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Have a favorite Christmas Eve memory?

At the time of our first Christmas as a married couple, my wife and I lived in downtown Spokane.

We walked to midnight Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes. It was packed. When we left the church, it was snowing lightly.

I guess that's actually a Christmas Day memory. But I always associate it with Christmas Eve.

Priest River Hardwood Grill offers Christmas Eve Dinner

If you’re in Idaho on Christmas Eve and don’t want to cook, Priest River Hardwood Grill is serving a special, four-course dinner.

The holiday menu  is being offered from 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 24

The first three courses are an antipasti plate, acorn squash soup with freshly grated nutmeg, and a mixed green salad. That’s followed by an entrée of your choice: Beef Wellington, Cornish game hens roasted with rosemary and garlic, fire-grilled prime rib with cranberry horseradish, applewood-grilled Salmon Oscar, walnut and spinach cannelloni and osso buco. Prices range from $18.99 to $25.99.

Dessert – apple pie à la mode – is also available for $5.99.

Split entrées won’t be available for the holiday.

Priest River Hardwood Grill specializes in grilled and smoked meats and vegetables, cooked over hardwood, mostly local fruit wood. It's normally open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 5634 Highway 2 in Priest River. For more information, call the restaurant at (208) 448-4489.

Man gets 93 mos. for gunfire over $40

A Spokane man arrested during a SWAT team standoff on Christmas Eve will be celebrating the holidays behind bars for several more years.

Robert T. Finkbeiner, 45, was sentenced recently to 93 months in prison for first-degree assault. Finkbeiner was arrested last March after he shot a woman during a fight over a $40 debt.

The victim suffered a non life-threatening wound to her leg.

Finkbeiner was out of jail on bond when police tried to arrest hm on Christmas Eve at 121 S. Haven. A SWAT team used teargas to help take him into custody. He was sentenced Tuesday.

Bailing out of Christmas

    Driving through town, even though it wasn’t very late, the city was quiet. It was Christmas Eve and most people were already wherever they were going to be for the night.  There was no traffic, the buildings downtown were dark. No one was out walking on the sidewalk.


    As we drove past the courthouse, we stopped at a red light at an intersection and I glanced over at an office that was brightly lit. It stood out in the dark quiet of the rest of the street.


    Through the wide front window, I could see a man sitting behind a desk, a heavyset man in his shirtsleeves, writing on a piece of paper. In front of him was a couple, a middle-aged man and a woman. They were well-dressed, wearing coats, as though they’d hurried in from the cold and forgotten to take them off. There was something about the way they sat, close together, leaning on one another for support, slightly bent, as though they were folding into themselves, that made me take a closer look.


     Their faces were composed but there was an air of sadness around them. A deep weary sadness..
    The scene looked like an Edward Hopper painting; the angular, starkly furnished office, the harsh light pouring from the windows and spilling across the sidewalk, and the people, three people with closed and shuttered faces.


     Maybe it was their age, close to my own, or the sadness that radiated from them, or the way they sat so close together, but something made me think the couple might be parents there to help a child. On a night when everyone else was celebrating, they’d gotten a call and dressed carefully before going down to post bail. On the night when in the past they might have been pulling hidden presents  down from the attic, assembling a bicycle, or building a doll house, they were downtown signing papers and writing a check.


    The light changed and we drove on, but I had a lump in my throat.
Somehow, the fact that it was Christmas Eve made everything worse.


    I don’t really know what was happening in that office, I filled in the blanks with my imagination. But each year I think of that couple and the scene I witnessed. They remind me that in the bright artificiality of the season there is always another side. In spite of the tinsel, the trees, the candles, some struggle, some grieve, some slog through the holiday burdened with real heartache. And some, like the man behind the desk, simply go about their business. Of course, that’s what we’re trying to forget this time of year. We decorate and shop and party, putting reality on hold for as long as we can. But it’s there. It’s always there. 




Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Gunfire over $40 leads to standoff

A Spokane man celebrated the holiday in jail after he was teargassed and arrested during an hours-long Christmas Eve standoff.

Robert T. Finkbeiner, 44, is set for trial next month for allegedly shooting a woman in her leg last March during a fight over a $40 debt.

Two young children were in the room when Finkbeiner pulled the gun, police said. Finkbeiner was allowed to leave jail pending trial on assault, burglary and robbery charges, but a warrant was issued Dec. 7 after prosecutors said Finkbeiner had contacted the alleged victim, Rachel A. Mitchell, 24, several times recently to try to persuade her not to testify.

“Mitchell stated she has full intent to show up in court against Finkbeiner because he should not get away with shooting her over $40,” according to court documents.

Finkbeiner also is charged with five counts of unlawful possession of a firearm for guns seized at his apartment at 1924 W. Gardner in March.

Finkbeiner was living at 121 S. Haven St. when police tried to arrest him about 9:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

A SWAT team used chemical agents to help take him into custody. Finkbeiner remains in jail on $50,000 bond. His girlfriend, Julie K. French, was arrested on second-degree rendering criminal assistance after telling police he wasn't at the house. French was released on her own recognizance on Christmas.

Name that food

So, if you've been around Huck's Online long enough you know I refer to Christmas Eve as the Festival of Strange Norwegian Meat. Each year we spend Christmas Eve at my in-laws. My father-in-law and one of my brothers-in-law are first generation Norwegian immigrants. So I've learned to embrace the taste of the Norske.

No lefse this year :-( And we NEVER have lutefisk. The Norwegians' tastebuds have become somewhat domesticated. 

The foods pictured are: potatoes,  Norwegian sauerkraut  (surkaal), medisterkaker (pork patties) with ligonberry sauce, Medisterpoelse (pork sausages), rutabega, ribbe (pork belly).  Not pictured: pinnekjott (salted, dried lamb ribs).

Good times.