Jul 292014

Rafting in Hells Canyon

Sitting on the edge of the Airstream bed while petting Oliver, B watches me with a curious eye as I pack his dry bag.  A nice {big} dry bag that Kurt and Heidi from Hells Canyon Raft dropped off with us at our campsite at the McCall RV Resort.  Tomorrow morning we begin a multi-day whitewater rafting trip with them. Where the Snake River heads north and carves the border between Idaho and Oregon, it forms the infamous Hells Canyon which happens to be the deepest gorge in North America (and deeper than the Grand Canyon!) and just happens to be where our rafting trip will take us . . .

McCall RV Resort and Northfork Lodge in McCall, ID via J5MM.com

“Mommy, will I be able to fish?”  B asks . . .

I glance over my shoulder and I smile {big} at him as I finish packing his dry bag.

His eyes grow bigger — and he too — smiles :)

He knows my answer.

What about Oliver?  Can he come? Where will we sleep?  Will our Airstream be okay alone here? 

So many questions my little boy has.

I reassure him everything will be perfect.

And it was . . .

This is how our two-night // three-day trip with Hells Canyon Raft began each morning . . .

Rafting in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Rafting in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

From falling asleep in our comfortable tents under some of the most amazing star-lit skies and crisp cool canyon air, we are awoken gently the next morning with soft sun beans shining through our tents gently warming us awake.

We unzip our tents and follow our noses to the smell of freshly brewed cowboy coffee and breakfast being prepared riverside by our guides Patrick and Elaine.

Rafting in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

With coffee in my hand and hot cocoa in B’s — we decide to take a hike together and explore our surroundings.  Just he and I . . .

Soon enough we hear the call that breakfast is ready — so we start to head back down to our riverside camp.

But not before I give B a head start . . .

{a big head start}

Because I couldn’t get over the landscapes and views here.  Amazing.

I could have taken pictures forever . . .

Rafting in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Rafting in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Homestead Camping in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Rafting in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Sunny mornings at our riverside camp consisted of chatting with new friends from far away places, sipping hot coffee and hot cocoa all while enjoying some of the most delicious gourmet riverside meals.

After breakfast one morning, Patrick and Elaine offered up a “easy” hike to take.  “Monica, the view from the top is one you’ll never forget.” Patrick tells me as he can see I am questioning whether or not to go . . . because the hike is on the other side of the river and it looks steep.  Very — steep.  I’m not a fan of heights.  But he reassured me that people of all ages and skill levels can easily take this hike.

So I went. And I am SO glad I did.

Hiking to Suicide Point in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

And along the way we would spy some of the canyon’s beauty . . .

Rafting in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Rafting in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

When we arrived at the view point our guide Katie began to explain the story of how the name of this point came to be:

“Once upon a time, a very long time ago . . . two beautiful souls from different backgrounds met here in the canyon.

They became friends.

BEST friends who LOVED each other.

But in the end, their families disagreed and would not accept that they were in love.  VERY much in love they were and VERY unaccepting were both sides of their families.

They were very unhappy about that and decided that if they weren’t allowed to be together surrounded by the love of their families, they would find another way to be together.


Their fate was very sad :(

Standing ontop of Suicide Point in Hells Canyon, ID via J5MM.com

B was very moved by this story too . . .

“Mommy, that story is like the story from my Mountain Man book when wild Bill and Running Moon fell in love with each other.”

I was touched that he could relate both of those stories together because he was right, they were very similar . . .

B onto of Suicide Point in Hells Canyon, ID via J5MM.com

After a long while we all decided to head back down and continue on our journey.  Everyone in my group was taking pictures.  Picture – after – picture.  We would all stop, pause and wait until they got just the right shot.  We were all so awe struck with the beauty and dramatic landscapes here.

Fishing Hells Canyon with Hells Canyon Raft in beautiful Idaho via j5MM.com

Whitewater rafting through Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Native Trout in Hells Canyon via J5MM.comNative Trout in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

From catching and releasing some of the most beautiful native fish to some heart pumping wild rapids there was always something new to discover such as the (now) historic pioneering homesteads.

The Snake riverside is dotted with many of these  homesteads built in the late 1800′s.  Imagining living in the primitive conditions as the homesteaders did back in the 1800′s sent goosebumps up my spine.  It must have been a very hard life amid such wilderness and beauty.

Take for example the Kirkwood Ranch home of the Jordan family. In the depression years of the 1930s the Jordan family was desperate and bought a sheep ranch in the Canyon to try to reverse their failing fortunes. They lived with their children at Kirkwood Ranch for several years and had a few neighbors scattered up and down the canyon.

The Jordans left the Kirkwood Ranch at the beginning of World War II and Len Jordan went on to become a U.S. Senator which I think was quite a feat considering the hard times he must have endured during the depression and homesteading on the ranch.

Len and Grace Jordan's home in Hells Canyon along the Snake River at the Kirkwood Ranch via J5MM.com

Below are pictures I took of the family cabin dining room and the apple orchards that graced their property.

Not to mention the abundant cherry trees . . .

After enjoying a few cherries, I secretly put the pits into my pocket.

Maybe I can grow these same trees back home on my property in Roslyn . . .

We’ll see.

Len and Grace Jordan's home in Hells Canyon along the Snake River at the Kirkwood Ranch via J5MM.com

Len and Grace Jordan's home in Hells Canyon along the Snake River at the Kirkwood Ranch via J5MM.com

As we floated down the river, our guides explain to us that the Native Americans were the first humans to settle in Hells Canyon. For many years the canyon provided a passageway and temporary home for the Nez Perce tribe and evidence of their settling is still found in Hells Canyon today via their pictographs.

I couldn’t even begin to describe how excited I was to be able  to see these pictographs up close and personal . . . and imagine myself standing in the very same spot the Native Americans did.

Nez Perce Indians Pictographs in Hells Canyon along the Snake River with Hells Canyon Raft and Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com

Hells Canyon Raft with Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com

After our full day of exploring the canyon it’s time to head to camp.  Upon arrival, our tents are all prepared for us and our guides begin to set up the kitchen and get dinner started.

Meanwhile, we all settle into our tents and get refreshed for a relaxing evening by the river.  B chooses to continue to fish, hubby takes a dip and I swim in the 72 degree water.  I feel so refreshed.

So happy.

Soon our guides bring out beautiful big plates adorned with with dutch oven melted brie that has been wrapped in a garlic butter drenched flaky phyllo dough and topped with the most delicious cherry chutney.  I failed to take a picture because everyone was devouring this most delicious appetizer.

And dinner was delicious (and beautiful) as usual . . .

But it was that Cherry Chutney I couldn’t get out of my head.  The cherries came from the Kirkwood Ranch and were turned into the thick, heavenly sweet chutney by Heidi Armacost — owner of Hells Canyon Raft.

Maybe if I asked nicely, I thought . . . she would share the recipe with me :)

Hells Canyon Raft with Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com via J5MM.com

Hells Canyon Rafting Experience with Hells Canyon Raft with Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com

And in my last email with Heidi, while thanking her for the incredible trip — she did share her recipe with me !!  And now YOU :)  Bon Appetit !!

Kirkwood Ranch in Hells Canyon Cherry Chutney Recipe from Hells Canyon Raft via J5MM.com

So this past weekend, back home in Washington while glamped on our piece of property in Roslyn, I find my cherry trees are still going strong.

I walk around my property, with basket in hand, picking the cherries off my heirloom trees.  These trees of mine, once belonged to a hard working coal mining family — they have deep history, just the cherry trees have their own deep history at the Kirkwood Ranch in Hells Canyon.

One-by-one I reach up and pick the cherries . . . just like Heidi does in Hells Canyon back at the ranch.

I take my happy little basket of cherries and retreat into my silver kitchen where I slowly start to pit the cherries, chop up the onions and stir the sweet bubbling mixture on my little stove top — all while reflecting back on our most amazing trip through Hells Canyon.

At this moment I am thankful.

Thankful for this life and thankful for the memories.

Hells Canyon Raft Cherry Chutney Underway In My Silver Kitchen via J5MM.comHells Canyon Raft Cherry Chutney Underway In My Silver Kitchen via J5MM.com

While my cherry chutney mixture is cooling on my countertop I open the Airstream door and walk outside.  I walk quietly next to my cherry trees admiring them.  I then stop to dig a little hole here and another little hole there.  I continue to dig little holes and in each hole, I place a precious cherry pit from the cherry trees of Kirkwood Ranch deep in Hells Canyon.  The ones I kept when we all enjoyed them when visiting the ranch.  They lived in my pocket and then my dry bag.  They came all the way home with me living in my Airstream cupboard from deep in Hells Canyon.

Maybe one day I will have a Kirkwood Ranch Cherry Tree growing here.

Maybe . . .


Hells Canyon Raft Cherry Chutney Recipe via J5MM.com

Cherry Chutney Phyllo Brie Bites

HCR’s Homestead Cherry Chutney


  • 3/4 cups Cherry Preserves
  • 3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoons Allspice (Ground)
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 2/3 cups Chopped Onion (I used Red)
  • 2 cups Fresh Cherries (Pitted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper


Step 1
Simply place all ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring often in the beginning and every now and then during the cooking process. Cook until the entire mixture becomes reduced by half.
Step 2
Pour into a glass container and let come to room temperature before serving.
Step 3
Bon Appetit and thank you Hells Canyon Raft !!

And if you would like to recreate the appetizer simply buy yourself some phyllo cups, melt some butter and throw in that butter a garlic clove (or two) and let the flavors infuse . . . brush your phyllo cups with the garlic butter and place a tiny square of brie cheese into the center.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes — or until the cheese inside melts.  Immediately top with your cherry chutney and serve.

These go fast, so make a lot :)

Camping along Snake River in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Apr 242014

Springtime In The Forest via J5MM.com

This forest, right behind my house is a very special place for me.  For almost 15 years I’ve been retreating to mothers nature’s magical playground to think, clear my mind and take in the fresh air.

There is no time better in my opinion, to hike these woods than in the Springtime.  Little flower buds are popping out of woody dangly branches, the curly fiddleheads of the fern plant begin to slowly emerge and colorful flower blossoms seem to bend your way as you walk by so you can admire their beauty.

Oliver and I set off on a hike the morning before Easter to experience all the beauty that lay in these woods.  As we hiked along, I thought about Easter dinner the following evening.  The Bennett family was coming over and I always love to cook for them.

Today would be a test run of some of the appetizer and side dishes I had in mind to serve and I could hardly wait to get started.  Practice menu runs for me not only give me peace of mind the following day when cooking, it also gives me the opportunity to fine tune and perfect any given recipe. Continue reading »

Jan 242014

Five Or Less Friday via J5MM.com

How much do I love this heavenly green concoction I’ve called Pesto?  Well let me just count the ways :)

I love it gently swirled into a deep bowl of delicate angel hair pasta — B thinks it’s even better with his eggs over easy and I won’t forget hubby’s favorite way —  straight out of the jar (naughty, naughty).

But today I enjoy it this way — on a Tartine :)  which means, “open faced sandwich,” in French :)

This style of eating is one my favorites :) and B’s favorite too.

A slice of toasted French bread smeared with a generous helping of peppered ricotta followed by a nice dollop of the pesto and a thin slice of ‎ proscuiotto followed by a grand finale of perfectly roasted tomatoes.


Pesto is what I first called it — but upon further consideration it could easily merge into the category of Heavenly Deliciousness taking any meal to higher levels :)

You may remember this trip we took when I first created this recipe.  I realized I had forgotten the real Italian pesto at home :(  So, using what I had onboard I introduce you to our new favorite pesto/sauce/heavenly concoction  ♥

Cheddar Almond Chive Pesto via J5MM.com

Five Or Less Friday via J5MM.com

Airstream Kitchen Pesto Recipe via J5MM.com

My next thought for this?  Atop a hot baked potato with a dollop of sour cream ♥

If you do try this, please let me know — I would love to hear what you think xo

Bon Appetit xoxo

~ Monica

Smoky Almond, Cheddar and Chive Pesto


  • 3 cups chives (just take the bunch of chives and roughly break them apart so they will loosely fill three cups)
  • 1/2 cup smoked and salted almonds (roughly chopped)
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese (finely shredded)
  • Zest of one small lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste (at the end)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup olive oil


Step 1
In a food processor (I used my trusty little 3-cup capacity food processor I keep on board the Airstream) put the chives, almonds, cheese, lemon zest and give it a whirl. Add your olive oil to it - a little at a time until your desired consistency is met.
Step 2
Add salt and pepper to taste at the end. Hubby said I should bottle this stuff and sell it. I also think next time I may add some garlic . . .
Step 3
In addition to topping eggs with this, I imagine it would be delicious with pasta or on sandwiches :) ♥
Oct 232013

A Fall Harvest in Roslyn, Washington with our Airstream trailer

There is something about the Fall season that simply warms my heart and gets me thinking about the cooler weather ahead.

Our Airstream, which currently happily waits for us on our piece of property in Eastern Washington sits amongst heirloom apple and plum trees surrounded by this new season.

And it never fails — with the abundance of those late summer fruits — apples and plums — that I’m continually tempted into my silver kitchen to cook . . .

. . . and to escape the everyday hustle and bustle of corporate America.

For me, this is my refuge. Continue reading »

Jun 132013

Airstream trailer road trip and glamping around the Olympic National Park

Map of Port Townsend Fort Worden

It was our last night glamping with our Airstream at Fort Worden State Park.  Around 2 am we awoke to winds howling and rain pouring down.   I’m glad we were smart and put the awning up before going to bed.  Have you ever had to put your awning up in the middle of the night because of strong winds and heavy rain?  Not a pleasant experience, that’s for sure.

Stormy night at Fort Worden

While the boys slept in, I took Oliver for a walk up to Fort Worden to get an up close and personal look at the historic buildings and also get a feel for where the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman,” was filmed.  I also thought about those crepes I would make for the boys when they woke up . . . Continue reading »

Jun 112013

Airstream trailer road trip and glamping around the Olympic National Park

Map of Port Townsend Fort Worden

It was day three of our Olympic Peninsula Loop which meant, two more days before returning back to reality of corporate America (insert sad face).   We enjoyed a breakfast of chocolate croissants, coffee and hot cocoa. With maps spread out over our morning table we began analyzing how our day would be spent.

“Can we go to the beach mommy?” B asks me pointing to Rialto Beach on the map . . .

Hubby and I looked at each other — “Yes! Let’s do that.”

And off we went . . .

Continue reading »

Apr 182013

Oh beautiful Oregon.  How I love you and how much I realize a trip back is in order.  Our trip visiting with you last Spring was one we will never forget . . .

We were sad to be leaving Kahneeta.  We had such a wonderful time spending our days hiking, swimming, golfing and just relaxing.  We will forever remember the good times we had there.

Like anything else in life, it was time to move on.  We had a schedule that we needed to stick to if we truly wanted to visit all of the places we had in mind in Oregon.

So off we went.  Our next stop was Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne where we would be able to see some rock climbers in action.

When we arrived We pulled the Airstream into a nice big spot and had a picnic lunch of prosciutto, feta and tomato tartines accompanied with Burrata.

Oh that Burrata.

Continue reading »

Mar 122012

On the road home to the U.S.A. from British Columbia

Driving home from Rossland, B.C. back into the U.S.A. and onward to Seattle was quite an adventure for us.

We experienced:

icy roads,

slush covered roads,

dry and sunny roads, and

stage 1 snow emergency roads declared in Spokane, WA.

Here is a shot of that experience:

Stage 1 Snow Emergency, Spokane, WA February 2012

. . . and then we had beautiful dry and sunny roads again . . .

Wind Turbines near Vantage, WA -- they are HUGE compared to the semi truck down there

It was all enough for me.  I was ready to be home.

But guess what?  To really get home, we had to drive over Snoqualmie Pass.  According to the road report, traction tires were required as well as chains for trucks.

We decided to keep that adventure for the next day.

Luckily Whispering Pines RV Resort was on our way and we pulled in — into a pull through!

We were happy.  Sometimes we really love those pull through sites.  Really.  No un-hitching.  Just pull on through and pull right out and continue on . . .

Let’s camp and eat!!

And think about tomorrow, well, tomorrow.

Camp at Whispering Pines Campground, Cle Elum, WA and Oprah's favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich

This is by far, one of my most favorite grilled cheese recipes.  Okay, well maybe for except this one.

But really, it is SO good.  Sweet and savory, both at once.

A couple of years ago (or maybe more?) I was watching Oprah and she and Gayle King featured this grilled cheese recipe on their show.  I was starving when I watched it and of course, had to make it straight away after watching the show.

Needless to say, I make it often.

Very, often.

Beautiful Organic Tomatoes from Full Circle Farms

Camp at Whispering Pines, Cle Elum, WA

Here is the link to the recipe.

Bon appetit!

Mar 022012

Caramelized Onion and Feta Cheese Buckwheat Tarts

We were on vacation. A nice, long vacation.  We were preparing for this trip for a very long time and finally we were here at Red Mountain in Rossland, British Columbia. It is just a few hours north of Spokane, Washington. The drive coming up was beautiful. The drive going back home? Not so much. I will be posting about our trip home soon, it was very interesting.

The routine was the same, everyday. It was nice. Wake up early, feed the boys and set them off for a day of skiing. Hubby on his way for cat skiing with Big Red Cats and our photographers Matt Small and Kenny Blum and B off to his ski class with his favorite instructor, Maude from France.

“Mommy, is Maude going to teach me skiing today again?” he would ask as I helped him get dressed in all of his layers.

Layer.  After.  Layer.

“Yes she is,” I would tell him and then would come the smiles. Big smiles. He really enjoyed his days skiing, thank you so much Maude. You’ve created wonderful memories for him.

While everyone was off enjoying their days of skiing, I would walk around the resort and take photographs and seek out inspiration for our next meal.  The fact that I had my box of goodies from Full Circle Farms was an added bonus.  A box full of fresh, organic veggies — the possibilities were endless. If you live in Washington State, Alaska and Idaho I am sure you have heard of Full Circle Farms.  They are an “organic food delivery service,” and it feels like Christmas morning every time my box is delivered to my door.  Community Supported Agriculture — I am very proud to be a supporting member.  Here is more about Full Circle Farms

Red Mountain Resort, British Columbia

Out of my box I pulled some beautiful organic red potatoes, an onion and got to work slicing, sauteing and assembling.  I have only made sweet tarts before, never a savory one.  I was excited for this one.

Potatoes, buckwheat flour (I have been on a buckwheat kick lately — I am in love with the taste), caramelized onions and parmesan cheese — once baked together we experienced deep, earthy savory flavors.  It was incredible.

Buckwheat Tarts with Caramelized Onions & Feta Cheese

After I picked up B from class we came back to the Airstream for some hot cocoa (our apres-skiing ritual).

He saw the tarts on the counter, cooling.

“What are those mommy?” his eyes wide with curiosity.

“A potato tart.  Would you like one?”

He ate two.

Caramelized Onion and Feta Cheese Buckwheat Tart

Recipe for Caramelized Onion & Parmesan Cheese Potato Tarts with Buckwheat Flour


Feb 242011

On the morning of our second day in Rockaway, Oregon, where our Airstream was camped right across from the ocean, we woke up to the endings of a coastal storm.   The night was amazing — incredible high winds, huge waves crashing in the distance, rain pounding down on the Airstream.  The Airstream was literally rocking back and forth from those winds — hubby commented how it felt like it used to when we were on our boat.  The night definitely gave the name “Land Yacht” some true meaning.  But while the Airstream was gently rocking from those high winds, I had a warm and fuzzy feeling inside knowing we were toasty warm, cozy and safe from those elements.  I don’t think I ever slept so good as I did that night.

On the menu for breakfast was a breakfast scramble to go — we took these little tasty pockets of heaven down to the beach and enjoyed the sweeping views of the Oregon coast.