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February, 2006 | Scuff Productions

The Big Chill

Bloged in General Home Life,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Friday February 17, 2006

We’re now stuck in an arctic freeze (by Northwest Standards). We have rockin’ Gorge Winds bringing Arctic air down the Columbia Gorge Channel at gusts of 30-50 mph which means the temperature today won’t get as high as 32. It’s 20 at 10:30 this morning. This condition is supposed to freeze us out until Sunday night or Monday when a western front will bring in a bit warmer temps and less winds from the Ocean. IT IS Freezing to walk outside. The 20 degrees isn’t what gets inside your skin, it’s the fierce wind. Whew!

Yesterday, to give MAC some excercise ahead of this chill’s arrival, the Smiths and I walked down into Forest Park and observed dozens of huge trees that had blown over in the LAST windstorm a couple weeks ago. It was astounding. Here’s one example:

This tree split in the middle and lands in the large branches of another tall tree across the road. Now really. HOW long can those branches hold this heavy thing up? There it sits laying over the pathway down into the park. I’ll try to put some more pics up, but scaling them down to fit the site page loses so much perspective.

What a walk yesterday was, the astounding amount of wind damage, the icy frozen over little water ponds, and the exuberance of a Chesapeake dog that was BORN for THIS kind of weather. Mac launched into the bigger ponds, digging as fast as he could to ty and find something to bring back. We launched large sticks as far as we could throw them into the forest from the beginning of our walk to the end and he might has missed one. Some of these throws went into a steep ravine….that meant nothing to him. Mac’s girlfriend, the Smith’s Bernese Mtn Dog, ELLIE, was diligent at watching Mac dive into the thick forest brush and then try to get these sticks from him on his return. It was a GREAT and FUN afternoon walk. Now would I do that today? I’m afraid I’d be laid out flat dead of hypothermia in 30 minutes.

Oh well. I must remember to report about Tuesday about what’s happened to our budding plants world.

Oh fun it is.


Bloged in General Home Life,Nature by mark Tuesday February 14, 2006

Why yes, I’m a little sad. After such a MAJOR reversal from last year’s warm dry winter, the Northwest has nearly been drowned out, or blown out, fogged in, or sometimes all three since early December. Then last weekend, things quietly improved so much that I worked in the yard in a T-shirt (oh, pants too). Whoopee! Neighbor Krysta asked me when she could start planting cool crops in her garden. I responded without thinking about that this being such a WET winter, I’d wait.

After thinking about that a while and remembering we’d purchased a real fall sale-item at Parr Lumber last September (a tiny kind of toy plastic framed plastic greenhouse measuring 2x4x6 high for the astounding price of $19. That fragile little thing had sadly been leaning against the house out in the back since that time. Well. WHY wouldn’t I try to plant some peas, lettuce, cilantro, green onion, spinach in that little thing and by the time the seeds were up a bit, the last frost “should” be past. So I broke open the seed packets and planted a little of all that stuff and now have the greenhouse sitting in the outside entryway, and two rows of little pots planted:

On that same day, I happily observed things just edging up to sprout in the garden and yard itself: Rhubarb, Parsley, Thyme, Chives, Green Onion, Hydrangeas, Roses, elderberry, and a few other things. It brings on a real feeling of NEW hope when winter begins to get long in the tooh, and to your surprise while you’re out IN the sunshine wearing a T-shirt, you see these things happening in your yard.

So that was a fun week. NOW, we are preparing for the worst Arctic Freeze since they’ve been keeping records up here (for February that is). By Friday, the highs should only be 35 and the lows about 20. We’re getting warning about covering all the new plants coming up. I’m afraid all these new starts will have to die and begin anew in about two weeks:

We HAVE been enjoying the Rosemary and Thyme ALL winter long and I really hate to lose it now after it lasted through all the soggy mud. SO. IF I take pictures of these little plants NEXT week, what will they look like?

Even MAC has been affected by the wet weather. We caught him reading the other night since we wouldn’t let him out in the mud:

NO, he is NOT a stoner, and has never been close to drugs:

Just another warm night by the fire.

One of Rodger’s favorite people at OHSU, Janice (Whose husband Mike is the VET who has helped us so much with Mac) just returned from MX for a week. I believe even the crew there were a little stir crazy in the wet period and had to create a shrine for Janice’s return:

If you look carefully under the Pinata and to the left of Janice’s PC, you’ll the the shrine dedicated to “Our Lady of Croet”. How nice to come back home to work to this, eh?

We were invited out to Peter and Paula’s home in St Johns (a large old craftsman home they’re renovating) for a crab-boil and evening of friendship. They had about 12-15 people there, ALL of whom have ended up in Environmental Careers so this was a wonderful event. It was such a positive experience to be around the young couples (with babies) who we seemed to share so much of the same social concerns with. This seems to be the new lifeblood flowing into the old blue-collar St Johns neighborhoods, and it truly is inspiring. Brenda (works with Rodger) and Thomas got us the invite, and we love ‘em dearly:

This couple comes from the great state of Wisconsin, and we’re enjoying getting to know them. Yes, they get a little ribbing about being Cheeseheads, but believe me, they can hold their own on any subject you want to discuss.

I cannot forget to mention Dexter that evening, and how could you forget this little guy who is just recovering from Hip Surgery (Dysplasia):

Paula has a wonderful willowy voice and with just the right encouragement or wine, or both, she sang some songs for all. We want she and Peter to come up and join Rodger for a few tunes VERY soon.

We’re STILL loving this kitchen. Somehow, my cooking skills are growing and maybe that’s because it IS so much more fun to be in there working now than it was a year ago.
I have finally succeeded in making a bread that really DOES taste like a professional bread, and just have to work on how to make it LOOK like an artisan piece. The fun of that is that in the two days to make it, you go through several little sessions of dough re-work that ARE kind of fun.

So now I must go haul in some more wood and make sure we are ready for the freeze. I suppose I’ll wash my long-johns and make sure there is fabric softener in there, eh? After all, these ARE the same pair that belonged to my Dad. They MUST be 50 years old.

Happy Valentines Day !

Black Bean Salad (nancy g)

Bloged in food: recipes + dining out by mark Tuesday February 7, 2006

BLACK BEAN AND CORN SALAD (from Nancy Grossenbacher)

Mix together in large bowl:

2 15 oz. Cans black beans
1 10 ounce package frozen white corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
1 avocado, cubed (add right before serving salad)

Mix together in blender:

½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup (generous) lime juice….2 whole limes
1-2 gloves garlic, minced
3-5 serrano chilies, chopped (I used 3)
½ cup cilantro, minced (or more)
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Salt to taste

Pour dressing over salad and allow to cool for several hours. Add avocado right before serving.

(Mark adds…….I drained most of the juice out of the beans). Other notes are Nancy’s.

APPLE CRISP – Old Fashioned

Bloged in food: recipes + dining out by mark Tuesday February 7, 2006

APPLE CRISP – Ina Garten 2002

What makes this old standard apple dish fresh and delightful? Addition of Orange and Lemon Zest….and a little ground ginger.

Summary: Difficulty: Easy Prep Time: 20 Minutes Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 10 servings User Rating: ******

5 pounds McIntosh Apples (I USED Granny Smith)
Grated zest of 1 Orange
Grated zest of 1 Lemon
(and if you have a fabulous Microplane grater given to youas a gift from a fabulous friend, this is EASY EASY )
½ Cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
(I added a ½ tsp ground ginger)

For the Topping:
1 ½ Cups Flour (I used unbleached)
¾ Cup Granulated Sugar
¾ Cup Light brown sugar, packed
½ tsp kosher salt
1 Cup Oatmeal
½ pound Butter, cold, unsalted, diced
**a few chopped walnuts are in some recipes !!!

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9 by 14 by 2 inch oval baking dish.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and spices. Pour into the dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and apples are a little bubbly. Serve warm.


Bloged in General Home Life by mark Sunday February 5, 2006

Once again, we missed being blown away. The forecasters were wrong. We live. Our wind gusts didn’t get over about 35-40…………and our home is warm and safe. We give thanks.

Does this mean WE are in God’s loving hands and loved? Or……..
Does it mean God hates Seattle (who fared a lot worse?)……….Or………..
Does it mean Mark and Rodger are “special”. Oh, that’s right. All of Portland did ok.

NOW on to Sunday Plans. We’re sure everyone is busy preparing for worship services, shopping, thievery, or maybe, watching an interesting Superbowl since this will be the first time a Seattle Team plays in the Football Finals. We have prepared some Artichoke Dip, Black Bean Salad (Thanks, Nancy), Watergate Salad (yes, THAT Watergate), and a Rib Roast is marinating. And of course, snacks are available. The problem is, we’re still being such hermits, it’s unlikely anyone will just pop in to say HI…..and eat. Have we become THAT inward that we have no social circle anymore? HOrrible.

On the other hand…………we’ll see how everything looks tomorrow. The Sun will come up tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar………… our best forecasters tell us that.

WE, of course, are hoping the team OWNED by Tycoon Paul Allen (Yes, folks, sorry to report it ain’t civic pride anymore, but corporate capitalistic money that runs this world) wins just because they’ve never been. They will be playing a tough mean team from Pittsburgh whose city has become toughened through lots of job loss, and tough times over the last 30 years. Can that mean looking Cower Coach win? Hm.

At least we’re alive and warm, and wishing you all DROP IN TOMORROW for some food, talk, beverages, and letting Mac bark.


Bloged in General Home Life,Nature by mark Friday February 3, 2006

Is this goodbye? All our forecasts tell us we’re about to be blown away. At the very BEST, we’ll have limited sleep. By 0400, we should be having wind gusts up to 60 mph (according to our very highest paranoid forecaster!)………

Will our huge fir tree out front be laying across the house and we’ll be crushed?
Will the woodshed now sealed up by temporary tarps be lifted and blown down the hill?
Will God, in his infinite wisdom, destroy all the wicked?
Will Satan, with a deep evil laugh, just pick out those He wishes to torment?

Or…………will nothing happen and we’ll wake up just scared.

If you no longer hear from us, we hope you’ll know we cared about all those wonderful people we knew.

Tick Tick Tick……….oh, the fear we get from our media! Will we be able to sleep?

And even Worse! Seattle is supposed to have it far worse than us! What if something happens to Microsoft? Maybe we will not longer have Updates to protect us from terrible lethal viruses.

Wait! I know the answer!

Meditation. Om………Om……….Om……………Om………….om……….om………om………………………om…………………………………….

Ah, now I am in a state of bliss.

Warm regards,

an hour of gluttony and psychiatric observation

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday February 1, 2006

One day last weekend, as we concluded getting something at Winco Foods, and the hour just went past 11:00 am, our appetite came calling. A sad result occurred. We were in a hurry to get home, and after a short discussion decided to go to: HOMETOWN BUFFET. It was close and would be quick, and, after all, isn’t the Fried Chicken there the one thing that’s really tasty? We arrived to find we were just on time to still qualify for weekend Breakfast Prices. These days, on Sat-Sun “dinner” rates begin at 11:30 am and “dinner” (as it’s called) is served all day. What did we save? $1.00.

That being said, we’d gotten seated, retrieved a selection of salad bites, a couple pieces of that chicken, began eating, then began watching the fabulous “dinner” preparations and clientele.

That is a sad thing, yes, we were observing the clientele here. I don’t want to be lectured to about what I’m saying about these people. I’m well aware of the reason many folks go there. They usually fall in three groups: 1) retirees on budgets, 2) food-addicted overeaters, and 3) entire immigrant families trying to save money. I admire Mexican families for example who always include their kids when the parents are not working. These people are very well known to value “family” over about everything. You say baby-sitters aren’t affordable? They would be as affordable as paying the tab for 4-5 little kids to eat out. In my Mom’s last years, she loved the Buffet because she could have a variety of foods at a reasonable price and eat immediately. She was one step ahead of assisted living at the time. Another memory here is that Rodger and I ate with my Mom at the Buffet and once with his Uncle and Aunt here from CA, and both of these families HAD money in their retirement account. With my Mom’s hard-line stance on honesty and ethics, and Rodger’s Aunt & Uncle’s views on why people were poor (they didn’t work hard enough), we still find it “interesting” looking back and remembering them stashing away sugar packets, napkins, anything not bolted down from these places to take back to their apartments for “convenience”. They would say, “Everybody does it.”

SO, I have NO right to comment on observed things at this place if I TOO am eating there, right? That’s probably a yes, BUT…………..

I wondered what the morbidly obese people making their way through the food lines think. Are they cringing at giving in once again to the irresistible appetite pangs they must have? Is it embarrassing to know that they are big enough that they’re hard to ignore? I saw two kinds of overweight people: 1) Tidy, well-dressed folk who are still believing or hoping they look okay, and 2) those who’ve gone over the edge and no longer seem to care. Some dressed in T-Shirts that don’t cover the entire stomach or pants that can’t quite get a grip around the entire mass of hip(s).

Then there’s the “help” at the buffet. Of course, I could complain that they don’t pick up plates fast enough, or some made-up whine, but as you watch these poor staffers try to negotiate a couple of hundred food-mad eaters filling/emptying plates faster than they can walk around the place, I feel sorry this must be the only job they can find. Meanwhile, the Management of this place seemed to keep congregating together and having little “chats”. One manager was forced to slice the dinner beef because someone had called in sick. How he whined while being forced to do something that was “beneath him” as far as HE was concerned.

The Utensils to get at the many choices of food do NOT stay clean. In the salad section the were literally sticky with food bits, and who knows WHAT bacteria from the hundreds of hands that pick them up every hour. While I’m getting at the salad choices and continuing to wipe my hands off on my Levis, I AM wondering this: “Now HOW good was that chicken we came in here for?”

The crowd that arrives between 11:00 and 11:30 on weekends to beat paying that extra dollar but still be looking forward to having sliced roast beef or ham must be unique itself. I CAN see my DAD thinking that very thing………”Well, Mother, we better go to the Buffet Today at 11:20. We’ll save a dollar and eat like kings.”

Negogiating this crowd was not always easy. I found myself conflicted between trying to be polite and standing there while people kept cutting in (and they DO, believe me) or saying, “When in Rome”……..and pushing in myself before that last Chicken Leg was gone. When getting in the Roast Beef Line, I saw they were serving some sirloin steak as well. Hm…I think, That’s what I’LL have…they looked fairly large, they are in a pan just brought out, so I say, “I believe I’ll try the steak today” and the unhappy Manager Slicer/Boss cuts off about a two inch square dried END piece of one steak, puts it on my plate, and says, “Well see how you like that, sir.” WHAT? So when they say they’re offering “steak dinners” now, remember that steak only gets on your plate if you keep going back about 10 times.

This was, in some ways, a sort of depressing experience. Folk’s behaviors weren’t the best, equipment was dirty (Where’s the Fox Channel’s “DIRTY DINING” crew?), and most food had no taste. So regrets we had by the time we left, and I suppose they were deserved. What did we expect?

At the same time, please remember, I bear NO ill will to the regular diners at these convenient GRUEL Outlets. They’re better probably than the cafeteria choices lots of these folks will soon have at Nursing Homes or Hospitals, they provide a fun time out for the kids of the “new” American families, and in some twisted way, I suppose, it was like going to the “Ultimate Food Fight” instead of Professional Wrestling. There WAS some entertainment in there somewhere.

Whew! I am trying to retrieve my social acceptability right now by working on a home-made Foccaccia Bread we started last night and has been worked over 3 times this morning so it can now rest about 6 hours before two more kneads prior to baking last thing tonight. I’m thawing out a rib roast, preparing some fresh asparagras, and making some home-made salad dressing.
Looks like somebody around here is trying to cleanse his digestive tract AND restore his spirit a little, eh?

So how was YOUR trip to the buffet? You truly claim you have NEVER entered this den of gluttony even once in your life? I apologize for my rant………………. / mark

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