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Christmas Vacation Wild Card 12.25.14-12.26.14

Merry Christmas Hucksters! Hope your holiday is filled with family, food and fun.

Here's a Wild Card to share your Season's greetings. I'll try to remember to post another for the weekend.

See you back here, Monday.

Christmas Eve Wild Card 12.24.14

I'm a bit bleary this morning as a result of a fairly disatrous night. We went to my brother's in Post Falls to celebrate an early Christmas and my youngest suffered a  severe allergic reaction due to eating a cookie that had been cross-contaminated with nuts.

Of course, we'd left his epi-pen in Spokane! We didn't make an ER visit but it was close for a while. He's still sleeping away the effects of mutiple doses of Benadryl. I wish I was.

Plenty of reasons to be thankful today.
Here's you Christmas Eve Wild Card.

Christmas Traditions

I love the traditions of Christmas.
On Christmas Eve we attend a candlelight service at our church and then head out to the in-laws for what I call “The Festival of Strange Norwegian Meat.” Yummy Norwegian delicacies are served (no Lutefisk!), Santa makes a visit with a bag full of treats, and a whole houseful of cousins get enjoy hanging out together.

Christmas morning starts with the kids bringing their stockings into our room and opening their goodies while Derek and I try to wake. Yep. Santa still comes for the two boys still at home— even though they're 15 and 20!
Then comes homemade cinnamon rolls, the reading of the Christmas story and present opening.

This year I'll be hosting my mom and my sister and her family for Christmas dinner— ham, of course. And sometimes we go see a movie on Christmas night.

How about you? What are your holiday traditions?

Fruitcake, yes or no?

 Kay Dixon got the recipe for this fruitcake from her husband’s Lithuanian grandmother. It remains a family favorite and Christmas tradition.

When her future husband took her to meet his Lithuanian grandmother, Kay Dixon got to sample the “magical” fruitcake for the first time.

It was sweet, dark, moist and speckled with raisins, prunes and nuts.

Fifty years later, it remains one of her husband’s favorite treats.

At Christmas, Dixon makes Nana’s Fruitcake in loaf pans to give to friends and family, but it’s especially for her husband. It offers him a slice of his childhood, a connection to his grandmother, a taste of his roots and her homeland. Adriana Janovitch, SR

Having been traumatized by “candied fruits” as a child, I am firmly fruitcake intolerant. However, this one actually sounds really good. Are you a fruitcake fan?

Bonham Carter, Burton split

Longtime partners Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton have separated.

A spokeswoman for Carter confirmed Tuesday that the couple split earlier this year.

Publicist Melody Korenbrot says the two separated amicably “and have continued to be friends and co-parent their children.” She asked for privacy for the couple and their son and daughter.

Though Carter and Burton never married, they became creative and romantic partners after he directed her in 2001’s “Planet of the Apes.” Their other credits together include “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Dark Shadows.”

A Twitter friend asks: But now who will play the crazy lady in all of Tim Burton's movies?

SR reporter Kip Hill replied: Johnny Depp.

Are you a Tim Burton fan?


Do you drone?

Pilot Maxime Tran Quan Tien guides his Parrot Bebop drone during a presentation to the media in Paris. 

NEW YORK – Santa’s sleigh isn’t the only thing flying this holiday season.

Drones – flying devices that often carry cameras and can be navigated remotely by smartphones or controllers – have taken off as popular gifts, as novices have become just as interested in the devices as serious hobbyists. The demand has grown as the industry and government are working together to address safety concerns. More here.

My brother entertained us with his drone last night. Of course my sons would love one— probably my husband, too. All I could think of was my cats could destroy that thing in 30 seconds. How about you? Do you aspire to drone-ownership?

A baby changes everything

I wrote this several years ago. Seems like a good time to repost it :-)

In the midst of unearthing Christmas decorations, I surveyed the downstairs family room. Actually, “wreck” room is a more apt description. Green and red bins burgeoning with tinsel and ornaments perched precariously on tabletops. Blue bins overflowing with winter garb towered with ominous instability in opposite corners. And stacks of paper on the floor revealed last year’s resolution to stay current with filing has been a dismal failure.

Overwhelmed, I looked for a place to sit. And then I saw it – my rocking chair. Banished to the basement when my youngest grew too big to cuddle comfortably with me in its confines.rocking-chair-cushions[1]

I removed the mountain of snow pants and ski gloves that had buried it and sat down and began to rock. As I swayed, I remembered the first time I saw this chair, on a Christmas morning 20 years ago.

IRS leaders accused of tax scandal cover-up

WASHINGTON – A House Republican investigation faults senior IRS officials in the mistreatment of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, but could find no link to the White House, according to a report released Tuesday.

The probe isn’t over, although investigators have reviewed 1.3 million pages of documents and interviewed 52 officials. The report, however, marks the end of Rep. Darryl Issa’s tenure leading the investigation.

Issa, a Republican from California, is stepping down as chairman of the House Oversight Committee because of term limits.

The report does not absolve anyone from blame but complains that the IRS and the White House have not fully cooperated with the investigation.

Have you been following this story?

NORAD Santa Tracker

Children wondering where Santa is don't have to run to the window and throw up the sash, looking for the miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, does that with great precision, starting on Dec. 24.

Because, you know, NORAD has to watch any approach of the U.S. and Canada from the north, so any object in the sky is going to show up on the radar. Particularly one being led by a glowing nose And they wouldn't want to scramble the fighters and scare the spit out of Rudolph, or buzz too close and have Santa dump his load of toys somewhere over the Yukon Territories.

But all this technology means that children who are dying to know “When will Santa be here?” don't have to settle for imprecise answers from their parents. No. They can check it online and get the definitive scoop.

In the spirit of Christmas harmony in the household, Spin Control is happy to present a link to this government service. If the embedded feature above isn't working on your computer, click here. Jim Camden, Spin Control

Have you been mostly naughty or nice this year?

Lights for Life

COEUR d'ALENE - Hundreds of Kootenai County students rely on their bicycles to get safely to and from school each day.

However, the majority of those students' bikes lack the headlights, taillights, and reflectors needed to ensure the journey to school is a safe one.

Bike CDA, a newly formed nonprofit created to advocate for a bike-friendly community, is attempting to meet the safety needs of student cyclists with its “Lights for Life” program. According to John Kelly of Bike CDA, safety for cyclists is one of the top priorities for the group.

“We just had one of our first board meetings and it was pretty unanimous that we are going to dedicate a lot of our energy to safety and kids in the community,” Kelly said. Full story. Keith Cousins, CdA Press

My kids have always lived too far away from their schools to  bike. It's Mom Taxi or bus. How about yours?

5 Seahawks selected for Pro Bowl

 Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl on Tuesday.

RENTON, Wash. – Richard Sherman is ticked – and he got picked.

Teammate Michael Bennett was named as a mere alternate to the Pro Bowl – and said “I could not care less.”

“It doesn’t matter if you go to the Pro Bowl and your team is not in the Super Bowl,” Bennett said Tuesday, before the NFL announced the five Seahawks selected to this season’s all-star game by votes of fellow players, league coaches and fans.

They are Sherman, safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, first-time selection linebacker Bobby Wagner and running back Marshawn Lynch.

I love football. The Pro Bowl? Meh. Are you interested in the Pro Bowl?



Seattle begins warning non-recyclers

Seattle garbage collector Anousone Sadettanh empties a residential garbage bin into his truck on Monday as larger yard waste and recycling bins stand behind. 

SEATTLE – Fail to recycle in Seattle and you can get a ticket from the garbage collector.

The city said it will start enforcing new recycling requirements on Jan. 1 with warnings tags. Careless residents will start seeing fines July 1 on their bills – $1 per violation, $50 for a commercial or apartment building.

KING reports garbage collectors will peek in the trash bin to see if more than 10 percent of the waste is food scraps and recyclable materials.

“Most of our city’s businesses and residents are already composting,” said Tim Croll, Solid Waste Director for Seattle Public Utilities. “This requirement is a progression of our collective efforts that help our city become even greener.”

How diligent are you about recycling?

Democrat groups collect most cash

WASHINGTON – For as often as Democrats attack the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch for their heavy spending on politics, it’s actually the liberal-minded who shelled out the most cash on the just completed midterm elections.

At least, that is, among those groups that must disclose what they raise and spend.

Among the top 100 individual donors to political groups, more than half gave primarily to Democrats or their allies. Among groups that funneled more than $100,000 to allies, the top of the list tilted overwhelmingly toward Democrats – a group favoring the GOP doesn’t appear on the list until No. 14. Full story.


Finding Family

Heather Livergood, pictured at The Spokesman-Review office in Coeur d’Alene, tracked down her long-lost brothers in Utah this year. Kathy Plonka, photo

In a search that spanned most of her life, Heather Livergood has found where she came from. And this Christmas she has the gift of family, including two brothers she never knew.

The Coeur d’Alene woman was sold as a newborn for $100 – one of possibly dozens of babies whose fates were orchestrated by Gertrude Pitkanen, a notorious Montana abortionist and midwife who arranged black market adoptions.

Few of those children had any clue as to who their birth parents were. Livergood, 68, also had little to go on. But she had a couple of hints, including her mother’s name, Violet.  More here. Scott Maben, SR

Have you ever met a family member you didn't know existed?

CdA Blue makes Christmas brighter

From the CdA Police Facebook page:

Officers E. Johnson and A. Tenney came in contact with a single mother of 7 children while on patrol this evening. Wanting to make their Christmas a little extra special, the Officers gave the children's mother (2) $25 gift cards to Fred Meyer. The Coeur d'Alene Police Officers Association recently bought 60 $25 gift cards to give out to help brighten the Holidays.

The Post Falls PD is doing something similar.


Gas prices continue to tumble

Kootenai County gas prices have fizzled to the lowest they've been since May 2009.

The average per gallon in Coeur d'Alene on Tuesday was $2.27, decreased from $2.79 a month ago. Post Falls' average has decreased 70 cents in the same time period to $2.40.

“North Idaho's apparent ready access to fuel in the region should keep lower prices somewhat more insulated than other parts of the state,” said Dave Carlson, AAA Idaho spokesman.

Coeur d'Alene's price is 60 cents lower than last year at this time and Post Falls is 72 cents cheaper than it was a year ago. Brian Walker, CdA Press

What/where have you seen the best price for gas this week?

Parting shot: Putting a bow on it

Ava Vanderhoes, 7, puts a bow on a present for a family member Monday with the help of Patti Petersen, who works in administration at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. In the center’s Children’s Hospital, patients and siblings had the opportunity to shop for and wrap gifts for visiting family members. Jesse Tinsley, photo

Pulling a wagon full of Christmas presents behind him, 5-year-old Marcus Fenn was on a mission.

“I hope we can find some more Hot Wheels!” he told the Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital staff helping him pick out presents. Marcus was one of the year’s first visitors to the Christmas store, a colorful room at the children’s hospital overflowing with enough toys, art supplies, books and video games to rival Toys R Us. Full story. Rachel Alexander, SR


Tuesday Wild Card 12-23-14

Why yes, I did cram three days worth of work into my Monday. Which means I only have to do two days worth of work today! I found out last week that my publisher wanted one more chapter for War Bonds, which was great news, but the week before Christmas deadline was a bit crazy. Managed to get the chapter turned in yesterday in addition to an early newspaper deadline.

Thank goodness for online shopping. I finished all my shopping and got the gifts wrapped and under the tree, even though I had to chase down the UPS man last night because he delivered the wrong package to my house. Thankfully, mine was still in his truck. Plus the sprint was a good heartrate boost.

How about you? Are you ready for Christmas?

The Hobbit’s not the only thing that’s bloated

It's useless to criticize Peter Jackson for what he's done to J.R.R. Tolkien's novel “The Hobbit.” What's done is done.

Depending on what format you consult, hardback or paperback, print editions of “The Hobbit” contains anywhere from 270 to 300 pages of text. Compare that to — again depending on the format — the 1,100 to 1,300 pages for the three novels that make up the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Even given the extras that Tolkien added in what are called “The Appendices,” which provide the kind of background material that would be a bit much even for obsessive Tolkien fans, “The Hobbit” would seem to be too slim a story for three full features. Read more. Dan Webster, SR

Webster goes on to say he sat through 31 minutes of ads and trailers before the movie starter. Me? I enjoy film trailers, how about you?

Mt. Spokane finally opens

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park webcam photo at the base of the mountain from 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 23, the day before the 2014 opening.

WINTERSPORTS — Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has announced it will open for the first time this season on Wednesday — Christmas Eve. Although the base is thin — just 7 inches at the lodge — more snow is in the forecast.

That means all of Inland Northwest ski resorts will be open through the holidays.

Where's your favorite place to ski?

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About this blog

D.F. Oliveria is a columnist and blogger for The Spokesman-Review. Print Huckleberries is a past winner of the Herb Caen Memorial Column contest by the National Association of Newspaper Columnists. The Readership Institute of Northwestern University cited this blog as a good example of online community journalism.

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