Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


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Reading Ramble

I have to stand on the file cabinet in my office to reach the top of my overflowing book shelves. There are at least a thousand books in this room and I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to organize them. They stay orderly  for about a week. John says it’s the second law of thermodynamics.

Every room of our house has filled, and fairly neat bookshelves; but my office has my own personal favourites — and books I think will someday become favourites. That’s part of the problem. I have the books arranged more or less in sections according to authors’ last names.  Daphne DuMaurier books are followed by Alexander Dumas. And Dorothy Sayers stands by John Steinbeck and Mary Stewart. Easy enough…

But one of these days I want to read  She Said Yes by Misty Bernal, so I have that book on a shelf.  But I probably won’t remember Misty’s last name, so I have it placed horizontally across the top of some books in the “S” section so I can see the title. 

Then I have a few extra copies of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Glass Castle and other of such good books. When I find extra copies at library sales or somewhere, I want to hold on to them to give to friends. I can’t afford the shelf room though, so they’re piled sidewise on top of other books in the general area of Smith and Walls.

 Someday I’ll solve this problem when I allocate a shelf for favourite give-away books – my sharing shelf.  It will probably be the same time I set up my TBR shelf of books To Be Read. (Probably about the time we add a new wing to the house.)  It seems to me that those would be two important shelves for a book lover’s library – a sharing shelf and a TBR shelf – since one of the best things about reading is talking about books with friends.

 I have a several long-distance reading relationships: my sister Monica, and friends Jennifer, Geigy, and Laura. They are all so dear to me and when we talk on the phone the conversations always include “What are you reading?”  I frantically scribble their suggestions in my little TBR notebook.

 I go hiking with Emily every week, and that woman is a reading machine! (She also thinks I use too many exclamation points in my writing.)  I can keep up with her hiking, but I can’t keep up with her reading. Every week she is reading some fascinating new book that is definitely destined for my TBR shelf.

And then there are The Lalas, my Ladies’ Literary League book  group.  That introduces a must-read book a month – and always well worth the read. And most recently I have joined The Janes, devotees of classic old literature. Which I love.

So many books, so little time. No wonder I don’t have time to organize the shelves. There are way too many books to read!


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Flying Blind

As they say…perception is not always reality. Sometimes we can’t believe our eyes. Sometimes we can. Sometimes we can’t believe our feelings. Sometimes we can. If we believe what we shouldn’t believe…we just might go into a tailspin.

That’s why I hung a toy airplane from our kitchen ceiling about 15 years ago.  The little plane hangs upside down as a warning about the danger of spatial disorientation.

Spatial disorientation is the inability to correctly interpret aircraft altitude or airspeed in relation to the earth or point of reference. Spatial disorientation is a condition in which an aircraft pilot’s perception of direction does not agree with reality.   (Wikipedia)

In other words, an airplane pilot can be flying along just fine; keeping an eye on the horizon. He knows exactly where he is and what his plane is doing.  But if he loses sight of the horizon for some reason – say a heavy fog rolls in or a storm comes up – the pilot loses his point of reference and can become disoriented.

With no accurate point of reference, up can feel exactly like down and vice versa.  Feeling as if he is operating the plane very skillfully and gaining altitude, the pilot can drive it straight into the ground.  He would not know, until too late, that his perception was wrong – his feelings lied to him.

A pilot who is flying blind because of weather or darkness needs to know how to fly using his instrument panel. He can’t rely on his feelings. Only the instrument panel will provide accurate data about how to proceed.

This funny little video  from AOPA  illustrates the dangers of flying blind.

So the toy plane hangs in our kitchen, reminding us not to act on our feelings alone.

We got this idea years ago from an old “Moody Science Classics” video, but we’ve talked about it a lot over the years since John and Monica both took ground school and flight training and Monica is now a licensed pilot. It’s a perfect illustration.

The bible is our instrument panel as we go through life.  It’s God’s word to all humans, and it addresses every wind of circumstance, cloud of sorrow, and storm of adversity we fly into. It even gives directions about how to proceed on a bright sunny day. 

It’s important to be familiar with the bible, the instrument panel, but a lot of people would rather fly by feelings – perceived facts.

Even Christians who believe the bible… even me. 

So often I forget, and sway under discouragement, or go into a little tailspin of worry. Then with relief I remember my control panel – the words designed by my Maker who knows the complete flight plan of our lives.

That’s why I hung that little airplane in my kitchen.


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Time in a Rain Barrel

I was reading the funnies yesterday and “The Other Coast” had a comic about some people catching rainwater in a barrel from the gutter of their roof.  A squirrel had washed into the barrel. (That was the joke.)

As I looked at the panel I was carried back to my Ohio childhood, when my dad rigged up a barrel to catch rainwater.  We lived out in the country and our water was held in a cistern. We had to have water delivered in a big pump truck every few months, so we considered the rain barrel a smart economic move.

The picture in the comic actually looked like a caricature of our house and rain barrel, so it didn’t seem that funny to me. But it brought out some wonderful reminiscing.

We also ate squirrels that my dad shot in our woods, but to my knowledge we never caught one in the rain barrel.

Looking at the comic, I wondered how old Adrian Raeside is. Drinking rainwater and eating squirrel just didn’t seem that odd to me.  And then suddenly it hit me — I was shocked to realize my rainwater barrel and squirrel eating days were 50 years ago!

More than 50 years actually.  Gulp!

I remember so many conversations with our good friend Peggy Kilmer, who was in her nineties.  Peggy would laughingly sigh and say, “Sometimes I catch sight of myself in a mirror and say ‘Who is that old lady?’ I still feel the same as I ever did.”

Miss Peggy, I can relate!

One of my favourite songs is Jim Croce’s haunting Time in a Bottle… “But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them…”

This is true, but more to the point I love C.S. Lewis’s thoughts about time.  We live in time and it’s all we really know, but we’re always shocked at the passage of time. (I can hardly believe my grandson already three years old!)  Lewis says it’s because we know, deep down, that we’re not supposed to get old and die. God made us for a timeless existence.  Our natural element is eternity.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has set eternity in our hearts…that none of us can fathom what all he has done, and that he makes everything beautiful in its time.  Wow!

So with eternity set in my heart, I’m going to remind myself of one more thing C.S Lewis said. The present – right now – is the point at which time touches eternity. So I want to make the most of this eternal moment! Carpe Diem!


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Things Left in Books – a year end reflection


There are three old black and white photographs and a utility bill from the city of Pleasanton (January, 1981 for $31.27). There’s a yellowed envelope with a letter written in beautiful spidery penmanship. (It was delivered with a five cent stamp.) There’s a boarding pass for Northwest Airlines, a lottery ticket, and 43 “official” bookmarks.

I have this pile of things I collected in 2011. Things left in books. We have a book business and buy boxes of books from estate sales. It always interests me to see what people have tucked into books and forgotten.

There’s a 1982 map of The University of California at Berkeley, a little tract from 1976 (Knowing God Personally), a birthday card, and a cigarette quiz booklet published in 1967. Most amazingly, we found 3 twenty-dollar travelers’ checks from 1964.

Did the man who lost the traveler’s checks get his money back?

Did anyone miss any of this stuff?

In this quiet week as we close 2011, I want to take some time to flip through The Book of My Year and see if there’s anything important I have forgotten.

Is there any trash I need to get rid of? Are there any pages I need to reread? I marked certain pages for some reason…

Today is a good day to look over 2011 one more time. Volume 2012 will soon be in our hands.


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Kitchen Catastrophes

When I make a mistake in the kitchen I’m usually sort of cavalier – I try to turn it into something else. (“Oops…ha ha…meant to do that!”)  The overdone roast miraculously becomes a tasty beef stew.  The fallen chocolate cake is cut up into chewy – very chewy – brownies.  And so on…

But sometimes there are kitchen catastrophes that can’t be salvaged. Serious hopeless disasters that make me laugh unless I’m crying too hard.

Today as I was pondering a subject for my 100th post on the Paladini Potpie, I decided to talk about some of my greatest Kitchen Catastrophes.

I’m not even going to dwell on how many times I’ve turned the oven on to preheat, and forgot to check inside.

Along with these lovely Persimmon CRISPS I accidentally made not too long ago, my most recent boo-boo was when I decided to make cornbread to go with my ham and lima bean soup. 

I don’t make cornbread very often, so I followed the recipe carefully. 

It looked a little strange when I pulled it from the oven – it was sort of pale, and had hardly risen at all.  And it was a bit on the heavy side.  A lot on the heavy side, actually.

I served it to my faithful friends who come to bible study, and like the kind women they are, they didn’t choke and spew or spit it out.  And to be honest, it didn’t taste too bad; it was just very heavy and chewy.

The next day as I was putting something in my pantry I happened to notice the label of what I had thought was baking powder.  Baking powder is the secret ingredient that would have made the cornbread light and fluffy; but what I had used was Clabber Girl cornstarch.  I’m so familiar with that picture of the cute little Clabber Girl on the baking powder container that I hadn’t even read the label.  No wonder the cornbread was so…um…starchy!

My most memorable food goof-up was many years ago when I was hosting a big group of ladies for a fancy Christmas potluck at my house. As the hostess I would have a lot of things to do in the morning, so I decided to make my salad the afternoon before.

It was a new recipe – a big mixed lettuce salad with chunks of grilled chicken, sweet pickles and grapes. But it wasn’t the season for grapes, so I decided to use chunks of kiwi. They’re both green, right? 

It looked lovely, and I happily covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

The next day, with a houseful of women I pulled out my still-beautiful-looking salad.  I was going to toss it a little before setting it on the table. I’ll never forget lifting the salad tongs full of salad, and seeing slimy liquid dripping back down into the bowl. It was so gross!  The bottom of the salad was full of viscous liquid, and only the tiniest bits of chicken remained. 

That was the day I learned that there is an enzyme in kiwi that can be used to tenderize meat. It had tenderized my chicken to nothing.

I’m glad that luncheon was a potluck because I couldn’t get that salad into the garbage fast enough!

And finally, since we’re approaching candle season, I’m going to tell you about my worst kitchen catastrophe. And I’ll take a moment to thank God for his protection.

I love to burn those fragrant candles in jars, and when they burn out I melt the wax down and make new candles in the same jars. 

I usually set the jar in a pan of water on the stove, and I usually keep an eye on it. 

One day, though, I got distracted in another room and forgot the melting wax until I smelled smoke.  I ran into the kitchen to see that the water had evaporated and the jar in the pot was on fire.  It was just a merry little fire – and a lot of smoke.  Since there wasn’t much of a flame I was able to pick the pot up and carry it over and set it down in the sink.

I know better than this, but I wasn’t thinking. 

I know you are supposed to smother oil or grease fires, or use a fire extinguisher like the one we have under our sink. But I was caught off guard because there was so much smoke and it was such a little tiny fire. It seemed like an easy thing to fix. 

Our sink has one of those high arching taps with a sprayer, so I thought I could just extinguish the little flame by spraying it there in the sink. It was almost a reflex to spray water on it.

Never use water to put out a grease fire! 

The instant the spray of water reached that little fire, the flames swooshed up higher than my head. To a truly monstrous height!  The wood cabinetry high above our sink caught fire, and the entire kitchen ceiling was blackened and blistered with scorched paint before I managed to smother the flames with a kitchen towel.

John was hunting that weekend and came home to a mostly smoke damaged kitchen, but he was very gracious and so grateful that it hadn’t been worse. Together we retextured and repainted, and when it was done, the kitchen was prettier than it had been before. 

Grace – people who love me and who forgive my mistakes!

As we head into Christmas, I think of God who loves me and protects me and uses me in spite of my many mistakes. I thank him for all the times he has turned my foolish or careless mistakes into something good. Sometimes he used them to teach me something (kiwi is a good meat tenderizer). But sometimes he just dumps grace on my life and gives me something better than I could have expected – and certainly better than I deserve.

May He bless your Christmas Season!


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Immanuel Every Day

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

We live in an age of colliding man-made wonders and man-made atrocities and it’s easy to forget that God is with us – Immanuel.

I have a happy and contented life, with predictable ups and downs. I know God is with me, but sometimes I really don’t have a feeling of his presence. Sometimes I just go through the days and remember C.S. Lewis’s words about how God is pleased when a person “…looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

But sometimes God bursts into my ordinary life in the most mind-spinning way and shouts “Immanuel! Heeelllooo…?”

He has done it three times in the last few weeks and I can hardly stop smiling.

I was with my friend Sandy and her 3-year-old granddaughter, Emma.  We usually go yardsaling together, but this day we had taken a mutual friend to the hospital for an appointment to prepare her for upcoming chemo. Our friend just had a double mastectomy.

As we were driving home, Emma must have been bewildered that we weren’t going to yard sales like we usually do. She said, “I have an idea. Let’s play a game. Whoever sees a yard sale sign…we’ll stop!”

We all cracked up. “Okay Emma,” we laughed, “We’ll look for yard sale signs.  Tell us if you see one.”  There weren’t many that day, but the sharp-eyed little girl suddenly spotted one. “Look Grammie! Over there!”

We were already past the sign, but Sandy turned the car around and we wound our way through the neighborhood to a God-ordained yard sale.

A mother and daughter were doing it. The daughter was a registered nurse and the mother was a three-year breast cancer survivor. Our friend had been looking for some pretty button-up shirts in her new size – and there they were, clean and beautiful and cheap!  But she got more than that.

The lady was selling her wigs, and that initiated a lot of conversation about cancer and chemo. The lady was very vocal about her own vibrant recovery from breast cancer; and when she found out that our friend was approaching chemo, she completely embraced her. 

They prayed together, and exchanged stories, and finally exchanged phone numbers. The yard sale lady now takes our friend to the hospital sometimes. She calls her and prays for her and has become a great support.

I think Immanuel gave Emma the idea of playing that yard sale game!

Then, a couple of weeks later, my friend Bev asked me to find her a copy of  The Strong’s Concordance, since I have a book business.

As I was on my computer, in the process of looking for the book, my neighbor came over and knocked on my door. He told me he was cleaning out some shelves and he wondered if I could use this book, or sell it, or give it to one of the ladies who come to my bible study…

My neighbor isn’t a Christian, he doesn’t know Bev, and doesn’t know she was looking for the book — but he was holding out a beautiful, hard-bound Strong’s Concordance!  

I think Immanuel told him to bring it over!

Finally, just this week Immanuel suggested I make pasta for the people in John’s department at work.  I didn’t realize He was telling me to make it; John and I just wanted to do something fun and nice.

I made a couple of loaves of bread and a big pot of pasta shuta, and they had a yummy lunch.  There was plenty left over, and John was going to put it away when a couple of  volunteers came by, so he offered them lunch.

As he was serving them, BethAnn, one of the ladies from another department came downstairs to go to the little coffee shop in the courtyard. John says when BethAnn saw them her eyes got as big as saucers.  “Oh my gosh!” she said, “I just told the ladies I was coming down to the coffee shop and asked if I could bring anybody anything and Susan said she had forgotten her lunch – would I bring her some pasta.” 

It was a joke, of course. The coffee shop doesn’t serve pasta. But five minutes later BethAnn carried a plate of pasta back up to Susan.

This is what Susan posted later on Facebook:  “Careful what you ask for. BethAnn asked us if we needed or wanted anything. I said ‘pasta please’ and look what she brought me! Yum!! On second thought, don’t be careful. Ask away! You never know what might happen! We have been talking about God showing off and He did it again!!”

Immanuel.


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Sugar and Thankfulness

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I woke up early and had some quiet time…a cup of coffee…a little maintenance work on my book business… And it was still early. Not even 8 o’clock! My favourite kind of day stretched ahead of me – yummy smelling candles, a fire in the fireplace, the first Christmas music…spending time in the kitchen making rolls and pumpkin pies and key lime pie.

Which should I do first? I surveyed my domain…and then it hit me!  I used up the last of my sugar yesterday.

Rats! 

I wandered over to the window and looked out into the bleak, foggy morning. It was a perfect day to be snug and warm in the house, baking and listening to music. I did not want to go to the grocery store!

But Thanksgiving is coming; I had no choice. 

Then it struck me.  Thanksgiving! A time to give thanks! I was wearing a warm jacket as I left my cute, cozy house.  I was climbing into my nice clean car, that always starts. (In my life I have owned cars that did not always start.)

I would drive a few blocks to the grocery store, and it would be no effort to pull out $3 and buy a bag of sugar.

 Not everyone in the world is so blessed.

Not everyone in my town is so blessed.

Thank you Lord.


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Palindrome Days and Ways

No matter how you look at it, today is 11-11-11.

 There is a lot of enthusiasm and significance swirling around today’s date. People are flocking to get married, and hoping to give birth to their baby today on 11-11-11. Especially, of course, aiming for 11 o’clock. 

I just think it’s cool because it’s a Palindrome Date. Sort of. 

 Somehow I missed the most recent  complete palindrome date. And darn it – It was only a few days ago on November 2!  That would be 11/02/2011… or 11/02/2011

 A palindrome is a word, or in this case, numbers, that can be read the same way backwards and forwards.

 It comes from two Greek words, palin, which means again or backward and dromos which means run or running.  

 So, a palindrome can run backward and forward.

 Obviously I love words that begin with “Pal” and as a word person – even before I was a Paladini –  I loved palindromes.

 When I was a kid we used to make them up with my dad, ranging from the simplest names of “Nan” and “Otto” to those immortal words spoken by the first man to the first woman in the Garden of Eden: “Madam I’m Adam.”

 I looked up what was supposed to be the longest palindrome in the world. It supposedly has 7,826 words.  It’s long, but it doesn’t really make any sense. 

A shorter one that makes a little more sense is this: “Soda-pop straws are sold, as part-encased a hot tin, I saw it in mad dog I met. Is dog rosy? Tie-dye booths in rocks.”  

 What’s the longest “sensible” palindrome you’ve ever heard?

 And does anyone know when the next Palindrome Date will be?


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Ironic Iconic Questions

The homepage of my e-mail had a story about an iconic picture of a couple kissing during the Vancouver Riots this summer. Their identities had been revealed! Stop the presses!

Iconic picture?

What in the world was so iconic about that picture?  Possibly just the fact that it brought to mind the truly iconic picture of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-J Day.  Or the picture of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing on the beach.

But kissing during theVancouver riots? Hardly iconic.

I got to share this soapbox with my sister, Monica, a few days ago; although she’s not quite as much of a grammar grouch as I am.  She keeps reminding me that we have a changing language and if our language didn’t change we’d still be speaking King James English.

But we agreed on this iconic pet peeve.

The word means “pertaining to, or having the characteristics of an icon.”  It’s representative of something. I get that. But once again, a really great word has been cheapened by overuse.

Maybe I’m too much of a literalist. And as long as we’re talking about icons… When I was in second grade I took my new doll to school and a couple of big girls from the fourth grade admired her.  “Oh she’s adorable!” they gushed.  I was troubled about that for days, literally for days – my little Catholic schoolgirl mind could not grasp how a doll could be adorable.

But now, half a century later I think that’s kind of an adorable memory. Dare I say it’s an iconic memory?

One morning not too long ago another picture on the computer caught my eye. It shows a beautiful woman strolling  along a street in Italy. She was being ogled by about 15 Italian men lounging nearby. It’s an amazing picture. The lights and shadows are perfect, and the photographer captured the decisive moment. I was completely caught up in it – the happy self-confidence of the young woman’s stride, and the varied expressions on each face. My mind filled with “stories” that picture could tell! But then I saw the word “iconic” and I just wanted to scream.

Iconic? Why????

I put the word “iconic” into my search engine and found iconic motorcycles, iconic desks, iconic songs, books, dresses, hairstyles. Every single thing in the world can not be iconic! 

I went into the bedroom where John was doing his morning stretches. I leaned against the doorway, “Say three words.”

“Huh?”

“Just say any three words that come to your mind.” I urged him, “Nouns.”

My sweet husband just gave me one of those looks and shook his head and laughed, “Okay…uh, kickballs, clothespins and chainsaws.”

I returned to my computer.

There were no iconic chainsaws, although right away I found a “iconic scene” from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I couldn’t find an iconic clothespin, however there  is a so-called iconic sculpture of a clothespin  near the city hall in Philadelphia.

But there was no sign of iconic kickballs.  Hmmm, it’s probably just a matter of time.


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The Prodigal Crab

It was five A.M. I headed toward my magic chair for quiet time.  Pale first light came through the window, and there was a little shimmer from the aquarium.  Our new carpet felt wonderful on my bare feet.  And then I saw a small dark something on the carpet in the middle of the room. I reached to pick it up, rejoicing in how easy it is to keep this new carpet clean. 

The thing wriggled in my hand – something scaly or crusty! I screamed and threw it back onto the floor with some force!  I ran across the room to get a tissue to pick it up, and as I turned I saw that it was trying to scurry for cover. I had an awful idea what it was. Yesterday we had our regular yard spraying for fleas and assorted bugs, and I was pretty sure one of those horrible black oriental water bugs had sought refuge in our house. 

I shuddered as I headed toward the bathroom with the wadded up tissue. I’d give the creepy creature a one way cruise! Then I glanced down at the tissue and saw a small claw sticking out. A claw? I was dumfounded. I opened the tissue; and there was Arthur Fiedler, our cute little fiddler crab!  Somehow he had gotten out of the aquarium.

I ran into the kitchen and filled a drinking glass with water and dumped the little guy in.  There was no room for him to do his customary sideways shuffle, but he tried.  He ended up going around in circles. He seemed to be rehydrating. I was relieved to see lots of little bubbles coming from his nose or mouth or gills or whatever fiddler crabs breathe with. He was going to be okay.

But his fiddle claw had become detached and lay forlornly in the tissue. 

After a few minutes he seemed as if he’d like to be active if he wasn’t so confined.  I took him over to the aquarium and opened the top and gave him a gentle waterfall ride home.

Home. 

Why in the world had Arthur run away from home?  A fiddler crab the size of a nickel in a 60 gallon aquarium. Such freedom of wide open spaces! He has a lovely little fiberglass castle to live under, and a beautiful Greek Pavilion where he likes to hang out. Every morning abundant food rains down from heaven – so to speak. He has his friend, Nat King Crab, and eleven peaceful tropical fish for company. I hope they will still maintain peaceful relations with  the poor little clawless crab.  (I wonder if Fiddler crabs grow new claws?)

Consequences. 

There are always consequences when we are determined to be willful and go our own way.  We’ll hope Arthur’s claw grows back, and that he remembers the lesson of the dry brown carpet on the other side of the fence.

I’ve seen this parable before.  It’s the story of Gypsy, the dog in Vanuken’s A Severe Mercy.  I saw it with our desert tortoise, Shelly, who went through an escape artist stint. I’ve read about it in the Gospels and, alas, I’ve seen it in my own life. 

I’ve learned that there’s restoration, and there’s grace…but the bottom line is, there’s no place like home!

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:3-4

Arthur Fiedler, in happier times, standing on the rock.