Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!

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Wedding Week Wanderings

When I got up this morning and thought about the exciting, busy week we’re heading into, I was tempted to “hit the deck running”.   But then I remembered my tendency to be like Martha and get too busy to enjoy the moment.

I’ve heard a quote by Martin Luther…something like, “I pray for two hours every morning except when I’m really busy. Then I pray for three.”

I’m not nearly as noble as Martin Luther, but I did spend some time in my magic chair this morning, and then Simon and I headed out for our morning stroll. I made an encouraging joke to myself: “Some morning prayer and a morning stroll – good for the body and good for the soul!” And it was good – so good.

As Simon and I walked along, I thought about my beautiful daughter, who will be getting married in just a few days. What delight she has brought us! I thanked God for Dan, her fiancé, who seems to have been made to order. And I prayed for their life together.

A few wedding details and questions shoved their way to the front of my mind, and with a deliberate effort I moved them aside and asked the Lord to remind me of them when I got home and had a pencil and paper in front of me.

As I walked, I thought about Dan’s family, who will be flying in from Maryland soon. I thanked God for keeping them all safe as “Hurricane Irene” swept through their neighborhood over the weekend.

I thought about my sister from Texas. How good it will be to see her and the rest of our extended family!

I started to mentally count the out-of-town guests who will be coming, and I lost track at around 40. I decided to go through the list again and say a prayer for each of them…and I did that for awhile; but then I started to wonder who would be eating at our house and when…and if we had enough sandwich stuff. And this and that and this and that.

 And I still have not decided which shoes “the mother of the bride” is going to wear. And I need to make an appointment to get my nails done, and … It’s a good thing Simon knows our walking route because my mind was a million miles away running hither and yon – praying one minute and planning the next.

I’m so excited I can’t stand it! There’s hardly anything I like better than having a big bustling houseful of people and feeding them and making them comfortable. In the last few days my crock pot has had a work-out like it never has before! We’re going to have a couple of big meals before the wedding is actually here. We’ll have hamburgers and grill some chicken, but I’m also planning to have pasta shuta, and pulled pork, and refried beans.

Fortunately John has been a voice of sanity, insisting that we can buy tortillas instead of making them.

And John – my precious husband! I need to remember that our own wedding anniversary is right in the middle of all this other wonderful craziness.

I hope we have time to play some games while everyone is here. And I was just thinking about Ethan and Angelina. (Their  mommy, Sarah, is dating our Matthew so I call them my someday grandkids.) We’ll have to think about something fun to do when they visit us on Friday while Sarah and Matthew go to the bachelor and bachelorette parties.

So here I am, writing a blog post – forcing myself to relax and still my mind. Every once in a while I just let out a scream ’cause there’s so much to think about, but more often I laugh out loud. It’s all so much fun! 

I have a growing to-do list here beside the computer, but shoot – we still have more than 150 hours before the wedding!


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Spiladini 3: Orange and Black Victory

There was a high pitch of excitement in the Paladini home – and all across Central California! It was October of 2010, and it looked like the Giants would be going to the playoffs! Against all odds.

We proudly wore our Orange and Black. When Monica and Dan talked on the phone they often debated the relative merits of their two Orange and Black teams. Dan is an avid and knowledgeable fan of all sports, but especially and most adamantly, of the Baltimore Orioles. Indeed, as Monica had told me years earlier, that was one of the reasons they would probably never “get together” – he loved the Orioles and she loved the Giants. That, and the fact that Dan was determined to live in Maryland and Monica never wanted to live anywhere except California.

It had been almost two years since their date to New York City. They had both dated several other people, but the friendship between them was deepening, and the phone calls were more frequent.

But he was still “Dan Spilman, my friend from Pensacola” – someone only marginally connected to our family. Now as I look back in my mommy archives I can clearly remember the afternoon that all changed and Dan took on more solid dimensions.

Monica had received two bouquets of flowers for her birthday that morning. The first one, gorgeous red roses, had a note that said “Happy Birthday, from your Secret Admirer”.

We stood there trying to figure out who they were from… Monica had a lot of guy friends. At first we were pretty sure they were from someone I’ll call “Joe”, but when the second bouquet arrived “Joe” had signed it. Back to square one: Who was her Secret Admirer?

We were talking about it as we did errands later that afternoon. We were driving to the car wash when Monica suddenly said, “I think they’re from Dan Spilman!  On the envelope of the card it said ‘Monica Bee’ and Dan’s the only one who calls me ‘Monica Bee’ except for our family.”

As if on cue, Monica’s cell phone rang and the caller was Dan. He said he had called to wish her Happy Birthday.

I drove and listened as Monica tried to get him to admit he had sent the roses. We kept grinning at each other while Dan, on the speaker phone, disavowed any knowledge of the bouquet. But it was clear to us that they were from him.

Besides calling to wish Monica happy birthday, Dan said he was calling to see if he could come and visit her. He was planning to come out to California on a business trip and he said he’d like to come and see her and meet her family. I told Monica we could fix up a bedroom for him in the office.

A few weeks later Dan arrived. And with the help of windmills on the altamont, taco truck burritos, family Scrabble games, the Giants winning the World Series, and the exciting  victory parade…they fell in love.

The Maryland boy found himself caught up in the thrill of Giants’ fever, and he fell in love with the California Girl, and with California into the bargain. It was fun to watch it happen right under our very noses.

When Dan left a week later Monica asked if we could invite him to have Christmas with us, and we did.

Dan brought his laptop and telecommuted while he was with us. Sometimes he took his laptop to the restaurant and worked while Monica did her shift. A hard-working, honorable young man  — the more we got to know him the more we liked him.

Monica bloomed and John and I smiled. It seemed that our 24 year old daughter, who had sworn she was destined to be single all her life, had met her match. We always prayed for our children and prayed for whoever they might grow up and fall in love with. It seemed that once again, God had proved faithful!

The huge extended Paladini family gathered at our house for Christmas, and Dan won all of their hearts. We had friends over for New Year’s Eve and they all loved him too.

And then, the next day, on January first he came into the kitchen, where John and I were sitting at the table. He sat down and asked if he could talk with us. After a few minutes of general, pleasant conversation he came to the point. Would it be alright with us if he asked Monica to marry him?

To be continued (but not on this blog)


Spiladini II – The Love Story Continues

Monica was at college in Virginia, and since she would be graduating and coming home in December, she decided to stay back there for Thanksgiving. We were having a long phone conversation about our family holiday plans.

“I’ll spend Thanksgiving with Uncle Mark and Aunt Tracy in Virginia Beach,” she told me, “and then the weekend after Thanksgiving I’m going to go home with Brittany. And mom – guess what…?!”

She went on to tell me that she had been talking on the phone with Dan. (“You remember Dan Spilman. I met him at Pensacola.”) As usual, they were having a long discussion about politics, morals and ideology, when Brittany happened to walk by. Monica said suddenly it struck her – “Dan, exactly where do you live?”

And it just “so happened” that Mr. Dan Spilman lived only 20 minutes from Monica’s friend and hall-mate, Brittany.

She rode four hours home with Brittany that weekend, and Dan met her in the driveway for their first hug ever. She says they spent a “memorable evening of charades, ping-pong and movies” with Brittany’s family. That night Dan promised that if they were ever both single, someday he would take Monica on a real date.

A year later, in January 2009, they had that date. Monica flew back out to Virginia to visit her old friends from college, and her Aunt and Uncle in Virginia Beach. She borrowed her Uncle and Aunt’s hybrid and “swung by” University of Maryland, where Dan was attending Architecture School.

Bright and early the next morning, Dan and Monica drove four more hours and arrived in New York City. In one day, they saw almost every major landmark from Central Park, to the Statue of Liberty.

California girl, Monica, says she learned a new definition of the word “cold”…and they exchanged a “first kiss”…and their friendship began to warm.


Spiladini: Monica and Dan’s Love Story

“Bruno?  Can you see me?  I’m right here by the Southwest counter.”  John was coaching Monica on their elaborate ploy to make it appear that our 15 year old was not traveling across the country alone.

Monica was to walk around the airport talking into the dead cell phone, ostensibly staying in contact with her big, burly, tough, powerful, bodyguard. Eight years ago cell phones were still pretty rare – at least in the Paladini world.  Someone had given our kids an old one to play with, and we were all enjoying the novelty of it.

Speaking with Bruno on the cell phone was all in fun, of course, but we were seriously a bit cautious about our little girl traveling to Florida alone. She was going to Pensacola Christian Collegefor a two-week speech and drama camp. She had made the trip the previous summer, traveling with a friend, but now she was going by herself – except for the imaginary Bruno.  We made her promise to call us (on a real phone) at each stage of the journey, and we reminded her that we’d be praying for her.

We didn’t want any “bad men” to grab her; little did we know that she would be grabbed by a “good man” – but I’m getting ahead of myself.  That part of the story would not happen until eight years later.

Monica came home from Florida full of stories of the fun things she had learned, the new friends she had met and the old friends she had reconnected with.    

There were so many names of kids, and they were from all over the country.  It was hard to keep them straight in my mind. I don’t think Dan Spilman even made a blip on my parental radar – yet.  But I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Monica didn’t go back to Pensacola, but her network of friends was set. Over the next few years we had visits from several of them and Monica went to visit their homes as well.  Every once in a great while she’d have a long phone conversation with Dan Spilman, taking advantage of the “free nights and weekends” on my old sea-green Nokia brick. She always had to prompt my memory: “You remember Dan Spilman – I met him at Pensacola. He lives in Maryland.”

There was no particular reason to remember Dan in those days, so again and again, Monica reminded me of who he was; and told me he was really nice. They had a lot in common, but Dan was a true-blue east coast boy and would never leave Maryland. And Monica was determined to live and die “a California girl”. Besides, Dan was a rabid Orioles fan and Monica loved the Giants. There wasn’t much potential for a relationship.

However they did make a plan that if the day ever came when both of them happened to be “single” (not dating anyone) they would get together and go on a date.  

And over the years Dan told Monica from time to time that he was going to marry her someday…to which Monica laughingly and noncommitally agreed. 

  To be continued

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D.C. Diatribe

I stood at the Lincoln Memorial, rooted in place.  The reason I was rooted in place is because my feet were stuck to the marble floor by about four layers of spilled soda, and who-knows-what-else. 

It was a far cry from the shining monument Mr. Smith visited when he went to Washington. It was even a far cry from the Lincoln Memorial our family visited on Monica’s eighth grade school trip.

As I stood there facing President Lincoln I had to struggle not to cry. I was overcome by a wave of desolation and hopelessness.

I don’t base my hope on the government or Washington D.C. — Of course I don’t! But I had been looking forward to a patriotic “shot in the arm”.   All my life, my heart has lifted at the sight of our flag waving, or the sound of our national anthem being well sung or played. 

I had told Monica and Dan that I didn’t really care what kind of “touristy” things we did while we were in Maryland– it would all be fun! But the one thing I really did want to do was go to Washington D.C.  I didn’t want to tour the Smithsonian Museums because I knew there wouldn’t be time to do them justice.  I just wanted to walk around D.C and bask in the greatness of our heritage.

We did walk around D.C.  Oh yes we did!  Dan retraced our steps later on Google Maps and we walked more than seven miles around the city that afternoon. 

And speaking of walking, as we walked along I kept sort of tripping on the brick pavement.  After I had stumbled three or four times my family began to look at me askance.  Then John tripped. Then Monica.  Then we saw a man prying up bricks.  He might have been hiding a geocache, but he looked more as though he was searching for spare change.  At any rate, we finally understood that we were tripping, not so much because we’re clumsy, but because the bricks get pulled up, and then they are  not set precisely back in place.

For the most part, it was a fun day. There were great high points like the well-maintained Viet Nam Memorial and the beautiful new World War II Memorial. But the National Mall, and surrounding areas, felt like an inner city slum.  It broke my heart. 

As I looked at all the tourists from other countries I wondered what they must be thinking. 

The grass was brown and dying.  We had visited Gettysburg National Park a few days earlier and the grass was luscious and green. We went to several neighborhood parks in Maryland and the grass was rich and beautiful. The Spilmans’ own yard had a lovely lawn. But the grass on our National Mall was sparse and brown.

We stopped at a public restroom, and – not to get too graphic – it was dirtier than the worst gas station restroom I have ever been in. There was no toilet paper in any of the stalls and no paper towels, except those littering the floor. (This was the case in both the men’s and women’s rest rooms.)

Now desolation vied in my heart with anger. If there is any place in our country that should be well-cared-for, it should be our Nation’s Capitol.

Perspective returned to me as we crossed the river to the Jefferson Memorial. The grass was greener and the memorial cleaner.  My heart rose as I looked up at the statue of the man who penned so many of the great words of our American heritage. 

On the wall of The Jefferson Monument I read “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” 

America was founded on great and godly principles, and I’ve come home determined to pray for our country and our leaders; and to do what I can to work toward a return to those principles.


Mrs. Spilman’s Crab Cakes

The T-shirt had a picture of the cutest little crab in the world, but it said “I’m crabby. Leave me alone!”  I usually don’t like to see kids wearing shirts that say things like that. I never, in all my born days, thought I’d be buying such a T-shirt. But there I was – the quintessential grandma – at the counter of the Baltimore gift shop buying, not one, but three of them!

One was for baby, Nathan, and a couple for Ethan and Angelina, who will hopefully be my grandchildren someday. (Their beautiful mommy is dating Matthew.)

I promised myself that I would tell the kids the shirts are not a license to be crabby. But they seemed like the perfect souvenir of our trip.

Marylanders love crab!

I think every restaurant in the Baltimore area serves crab in one form or another. Crab chowder, crab salad, or just plain crab. I didn’t actually see “crab legs and eggs”, but I’m pretty sure it must be served somewhere!

The Chesapeake Burger, or some other version of a crab cake on a bun, was on every hamburger menu right there along with the grilled chicken burger.
I was in heaven!

One high point of our visit was when Dan went to the drive-up seafood store and bought a half  bushel of deliciously cooked, whole crabs.

We piled them on newspaper down the length of the picnic table…What a feast!

But the crabby delight didn’t end with that! All week there was a little undercurrent of anticipation because Mrs. Spilman had promised to make crab cakes on her day off. I was really excited about that, since I’d been wanting a good recipe for those delectable crustacean creations!

And I wasn’t disappointed. Mrs. Spilman’s crab cakes were the best I have ever eaten. I appreciate her sharing the recipe with me, and thanks to Robin for taking all the great pictures of the preparation.

Mrs. Spilman’s Crab Cakes

3 cups (1 lb) cooked crab (canned crab works fine.)

1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs

2 Tbsp. mayonaise

1/4 cup diced green pepper

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

2 Tbsp. snipped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

3/4 tsp. salt

1 egg

ground black pepper to taste

about 3 Tbsp. butter

Mrs. Spilman had planned to use any leftover crab from our crab feed, but since there was not so much as a scrap or claw left, she used the canned variety.

Shred the crab meat into fine pieces

(You may notice that the large bowl Mrs. Spilman uses to mix her crab cakes is the very same bowl we used for the game of  celebrities.)

Add all the other ingredients except butter.

Mix well.

Divide mixture into eight portions, and shape into patties. (Mrs. Spilman made a double recipe on this occasion)

Melt the butter in frying pan and begin to fry the cakes when the butter is hot.

Flatten the cakes with the back of the spatula as they cook. Fry until nicely browned and crisp.

Mrs. Spilman served her crab cakes with delicious fresh summer vegetables.

The recipe for Mrs. Spilman’s Crab Cakes is featured in our new Paper Cookbook. You may order yours with the link at the bottom of this page.

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Celebrities – The Sauce Thickens!

If we’d had any doubts about how the Spilman family would blend with the Paladini family they would have been banished in our first moments of conversation!  Soon after our arrival we all set about planning which nights of our stay would be best for playing games! Yippee!

And play games we did!  In the week we spent with the Spilmans, I think at least eight hours were devoted to playing games with the whole family. 

We love games! They’re the best ice-breakers.  When you play games you can get to know people far beyond what the first careful conversations might show.  John says, “The ham comes out.” And that’s true, but it’s more than that.  Interests and personalities come to the surface, and we forget to be self-conscious.

The Spilmans introduced us to a great board game called Buzzwords, and we taught them the old Paladini standby, Celebrities

At this point I need to thank Mark and Tracy for bringing Celebrities into the family more than a dozen years ago. It’s been, by far, the most played game in our house! (except, of course, for Scrabble)

It’s a game our kids grew up with. At every family gathering, birthday party, or evening when we had a houseful of kids, Celebrities was the game of choice.  (I’d be very interested to know how many people reading this post, are tracking with me right now, and laughing at some Celebrity memory.)

Each player has about ten slips of paper and he writes a name on each slip.  It should be the name of somebody that most…or many…or some…of the other players are familiar with. It can be a famous living person or a famous historical figure. It can be someone from the bible, or a character from a book or a movie or the comics…and so on. 

There are always duplicates and that’s okay.

In our games with the Spilmans, just for the fun of it, some of the players gave a nod to Dan, an architect, by putting in the name of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Florence Nightingale and Clara Barker also appeared, in honor of Dan’s mom, who is an R.N.  Dan’s brother David, a cooking and food aficionado, immediately knew Wolfgang Puck and Julia Child. And there were even a number of famous CPA’s and accountants, to the gratification of Dan’s dad, a CPA. 

Walt Disney, Thomas Jefferson and Billy Graham were right in the mix with Clay Aiken, Lady Gaga and half a dozen other popular current singers and movies actors I’ve already forgotten.

All the names of all the “celebrities” are piled together in one big bowl and mixed thoroughly.

We played the game twice while we were with the Spilmans – one afternoon, on their screened-in back porch; and one evening in their big homey living room.

The Spilmans have a wonderful place – large welcoming rooms in a big rambling house.  John and I had a huge bedroom that looked out onto about three acres of lawn, edged with woods.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven!  They have family antiques in daily use throughout the house, and just about everything has a story

On the screened-in porch we were serenaded by cicadas, and joined by Hope and Shoe, the big Spilman dogs.

We divided into two teams.  And as we usually do when we play games with a large group, we divided the teams into “girls VS boys” – the G team and the B team

The fun thing about intergenerational Celebrities, is that someone on the team is likely to know any name that comes up. The younger generation girls had no idea who Patsy Cline and Jack Parr were, but Mrs. Spilman and I knew.  And the younger generation introduced us to famous celebrities I have since forgotten.

The game is played in three rounds. 

In round one, a member of Team G stands up and pulls a small handful of names from the bowl.  A player for Team B has a timer.  (In the case of our Spiladini Celebrities, the timer was Monica’s i-phone, set to make the quacking of a duck when the time was up.)

The team G player has one minute to get her fellow players to name the person on the slip in her hand. She can say anything she wants. She can sing, or act it out – whatever it takes to get her fellow players to call out the name on the paper.

The only thing she can’t do, is say any part of the celebrity’s name that is written.

When the correct name is called out she drops the slip of paper on the floor, and goes to the next. The idea is to get through a lot of slips of paper in one turn. You have one minute to get through as many slips of paper as you can.

And then Team B sends in their player to start the guessing while Team G times him.

And so it alternates – girls, boys, girls, boys – until the bowl is empty.  One player from each team collects the slips during the course of the round, and at the end of the round they are counted.

And then they are all returned to the bowl.  Yes, all the same names again.

Round Two continues in much the same way, but in round two players are only allowed to say TWO WORDS.  They can act. They can hum the two words in a tune reminiscent of the celebrity. (Think “Batman Theme Song”)  They can repeat the two words as many times as they need to. But they can only utter Two Words. 

There is no passing.  If you don’t know who the celebrity is, you just have to do your best to get your teammates to come up with the name.  Point to something brown in the room, for example, if the celebrity is John Brown, (whose body lay a moldin’ in the grave) …and point to Mr. Spilman if the celebrity is Josiah Wedgewood (CPA “father” of cost-accounting).

Again, when the bowl is empty, the slips of paper are tallied and returned to the mix.  By now the players are familiar with the names in the bowl.  And that’s a good thing… 

…because in round three there is no talking or singing or humming at all.  We’re into pure charades. (In the picture above you see Dan illustrating a Lion, as he tries t0 get his team to come up with the name of C.S. Lewis.)

I won’t say whether Team G or Team B won the day in the Spiladini Celebrity Games, but I will say that our families became well-bonded in the process!