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January, 2006 | Scuff Productions

snow on jan 31

Bloged in General Home Life,Nature by mark Tuesday January 31, 2006

It has been snowing here for over an hour and turned the deck white. Fun while it lasted (esp for the dog). Still, it was pretty.

Miang Kum

Bloged in food: recipes + dining out by mark Tuesday January 31, 2006

MIANG KUM – Appetizer


36 large, intact leaves of fresh spinach
plum, lime, or tamarind chutney
1/4 cup small dried shrimp (optional)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, cut into small dice
a 2 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 lime, unpeeled and cut into small dice
3/4 cup toasted fresh coconut
3 thai bird or serrano chilies, thinly sliced (with or without seeds)

Cooking Instructions

To make the miang kum, pick up a spinach leaf and add a small dollop of chutney to it. Place a small amount of dried shrimp (optional), peanut, shallot, ginger, lime, coconut, and chilies on top. Wrap the leaf around the filling like a pouch and eat it all in one bite.

You can either place the leaves, the chutney, and all of the condiments out in separate dishes to have your guests put together their own miang kum or you can make the pouches ahead of time. If making ahead, I would suggest putting all of the toppings on the spinach except for the dried shrimp and chilies simply because some people may prefer to not eat these items; put them out in separate dishes. Your guests can add them to their miang kum later if they desire. Keep covered in the refrigerator until serving.

Makes 36 miang kum

****ANOTHER RECIPE (has hints on making the sauce):

Miang Kum is an appetizer of sorts. It is commonly enjoyed as a snack, or as a complement to beer. (Any beverage will do). Miang Kum is normally served on a large platter, with several items, all separated. Basically, one would start with a leaf of spinach or other leafy vegetable, pinch it so that it forms into a small spoon-like shape. Then you would add it shredded dry coconut, red onion, diced lime, peanuts, dry shrimp and maybe a pick kee noo or two. (Pick Kee Noo are those amazing spicy little Thai chilies.) Finally, add in a dollop of sweet sauce and voila! Enjoy.

1 coconut
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced lime (with the rind on)
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup dry shrimp
About 50 leaves of spinach
10 sliced Thai chilies
1/2 cup sliced lemongrass
1/3 cup of shrimp paste
2/3 cup of coconut sugar

Let’s start with the coconut.
Break open the coconut, and remove the meat (it’s the white part- duh!). Then shred it into small thin pieces. Take the shreds and stir them in a hot pan until golden brown. (On medium heat this should take about 20 or so minutes).

Now for the sauce.
Using a small or medium sized pot, heat the sugar until melted. It should form the consistency of syrup. Then add in the shrimp paste. Be sure to add in the shrimp paste when the sugar syrup is boiling, and that to only cook it for a few minutes or else it will burn.

That’s all the cooking. Now here’s how to serve it…
Use several small condiment containers or small saucers. Place each individual ingredient into a saucer of its own. Then using a large platter, place the spinach leaves in the middle, and arrange the saucers around the spinach in a manner that suits your individual aesthetic taste.

How to eat…
Grab a leaf. Fill it with a small portion of each ingredient. Eat. Enjoy. Drink some beer.

wok luk 2006

Bloged in Family,food: recipes + dining out,General Home Life,Scuff Boys by mark Tuesday January 31, 2006

Once again this past weekend, WE were so fortunate as to be one of the folks invited to the Smiths to celebrate the Chinese New Year! The Annual “Wok Luk” experience we’ve described before commenced again this year on Saturday, and I believe we ALL had a fabulous time.

It wasn’t without complications. This was the first time we took a loser of a dish. We saw a minimalist Bittman dish in his new book that sounded simple? “Sweet Rice Flour Dumplings”. We tried it twice at home before the gathering and both times it became a gloppy doughy ball of soggy gluten. Even in an attempt to find better “cooking material” we went to the incomparable mammoth Japanese Supermarket in Beaverton: “Uwajamaya” in case what we cooked would be inedible. We bought some pre-baked small dumplings to substitute if we had to. The RESULT? Rodger at the last minute, wrapped sweetened Cream Chease inside of Won-Ton Wrappers and fried ‘em in the Wok so made a tasty offering while Mark once again tried the Dumplings. In this last attempt though, he made them much smaller than the recipe asked you to do. They turned out just fine.

Here was the Wok Luk table ready for dining:

Before dining begins though, remember, this is a “Cooperative Lunar Celebration of Shared Participation”. This is the two hour dinner preparation effort that everyone takes part in. Chopping, Dicing, Cutting, etc. just to get things READY to cook. Everyone is seated around 6:00, and the appetizer is served while the party preparing the next dish takes her “prepared ingredients” and cooks them up and serves while the next dish is being finished off in the kitchen and so on and so on. A fabulous time is had by all and I’m firmly convinced the 2 hour work time together leads to a truly rich and grand shared dining experience.

Here’s the buzz around the Kitchen Island by 4:30.

Host Baird prepared one of the most fun Appetizers I’ve ever enjoyed. “MIANG KUM” is a Thai appetizer you see below:

One takes a Spinach Leaf and places a tiny bit of every ingredient in the little bowls (shallots, ginger, peppers, dried shrimp, lime, a sweet sauce) then folds up the leaf and in one bite enjoys an explosion of individual flavors melding together. Although cautioned, some of us placed two, not one, hot pepper piece (they were so tiny) on our bite and were sorry for it. Since nothing’s combined until the last minute, the flavors are ALL pronounced.

NOTE: The recipe for Miang Kum has been posted in the Recipes Archive if you’d like to see it.

Here was our Menu for the evening:
Appetizer: Miang Kum
Soup: Bongo Bongo Soup (a delightful oyster soup unlike any you’ve had before. It spends a few minutes under the broiler prior to serving since a light covering of whipped cream has been placed on it)
Main Dishes: Chinese Eggplant with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Mushu Pork with Pancakes
Curry Chicken Dumplings
Snow Pea Tips
Seared Tuna with Red Pepper Sauce
Dessert: Sweet Rice Flour Dumplings
Fried Won Ton Wrappers enclosed around Cream Cheese

Remember: THIS is the Year of the DOG. It is MY year and all attention should be given to me. I believe Rodger disagrees with that outlook.

By the way, on our way to the store that day, just a mile from here in the most obvious little slope about 30 feet off Skyline, we saw two Deer laying down. It was amazing since this spot sees so MUCH traffic and is so close to a main 4-way stop at the crest of the hill. We watched them a minute or so and two hours later on the way home saw them still resting. I suppose they stayed there until dusk. Fun.

It Rains Every Day in Portland

Bloged in General Home Life,Nature by mark Tuesday January 31, 2006

In our weather department, like so many areas around the world (and the born-“again” extremists believe this is how God is bringing on the end, NOT us) we’re having a fairly extreme winter. Last year was balmy, I had mowed the lawn about this time in January last year because it was growing. Our rainfall was miniscule compared what we’re getting now with another inch or so forecast in the next 24 hours. Our lawn right now is 50% moss and where moss isn’t holding it together, some of it is almost destroyed (thanks in part to a young dog and his energy).

Yup, the tree pruning got done, but the very day (the one that was dry) I tried to begin spraying the fruit trees for fungus, blight, etc (this also prevents blackspot, etc on apples), Dad’s trusty 30 years sprayer chose to complain that its joints were needing replacement. Well that “replacement hospital” is a store about 30 miles away. So the dry day was spent driving to get replacement parts and picking up shoes form Cobbler Bills. Wisely, I called Roushdi who was up for a little of the repair pickups and a lunch in between.

We ate at Wong King’s Seafood on Division St and had a fabulous meal. We view this place as the first Chinese Restaurant we’ve eaten at here that truly serves wonderful fresh Chinese food.

On arrival at home, I got the sprayer apart, replaced the joints (gee, sounds like other aging species, eh? Seems like everybody’s living so long now, a knee or hip replacement is likely to happen to lots of people.) and it’s now revived for a second round of life BUT, WHEN will it be dry again for a couple of days so I can get the job done? Whew!
At least there ARE signs of life. Daffodils bulbs are poking up giving hope that changes are on the way.

Yesterday, The Smiths were on the way down into Forest Park and luckily yelled at me to get Mac over there and join them. We walked down Newton Road on a continuous stream of water with the dogs wasting NO time getting muddy. Once in the park, we continued on the fire road seeing puddles 20-30 feet across and up to 18 inches deep. These were treasures for Mac! We repeatedly three heavy wood pieces so he could be told to “get the duck” which he would promptly do. In EVERY place the land may possibly curve into the tiniest ravine, there was running water. This soil cannot hold one more ounce of water. With the wind we’ve had there were lots of spots we saw old rotted trees bowled over, some old rotten trunks over, and even on Newton Road now, there is a LIVE old Cedar Tree at least 60 feet tall that has split in half and the top half crosses over Newton about 30 feet up then lays across other fir trees on the other side. Hm….that’s only a matter of WHEN it will be laying on the roadway. We continued to throw things for Mac as far into the forest as we could, and he continually bounded after them with a look of, I believe, pure ecstasy in his eyes. Ellie, the Bernese Mtn Dog, most often watched from the edge of the road asking, “What’s WRONG with you Mac?” But she DID get jealous of him “having” a stick and they do end up in a kind of tug of war they both enjoy. They DO play so well together. Ellie is a perfect companion dog. The only difference between the two is that Ellie has a mud room to dry out in and the fine coat on a Bernese repels the dirt once its dry. Ellie will be clean within an hour of being home. Mac on the other hand required a hose and soap on OUR return and a little scrub between those webbed feet of his.

Now today I’m just waiting for the rain to begin……….supposed to rain all night once again. Ahead of it, the wind’s just picking up now so we’ll have more loud gusts tonight. Whew.

Yup, Bruce, I guess you’ve been right all along. It rains every day in Portland.

Anways, the young DOG – is beginning a little training too in between rainstorms. He’s now getting choke chain walks to learn to heel and obey simple commands. It is working so far, but still when he’s got a “ball” in his chops, he believe HE is the game master and refuses about any order, request, or plea to obey anything. It IS fun to watch him retrieve.

Mac still has a separation anxiety problem. If you leave, he sometimes works himself into such a state of anxiety that it triggers the, uh, how can I say it, the digestive system to cleanse itself. And on a soggy day! He obviously requires a good steady diet of exercise to keep things in check. 🙁

Stories from the Lake

Bloged in Family,General Home Life by mark Sunday January 15, 2006

We had a pretty fabulous experience Friday night on the 13th, of course. My dear 1st cousin Nancy Minor’s daughter Elissa was featured the mammoth Powell’s Books to read from her new collection of short stories “The Prisoner Pear” as well as do the obligatory book signing.
Elissa has won many writing awards the last few years, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that her book was published. She read one of my favorite stories, and signed books for enough people they had to bring in EXTRA chairs. It was wonderful to see her and musical genius husband Chris, cousin Nancy, hubby Warden, son Jay, Beth and calm blue-eyed baby boy.

Here’s Elissa in typical Oregon Costume (that means the umbrella in case you live somewhere south of here):

And here’s a copy from the Portland Tribune’s Interview with Elissa plus a book sypnosis after. The paper chose Elissa as “Person of the Week”.

A hometown book ties police blotter entries to a string of 12 stories

Generally, the Lake Oswego Review police blotter is gossip fodder for nosy neighbors or to find out which local homes were egged the previous weekend. But 29-year-old Elissa Minor Rust recently used it as inspiration to weave 12 poignant short stories that capture the town’s eccentric beauty and foibles into a collection that is receiving national attention.

With a recent mention in the influential New York Times Sunday Book Review, and a large marketing campaign by publishing company Ohio University Press, Rust’s book, “The Prisoner Pear,” is putting her hometown on the map.

Rust grew up in Boise, Idaho, before moving to Lake Oswego at the age of 13 and attending Lakeridge High School. And, although she was always interested in writing, she never thought about placing Lake Oswego under her creative microscope until she left the Northwest to attend graduate school in Arizona.

“I was totally homesick. I spent a lot of time on the top floor of the library because the air conditioning made it sound like it was raining,” Rust said.

She received her master of fine arts degree in fiction from Arizona State University in 2000, then moved back to Lake Oswego where she got married and now has two children. She has also taught numerous writing classes in Arizona and at Portland Community College.

Rust has been published in Baltimore Review, The Ledge, Crab Creek Review, Carve Magazine, Honolulu Magazine, Peregrine and The Beacon Street Review, but it wasn’t until the New Years’ Day snow and ice storm of 2004 when she found the idea for her first collection of stories.

Rust came across the Lake Oswego Review’s end of the year issue, which listed the annual “Best of the Blotter” entries, featuring some of the city’s strangest and most bizarre occurrences of the past year.

While perusing each blurb, characters began to pop into Rust’s mind.

“I wanted to write stories that had a common link geographically and when I was reading through the paper and then doing research of past additions at the library, I saw all of this potential for stories,” Rust said.

Some of the early reviews of “The Prisoner Pear,” which took about a year to complete, have compared it to Sherwood Anderson’s 1919 classic “Winesburg, Ohio.”

Rust’s tales each begin with the short blotter entry, then the story is woven around the situation. She claims that the inspiration for all but one of the stories came directly from the blotter entry. The end result is a unique look at all areas of Lake Oswego through the eyes of a generally sympathetic and often peculiar group of characters.

The blotter entries themselves feature everything from nude joggers to decapitated parakeets to mysteriously drained fish tanks, all of which were actual phone calls made to the police department in 2003 but it is Rust’s fictionalized characters that give the book its depth.

“I like taking this one tiny moment and then creating the events that led to it. Most of the characters are normal people reacting to bizarre experiences. It’s like sticking characters into a petrie dish and seeing what happens. I think you could pick almost any town in America and write a book like this,” Rust said.

Rust also uses a number of popular Lake Oswego landmarks that anyone who has spent much time in the city will recognize.

“It got tricky sometimes to figure out where the fiction began. I’d write about an area that existed and an actual road but then make up a house and the people who live in it,” Rust said.

The early reviews of Rust’s book have been favorable as the themes that she tackles, particularly class relations, are universal and easy to relate to, even for people who live thousands of miles away from Lake Oswego.
“I hope that the book doesn’t come across as judgmental or as me poking fun at Lake Oswego. I love it here. It’s always felt like home. I’m curious to hear Lake Oswego residents’ reactions,” Rust said.

Rust is currently working on her first novel and has a few readings scheduled, including an upcoming engagement at Powell’s in Portland on Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s exciting. Powell’s is such a landmark and I’m really looking forward to (reading there.) I feel very lucky,” Rust said.

“The Prisoner Pear” can be purchased at most local bookstores and on

And The SYPNOSIS here is actually from the New York Times (The book is on the “Editor’s List” of reccomended books:


Stories From the Lake. By Elissa Minor Rust. (Swallow/Ohio University, $28.95; paper, $16.95.)

Set in the swanky Portland suburb of Lake Oswego, Ore., the 12 stories in Rust’s debut collection evoke a world of material privilege and emotional bankruptcy. Each story begins with a fairly innocuous item taken from the local newspaper’s police blotter: a dead bird found in a mailbox, a naked man running in the park, a vicious cat, an “unknown hairy thing” stuffed in a garbage can. These cryptic, sometimes bizarre little items provide a fitting point of departure for Rust’s fertile imagination. Forget about borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbors; ever wonder what might happen if an infertile couple asked for some sperm? If a woman walked out on her husband and their 2-year-old daughter but took the dog? Eating disorders, divorce, cancer, class envy, postpartum depression, suburban anomie, Volvos with seat warmers: they’re all here in lovely, privileged, unsettling Lake Oswego.


Emilee. She’s moving back to America?

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Sunday January 15, 2006


Is it true? You’re really leaving that beautiful French community of Cesson-Sevigne, France to San Francisco, CA, USA ?

You’re really opening the door to lots of questions you know. Give us some news.

wet oregon jan 2006

Bloged in General Home Life,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Saturday January 14, 2006

With a VERY wet winter continuing here (23 of the last 24 days have rained), it’s not exactly convenient even to walk in the yard. This clay soil has soaked up so much water, it’s almost sponge like to walk on but the grass roots can come up to the top so easily, the dog has created some unintended mud spots not to mention a few “intentional” mud holes. The yard has never looked worse.

Last year’s dry winter made me decide to fertilize for the winter, and that meant the lawn grew all winter and I mowed in January. Based on last years experience, I did NOT fertilize and so now things are sad. It’s been frustrating for a pup to stay in more than he’s used to and he sometimes has to just run the energy off when he’s outside. The good thing is that he’s gotten used to having me wipe off his paws before he comes back in (if he’s really had a good romp). Maybe to help with the boredom, we felt he should have some clothing on, but he really didn’t like wearing underwear:

Just after that pic?

come on now, HE had fun………….this is NOT abuse we promise. But it does say ONE thing. We need a dry day to get out of the house, eh?

We have had wind with some of these storms so branches lay everywhere even though I’ve spent a couple hours cleaning the lawn a few times. One night the wind completely blew off the roof sheeting (just old roofing rolls) from the old decaying woodshed. I tacked it up as best I could, and that lasted another 15 minutes. We know now that shed must be replaced this year. But, in the meantime, it’s full of that great firewood and we do need to keep it dry. We bought a big tarp and got up to replace it only to find that it wasn’t wide enough and the wind was just too strong to get ‘er done. A day later and a bigger tarp went okay but we now look yes, the southerners who never replace the roof, just get bigger thicker tarps every couple of years.

So a new wood/tool shed and painting the house outside are this year’s summer projects.
Winter pruning should begin this week so I hope the weather dries enough so I can start. This year should take 3-4 days to complete.

We believe the big change this winter was brought about by the gift from Roushdi & Eran of a HDTV Receiver which meant we have spent a few “days” in setup, equipment changes, satellite dish install and “alignment” (alignment can literally take hours of fine-tuning), and setting up the required lan-line for the phone from Quest. For us in particular, with so many tall trees around us (and winds this month), getting a consitent signal isn’t always easy.

Quest has been seeking our business for almost a year since we removed the lan-line “believing” we would be better off with two cell phones on one of the many “family” plans all companies offer. We chose Verizon simply because for our address, their reception is the best. That has meant a year of calls being dropped, walking around the house sometimes to find where the signal is “for that hour”…..and then NOT moving when you’re connected to someone on the phone. That was annoying, so we thought coming back to Quest may not be so bad. We haven’t needed “Quest” “SERVICE” in so long, we have not known that customer “service” no longer exists as we knew it.

The Quest installer called as he hooked us up down at the corner but seemed to think the signal wasn’t quite right so came on up and checked things on the outside of the house. I went out to say the signal sounded weak, but he waved me off saying “Things are just fine” while walking away as quick as he could. We found out why he did that the next day. Within ONE day of hooking a Quest lan-line back up (not because we wanted to but because we had to for the HDTV), we called Quest Service to complain that the line noise is terrible and connections almost inaudible. We were told that, no exception, that just to come over to the house would be $90. plus $15 hourly after that to diagnose and fix the problem. That’s the NEW improved Phone Company Service of today? Hooey.
So, we haven’t decided what to do about the cell phone but must in the next few weeks.

The second annoyance from Quest? The same day it was hooked up, we received about four of those electronic automated marketing calls! Yes, the new phone number’s unlisted.

Back to HDTV. High Definition has been thrilling to watch. The number of channels at the moment are so limited I’m not sure I’d have “paid” the amount of money required to get it all set up but in three months, they claim they’ll have another 150 HD channels in their lineup at DirecTV and since we are already a customer, we’re being told we will be given the new Dish and Receiver required for that change FREE.

This whole thing is almost like learning about PC’s the time you brought your first one home and set it up. A big learning experience. Because of the signal quality though,
Your viewing habits change. We now record more programs than we used to watch because you can review it afterwards without being forced to spend so much time watching ads. Mark watched “My Fair Lady” for the first time in his life today because it was in high-definition. Oh well. More to learn on this subject.

It was still an interesting years beginning with all these changes going on. We did see a movie or two, ate out a few times, didn’t see enough friends, and only say we have watched too much TV.

We did see the talked-about Brokeback Mountain and can only say this very deeply human experience is an honest portrayal of love and the story could happen to anyone when one or both cannot be free to express that love. Just how tough Love can be has been written about hundreds of times from Shakespeare on. I now know that the Evangelicals are warning folk that watching this is dangerous…..some folks like the notorious “Focus on the Family” warns that if you go, there’s no doubt you’ll soon be throwing up and running from the theater in horror if you tempt fate with a movie viewing. At any rate, I loved how friend Baird (straight he is, folks…..) put it: “I think this should be required viewing.” A powerful human experience.

Doesn’t mean I can’t laugh about it. Just this week, we got the little old cowtown newspaper from Vale, Oregon and what do you know. One Page 5 they run a picture of a lonely sheepherder …………and I was just “wondering” IF it was a subtle singles ad, a proof that this way of life still exists, or a back-door ad for the movie:
Malheur Enterprise runs picture of young sheepherder……….is this fallout from Brokeback Mtn? Is it supposed to be a singles ad? HAH, did I get a few laughs. It did remind me of a few Basque families I grew up with who spent many summers in the high desert ranges with only a dog or four and about a thousand sheep:

The byline? “A LONG way from Home, but standing guard, is Felipe Romo, from Peru and his companion, Uribe, over a band of sheep between Vale and Adrian. 🙄

And there you have it. Back to making bread, vacuuming, football, ice skating, general cleaning, running a dog, washing clothes, etc etc. Ah, January !

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