Recommendations, recipes and other advice from your favorite Inlander writers

Crafting through Christmas. - CHEY SCOTT PHOTO
Chey Scott photo
Crafting through Christmas.

PRETTY PET PRINTS

We really lucked out that our dear cat Dellie (she's about 9 years old now, and was adopted in 2016) has mostly been a very good girl when it comes to the Christmas tree. To her credit, she's only broken a single glass ornament. She'd rather sleepily gaze at its warm glow. Near her bed beneath its festooned branches, I always hang a small grouping of ornaments symbolic of her, including a little white mouse and a heart-shaped impression of her paw print.

I made a set of salt-dough ornaments with Dellie's tiny foot impression during her first Christmas with us. Those, along with another set of her predecessor, Maddie, hang in spots of honor on the tree. My childhood cat Alice (she just turned 17!) and my sister's four-member clowder have also had their sweet feet eternally preserved in rock hard dough.

Fellow pet owners should know the hardest part about making salt dough paw print ornaments — you only need three basic ingredients — is getting your pet to cooperate. None of the aforementioned cats were very happy to have their paws handled, so making multiples is key, too.

While the steps are simple, options to personalize your pets' prints are infinite when using paint, glitter, ribbon or permanent markers to decorate. The ornaments themselves should last for untold years; ours show no signs of age — however, you'll still want to be careful handling and hanging them as they could shatter or crack if dropped. (CHEY SCOTT)

SALT DOUGH PAW PRINT ORNAMENTS
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup flour

Instructions
Mix together water, flour and salt. Knead dough together with your hands until it forms a ball. If it's too sticky, add some flour.

Roll out the dough to about a half-inch thick and use cookie cutters, cups or a knife to cut out whatever shape you wish that's big enough to fit your pet's paws. (I used a vintage heart-shaped cookie cutter with scalloped edges.)

Gently press your pets' paw into the center of the ornament to leave an imprint. (Pro tip: Lay your cut-out shapes onto a cookie sheet first and space them out well. If your pet isn't very thrilled with their role during this step, reward them with a treat afterwards. Don't force it if they're not.)

Place the paw print shapes on a lined (silicone mat or parchment paper) baking sheet and bake at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 3 hours, or until dried out.

After cooling and making sure they're dry, you can decorate and glue loops of ribbon or string to the backs to hang. These handmade ornaments also make great gifts!

WALK IT OFF

I had kind of forgotten the joy of just taking a walk in the neighborhood in the six years I went without a dog in the house. Often during those six years, I'd hit a treadmill and walk, determined to be at least a little "healthy" no matter what my dietary habits. But let's face it, treadmills kind of suck, and they certainly don't encourage interaction with the neighbors. Ever since our family adopted a puppy in May, I've been out cruising the neighborhood, often twice each day, and during those walks I've met a lot of really nice folks (and other dogs, of course). I've enjoyed more morning waves, and more stunning sunrises and sunsets. The country might be divided politically, and that was emphasized by the yard signs seen through the recent campaign season. But there's something nice about seeing a Trump sign next to a Biden sign. And it will be even nicer to see all those signs replaced by Christmas lights and inflatable Rudolphs and Frostys. (DAN NAILEN)

click to enlarge You can't eat just one. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
You can't eat just one.

DANIEL'S MOM'S CHOCOLATE NO-BAKES RECIPE

I've had your no-bake cookies, and I'm just going to be honest here: They kind of suck. I pretend I like them because I'm polite, but I can't keep up the charade any longer. But don't worry. I'm going to share an old secret family no-bake recipe (that my mom stole from a college roommate who literally had the nickname "Cocoa Chris") that will blow your sawdust-dry embarrassments out of the water.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

Instructions
Mix together sugar, butter, milk and cocoa powder.

Bring the mixture to a soft boil, stirring and adjusting the heat for exactly three minutes. (Be very precise, because here's where your cookies could go off the rails. Boil too long and you'll just have chocolate granola. Boil too little and you'll have a big gooey blob that refuses to become a cookie no matter how much you yell at it.)

Remove from the heat, mix in vanilla and peanut butter. (Warning: Peanut butter may contain peanuts.)

Finally mix in the oatmeal and plop the mix onto wax paper a teaspoon at a time. Stick it in the fridge until they're firm enough for you to eat them all in one sitting. (DANIEL WALTERS)

Krampus
Krampus

SCREEN SHARE

There's always that moment on Christmas when everyone hits a proverbial wall and ends up sitting around the TV, watching whatever old movie or animated holiday special happens to be on. Consider programming your own mini-Christmas film festival for such an occasion, but do your best to avoid the obvious choices. That means no It's a Wonderful Life, no Love Actually, no Rudolphs or Jack Skellingtons or John McClanes.

Try a Christmas-set horror movie with the silly scares of Krampus (2015) or the slasher classic Black Christmas (1974). Go the so-bad-it's-good route with one of several Christmas-themed episodes of the cult movie-riffing series Mystery Science Theater 3000 — perhaps the demented Mexican family film Santa Claus, or the sci-fi kitsch of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The comic thriller The Nice Guys (2016) sets its tale of noirish intrigue in the days leading up to Christmas, as does Stanley Kubrick's erotic brain-twister Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Whatever weird stuff you choose, set up a Zoom hangout, share your screen and freak out your friends. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)

SUPPORT FOR THE GWORLS

Where did the party go? Oh right... Well, in a normal year, For the Gworls, a mutual aid organization founded by Asanni Armon, would be hosting huge parties to raise money for Black transgender people's rent and gender-affirming surgeries. While COVID has changed the restrictions on parties, Black transgender people still need community support and rent assistance. If you're looking for places to extend your holiday giving spirit, consider providing financial sponsorship to this excellent program. All donations made at forthegworls.party are secure and tax-deductible. Make clicking the donation button your own, personal party with photos from past events for inspiration for your outfit. Put a feather boa on your cat, pour yourself a glass of champagne, and give what you can. Or, place a donation in a loved one's name as a holiday gift. (LAUREN GILMORE)

CHRISTMAS SHRIMP DIP

I'm sure everyone has a dish or two that reminds them of the holidays. For me, it's this shrimp dip my mom used to make every year in a decorative Christmas tree-shaped dish. Sadly, the beautiful glass dish broke not too long ago, but the dip tradition lives on! It's extremely easy and a tasty side to bring to any small, safely quarantined family gathering, or to eat on your own.

You'll need:

  • An 8x8 glass baking dish
  • Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • One 9-ounce jar cocktail sauce
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pounds of cooked salad shrimp
  • 1 box of Club crackers

Spread the cream cheese in the bottom of the dish with a spatula. Spread the cocktail sauce on top of that (this layer may be thin, that's OK!). Sprinkle the shrimp all over the top and then cover and keep cool in the fridge. When you're ready, take it out and leave at room temperature for about ten minutes before eating so it's easier to spoon onto the buttery Club crackers. Enjoy! (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

This winter, go witness one of the Inland Northwest's most awesome annual traditions. - WILSON CRISCIONE PHOTO
Wilson Criscione photo
This winter, go witness one of the Inland Northwest's most awesome annual traditions.

RISE ABOVE

The best thing you can do this winter — and really, any time of the year — is to go outside and look at some damn birds. It's an excuse to get outside, where you can worry less about that virus that seems to be going around.

In particular, go to Wolf Lodge Bay at Lake Coeur d'Alene this December and witness one of the Inland Northwest's most awesome annual traditions: hundreds of bald eagles swarming the lake to feed on the abundance of spawning kokanee salmon.

You know how you get that flutter of excitement when, out of the corner of your eye, you see an eagle flying above your head? Sure you do. Well, here in the winter, eagles will be all around you doing things that eagles do. They will soar above your head. They will dive for fish. They will look down at you from a tree and contemplate tearing your eyes out. It's quite the rush! (WILSON CRISCIONE) ♦

Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol Ski Swap @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Oct. 30-31
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