Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


Chestnuts Roasting…

imagination“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  I’ve always pictured a couple – seen from the back – sitting on the floor gazing into the fire.  They have their chestnuts sort of setting on the hearth, near the flames, maybe just inside the fireplace…and they wait for the nuts to pop open from the heat.  And then the guy reaches over and pulls one of them out. They laugh merrily as he waves his hand around.  “They’re a little hot,’ he warns, holding the fragrant chestnut meat invitingly toward her…

This was not the scene that played out in our house last night.

undauntedI was so excited to finally see chestnuts for sale. I had looked all over for them last summer, when I was making several Italian meals that called for chestnuts. “They are a seasonal item,” the produce man told me.

So finally, ‘tis the season!  I saw them for $4.75 a pound and promptly bought two pounds. I wanted to have plenty to last all year for those Italian recipes, and John and I had become obsessed with the idea of bringing Mel Torme and Bob Wells’ song to life right in our own home!

So how do you roast a chestnut? I looked at several sites on the internet and found all kinds of – often conflicting – instructions.  Most people roast them in the oven or on the barbecue grill.

Combining bits of information from here and there, we came up with our plan.

photo2To begin with, the nuts need to really be above the coals to roast. Not on the hearth near the flames. In fact the flames should be pretty much gone while the coals need to be very hot. So while we were waiting for our nice roaring fire to die down, we came up with the idea of using an 18” pizza screen, and sort of setting it across the metal basket that holds the burning logs in the fireplace.

photo8You are supposed to cut an “X” in the top of each chestnut. Which is not easy. The shells are hard and the slippery. I even discovered that there are special knives for cutting that “X”

My X’s were more like little slit holes.

photo 11It takes 20-30 minutes for the nuts to roast. Or 15-20 – depending on which instructions you follow.  And probably on how big the chestnuts are, and how hot the coals are.

And you are supposed to move them around so they won’t burn. Sure.

I have to say they smelled wonderful about 10 minutes into the process!  The shells were burned on the bottom, but they hadn’t popped open so we turned them over and let them go a little longer.

roasted nutFinally we figured they had to be done.  Once again, the scenario didn’t match the one in my mind. The guy had to carefully pull the pizza pan from above the coals, being careful not to dump the nuts into the fire. Balancing it in his oven-mittened hand he carried it to the roasted nuts burnedkitchen and plunked it down on the counter.  You have to open them while they are still hot or it will be hard to get the shells off. So the man and woman worked together, both of them waving their hands around…   “Hot, hot, hot!”

Most of the nuts were too hard to bite into. John said he is certain that song was really written by a dentist.

But one or two were perfect!

roasterSo here I am, still with about two pounds of chestnuts. ($4.75 a pound)  Undaunted, I will try again, but the next time it will be in the oven in this cute little chestnut roaster I found at a yard sale.

“And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from 1 to 92. Although it’s been said many times, many ways Merry Christmas to you!”


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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.


Forward Thinking

Supposedly we’ll SPRING FORWARD this Sunday.  That is to say – our clocks will spring forward.  My friend, Jay, said it should be known as the day we FALL BACK …asleep.  But let’s not confuse the issue.

Daylight Savings time begins this Sunday and we set our clocks forward.

Last week we visited my mom in Arizona, and when we called to give her our ETA, we had to remember to take time zones into account. California is on Pacific Standard Time and Arizona is Mountain Standard. We have to move our watches ahead an hour when we cross the state line.  Except during the summer.

If we were going to visit mom next week we’d be on the same time because Arizona doesn’t use Daylight Savings Time.  (Nor does Hawaii)

Just thinking about it makes my head spin! Who came up with this idea in the first place?  I did some poking around, and found out it was Benjamin Franklin.  Well, duh!  What would you expect of the man who came up with the proverb: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  And it became a law in 1918.

I think everyone has funny stories about oversleeping or being an hour late or an hour early when the time changes, and I hope you’ll comment on this blog and share some of them.

The funniest experience I’ve ever had was soon after John and I got married.  We had just started going to a little tiny church that didn’t have its own building. They met in a borrowed facility at 1:30 in the afternoon, between that church’s scheduled services.  We were pretty excited about it, because the teaching was good, and the people were friendly and it was pleasantly casual. Plus, it was kind of fun to sleep late on a Sunday, and then meander around and have a leisurely morning schedule.

So there we were puttering around in the yard, planting our garden, and pulling some weeds. We had a nice lunch and then went to clean up for church. We planned to get there about 20 minutes early so we could meet some of the people. (You know where this is going, of course.)  We walked in, and the singing was already well underway. We couldn’t understand it. We looked at our watches. We looked at each other. A couple we had met the previous week motioned for us to come and sit with them. I gave the man a questioning look as we settled down next to them.  He leaned over and quietly grinned, “Time change.”

“That’s weird,” I whispered to John, “they changed the time of the service and they didn’t even announce it last week.”


A Mark, a Yen, a Buck or a Pound

I don’t know where it originated, but my my cousin in Scotland sent me this economics analysis.  I must have laughed for 20 minutes…then I started to cry.  Now all I can do is pray.

Her story is based in Greece but maybe we can all relate.

It is a slow day in a little Greek village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough; everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a £100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the £100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the £100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer takes the £100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.

The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the £100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna.

The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him “services” on credit.

The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the £100 note.

The hotel proprietor then places the £100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the £100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.

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When Traditions Don’t Work

Christmas is a time for traditions — and our family loves traditions! Like the people in Fiddler on the Roof, we have a tradition for everything! And we keep our tongue firmly in our cheek.

Recently I had a conversation with some of my kids and they explained, a little apologetically, that they’re going to change one of our family traditions and make a new one of their own. 

I think they thought it might hurt my feelings, but it cracked me up that they were even explaining the change to me. 

Some of our traditions are serious and meaningful, but some are just for silly fun.  

Proverbs 2:8 says “Remove not the ancient landmark, which your forefathers have set.”  There’s a lot to be said for holding onto the good, and following family traditions in things that knit our hearts together, and keep us walking close to the Lord. John’s family stood in a little circle by the front door, and prayed together every morning of his growing up years. We have kept that tradition and I hope our kids will too.

But sometimes it’s meaningless, and even counterproductive to do things exactly the way they have always been done.

For example, consider my Fictional friends, Freddie and Frieda. They make a traditional Christmas dinner every year.

Frieda makes a beautiful cross rib roast, and she always prepares just like her mom always did.   

Freddie loves to watch his wife put all the special seasonings on the roast, get it ready for the oven. Just like her mom did. He noticed that she always cut off the end of the roast and put it in the pan alongside the main roast. Just like her mom did. Tradition!

Finally last Christmas Freddie asked her, “Honey, why do you cut the end of the roast?”

“I don’t really know,” Frieda admitted, “Mom always did it, so I’m just doing it too.”

Now Frieda, herself, was curious.  So after the roast was in the oven she called her mom and asked why she always cut the end off. 

Oh,” her mom laughed, “I did that so it would fit in my roasting pan.”


Miss Peggy Marries Clint Eastwood

Although Miss Peggy never married, she did have a wedding.  When she was almost 89 she was a guest at the beautiful outdoor wedding of Sandy’s daughter, Rachel.  Sitting at a table with Jennifer and me, she sighed with delight, “Isn’t this elegant?”

She said, “Isn’t it too bad you can’t have a lovely wedding like this without having to get married?”

“You want a wedding but not a husband, huh?”  Jennifer and I grinned at each other and an idea began to form. 

Peggy’s 89th birthday was coming up.  Why not give her a wedding for her birthday?  A surprise wedding!  She would have no idea.

Friends, driving girls and a few others quickly got into the spirit of the party, and the ideas flew!  We could have it in John and Jeannie Kennedy’s beautiful backyard garden.  Trina could do the flowers, I could make the wedding cake, and Sandy offered the decorations from Rachel’s wedding.

We’d tell Peggy we were going to the Kennedys’ house for an evening of games. She was pretty sharp so she might might guess  it was a birthday celebration, but she’d never think it was a wedding.

John and I picked Peggy up, and she told me later that she wondered why I suggested she wear a particular gauzy white blouse…

But then when she stepped out of our car to be greeted by Sandy and Jennifer, wearing tiaras and carrying flowers, she knew something was up!  She began to cackle with laughter.

The bridesmaids produced a veil and bouquet for the bride, and escorted her in the gate.

Heads turned and necks craned as Miss Peggy, still grinning with delighted surprise, was escorted down the aisle on the arm of Sandy’s husband, Roger – the honorary father of the bride. 

The processional music was the stirring, haunting notes of The Theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. And why not?  The handsome groom was none other than a life-sized cardboard stand-up figure of Clint Eastwood! 

Groomsmen John Kennedy and Tom Hindman stood ready to assist Clint in his nuptial endeavor.

My husband, John, mimicking the “Impressive Clergyman” from Princess Bride, stood before us.  “Mawage,” he intoned. “Mawage is wot bwings us togedda today.  Mawage, that Bwessed Awangement, dat  Dweam Wif-in a Dweam….And Wuv… Twue Wuv, will fowow you fowevva…So tweasure your wuv…

“Do you have the wing?” he asked, turning to Tom, the best man. 

“Not only the WING,” Tom replied, solemnly reaching into his jacket, “I have the whole chicken!”  He pulled out a rubber chicken and waved it in the air.

When the laughter had subsided, “The Impressive Clerygman” reverted to his real self, Peggy’s good friend, Pastor John, who proceeded with the fun and serious business of wedding vows.

“Peggy, will you take this High Plains Drifter for Good, For Bad, and for Ugly? Will you take him with a Fistful of Dollars, or A Few Dollars More?”

 “Um, where’s the money?” Peggy interrupted.

“Will you take him whether he Paints Your Wagon, or turns Every Which Way But Loose?”

 “Well, I guess I’ll have to!”

 “Peggy, we all love, honor and cherish you.” John continued, suddenly serious. “Do you promise to pray for us all?”      “I do.”

 “Do you promise to call upon us when you need help?”   “I do.”

 “And now, Peggy, we have a special song for you.”

Our then-16-year-old son, David, dressed in evening clothes, stepped forward, with microphone in hand. Gazing seriously at Peggy he began to croon The Paper Groom Song which I had written to the tune of I’m Gonna Buy a Paper Doll.

She’s gonna have a paper groom that she can call her own –  

A guy she can fold up and put away.

And he’ll be with her every night,

And he’ll never fuss or fight.

He’ll always let her talk and have her say. ♫♫♪…

He’ll be the most agreeable of fellows.

He won’t go stayin’ out late with the boys.

He’ll always be there to remind her that she is well loved,

And he’ll do it without making noise.♫♫♪…

She’s gonna have a paper groom that she can call her own –  

A man that she can stash behind the door.

She can look at him and laugh,

Then she can fold him up in half.

And he’ll never throw his socks down on the floor.♫♫♪…

He’ll smile at her and always seem to listen.

But though he won’t contribute much, it’s true,

She’ll have the fun of walkin’ down the aisle surrounded by

Her good friends sayin’ “Peggy, we love you!”…♫♫♪…

As the laughter once again died down, John stepped forward. “And now, Peggy, we’d like to pray for you.”  We all prayed as John prayed aloud and thanked the Lord for our dear friend, and the way her life so richly touched so many.

Then, smiling at the seated audience, John said “It is my pleasure to present to you the BIRTHDAY GIRL, Peggy Kilmer!”

We all applauded and blew bubbles as Peggy, grinning broadly, made her way back down the aisle.

While Peggy opened birthday gifts, including a specially prepared and very much edited wedding portrait (pictured below); we all enjoyed wedding cake and listened to background music of  The Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra and various big bands from the days of Peggy’s youth.

Sandy, Roger, John and I drove Peggy and Clint home that evening, and Clint happily stood in Peggy’s living room from that night until death did them part.

* This post is excerpted fromDriving Miss Peggy

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The Story of the Pastor and the Cat

                 My cousin, Debbi Evans, sent me this story yesterday after reading my post about LoAmmi. I’ve heard it before but it always makes me smile.  I don’t know whether or not it’s true…but it could be! 

                 A pastor had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard, and then was afraid to come down. The pastor coaxed, offered warm milk, etc.

                 The kitty would not come down. The tree was not sturdy enough to climb, so the pastor decided that if he tied a rope to his car and pulled it until the tree bent down, he could then reach up and get the kitten.

                 That’s what he did, all the while checking his progress in the car. He  figured if he went just a little bit further, the tree would be bent sufficiently for him to reach the kitten… But as he moved the car a little further forward, the rope broke.

The tree went “boing!” and the kitten instantly sailed through the air – out of sight.

                   The pastor felt terrible. He walked all over the neighborhood asking people if they’d seen a little kitten. No. Nobody had seen a stray kitten. So he prayed, “Lord, I just commit this kitten to your keeping,” and went on about his business.

                 A few days later he was at the grocery store, and met one of his church members. He happened to look into her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food. This woman was a cat hater and everyone knew it, so he asked her, “Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?”

                The woman neplied, “You won’t believe this, Pastor,” and then told him how her little girl had been begging her for a cat, but she kept refusing. Then a few days earlier the child had started  begging again. So the mom finally told her little girl, “Well, if God gives you a cat, I’ll let you keep it.” She told the pastor, “I watched my child go out in the yard, get on her knees, and ask God for a cat. And really, Pastor, you won’t believe this, but I saw it with my own eyes. A kitten suddenly came flying out of the blue sky, with its paws outspread, and landed right in front of her.”

Thanks for a fun story, Debbi!


The Age of Sloshiness

“I need a personal trainer,” I told David.  “Can you show me which exercises work for which parts of the body?”  I knew David and his friends were always going to the gym working out and comparing six packs.  (Muscularly speaking that is!)   I was fast approaching my mid-fifties and knew I’d better get serious about exercising and keeping fit, so I got a pair of three-pound dumbbells and my personal trainer began to show me all the different exercises. “You’re doing great, mom!” he applauded.

After a couple of weeks David said he thought I could graduate up to five-pound dumbbells.  I considered the cost…  And then I got a brilliant idea!   Instead of going out and buying another set of dumbbells, why not buy two jugs of laundry detergent – the kind with the handle on the side.  I could pour some detergent from each of the bottles into a third empty bottle until I had two jugs that each weighed five pounds.  Perfect!  Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

So I smugly graduated to my new advanced regimen with my cleverly calibrated five-pound weights.  Up, down, in, out, back, forth…slosh, slosh, slosh, slosh…  The noise of the liquid in the jugs was a little irritating, but I was proud of my thriftiness…at first.

Then David came home one day. “How’s the exercise going, mom?”

“Oh, it’s going okay,” I replied, “but I’m about to give up on this five-pound weight idea.  I really can’t stand the sloshiness.”

David looked at me with earnest compassion, considering his words before he spoke. Then he very tactfully said, “Mom, you know there comes an age when you just have to put up with a little sloshiness.”

That’s when I wished for really big muscles to give him a smack, but I was laughing too hard!


Ten Second Rule

My sister, Monica, told me this story and it cracks me up.  It’s such a perfect illustration of human nature.

She was at a professional conference, standing at the back of the room near the table with coffee and doughnuts. A well groomed woman came up to the table, and as she reached for a doughnut she accidentally bumped it, knocking it to the floor. The woman looked around quickly, then stooped to pick it up.  She stood there holding it uncertainly, looking a little embarrassed.

“That’s okay,” Monica assured her with a wink. “…Ten second rule.” 

“What’s that?”

“Well if something drops onto the floor and it’s there less than ten seconds it’s okay to eat it.”

“Oh…” The woman smiled with uncertain relief, and nodded.  Then she replaced the dropped doughnut onto the plate and picked up a different one for herself.


The “F” Word

“How was the birthday party?” I asked David as we walked down the aisle of Costco. I had just picked him up from his first solo excursion into social life. He stopped short and looked up at me with a troubled expression.  “Well, it was fun, but there was this one girl and she was kind of mean.  And she said the “F” word.”

I felt a sick knot in the pit of my stomach.  We never spoke that particular word,  and as far as I knew, my five-year-old son shouldn’t even have been familiar with the term “the F word”.

“Oh honey,” I squatted down to make eye contact with him.  “I’m so sorry.”  I hesitated, and then leaned closer to him. “Would you please whisper into mommy’s ear exactly what words the little girl said?”

(I needed to know. Had she said “the F word” or had she, in the immortal words of Ralphie, actually uttered “the queen mother of all curse words”?)

Nodding solemnly, aware of the gravity of the moment, my little son put his mouth close to my ear and whispered, “Stupid.”


Masking the relief that washed over me, I composed my face into a proper look of horror and sadness and whispered, “STUPID, oh David, that is a bad, bad word.  I hope you will never ever say it!”

And I thought, “Next week we’ll get to work on your spelling.”