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Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain

Base Camp – Manitou Springs

Over the summer we stayed in Manitou Springs so that we could visit Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. Manitou Springs is a quirky little town nestled in Colorado Springs. We have visited the town twice, and have enjoyed ourselves immensely both times. As you might expect, the town features unique shops full of gift items, local art, and tons of cool mementos. In addition, they have a robust nightlife scene with plenty of dining and evening activities. Above all, most of the restaurants feature live music and outdoor seating with amazing rooftop views of the surrounding mountains.

 We stayed at Magnuson Hotel – Manitou Springs. The hotel was very clean in the lobby and pool area. There were restrictions on the pool due to COVID, so each family could sign up for a time slot. Things were pretty booked up despite the pandemic, so our appointment was the next morning. After unloading our bags into the hotel room, we traveled up the bustling main street in search of something for dinner. Because of COVID we opted to make this a quick grab-and-go meal and then we headed back to the hotel for the night.

The next morning, we enjoyed a quick breakfast because our hot tub and pool time was quickly approaching. Kiera had a blast showing off her gymnastics moves in the pool. This meant that Andy and I could enjoy time relaxing and watching Kiera’s performance. After our allotted time by the pool, we were relaxed and ready to go! We cleaned up, packed up, and got ready for our ascent. We hopped into the 4-Runner and headed towards Pikes Peak.

Helpful Hints – Preparing For Pikes Peak

  • Wear Sturdy Shoes! I recommend a pair of hiking boots that have good traction and grip. Shoes designed for climbing will serve you well in the rocky terrain. Avoid shoes with a flat sole. I wore a cute pair of slip-on shoes and Glen Cove taught me a lesson.
  • Bring Sunscreen. Because you are 14,115 feet above sea level, you are much closer to the sun. Even if there is a blizzard at the summit you are still that much closer to the sun and more likely to get sunburn
  • Bring a coat. I have been to the Summit twice during the month of July, and both times the temperature was below freezing and it was snowing on the summit.
  • Drink lots of water. No matter where you are, it is important to remember that you are in high desert. Because of this, you will want to stay hydrated. I recommend bringing along extra water for everyone in your vehicle in case there are any travel issues along the way.

The views along the highways in Manitou Springs are stunning. Because the roadway has plenty of twists and turns around natural rock formations, you get to see the landscape and mountain scenes from many different angles. The surroundings are a true wonder of their own, but we also enjoy pointing out the mountainside cabins along the way and daydreaming aloud about what the winter is like living in that cabin on the mountain.

Helpful Hints – Before The Park

  • The air is thinner at the summit. Therefore, it is not recommended for anyone under 6 months of age or anyone with a history of cardiac or respiratory problems to go to the summit.
  • CHECK YOUR GAS TANK!!!! The climb to the peak is a 38-mile trip, but it uses 86 miles of fuel. Make sure you fill your gas tank before reaching the park.
  • Stay hydrated! Double-check your water supply and make sure you have enough.
  • Plan for the trip to last 2-3 hours

Things To Do

Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain has many activities available. You may want to plan ahead though, because some of the activities are seasonal or require booking in advance. There are 20 points of interest along the journey to the summit, so there is sure to be something for every interest. The summit itself is an absolute must, so when you reach the gateway and receive your pamphlet, you will see all 20 points of interest marked A-T in red dots. You can also visit their website here. The website also has digital downloads and can provide you a few other pamphlets with facts and information.

Pikes Peak – Visiting Centers, Rest Stops, and Picnic Areas

There are 3 Visiting Centers along the journey to the summit. The first is Crystal Ridge (point E ). The second is Glen Cove (point K). Last but not least, the summit itself (point T). Each of the visiting centers offer a unique experience, so it is worthwhile to stop at all 3. Crystal Ridge sits along a lake and offers fishing, hiking and kayaking. Its also home to several Big Foot sightings. Glen Cove is at the timberline of the mountain. This stop is mandatory, as this is where the break checks occur on the descent. Glen Cove offers plenty of activities in nature while you wait for your brakes to cool if need be. Finally, there is the summit. This is not only the summit of Pikes Peak, but also where they keep the world famous Pikes Peak elevation donuts.

Rest areas are spaced so that one is at the bottom, one in the middle and the other at the summit. Each Visiting Center has a small café and gift shop. The gift shops all have the same novelty items and are priced the same as well. Each of the locations offer stunning mountain views, each with their own unique perspective of the mountain. In addition, other rest stop points include C and G. While they lack the café and gift shop, these locations do offer rest rooms, great views, and picnic areas.

Pikes Peak – Fishing, Hiking and Skiing

Between mile 6 and mile 8, you can stop and visit Crystal Lake, South Catamount Lake, and North Catamount Lake. We did not visit either of the Catamount lakes, but Crystal lake was a part of our journey. Fishing is available May through October, and requires a CO fishing license.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb begins at point of interest F. This point falls east of Crystal lake and west of South Catamount lake. If you intend to hike your way up the mountain this is your starting point (YES – It is on my bucket list!)

Cass & Kiera chillin’ with ‘Squatch

Bigfoot, Andy & Kiera

If you intend to stop and enjoy skiing on your way to the summit you can park at point of interest J. Pikes Peak skiing area is a little before mile 12 and is 10,600 ft. in elevation. If you are hitting the slopes, remember to stay hydrated. Have fun on the slopes!!

Devils Playground and Shuttle Service

If you’ve made it to Devils Playground, you’re 12,780 ft. in elevation. The views from this height are quite awe-inspiring, so we recommend stopping to see the view. Plus, it is highly likely that you will want to stretch your legs at this point! Try to plan your trip so that you will be reaching Devils Playground in the morning on later in afternoon. If you arrive in the afternoon, as we did, your views down the mountain will likely be obscured by clouds. And if you are particularly unlucky, as we were, there is a high likelihood of afternoon thunderstorms. 

The rocks that tower above the parking lot are a popular climbing attraction for visitors but is also a popular spot for lightening to strike during the afternoon thunderstorms. Park rangers will ask guest to come off of the rocks if danger levels are extremely high, but use your best judgement and follow any other posted rules if you visit the rocks

At Devils Playground you have the option to continue your journey in your own vehicle or to take the shuttle. Quite white-knuckled at this point, I was very happy to park the 4-Runner and finish the journey to the summit on the shuttle. After stretching our legs and seeing the spectacular views from Devils Playground, we jumped on one of the shuttles that depart every 5- 10 minutes. As expected, the shuttle drivers were super friendly and our driver was eager to talk about the mountains. He also had cool stories about points of interest remaining along the way to the summit and throughout the park.

Helpful Hints – Shuttle to Pikes Peak Summit

  • No pets on the shuttle
  • No bicycles on the shuttle
  • ADA Shuttles are available
  • You will be cold at Devils Playground and Summit – Bundle up!!

The Summit- 14,115 ft.

As expected, the Summit is the main attraction and the most popular tourist location at Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. If you are cold and you didn’t bring enough warmies, go buy yourself a sweatshirt or a blanket in the gift shop. To stop her teeth from chattering, we ended up buying Kiera a blanket at the summit. She was convinced that I had lost my mind when I told her it snows at the summit, even in July. 

As we said before, the views are spectacular from the summit. But remember, you really want to see them in the morning hours before the clouds and storms move in. Going in the afternoon is risky because there is a greater chance of overcast or cloudy skies, which will lead to poor visibility. The summit is also where they make the elevation donuts. We got 6 to test the theory of taste at the top compared to the bottom. Overall since they were not smothered in chocolate Ki and I weren’t very impressed. Andy made up for our lack of interest on the remaining donuts by eating them all as we descended the mountain.

In May 2021 the Pikes Peak Summit Complex will look a lot different than it did when we visited in July. The new summit visit center will be an upgrade from the current Summit House because it will be much larger and have more observation decks. One new feature that we are excited about is the addition of a train that will take you from the base of the mountain all the way to the summit. While driving up the mountain is fun, but I prefer the option of sight seeing . Therefore, taking a train allows for plenty of sight-seeing for everyone, not just the passengers. It is also a far more environmentally friendly idea than individual drivers going up and down the mountain. I am sure all of the wildlife that calls Pikes Peak home will appreciate that!

Helpful Hints – Pikes Peak Summit

  • Visit during the morning hours for best visibility.
  • The air is thinner and that can make it more difficult to breath.
  • No smoking at the Summit.
  • Stay on designated paths.
  • Do not feed the wildlife.
  • Bundle up its cold!
  • Hydrate! (I say this a lot)

We personally cannot wait to repeat the experience and visit the summit again. We talk about our climb up Pikes peak often. Because we all have fond memories of our trips to CO, we regularly compare our experiences there to other trips. Also, Kiera is always excited to tell her friends about her mountain adventures. And we are not sure why, but Andy enjoys taking panoramic photos and telling his friends about the sights and experiences. Me personally, I love all of the above plus the added bonus of creating these awesome moments with my family. If you are planning to stay in Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain is totally 100% worth the trip! Trust me, you will not regret it!

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Simple Guide To Beer Glasses

You probably didn’t know it, but your IPA has been missing something – Proper Glassware! But don’t worry, Our Simple Guide To Beer Glasses will teach you everything you need to know about choosing the right glass for your favorite adult beverage. Whether you choose a juicy and hazy NEIPA, or a nutty stout with strong coffee notes, we have a recommendation that will thrill your taste buds. In addition, we also take into account the cool factor to give you well-rounded choices!

Why Upgrade Your Glasses?

Before I get into the specifics of the glasses that I love and why, I wanted to cover some of the benefits of upgrading your glassware. Firstly, it DEFINITELY makes a difference in flavor and overall taste. I didn’t really think it could make a difference, but after many trials and efforts to find the right glasses, I can tell you that a standard pint glass simply doesn’t cut it. Pint glasses are great for a Miller Lite, but you’re going to want to step your game up for a Julius!

Secondly, upgraded glassware shows that you take your craft beer seriously. I’m not too hung up on trying to look cool, but a nice piece of glassware can start a conversation. In addition, it may provide you an opportunity to nerd-out over flavor profiles and proper pours with a like-minded individual that notices a familiar piece of glassware. There is no doubt that what you choose to drink out of shows a bit of your personality.


Fermented Reality Outdoor B Cups

We will start our Simple Guide To Beer Glasses off with a top pick for the outdoor scene – The Outdoor B Cup from Fermented Reality. You will want to rock this sustainable plastic cup at craft brew festivals, bonfires, and camping trips (Yeah, I know – it’s a guide to beer glasses, you knucklehead). Best of all, these cups are safe for use around the pool, where glass is generally a no-go! These sturdy plastic cups are available in many different configurations depending the the beer you are drinking. I generally drink IPA’s, so I definitely prefer the IPA cup. It is designed to agitate the beer and activate the CO2 with every sip. In addition, the cup has a nice taper at the top that concentrates aromas and delivers a piney, citrusy blast to your nose every time you tip your cup.

What This Glass Says About You

An Outdoor B Cup in your hand clearly sends off a few different vibes. First, it tells everyone that you take your craft beer seriously. While you can still love beer that was poured into a red solo cup, you are showing respect to the craftsmanship that goes into a well-balanced craft brew. In addition, this glass shows that you care about the environment. Sustainable glassware (or in this case, plastic-ware) is designed to last for generations. These cups are super sturdy, and best of all – Dishwasher Safe!


Spiegelau Craft Beer Glasses

The second glass in our Simple Guide To Beer Glasses is the Spiegelau line of glasses. This glass is a bit of a sentimental favorite because it was my first foray into craft beer specific vessels. These glasses are kind of the de-facto beer glass for your true craft beer fan. They are very well crafted, and have all of the features you need to enjoy just about any type of beer. The folks at Spiegelau have spent countless hours working with flavor scientists to develop the proper shapes and designs for all of their products.

They offer a fantastic combo glass pack that covers just about any variety of beer you can think of. In addition, they are dishwasher safe!! This five-glass set includes IPA, Pilsner, Wheat, Stout and Barrel-Aged beer glasses. Each of the glasses has their own design to maximize the flavor and taste of the respective brew. Regardless of what type of beer you are in the mood for, you will have the right glass to maximize your satisfaction!

What This Glass Says About You

Spiegelau glasses are the workhorses of the industry. Drinking from one says that you are all about value and want to have a very high quality product, without a lot of hype. There is nothing pretentious about these glasses and they show that you like to explore different beer styles. And who doesn’t want to be known for having adventurous taste buds?


Dragon Upside Down Beer Glass

Our next offering in our Simple Guide To Beer Glasses is the Dragon Upside Down Beer Glass. Now, I will admit that I didn’t pick this glass – it kind of picked me. I received this glass as a gift from a friend. He happens to be very particular about having his beer ice cold. He also happens to have super-sweaty hands. Hopefully you have figured out by now why this is a most unfortunate combination! He swears by this glass and raves about how it keeps his beer colder, for longer, than any other glasses he owns.

Well, naturally, he decided that I should also enjoy super-cold beers for longer, so he gifted me one. That’s why I keep this glass in my rotation. While it doesn’t get crazy hot here in the summer, the mercury does climb high enough to warm up a beer pretty quickly. In addition to keeping beers colder for longer, the unique design of this glass will get you noticed. It is a very artistic and functional glass. However, it does fall a bit short in providing the additional flavor and taste benefits of the other glasses in our list because it lacks the tapered top.

What This Glass Says About You

The Dragon Upside Down Beer Glass says a few things about you. First, it says that you don’t mind giving up a bit of flavor and taste in exchange for other benefits. Secondly, it tells everyone that you appreciate art and aren’t scared of a bit of flash. Lastly, it tells everyone that you place a very high value on the chilliness of your favorite adult beverage. Or, it might just say that you have sweaty hands…


Rastal Teku Tulip Glass

Last, but not least in our Simple Guide to Beer Glasses, we will highlight the Rastal Teku Tulip Glass. This lovely Italian-made beer glass is the latest craze in craft beer consumption. As with the rest of the glassware we have covered, these glasses are well-constructed and impeccably designed to deliver a consistently excellent drinking experience. The Rastal Teku glasses set themselves apart by providing a few features that their competitors do not.

First, let’s start by talking about nucleated versus non-nucleated. We said we would keep it simple, so we will. Nucleated glasses have laser-etched designs in the bottom of the glass. These designs cause CO2 to accumulate and rise to the top. This keeps the beer frothy with head. Non-nucleated glasses allow the beer to settle, reducing the head. Which is better? We don’t know – and neither do the folks at Rastal, so they let you choose!!

Second, this glass has a nice long stem. The stem allows you to hold the beer without the heat of your hands transferring to the beer. This translates to your beer staying colder for longer. It is also worth noting that the design of the Tulip glass provides all of the flavor and taste benefits without the trade-offs of the Dragon Upside Down Glass.

What This Glass Says About You

If people see you chilling with a Rastal Teku Tulip full of frothy beer, they will know that you like to stay on the vanguard of the craft beer scene. These glasses are definitely the latest trend, and rightfully so. Rastal has built upon the foundation of prior glass manufacturers and taken their product to the next level, offering an exceptional balance of versatility, utility, and beauty.


Choose Wisely

We hope that you enjoyed reading about our experiences with our various pieces of premium glassware. At the end of the day, there are infinite preferences and countless options to satisfy those wants and desires. Keep your eyes open for different offerings and keep trying new things until you find what works best for you, your palate, and your budget.

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Mason-Dixon Smoked Chicken

Our Mason-Dixon Smoked Chicken is a huge hit with our family. Because it is so easy to prepare, we make it very often. In addition, if there are leftovers, this chicken can be transformed into many additional amazing dishes. My personal favorite is smoky chicken salad, but there are so many other uses!

Our Mason-Dixon Smoked Chicken all starts with a simple, but tasty, brining process. Check out our Simple Guide To Brining Meats or Sweet & Savory Poultry Brine posts for the recipe! You will have to plan ahead for this recipe, but the preparation is definitely worth the investment!

This recipe has a great balance between
sweet, savory and smoky!

Prep Times

  • Cook Brine: 2 Hours
  • Brine Time: 8-12 Hours
  • Prepare Chicken: 1 Hour
  • Smoking: 3-4 Hours
Simple but delicious!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Pound Whole Chicken
  • 4 Quartered Lemons – Divided*
  • Rosemary Bunch (Fresh) – Divided*
  • Thyme Bunch (Fresh) – Divided*
  • Parsley Bunch (Fresh) – Divided*
  • 4-5 Garlic Cloves – Peeled & Smashed
  • 1 TBSP Whole Black Peppercorn
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • ½ Cup Honey
  • 10 TBSP Coarse Kosher Sea Salt
  • 10 Cups Water
Smoked To Perfection!

*Split the lemons and the herb bunches in half and use 2 lemons and half the herbs in the brine and the other half during cooking.

Directions

Sweet & Savory Poultry Brine: 2 Hours

Brine Time: 8-12 Hours

Prepare Chicken: 1 Hour

  • Remove chicken from brine.
  • Rinse and pat dry.
  • Allow to rest for 1 hour.
  • Insert reserved lemons and herbs into body cavity.
  • Truss the chicken with twine.
  • Soak your cherry and apple wood chips in water.
  • Bring your smoker up to 225 degrees.

Continue to check the your smoker box with chips/chunks. Also check your water pan regularly to ensure adequate moisture. Smoke chicken to 165 degrees internal temperature.

  • Remove the chicken from smoker.
  • Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Remove lemon and herbs from cavity before serving.

Mason-Dixon Smoked Chicken is a family favorite!!! Even the pickiest eaters will fall in love with this sweet, savory and smoky chicken recipe!

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Sweet & Savory Poultry Brine

Our Sweet & Savory Poultry Brine is a simple but delicious staple in our kitchen. This brine is perfect for chicken, turkey, fish or even pheasant. The fresh citrus flavor enhances the natural flavors of the meat without overpowering. In addition, the ingredients are simple and fresh! If you would like more information on brining, check out our Simple Guide to Brining Meats. This brine is the flavor base for our Mason-Dixon Smoked Chicken recipe, as well!

Ingredients

*Split the lemons and the herb bunches in half. Use 2 lemons and half the herbs in the brine and the other half during cooking.

Simple, fresh ingredients combine for amazing flavor

Directions

Because you need to allow the brine to cool after simmering, you should plan for this recipe to take two hours total. Also, it is very important that you allow the brine to cool down to room temperature before adding your meat to the brine.

  • Select a pot large enough to hold ingredients and allows for meat to be fully submerged without overflowing.
  • In a large pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat source and let the brine cool to room temperature.

Once your brine has cooled to room temperature, you can add meat directly to your pot. Brine meat according to guidelines in our Simple Guide To Brining Meats. Larger cuts of meat will need to soak in brine longer because the flavors will need to penetrate further within the meat. Be sure to check out our recipe for Mason-Dixon Smoked Chicken as well.

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Simple Guide To Brining Meats

Our Mason-Dixon style of cooking relies on simple ingredients. Therefore, this Simple Guide To Brining Meats is a great way for you to start brining foods using common ingredients. Because most of the things that go into this brine are probably already in your cupboards, you can make this brine tonight. Let’s get started!

The Basics

Enhancing the flavor of any recipe or cooking method is simple with a great brine. Because meats like pork, chicken, fish, and turkey benefit the most from brining, that is where we will focus . When making a brine, the kosher sea salt provides most of the flavor. However, a great brine should also have other flavor profiles present to compliment the sea salt.

Kosher Sea Salt

As we said before, Kosher Sea Salt is the workhorse of the brine. This is due to the fact that is very effective at penetrating deep into the meat. Because the salt penetrates into the meat, it breaks down some of the fibers. As a result, the meat is more tender. We can all agree that tender meat is juicer, as well. Because everyone likes juicy cuts of flavorful meat! However, if you don’t have Coarse Kosher Sea Salt, any salt that you have available can be used for your brine. Above all, make sure to cook the brine until the salt is completely dissolved. Finally, As a general rule you should use 1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of water.

Sugar

Any great brine recipe will also contain some form of sugar. Because of their versatility around the kitchen, we prefer to use honey or brown sugar in our family’s brine recipes. For example, we prefer the bold, sweet flavor of brown sugar in our pork recipes. Because it has a slightly stronger flavor, it pairs well with the strong flavor of the meat. On the other hand, we add honey to recipes for fish, chicken or turkey. You really can’t go wrong with either choice, so experiment with different combinations and find out what your family likes best.

The recipe in the link below calls for honey because it is intended to brine a roaster chicken. However, you could easily substitute1/2 Cup of brown sugar for the 1/2 Cup of honey and get great results.

Spice

As we said before, a brine should have a host of different flavors. So, we would be crazy not to add spices to the brine. Therefore, we will infuse the meat with lovely aromatic flavors by adding some of our favorite spices.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are commonly used in soups and stews to keep them from tasting too heavy. In addition, Bay Leaves add a subtle and complex bitterness that contributes to the wonderful flavor component of brines.

Spices and Herbs

In addition, peppercorns can be described as having a spicy, fresh and earthy taste, so use them generously if you and your family enjoy these flavor profiles. Whole Black Peppercorns are definitely the best way to season your brines. That said, you do not have to use whole black peppercorns. In a pinch, ground black pepper, white pepper, or even paprika can be substituted. The flavor profiles will change slightly as a result, but that is OK. Also, we bunch together flavorful garlic, thyme, rosemary and parsley to simmer in the brine mixture. However, any roasting herbs could flavor the brine perfectly.

Smashed Garlic

Lastly, your garlic should be smashed – not diced or chopped. By smashing the garlic under a knife blade you will damage the cell structure differently than chopping or mincing. As a result, it infuses a different flavor into the brine.

Acids

Lemons are generally added to chicken, fish and turkey brines. However, pork brines will usually call for apple cider or apple cider vinegar in place of the lemons. Because pork is generally considered tougher than poultry, the vinegar is more effective at breaking down the meat and making it more tender. However, the citrus flavor of the lemons compliments the earthy herbs and salty flavors perfectly for poultry dishes. Because every family is different, feel free to experiment with different combinations until you find your perfect mix.

Cooking Your Brine

Before we start cooking, we would like to cover the basics in our Simple Guide To Brining Meats. First, make sure to cook your brine in a pot large enough to hold the cut of meat that you plan to brine plus your liquid brine. Because your pots and pans may be different sizes, it may take a bit of experimentation to get the amount of liquid just right. Above all, you will want to ensure that your meat is fully submerged in brine. To avoid the issue of not having enough brine, always simmer more liquid than you think you will need. Because you can always drain off any excess liquid, there is no risk to making a larger batch.

Pot Selection

Brining a chicken is simple, but you may just be starting out. If that is the case, and you don’t have a pot large enough, this 12-Quart pot is what we normally use for our roaster chickens. This pot is perfect because it leaves plenty of space for the brine to cover the entire bird without having to worry about sloshing / overflowing of liquids.

Brining a turkey may require significantly larger pot, so you may want to consider this 60-Quart Brew Kettle. Because it is designed to fit on a propane turkey fryer, and will hold birds up to 30 pounds.

Timing

Plan for one hour of cook time for your brine, but also plan for an hour of cooldown time. Above all, make sure you bring your water up to temperature because simmering is important to ensure that all of the flavors develop fully and mix well. Once your brine is full of flavor, it will need to cool for approximately an hour prior to adding your meat. It is very important that you take the time to allow your brine to cool to room temperature, so plan accordingly. By placing your meat in hot brine will start the cooking process, therefore boiling the meat. No one wants boiled turkey – Trust me!!

Brine Time Guidelines

It is possible to over-infuse or over-brine your meat, so make sure to consult the chart below for suggested brine times. Over-brining can also occur if there is too much salt in the mixture, so make sure you use one tablespoon of salt for every cup of water. Also, if you are concerned with the flavor of your meat you can cut off a small piece of meat and cook it. Once cooled, sample the meat to determine the flavor and saltiness of the brine.

Meat TypeCutBrine Time
ChickenBoneless Breast2 Hours
Chicken2 Lb. Roaster4-6 Hours
Chicken3-4 Lb. Roaster8-12 Hours
PorkChops2 Hours
Pork4 Lb. Loin12 Hours
TurkeyBoneless Breast12-18 Hours
Turkey10-15 Lb. Roaster24 Hours
Turkey15-30 Lb. Roaster36 Hours
FishFilet1 Hour
FishSteak8 Hours
Follow these simple guidelines for perfectly brined meats!

Our Simple Guide To Brining Meats would not be complete without a bonus recipe!

Sweet & Savory Poultry Brine

Our Sweet & Savory Poultry Brine is a simple but delicious staple in our kitchen. This brine is perfect for chicken, turkey, or even pheasant. The fresh citrus flavor enhances the natural flavors of the meat without overpowering. In addition, the ingredients are simple and fresh! If you would like more information on brining, check out our Simple Guide to Brining Meats.

Ingredients

*Split the lemons and the herb bunches in half. Use 2 lemons and half the herbs in the brine and the other half during cooking.

Simple, fresh ingredients combine for amazing flavor

Directions

Because you need to allow the brine to cool after simmering, you should plan for this recipe to take two hours total. Also, it is very important that you allow the brine to cool down to room temperature before adding your meat to the brine.

  • Select a pot large enough to hold ingredients and allows for meat to be fully submerged without overflowing.
  • In a large pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat source and let the brine cool to room temperature.

Once your brine has cooled to room temperature, you can add meat directly to your pot. Brine meat according to guidelines above. Larger cuts of meat will need to soak in brine longer because the flavors will need to penetrate further within the meat.

Because it is so simple and fresh, we make this brine all the time. This brine is also the used as the flavor base for our Mason-Dixon Smoked Chicken recipe! We hope you enjoyed our Simple Guide To Brining Meats.

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Beginner’s Guide – Epoxy Resin

There are SO many things I wish I knew when I started pouring Epoxy Resin for my woodworking projects. There is a lot of trial-and-error wisdom in this page. That wisdom came to me in the form of many failed workpieces, most of which were a total loss. What I discovered is that when you don’t have everything set up for a great epoxy pour, there is little to no recovering. That is why I decided to write up a Beginner’s Guide to Epoxy Resin. My hope is that sharing a few of my failures will help you to avoid the same issues and deliver perfect workpieces right from the start!

The Basics

If you are just starting out, you may not know a lot about the science of epoxy. Don’t worry, we’re not going to bore you with all of that! Instead, we are going to focus on a few simple things you need to know in order to have a great experience with epoxy resin pours in your woodworking. First, epoxy resin is a two-part product. Any kit that you buy will have two products. One bottle will be the resin itself, and another that will be hardener. By combining these two products together and mixing, you will start a chemical reaction. Once that chemical reaction is complete, your board will have a strong coating that will last.

Different grades and types of epoxy are available on the market. Some are food grade, while others are not. Some brands focus on providing a crystal clear finish, while others may not. Your options and price points are virtually endless when it comes to epoxy. So far, the best brand that I have found is from Specialty Resin & Chemical. Their product dries crystal clear, has an anti-yellowing agent that protects against UV damage, and they are FDA certified for indirect food contact.

Whichever epoxy resin product you choose, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s directions. The tips and tricks below apply specifically to Epox-It 80. Some manufacturers have different ratios and conditions for their epoxy applications!!

Beginner’s Guide – Preparation

A great epoxy pour starts well before any resin leaves the bottle. In order to help you get ready, you will need to make sure you have a few tools handy and that your work area is prepped and ready to go!

What you will need:

Choose Your Work Area

Your work area must meet four critical requirements. First, it must be large enough to fit your workpiece. Second, it must be an area that maintains a temperature higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Third, you will need access to an electrical outlet for your heat gun. Lastly, you must have a level work surface where you can rest your workpiece for at least 24 hours. Use your torpedo level to ensure the work area is suitable.

Prep Your Work Area

Once you have settled in to an optimum location for your epoxy pour, it is time to prep your work area. To avoid spilling epoxy on your surfaces, it is a good idea to lay down parchment paper below your workpiece and below your epoxy/hardener bottles. Parchment paper provides an excellent barrier against epoxy resin and it is relatively inexpensive. If you choose not to use Parchment Paper, wax paper or other non-porous papers can be substituted. Avoid using any porous materials, as they will absorb the epoxy and may end up making more mess than you bargained for.

Set Up Your Pouring Station

Once you mix your epoxy, you will have a limited amount of time to work with it before it cures. In order to save time and maximize your open time, having your pour station set up is critical. On a separate piece of Parchment Paper, you will want to set your Epoxy Resin, Hardener, Clear Mixing Cup, 2x Measuring Cups, and a Craft Stick.

A neat and clean Pouring Station

Prep Your Workpiece

Depending on what type of project you are working on, you may have different needs in terms of preparing your workpiece for epoxy. Any places where you think epoxy might flow should be sealed off with Tuck Tape. I have used Painter’s Tape, Duck Tape, and Gorilla Tape as well. Nothing handles the epoxy as well as Tuck Tape. It has a very strong adhesion to the wood and stands up against the thermal properties of epoxy as it cures. You can substitute other tapes if you would like, but be prepared for disappointment.

Tuck Tape keeps the epoxy from spilling over the edge

Beginner’s Guide – Mixing Epoxy Resin

You have done all of the prep work. Now it is time for the real fun to begin! As we move into this phase, we are going to focus on ensuring we get equal parts of the resin and hardener into the cup together and mixing them thoroughly.

Pour Resin & Hardener

To start, pour resin in one of the measuring cups. Pour your hardener into the other measuring cup, making sure that there are equal parts of both. In my experience, I like to fill the hardener just a hair fuller than the resin to ensure I do not end up with a gummy cure.

Combine In Mixing Cup

Use the Craft Stick to empty the Measuring Cup filled with Resin into the Clear Mixing Cup. Make sure to scrape the sides and give time for the Resin to ‘ooze’ out of the cup fully. Next, pour the Measuring Cup with the Hardener in to the Clear Mixing Cup. Make sure to scrape the sides of the measuring cup and get every bit of the hardener into the Mixing Cup.

Mix, Mix, Mix!

Mix your Epoxy Resin vigorously for five minutes. Make sure to change up your movements, using clock-wise, counter-clockwise, up-and-down, and cross-wise strokes. Varying your mixing pattern will help to ensure a thorough mix. Next, make sure that you are scraping the sides and bottom of the mixing cup regularly. This will help to avoid any material from caking to the sides of your cup. As you stir, you should see the epoxy starting to turn a bit cloudy. Lastly, look for bubbles forming in the epoxy resin.

Beginner’s Guide – Pouring Epoxy Resin

Epoxy resin has many uses, but we want to keep this guide simple. Therefore, we will be covering the two most basic repairs- Cracks/Splits and Voids.

Cracks / Splits

Cracks and splits occur when the cell structure of the wood shrinks or expands during drying. By applying epoxy to cracks and splits, you can sure up the wood and be relatively certain that the condition will not worsen. To fill cracks and splits, you should start by applying your epoxy to the most shallow point in the crack and allow it to flow down into the deeper recesses of the split. This allows air to escape from the split and makes it less likely that there will be air bubbles trapped in your cured epoxy. Your craft stick should hold a few drops of epoxy at a time. drip them into your cracks and splits slowly.

This board is loaded with cracks. Filling them in with epoxy will sure up the wood and add beauty!

Voids

Decay, branch collars, or insects burrowing through the wood can leave behind voids. Voids are best filled from the bottom. To do this, choose a single spot in the void and trickle epoxy in using the Craft Stick. By allowing the epoxy to flow to the bottom of the void and soak in, you have a better chance of avoiding trapped air bubbles.

Depending on the size of the void, you may wish to pour directly out of the cup. If you decide to do this, please be very patient with your pour. Simply dumping in epoxy without giving the mixture time to absorb into the wood and settle to the bottom will most likely result in trapped air bubbles in your finished workpiece.

Voids can be problematic for milling. Epoxy stabilizes them and adds beauty!

Beginner’s Guide – Curing Epoxy Resin

Most of the hard work is behind us, but we are not quite done yet! In this next step, we will take steps to ensure our epoxy resin cures to a hard, clear, bubble-free finish!

Apply Heat

Once your void is filled with epoxy, it is time to apply heat. I use a Furno Heat Gun from Wagner. It has a good range of heat settings and two fan modes. I have seen other folks use a small butane torch or a hair dryer in place of a heat gun to cure epoxy. Because I have not used those methods, I cannot endorse them. I keep my heat gun on the medium setting and slow fan speed. Turn the heat gun on about 30 seconds before you need it. This allows it to warm up properly.

Now we are ready to knock out our bubbles. By simply running the Heat Gun over your epoxy pour, you should see the bubbles disappear. Make sure to apply heat every five minutes until the epoxy starts to harden, which should be about 40 minutes from mixing time. Be careful to avoid any ‘sloshing’ from the heat gun fan. It will occasionally push liquid epoxy into undesired locations if you are not careful.

Top Off

Last step – We are almost done! As the wood absorbs epoxy, the levels of your pours will dip below the surface of the wood. While continuing to apply heat, monitor your fills to ensure they remain above the level of your board. Add additional epoxy as needed. Some voids will soak up quite a bit of epoxy, while others will not. It all depends on the porosity of the wood and the surface area that the epoxy is adhering to.

Top Tips!

  • Measure your epoxy carefully.
  • Add a hair more hardener than epoxy.
  • Pour epoxy and hardener in separate measuring cups.
  • Mix for five minutes.
  • Always pour your epoxy and store your work pieces above 70% F.
  • Ensure your work piece is 100% level.
  • Pour epoxy slowly to allow air to escape.
  • Apply heat to epoxy every five minutes until cured.
  • Top off your epoxy as the wood absorbs.
  • Use Tuck Tape. This stuff is a bit expensive, but worth every penny.

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Kid-Friendly Suet Cakes – Winter Bird Feeding

Making kid-friendly suet cakes with my children brings back fond childhood memories of Nanny and I doing just the same. My favorite part was mixing the ingredients by hand and getting to smoosh the seeds between my fingers. I am overjoyed to see my kids enjoying those same silly moments. Nanny often made a Suet block by cutting the bottom of a milk carton off and filling it with seed mixture. My crew and I prefer to use our seasonal cookie cutters when doing this craft. Another fond memory I have is speaking with Nanny about the birds and what they did. Andy and I kept the tradition alive by speaking with our kids about our back yard ecosystem and the part that birds play in keeping it healthy.

An added bonus is that the activity and conversation helps to support teachers in the classroom through applied learning. It’s fun, educational, ecosystem friendly and wonderful way to spend the afternoon together!

Hand-made goodies for the birds!

Why Feed Suet?

Feeding birds during the winter helps to supplement their diets and assists them in building enough fat to endure the cold winter months. Resources are often scarce during the winter and we know that not all birds fly south once the cold months hit. As the temperature drops and the trees begin to lose their leaves, birds lose many of their food sources and shelter is less abundant. High-energy foods like suet cakes can help birds through Winter.

Without food and shelter, birds will migrate to other locations in search of the resources needed to survive the winter months. Or more often than not they become ill and do not survive the winter. Once your backyard bird population becomes ill they also become easy prey for other smaller critters like foxes and the occasional barn cat.

When Spring and Summer arrive, birds that had access to fatty foods and fresh water during Winter will be healthier than birds who had to get by on less. With healthier birds living their best life in your backyard, you can enjoy better pollination- which is important for gardens. Healthier bird populations mean fewer pests, brighter and more colorful birds, and more lovely birdsongs.

Gourmet bird cuisine!

Unexpected Benefits!

Birds also play a huge role in seed spreading. Our birds feast not only on our suet cakes and seeds, but they also enjoy picking through our compost bin. As a result, various seeds are spread and we have mystery plants that sprout here and there. Our first jalapeno plant was a delight because we had not planted jalapenos that year, but nature found a way!

For those who enjoy bird watching, suet feeders attract a variety of different birds to your yard. Of course, the type of seed you offer will determine what types of birds you can attract. We typically purchase a 5lb bag of seed from our local feed store. I tend to prefer brands that have added vitamins and minerals. Typically, the seed bags will have the name and sometimes picture of the birds that you might see feasting on your seed blend in your yard.

Smoosh them down so they stick together!

Let’s Make Suet Cakes!

Making kid-friendly suet cakes is simple and requires little preparation. Although through my experience it is best to not let the kiddos scoop out of the peanut butter jar with the same spoon that they are using to mix the seed…oopps! and this activity can become a little messy when the seed mixture is transferred to the molds. A good vinyl table cloth comes in handy.

This recipe is super-chill. There is no specific amount of peanut butter or lard or oats – nothing needs to be exact. As long as the mixture is wet when placed in the mold, it will work out just fine. I throw in seeds and dried fruits from the “bottom of the bag” in the pantry. The birds don’t care about freshness – they will love it – and they can’t read expiration dates!!

After mixing your ingredients together, pack the birdseed mixture into a mold. We use cookie cutters most of the time. We find that the deep ones work best, but feel free to experiment. You can also add a piece of twine during this process to create a quick and easy hanger. Skip this step if you plan to use a suet cage. To create a hanger, slide the twine under the cookie cutter before filling and pull so it is over the mold. Don’t tie it off just yet.

After freezing your suet cakes, remove the mold and tie the twine together at the end. When choosing where to hang your cakes, plan to place them outside of windows, around bird baths, or near feeders. Take this time to empty out any bird baths with gunky water and replace with fresh clean water while you are at it. Your back yard birds will thank you for it and will pay it forward this spring.

Delicious, healthy snacks for our winged friends!

Suet Cakes

Ingredients

  • Bird Seed – Any Variety
  • Peanut Butter (Chunky or Creamy – Your Call)
  • Raisins / Dried Fruit
  • Lard / Bacon Fat
  • Oats
  • Cornmeal

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in one large bowl until well combined.
  2. Place suet mixture into mold. Pack by hand as tightly as you can.
  3. Freeze for 2 hours, or until the cake is solid.
  4. Remove cake from mold. If mold sticks to cake, try running warm water over the mold to loosen.
  5. Hang your suet cakes somewhere that you can watch them enjoying their treat!

We hope you will try our kid-friendly suet cakes recipe with your family and make some amazing memories!!

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Royal We Studios – Social Media

Following Royal We Studios Social Media is super simple. It is also a great way to be part of sneak-peeks, promotions and giveaways. Generally speaking, we work to promote across all platforms, so don’t worry if your last Insta post is from 2017 – We’ll catch you on Twitter.

We have highlighted our accounts in this blog post, so you can scroll down and add us as you go. You can also find our social tags in the sidebar, header and footer of the page. Don’t have social media? Nothing to worry about there, simply subscribe below and we will keep you update with the latest content as it is published!

Instagram

Follow us on Insta – We post updates on boards and blocks, as well as contests and giveaways!! Andy’s live posts give a little insight into what ‘we’ are currently working on in the shop. We also post collaborations with cheeseboard makers, beer enthusiasts, and various other food/wine enthusiasts!

https://www.instagram.com/royalwestudios/

Facebook

Join us on Facebook to see our latest boards and connect with kindred spirits! You can also view our calendar of events. In addition, Facebook is the place share your awesome pics of your charcuterie boards at your gatherings and events!! We would be thrilled to see one of our boards in use!

https://www.facebook.com/RoyalWeStudios

Pinterest

Follow us on Pinterest for links to our favorite recipes, kid-friendly crafts, and other lifestyle topics. We use Pinterest for additional inspirations, as well.

Twitter

We are still trying to figure out how Twitter works. If you have any tips or tricks, send us a Tweet!! Seriously, tell us how to work this thing! All we can get it to do is spit profanity like a sailor!

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Royal We Blog

The Royal We Blog features our family’s experiences and our perspectives on Home & Garden, Recipes, Crafts, Family-friendly Travel, and just about anything else that we are passionate about and think our fans will enjoy. We are hopeful that by sharing our experiences with people, it will help them to discover something new, inspire them, or somehow enrich their lives.

Our Passions

We have many hobbies and interests. Naturally, as our passions have grown for certain subjects, our desire to share our insights has grown as well. Because of this, we want to share experiences, tips and tricks with people to help make things easier. Our family experiences have grown, as well. Because of this desire we decided to start up the Royal We Blog. We are excited to share our perspectives with all of you!

Learning Together

One of the best things t come out of the Royal We Blog is the opportunity to dive into new and interesting experiences together. Before we started this, neither of us knew a ting about creating a webpage, but here we are pecking away at a keyboard on Saturday Morning. One of us sipping coffee, while the other eats a donut. However, both of us are debating the best way to create a blog post without saying Charcuterie Board 300 times.

We may not be experts in everything we write about, but we are passionate. Passion combined with creativity is absolutely our fuel. We love to explore new things and get a better understanding of our world through trying, doing, and occasionally failing. It is our hope that you are willing to walk with us on this amazing journey! We would love to have you along!