Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!

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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.”



John’s Famous Super Secret Chinese Fried Walnuts

When my sister, Patti Ann, gave us a wok as a wedding gift 27 years ago, I don’t think any of us imagined that it would be used primarily to fry walnuts.  But yes, we have made over 200 pounds of what we call John’s Famous Super Secret Chinese Fried Walnuts!

It’s not really a super secret recipe, and it’s probably not really Chinese; but the walnuts are fried and they get more famous every year. 

John and I give fancy jars of them to co-workers, friends, and family – and everybody just raves about them.  A couple of people even save their jars and return them for refills in early December the following year.

It’s a big job – I won’t kid you.  Last Saturday it took John and me five hours to make 18 pounds. Both of us were working together pretty much without stopping.

But it was so much fun!  We had the espresso machine going full blast, and Christmas music as loud as it would go. We were dancing in our hearts, but we refrained from actually dancing around our small kitchen, since there are pots of water boiling and a wok full of oil bubbling the entire time. 

This is what you’ll need for one batch. 

4 cups walnut halves (This is about a pound of raw walnuts)

½ cup sugar

at least 2” of canola oil in the bottom of your wok


a wok

a large sauce pan (or two)

A big plastic bowl with a tight-fitting lid

2 large colanders or strainers. (One will be used for water and one will be used for oil – you can’t mix them.  You will want to set the oil colander on a pie pan to catch drips. )

You will also need several sheets of waxed paperBring 6 cups of water to a boil in the saucepan. 

While the water is coming to a boil, lay long sheets of waxed paper on the table and measure out your four cups of nuts.

When the water is boiling, add the nuts.

Let the water return to a boil and then boil the nuts at a rolling boil for 5 minutes  Use a timer.

Meanwhile measure out your ½ cup of sugar and begin to let the oil heat in the wok.

After boiling 5 minutes drain the nuts in one of the colanders in the sink. Rinse them with hot running water and shake off excess water.

Dump the wet nuts from the colander into the big bowl. Add the sugar. Put on the lid and shake it well to coat the wet nuts with sugar.

Carefully pour the wet, sugared nuts into the oil in the wok.  Be careful. If the oil is too hot or the nuts are too wet it will cause scary, excessive bubbling. We have never had it bubble over but we’ve come close a few times.

Deep fry the nuts for about 7 minutes till they are golden brown. Stir with a slotted spoon from time to time.

(If you are making more than one batch of nuts, you should be heating your next pot of water and measuring your next four cups of walnuts and sugar at this time.  You can use the same oil for as many as five batches, but then you’ll have to dump it out and put fresh oil in the wok.

When about 7 minutes has passed and your nuts are a dark golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon to the other colander. It should be setting on the metal pie pan or plate to catch dripping oil.

Pour the fried walnuts onto the waxed paper and separate them immediately. They have a tendency to stick together as they cool.

Salt immediately.

Be imaginative and think of something fun to do as you allow the nuts to cool COMPLETELY on the waxed paper.


Christmas Card Prayers

I always stick our Christmas cards up on the dining room wall with sticky-tac or poster putty. They’re one of my favourite decorations!

One Christmas season about twenty years ago John was looking at them and he noticed one he hadn’t seen yet.

“I didn’t know we got a card from these guys…” He was so happy to see it!

He began to wander along the wall, looking at other cards; and we realized he had missed several Christmas greetings.  How sad!

So a new Paladini tradition was birthed.

When the Christmas cards come in the mail I don’t open them. I save them till dinnertime, and set one or two by each plate as I set the table. I go “clockwise” around the table, divvying them out.

Some days we only get one or two in the mail, but at the height of the Christmas season we might have IMG_2925several by each plate.

After dinner we stay at the table, and take turns opening our cards and reading them out loud.  We pass around enclosed pictures and read the enclosed newsletters.  And then whoever opened that card prays aloud for the person or family who sent it.

We’ve found that it’s a sweet and really meaningful way to stay connected as a family – and it’s a good way to feel connected to our extended family and friends.

But as I say that, I realize we’re already feeling pretty well connected with most of the people who are dear to us.  There’s much to be said for e-mail and cheap phone calls and facebook.

Things are changing.

And as far as that goes, things are changing in our little empty nest too! This year it will just be John and I gathered around the table reading Christmas cards aloud. But we’re looking forward to it and I have my new package of sticky-tac ready to go!


Our Christmas Tree Burl Chain

We call it our Christmas Tree Burl Ornament, but we should call it our Christmas tree memory chain.

I got the idea from a Mother Earth Magazine the first year we were married. Mother Earth: I guess that’s how the burl idea got planted and rooted so firmly in my mind. (okay – no more puns in this post. I promise.)

The dictionary says a burl is “a hard, woody rounded deformity in a tree, often due to an injury to the bark.” (Think burlwood coffee tables and decoupage art…Mother Earth…) Our “burls” are just slices of tree trunk.

John slices a circle from the trunk of our Christmas tree when he levels it to put it in the stand. And then we store it away to dry completely. (The burl, not the tree.)

The following year as Christmas approaches we pull out the burl and pictures from the previous year. I glue a picture from that Christmas on each flat side of the circle. We usually put a picture of the kids on one side and a picture of John and me on the other. Then we put an eye-screw in the top and the bottom of the circle, and connect them with fishing swivels.

Now, after twenty-eight years, we have a long chain of Christmas burls. Hanging down both sides of the doorway between the dining room and living room, the circles range from two inches in diameter to the size of a dessert plate. The smallest burl has a picture of chubby cheeked toddlers, reminding us of the reason we had such a tiny tree set high up on a table. The one with the biggest diameter pictures mighty hunter children who went in search of “…the tallest tree we can find – one that touches the ceiling!”

One of the pictures shows our oldest son, Matthew cutting down the pine tree that grew too big for our front yard. And the burl is from that same tree. One of them shows the kids in Christmas pageant outfits, and one of them pictures three very pale sick kids…

“This was the year such-and-such happened…”  We gather around and look at the pictures and turn them over and remembe all the Christmases past.

Our Christmas Tree Burl Chain heralds the season. It’s the first ornament I hang up at Christmastime, and I believe today is the day!

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New Technology Leading to a Slippery Slope: Butter Night Part 1

 Throughout most of our kids’ growing up years we didn’t have television.  I like to think that’s part of the reason they grew up to be such bookworms. We liked to play games, but reading was our main family entertainment.  

However…the kids sure made the most of TV when we went to visit friends or relatives!

And, I must confess, I found myself paying rapt attention to things like commercials with dancing raisins! (Important, fascinating things.) I remember thinking it was as much for my own good as for my children’s that we didn’t have a TV.  How easy it would be for me to get sucked into watching things I didn’t really care about!

There were some good programs for sure – but so much junk.  John and I agreed that, for the most part, TV was a time-waster; and not worth the time wasted

Sometimes John said he wished we had a TV…so we could stop watching it and have more time.

 Then the early eighties brought The VCR, and the whole new concept of being able to choose what to watch on a television set. Video stores began to open up around town. 

 Our firm resolve was a little shaken.

 It would be fun to watch movies at home… I sort of vacillated on the whole idea. If we did have a television we could actually make choices about what to watch. We wouldn’t be limited to the networks and HBO.  But most of the time we really didn’t want one.

 And then, one fateful day, a friend got a new TV and offered us his old set.  We were pretty excited, truth be told, but I insisted we keep it stored in the garage except when we were going to watch a movie.

 In those days, you could rent a VCR player at most video stores, so it was very easy to watch movies right in the comfort of your own home! 

 All we had to do was carry the eighty pound television set in from the garage, and find someplace to set it up; and then drive to the video store and rent VCR player and a movie.

It seemed as if the Paladini family was poised on the brink of high technology.  Oh how I resisted!  I wanted my children to keep their love of reading. 

I wanted them to love old fashioned values… 

Old fashioned!  I had a brain storm!

We could have a special yearly movie night, and make butter for our Thanksgiving dinner!  We could shake the cream in quart jars just like the first Pilgrims did. That way my children would learn how cream turns into butter, and we could watch a movie at the same time! (“And not be wasting time sitting vacantly in front of the boob tube!” I added self-righteously to myself.)

Thus was born Butter Night!


Next post…Butter Night…the slippery slope continues…


Family Reading – One More Chapter

Books are one of the main ingredients in The Paladini Potpie. Every one of us love to read. We all read all the time.

When the kids were little, we had family reading time almost every night. As soon as the dishes were done we would hurry into the living room and John would read out loud to us. 

I know it sounds like a corny scene from The Waltons…but to be honest, I don’t know.  We never watched The Waltons or even Little House on the Prairie because we didn’t have television.

We agreed with Groucho Marx, who said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Corny though it may be, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything!

John would sit in his chair and one of the kids would bring our book over to him. John would surreptitiously flip the book upside down and begin to utter nonsense words in a sonorous reading voice.  The kids would scream with laughter and run across the room to snatch the book from him and turn it right-side-up. 

I wish I has a picture of it, but I wasn’t as camera-crazy then as I am now.  But it’s firmly locked in my memory since I think I witnessed the scene more than a hundred times over the years.

John read aloud and the rest of us listened. Sometimes the kids played with beads or we made those little woven potholders or knitted. Sometimes we just sat and listened.  They were golden hours.

One More Chapter, our family business has grown out of those years of reading together.  As we state on our web site:  “When it was time to put the book away, and put the children to bed, a chorus of “ONE MORE CHAPTER!” was their impassioned plea.  Every book lover has experienced that same dilemma – sleep or read? Oh well, maybe just One More Chapter!”

We started reading to Matthew when he was little, but it didn’t occur to us to keep track of the books we read until years later.  Some of the books in this list are repeats of those we read to Matthew when he was younger, and he enjoyed them just as much when he heard them the second time.


Paladini Family Book List – Beginning in 1990 –

Matthew was 12 and Monica was 4 and David was 2.

“Little House” Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (series of 8 books)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Chronicles of Narnia (series of 7 books)

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

(*The real book number 1 in the series)

Prince Caspian by CS Lewis

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis

The Silver Chair by CS Lewis

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis

The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis

The Last Battle by CS Lewis

Heidi by JoAnn Spyri

The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett

Dangerous Journey (children’s adaptation of Pilgrim’s Progress)

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

Little Women by Luisa May Alcott

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton

The Borrowers Aloft by Mary Norton

The Borrowers Avenged by Mary Norton

Elsie’s Holidays by Martha Finley

The Helen Keller Story by Catherine Owens Peare

Pilgrim’s Progress adaptation by James H Thomas

Elsie’s Girlhood by Martha Finley

Elsie’s Womanhood by Martha Finley

The Baronet’s Song by George MacDonald

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

Pilgrim’s Progress in today’s English By John Bunyon (James H Thomas)

Passport to Life City (a modern pilgrim’s progress) by Sherwood Eliot Wirt

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis (Repeat)

Prince Caspian by CS Lewis (Repeat)

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis (Repeat)

The Silver Chair by CS Lewis (Repeat)

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis (Repeat)

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot

The Robe by Lloyd C Douglas 

The Magiacian’s Nephew by CS Lewis (Repeat)  

The Last Battle by CS Lewis (Repeat)

The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson

Elsie’s Motherhood by Martha Findley

The Yearling  by Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings

 A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall

Christy by Catherine Marshall

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis

The Year of the Dream by Jane Collier

The Dawn of a Tomorrow by Frances Hodgeson Burnett

The Persecutor by Sergei Kourdakov

The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C Douglas

January 1998

Shane by Jack Warne

That Reminds Me of a Story by Gale D Erwin

George Muller by Basil Miller

Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards

An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

Harvest by Chuck Smith

By the Great Horn Spoon!  by Sid Fleischman

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple  by Karen Cushman

God Happened to be in the Neighborhood by Ken Jones

The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk by Carolyn Keene

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard (Repeat)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

January 1999

Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott

No Graven Images by Elisabeth Elliot

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Rip Van Winkle byWashingtonIrving

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein

Little Goodie Two Shoes by Oliver Goldsmith

Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

The Cat of Bubastes by GA Henty

I Thought my Soul Would Rise and Fly Away  (DearAmerica)

Diary of a Freed Slave Girl (DearAmerica)

Across the Wide Prairie (DearAmerica)

The Winter of Red Snow (DearAmerica)

Titanic Girl (DearAmerica)

January 2000

Riders of the Silver Rim Brock and Bodie Thoene

With Lee In Virginia G.A. Henty

David Livingstone – Foe of Darkness Jeanette Eaton

Across Five Aprils – Irene Hunt

Journal of Sean Sullivan – (DearAmerica Series)

Joni – Joni Earekson Tada

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Girl of the Limberlost – Gene Stratton Porter

January 2001

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti

The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkein







Books on tape we have listened to in the car as we did errands or went on vacation trips

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates  by Mary Mapes Dodge

Left Behind Series books 1-4

Exodus by Leon Uris

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck

Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter

The Fellowship of the Ring JRR Tolkien

The Two Towers JRR Tolkien

Return of the King JRR Tolkien

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In another post I’ll tell you about our newest adventure: One More Chapter Publishing.