading up on some of those memory prompting tricks.

I heard about two couples who were out for an evening stroll.  The men were walking side by side, several paces behind their wives. Pete was telling Joe about a memory seminar he and his wife had just attended.  “You use word association, to bring things back to your memory.”

“That’s great!” Joe enthused. “What’s the name of the seminar?”

Pete stared at him blankly. “Oh gosh, let me think…” he scratched his head.  “Help me remember…” He looked at his friend, “What’s the name of that really popular flower…?”

“A daisy?” Joe offered.



“No, that’s not it.”


“That’s it! Rose!”  Pete cupped his hands around his mouth and called up to his wife, “Hey Rose, what was the name of that seminar we went to last week?”

Okay, that’s a joke. But word association really is a good idea.  Unless it backfires as it did with me a few months ago.

I used to see this older gentleman and his dog every day when I was out walking. We usually just smiled and said hello, but one day we stopped to chat.  I introduced myself, and he told me his name was Tom and his little dog was Maggie.

Tom and Maggie. As we went our separate ways I decided to use word association so I’d remember his name. Tom and Maggie are the main characters in Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.

Since I love books, I was sure I’d remember Tom and Maggie if I hooked them to a good book.

The next time I saw Tom, he was alone. I walked over to chat with him, feeling pretty smug for remembering his name. “Hello Tom,” I greeted him, “Where’s Daisy today?”

He gave me a strange look.  “You mean Maggie?”

Ooops – wrong book! Tom and Daisy, from The Great Gatsby, had jumped straight into my head,  while the other  Tom, and his sister Maggie, sat there in their Mill, giving me no help at all.

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Front Porch Salad

June first – Summertime! Let me tell you about one of our favorite summertime lunches – Front Porch Salad. In a sort  of tribute to Norman Rockwell, we sit back in our old metal porch chairs, look out at our quiet street and chat with neighbors. And we enjoy the antics of Humm-baby. (Giants fans will understand.) Our local hummingbird and his family fly fearlessly down and join us for lunch. They hover, or sometimes sit on at the railing of our feeder. Then they twitter away up out of sight, into the highest branches of our neighbor’s tall tree.  I don’t know where I thought hummingbirds lived, but I was amazed to discover that they live in such tall trees.

Front porch salad is an idea more than a recipe. We start with a can of Kirkland canned chicken. Drain it and put it in a big bowl.

Chop up a small handful of toasted almonds, a jalapeño, a couple of stalks of celery, and a little bit of onion.

Add them to the chicken, along with just enough mayonnaise to make a moist mixture.

Chop up about four cups of romaine lettuce, and gently fold it into the mix. Make sure it’s mixed well.

Pile this on two plates and then add garnishing of whatever other salad-type goodies you like. Carrot sticks, raisins, apple slices, raw cauliflower, slices of bell pepper, or pickled peppers.

Customize it with whatever you like best. I usually put sweet pickles and Kalamata olives on John’s; and dill pickles and artichoke hearts go on mine.

And now that summer is almost here, we’ll both want piles of juicy fresh tomatoes.  Ahhh! Off to the front porch! All I need now is a mint julep!