What Jess Walton (Y&R’s Jill Foster Abbot Fenmore) and I have in common

Y_and_RI have to confess to being a soap opera addict. I’ve been “clean” for decades (kids and a job can really help you kick the habit), but I’m still drawn to them.  If I pay attention to the covers of the soap opera magazines while waiting in the grocery check out line, I can pretty much stay updated on the story lines and characters. So, even though I’m not a regular viewer of The Young & The Restless, it wasn’t surprising that I immediately noticed a photo of Jess Walton hanging in a restaurant we visited recently.

Cowboy_Dinner_Tree_LRWe were enjoying our annual fall vacation at Eagle Crest Resort in Central Oregon and had made reservations for dinner one evening at The Cowboy Dinner Tree restaurant. To describe the restaurant’s location as out in the middle of nowhere is no exaggeration. It’s located about two hours from our resort, and a couple miles outside the extremely small town of Silver Lake. This is not a restaurant one stumbles across. It’s off the main highway, the signage is poor and the building looks like it’s been abandoned.

Cowboy_Dinner_Tree_food_LRI read a review of the restaurant in The Oregonian newspaper’s travel section years ago, and we finally found the time to visit a couple of years ago. The husband wanted to go back this year, so we made our reservations (required!) and placed our order (also required) a month in advance.  They offer two dinner options: a 26-30 ounce Top Sirloin or a full roasted chicken (yep, a WHOLE chicken!). We order one of each and share (thankfully, they offer doggie bags to take the leftovers home). Dinner includes soup, salad, really delicious rolls, dessert and assorted beverages.

Jess_Walton_crop_LRAs we walked in the door, I noticed the photo of Jess and a group of people at the restaurant. The gentleman in the photo was labeled as her husband, John (her Y & R character Jill was married to a gentleman named John, too). I had to wonder what would bring a soap opera star from Los Angeles to a tiny, off the beaten path restaurant, in an incredibly remote area of Central Oregon.

A little research revealed that Jess and her husband John have recently moved to Central Oregon. I completely understand that decision!  I LOVE Central Oregon, and the husband and I plan to move there someday. The central and eastern portions of Oregon are so much drier than where we live (about 30 minutes southeast of Portland). For now, jobs and family obligations keep us west of the Cascades, so we have to be content with visiting several times a year.

Jess and I not only love Central Oregon enough to want to live there, but we are wives,  married to our spouses for more than 30 years, mothers of a boy and a girl, grandmothers, and apparently we both enjoy good food in large quantities, as well. O.K, those things don’t make us two peas in a pod, but I can’t help but feel a tiny connection to this actor who has discovered the wonders of my little corner of the world. Welcome to the neighborhood, Jess!

Flying on the cheap


Some of the beautiful landscape at Eagle Crest

I love to travel. I enjoy exploring new places, as well as visiting old favorites to just relax. We take at least three vacations a year by car to Eagle Crest Resort, which is about a two-hour drive from our home. We pack up our Acrua MDX, hit the road, grab some groceries in the town near the resort  and move into the condo for a week of relaxation. We’ve been doing this since 1991, and it truly feels like a second home to our family.


I LOVE my MDX! Great car for travel!!

However, as much as we enjoy Eagle Crest, we occasionally like to get out of our comfort zone and explore sites and visit friends out of state. This usually means traveling by airplane rather than car. I don’t mind riding in or driving the MDX (it’s a very comfortable car!), but driving takes a lot of time and we’d rather spend our vacation hours at our destination rather than traveling to get there.

Plane tickets and all the fees can get pretty spendy, but we’ve been flying on the cheap for years. In fact, we haven’t paid full fare since 2000! How do we do it? We accumulate frequent flyer miles and use great *finesse to stretch their value.

We are members of the Alaska Airline mileage plan, but most airline programs are similar. The vast majority of our earned miles have nothing to do with flying. We accumulate miles by using an Alaska Airlines Visa and an Alaska Airline debit card. We use the cards for anything and everything possible, and the miles add up quickly. When we built our house, we put all of our construction purchases on our Visa card, and paid off the balance with the construction loan draw. Those were big purchases that really helped build the account.


When we use our miles for a flight, we rarely use miles for the entire purchase. If you do, you won’t accumulate the miles flown on that flight. However, if you use miles and cash, you can accumulate the miles flown. For a one way discounted ticket, you can use 10,000 miles and receive a 50 percent discount up to $100 on a less expensive itinerary, or use 20,000 miles and receive a 50 percent discount up to $200 for a more expensive destination.

Each year we receive a discounted companion fare, which allows us to purchase a ticket for $99 with the purchase of a full fare ticket. This is always a better option than using miles and cash. We recently flew to Alaska using this option.

When we fly, we usually stay in a hotel and rent a car. We earn miles just by using our mileage plan’s hotel and car rental partners (and there’s usually a discount). We pay our bill using our Alaska Airlines Visa to earn even more miles!

Do you want to fly more often and spend less? Try what works for us!

  1. Join a mileage plan and really get to know the benefits.
  2. Accumulate miles doing things you already do, like purchasing groceries and fuel.
  3. Research the best way to use your miles for maximum benefit.
  4. Use car rental and hotel partners when you travel to earn even more miles.

Do you have any tips for flying on the cheap?

My travel finesse level:
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your travel finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Vacation for health

I’ve taken four vacations so far this year, am currently enjoying my fifth, and have a sixth scheduled. The husband has traveled with me, except for my trip to Alaska. We normally take three vacations per year in the spring, summer and fall, so this year has been unusual.

A beautiful fall morning at Eagle Crest Resort in Central Oregon.

Normally, we pack up our Acura MDX and drive a couple of hours from home to a resort we’ve been visiting since 1991. We enjoy a relaxing week with no schedules, no airports, no hotels, no car rentals and no restaurants – and the weather is usually better than at home. We’re able to completely unwind and reenergize, so it’s reasonable to assume there are psychological benefits to taking vacations. However, research shows vacations can benefit you physically, as well.

Sunrise over the Deschutes River at Eagle Crest Resort

According to an article in Psychology Today, studies show that “vacation is good for your cardiovascular health and your waistline, lowers your cortisol levels and your blood pressure, and may aid in recovery from diseases like cancer.”

Vacations don’t have to be expensive or in some faraway location, and they don’t have to be a week long. Even the simplest of getaways can benefit your health. Why wait?