Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas Letter

Well, here's my annual Christmas letter; I think I actually got it sent with a card to about a dozen family members and friends before Christmas, which is a big improvement over last year, when I only completed about half the letter and sent ZERO cards.

Dec. 10, 2006
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!!

My hope is to get a Christmas letter written and sent to all my family and friends this year (I’m sorry about last year, everyone; the time just zoomed by too fast.)
Jenny, Lawrence, Lily and Matt were all with me in Joseph for Christmas 2005, with Lily, who’d turned 1 on Oct. 14, running all over and enjoying opening her presents. This year Lily and her folks will be back -- at age 2 she’s knows what she wants. She loves cameras and has asked her “’Mama Yanie” for a “cheese” (Lily language for camera)…. so we’ll have to see.
It’s been another busy year, especially at work where the entire editorial staff (writing/news) of four changed again (at least once)… except me. At my age, constant change isn’t as appealing as it once was, but I’m still hanging in there. We’re now in the market for a new sports writer -- again. I like everyone I’m working with, so just hope they stay put!
High points of the year:
At the end of February I spent a few days on the coast in Newport at my favorite spot, Sylvia Beach Hotel (each room is named for and decorated in honor of a different author -- I stayed in the Willa Cather room).
In October, I enjoyed my wonderful first-ever cruise (Carnival Pride to Mexican Riviera) with Jenny, Lawrence, Lily, his family and many of their friends, who also invited their families. I was able to spend Lily’s 2nd birthday in Disneyland with her the day before we sailed.
In May I was able to located Irene, my only cousin on my mother’s side of the family, and my mom’s cousin, Cecil, who’s now 85. It’s great to be reconnected. Cecil came for part of the annual Memorial Day weekend LLC meeting at the Blanchet Ranch held by me and my siblings (and attended by most of our offspring), and Irene & her daughter visited the ranch right after.
Our first family gathering of the year, sadly, was at the funeral of our dear Uncle Delbert in April. Then in June, we gathered again under happier circumstances at the annual Blanchet Family reunion, held this at cousin John Burns’ place outside Wallowa -- plenty big enough for RVs and tents. Aunt La France celebrated her 88th birthday during the reunion (truly unbelievable!), and Aunt Cressie brought her famous homemade ice cream. Later in the summer Aunt Cressie fell and broke her hip, but after tough recuperation from hip replacement surgery (which Aunt La France went through last year) is almost as good as new.
Other 2006 happenings:
Jenny and Lawrence moved into a bigger house in Tigard so they’d have a guest room when I came to visit; Lily needed more room for her stuff, also. They came to visit Joseph for the Bronze, Blues and Brews festival in city park for a fun weekend.
I went to my 40th high school reunion with my friend Marilyn outside Portland (more people live there than Pendleton, I think). It was lots of fun, even though attended by a lot of old folks.
Matt moved to Eugene and went back to college, at Lane Community this time, after spending 2005 mostly in National Guard training in S.C. and Georgia. He’s also currently working on the “Geek Squad” at Best Buy computer store. He’s still a weekend warrior and I’m hoping that’s what he’ll stay.
BIG NEWS -- Lily’s going to be a big sister in late June or early July!! (I’m waiting to send my cards until I get the word “it’s okay to go public” with the news).So that means I’ll be double grandma. I can’t wait.
Hope you all survive the holidays and I see all of you during the new year.

Elane (aka Lanie)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Winterfest today

I'll be off to take Santa photos (and others) at the Winterfest celebration in Enterprise today. Need lots of Santa photos for my special kids section that will be published as part of our Christmas edition Thursday after next. Santa will be at Holiday Central on Main St. and he will be passing out candy after the free kids matinee at OK Theatre.
Then there will probably be more than one bearded man in a red suit during Winterfest's lighted tractor parade. Last year it took place in a blizzard, which was fun, until I ran into a white-out at Eggleson's corner on my way home to Joseph.
Will also be going to Fishtrap's Good Book Sale (everything on sale for $1); need to re-stock my reading material, though I actually need to be getting my living room in shape for the arrival of my Christmas tree from Joseph FFA's sale.
And then it's time to get started on my Christmas letters ... last year I only got half done by New Year's so hopefully will do better this year.
'Tis the season.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Winter in Wallowa County

Winter is here; it's barely been above freezing and I haven't seen the ground since I came home from my daughter's house in Tigard where I went for Thanksgiving.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

My Las Vegas column

Here's the column about Las Vegas I wrote about.

A trip back to Las Vegas, my favorite fantasy city

It was in December of 1997 when I discovered Las Vegas, a fantasy world known for gambling, show girls and unfettered fun.

The occasion was a unique alignment of stars in which the Chief Joseph Days rodeo committee had been nominated as one of the top five in the small rodeo category and Miss Rodeo Oregon -- Teah Jones (now Evans) -- of Lostine was in contention for the nation’s top cowgirl title at the Miss Rodeo America contest. The awarding of the top rodeo award and the cowgirl pageant were both occurring during the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas, and the Chieftain decided to send me to document the events.

To say I was excited was an understatement -- in the previous 20 years the Chieftain had paid my way all the way to La Grande once or twice to cover a story.The newspaper got its money’s worth in terms of news coverage: a report and photos of the rodeo committee at the PRCA awards dinner (Sidney, Iowa, won the top award, I think) and the story of Teah’s second runner-up finish in a field of cowgirl beauties. I think I also wrote a kind of travelogue, talking about Las Vegas and the behind-the-scenes world of national rodeo.

But I also managed to squeeze in a ton of fun in America’s neon city, traveling up and down the famous Las Vegas Strip, fascinated with the fantasy-themed and the energy of the City that Never Sleeps. I think I at least poked my head into every casino.Along with the CJD committee, I stayed in The Orleans, then a relatively new casino/hotel off the Strip with several restaurants, bars, a bowling alley, a movie theater and a million slot machines. I pretty much got lost every day of my four-day stay -- inside the hotel. My room was a long way from the elevator, and I remember that it seemed a mile up that hall after I finally came home to roost after already walking a million miles in exploring Las Vegas.

I’d brought along at least $20 worth of nickels to gamble and lost them all in the city’s hungry video poker machines.

Anyway, at that time they were still promoting Las Vegas as a family vacation spot, and that summer I took my 14-year-old son there for a week’s vacation. By then I’d discovered a LV forum site on the Internet and thoroughly planned our vacation.

It was a week to remember. We stayed in the luxurious Egyptian-themed Luxor, went to the MGM and Circus Circus amusement parks, watched a jousting tournament at Excalibur and saw the magic of Lance Burton. We watched a free pirate ship battle at Treasure Island, caught strings of beads at the free Masquerade Parade at Rio and took a tour of Hoover Dam. We watched a lightning storm in the distant mountains and the lights of the Strip at night from the vantage point of the top of the Stratosphere. We went downtown to watch the Fremont Experience light show and had a free photo taken with $1 million dollars then displayed at Bunion’s Horseshoe casino. My favorite souvenir was a humorous pastel caricature by a New York New York artist of my son that he still hates.

I think I budgeted $10 a day for me to gamble and him to play arcade games, and I think I ended up giving him part of my share -- I was always too tired at the end of the day to slip out to visit those video poker machines after he was settled down for the night.After that memorable vacation, which also included my son’s first ride in an airplane, I told him that I would take him back to Las Vegas when he was 21.

Flash forward seven years, and we recently returned from our second trip to Las Vegas together. He had his 21st birthday in April while at advanced training for National Guard in Georgia.There have been a lot of changes in Las Vegas since the last time we were there together -- Bunion’s had gone bankrupt and the million dollars sold off, the pirate show now featured sexy girls (so I hear) and at least six major new hotels -- including Bellagio, Aladdin, Venetian and Paris -- had been built. Family vacations were no longer promoted, and the new slogan is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

“Do you have every day planned like last time,” he asked on the plane. “No,” I said. “We’ll play it by ear this time.”
Though this was a G-rated vacation, relatively speaking, I’ve already used my allotted space so we’ll just leave what happened in Vegas in Vegas -- for now anyway.

I wrote a detailed trip report for my Las Vegas forum ( for the 1997 trip, but procastinated this time around and still don't have it done. Couldn't find photos of me and Matt on the computer when he was 14 (will look) so the photo above is of the Bellagio conservatory, decked out for autumn in October, 2006.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Beautiful Oregon Coast

After I compiled my my list of favorite spots, I wrote about my memories of one of those: Oregon's beautiful, wild coast:

I think most Oregonians -- even those of us from the landlocked, wide-open eastern part of the state -- have a special place in their hearts for the Oregon coast.

The Pacific Ocean bordering Oregon certainly is nothing like the warm water found in tropical climates, where a vacation means basking in the sunshine, snorkeling along coral reefs and riding the waves. At least not for most of us, though I've noticed on my last few trips to the coast hardy souls dressed in super-thermal wet suits braving the frigid waves with their surf boards.

Everyone knows that the Oregon ocean is cold, the kind of salty cold that freezes cream into ice cream and numbs your bare feet if you wade along the incoming wave line.Then there's the wind. Almost every afternoon it seems, no matter the time of the year, it blows and blows. I remember at least one time when we walked the beach leaning into wind that approached the velocity and texture of a sandblaster, threatening to blow my kids away. The rain was falling on that trip and we all found a refuge in the beach access restroom, with the kids laughingly jockeying for position under the warmth of the automatic hand dryer.

That's only one of many, many memories of the Oregon coast that started when I was a kid and we went to the coast every couple of years or so. I remember looking for dimples in the sand while digging for clams at dawn, when the minus tides always seemed to appear when my dad was around. We usually camped in our travel trailer at Fort Stevenson State Park near Astoria, though occasionally I recall staying in a beach house with some of my cousins and their folks. One year my brother and I dug up an impressive collection of beach agates, only to get in trouble when it turned out that they marked the grave of the beach house's owner's beloved pet dog.

I remember going out once on a salmon fishing boat out of Newport with my dad and years later going on a whale watching excursion at Depot Bay with my son. We even saw a whale from a distance, though that sighting didn't compare with our visits to the aquarium in Newport to visit Keiko when he lived there.

I remember staying in a $75-per-week duplex near the ocean at Tiera del Marr when my daughter was about nine -- she and her cousin Rosie spent every day building sand castles and going on scavenger hunts. I remember visiting friends who lived at lovely Oceanside and going out and picking mussels off the big rocks there for a fresh, delicious stew.My favorite thing to do is to just walk along the shore at low tide (I never seem to hit one of those minus tides unless it's in the middle of the night) and look for agates, shells, things washed up on the shore and tide pools.

At one crossroads in my life I decided I would choose between the ocean and the mountains as a place to live -- I've never regretted deciding to move to the Wallowa Mountains, but I'll always have a soft spot for the wild, rugged and beautiful Oregon coast.

I usually try to take at least one trip a year to the coast to spend a night or two, but at the end of 2005 I realized over a year had gone by without my usual visit. The last time was in late October 2004, when I re-discovered the joys of off-season prices (two nights for the price of one in Bandon!), sparser traffic and fewer other tourists.There's another vacation week coming up at the end of February and, along with time spent with family members, the plan is to stay three or so nights in one of my favorite coastal retreats, Sylvia Beach Hotel on Nye Beach in Newport.

This hotel, which is owned by a friend from my college days, has gotten a lot of press in the travel world because of the fact that every one of its 33 rooms is dedicated to a different author -- such as Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Dr. Seuss, Willa Cather, Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde -- and decorated to reflect that author's era and books.

It's an old hotel overlooking the ocean with none of the amenities upscale travelers expect -- no television, no phone in the rooms, no pool or hot tubs. Some rooms have a fireplace with a balcony overlooking the ocean, while the least expensive don't have any ocean view. The bathrooms are outdated and the d├ęcor is even a little shabby in places.Some people think its quirky quality is a little overdone and its price is too high, considering that you don't even get a television.

It's not for everyone.But what it offers is a true place to get away from it all, especially if you like books. The large upstairs sitting room has comfy couches and cushy overstuffed chairs with lovely views and a library stocked with all kinds of books. There's also journals scattered around, where folks who have visited leave comment, from a few sentences to a few pages, giving an insight into the lives and minds of fellow travelers to the ocean.

We'll be in the middle of "The Big Read" in Wallowa County in February, so an inn dedicated to books will make an appropriate destination for a trip outside the county. Anyway, the Oregon coast is one of my favorite spots in the world and I can't wait to watch the ocean and walk along the shore again next month.

I have a column I wrote about a recent trip with my 21-year-old son to Las Vegas, so maybe I'll publish that soon.
Right now I'm trying to figure out how to add a photo of my son flying a kite at the Oregon coast when he was young.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My favorite spots

Most memorable activity of the past week: Watching 21 sled dog teams take off in the dark for 100-mile and 200-mile runs in the 2nd annual Eagle Cap Sled Dog Race near Joseph.

I write an every other column for my weekly paper -- it was my boss' idea, not mine -- and I always have trouble thinking of ideas about to write about. It's usually more personal than I would like. For example my most recent one was about approaching old age and how my defination of that stage of life had changed since I was 18. My column is aptly titled "It's All Relative."

The funny thing is that after 20-plus years of working on my newspaper ( I get more positive comments from more people about that silly little column than all the news stories and features in all these years. Probably the one I got the most comment on was one about the trials and tribulations of trying to keep my lawn mowed.

My daughter suggested I start putting my columns on my blog (which I have neglected since starting in November) and maybe I'll start doing that.

Anyway, I'm in the process of thinking of a new topic, and one idea is writing about my 10 favorite spots in the world. Let me see if I can come up with a list:

1. Wallowa County, Oregon; my home
2. The Blanchet Ranch near Pendleton, Ore.; where I grew up and my father grew up and is still in our family.
3. The Oregon Coast; I love the rugged landscape, beachcombing, the ocean.
4. London, England; the only place I've ever traveled that I need a passport.
5. Charleston, S.C.; a lovely, lovely historical city in the South.
6. Portland, Oregon; the city I visit most often (my kids live here) and enjoy exploring.
7. Las Vegas, Nevada; perhaps I should put this up higher on the list, after all it is my favorite fantasy world and is second only to Portland and the coast as a travel destination.
8. New York, N.Y.; I've loved my two trips to this big city, what an exciting place to visit.
9. Utah -- I love the beauty of those sandstone formations.
10. San Francisco, Calif. -- I lived here for a year or two, many, many years ago, and plan to return for a visit one of these days.

I'm taking a week off work at the end of February, and am planning a trip to Portland area (to see my granddaughter!) and the Oregon Coast.

I'll writer more about some of these places. I'm going to start writing here at least once or twice a week, though I know no one but me reads here, at least so far.