Pretty Handy Girl
Backyard Transformation

By guest blogger Brittany Bailey of PrettyHandyGirl.com.

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Anyone who has children and/or dogs knows that muddy pathways around your home are a huge problem for the interior of your house. Muddy footprints (and paw prints) can make keeping your home clean a monumental task. As a mom of two boys and a dog, I can tell you that our yard was a big mess of bare pathways, and frequently that mess was tracked indoors.

Several homeowners before us installed rounded landscape timbers and pea gravel to stop the inflow of mud into the home. Unfortunately as the timbers rotted, the gravel spread outside the frames. In its place, a congregation of weeds sprang up. Frankly, I think the weeds were enjoying themselves more in our backyard than we were. It was embarrassing to invite friends to a weed-filled jungle with rotted timbers dotting the landscape. We longed for a backyard that was devoid of messy pathways, and was a usable space for entertaining. This past Autumn, we decided a plan needed to be implemented to solve our landscape woes.

dublin-cobble-front-walk2Several years ago, we had a Belgard pathway and circular patio installed near our front door. We love the look of those pavers. The Dublin Cobble® has an old world feel, and the color variation between the pavers gives them the look of old tumbled pavers. I watched the landscaping crew install the Universal Circle Kit and was amazed by how quickly and easily the pavers fit together. To us, Belgard has always stood for quality landscaping hardscapes.

After the plans were drawn for our backyard, choosing the brand to use for hardscapes was easy. Deciding on the pavers and wall blocks was more difficult because of the large variety of Belgard products to choose from. In the end, we were able to merge formal and informal areas easily. The hardscapes complement the style of our house and look like they’ve been here for decades.

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BEFORE & AFTER TRANSFORMATION

Now you see them, now you don't! Exposed trashcans now have a new hiding place and cleaner access, thanks to a new pergola and Dublin Cobble® walkway.

Now you see them, now you don’t! Previously exposed trashcans now have a new attractive hiding place and are more accessible, thanks to Brittany’s new pergola and Dublin Cobble® walkway.

Patio before and after

This previously unusable space is now Brittany’s favorite spot. The Mega-Arbel® paver patio created a dining area off of her deck, with a surrounding Keystone® Stonegate® wall to help define the space and add additional seating for company.

Dangerously decayed wooden steps were replaced with Granika steps and trimmed with Keystone Stonegate wall and Tandem Caps to tie in with the patio and seat wall.

Dangerous decayed timber steps were replaced with Granika Step™ units and trimmed with Keystone® Stonegate® wall and Tandem® Caps to tie in with the patio and seat wall, providing a safe and handsome walkway down into the lower yard.

Firepit before and after

Brittany’s rustic firepit area got an updated look with the help of a Mega-Arbel® landing and a custom walkway made of  Keystone® Stonegate® wall caps. The patio is trimmed with Tandem® Caps to coordinate with the upper patio.

To see more dramatic before and after images and take a complete visual tour of Brittany’s new beautiful outdoor living spaces, visit her backyard reveal blog.

It’s Family Tourney Time

It’s that time of year again. That’s right, it’s Dad’s Day. This year, celebrate that special hard-working man with a day just for him, focused on his favorite pastime: sports. Ok, so he’s not LeBron James or Mike Trout, but today he can be the “King of Insignificant Sports”. So, dig a couple of poster boards out of the school supply closet and get ready for a backyard family tournament.

Badminton
Go to your local sporting goods store and grab yourself an affordable badminton set. Just make sure to set it up yourself. We don’t want to start off Father’s Day by putting the ole man in a bad mood. Once it’s all set up, separate the family into teams, set up your “singles” and “doubles” brackets, and then have at it. Have fun with it, and if you’re feeling extra sweet, let Dad win a game or two.

Ping Pong
Ah, ping pong…the game of champions. It’s a game that anyone can play once they get the hang of it. On your way to seeing who the true ping pong master is, however, be careful with how you celebrate your wins. Too much showboating can make any lovely day turn sour really quickly, especially if Dad busts out some celebratory dance move from his college days.

Cornhole Toss Game Board Close-UpCornhole or Washers
There’s just something so peaceful about throwing objects into holes. You can play this game with washers or bean bags. Either way, it’s an easy way to spend the afternoon. It’s also a great game to play for multi-taskers. Unlike other outdoor activities, cornhole doesn’t require you to put your drink down while you are playing, which will surely be good news for Dad.

Ring & Hook
You can guarantee that Dad will be telling stories about his favorite college pub before this game is over. A carport, porch, or even a tree would all be easy places to set this one up. All you need is a string, a metal ring, an eye hook, and a screw hook. Attach the string to a rafter or tree branch with the eye hook, tie the ring to the bottom of the string at a level low enough for the kids to reach, and screw the hook into a wall, post, or tree trunk. Now, you’re ready to play! The person who makes the ring onto the hook in the least amount of swings wins. But be prepared to hear stories about how good Dad was at this game in college, despite his lack of proof.

At the end of the day, assign points to each event for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, tally up the total points, and crown someone in the family as “King (or Queen) of Insignificant Sports”. Now, hopefully it will Dad, since it’s his day, but it all depends on how competitive the family is. They may want him to actually earn the title. In any case, it’s all good fun and will surely be a day to remember. Who knows, it may just become a favorite annual tradition.

Refreshing Watermelon Cocktails

Ah, watermelon…that sweet and refreshing summer fruit. On a hot day, nothing hits the spot like watermelon that has been iced down all day, just waiting to be cut and enjoyed. But if you’re ready to take your watermelon game to the next level, here are some delicious cocktails honoring this vibrant and juicy fruit. For the recipes that call for frozen watermelon, cube the melon, remove all seeds, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet in the freezer for a couple of hours until frozen.

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Photo: Chris M. Rogers; Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

Honeysuckle Watermelon Cocktail

Blend or process 8 cups seeded and cubed fresh watermelon until smooth, then pour into a pitcher through a mesh strainer. Add the following ingredients, mix, and serve with garnish of lime slices, watermelon slices, or fresh mint sprigs.

  • 1 cup honeysuckle vodka
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soft drink

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watermelon-bellini-mr-x

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lindsey Ellis Beatty

Watermelon Bellini

Rub the rims of champagne glasses with a lime wedge and dip the rims in coarse sugar to coat. Blend or process the following ingredients.

  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1 cup sparkling wine, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt

Top off with an additional splash of sparkling wine and serve with garnish of a watermelon slice.

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Photo: Southern Living

Photo: Southern Living

Watermelon Mint Margaritas

Rub the rim of cocktail glasses with a lime wedge and dip the rims in coarse sugar to coat. Blend or process the following ingredients and serve with a garnish of fresh mint.

  • 4 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1/2 cup tequila*
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

*For a kid-friendly version, substitute tequila with orange juice or apple juice.

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Photo: Lee Harrleson; Styling: Virginia Cravens

Photo: Lee Harrleson; Styling: Virginia Cravens

Slushy Watermelon Mojitos

Blend or process the following ingredients and serve with a garnish of fresh mint sprigs or lime slices.

  • 5 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1 cup sparkling water, chilled
  • 3/4 cup white rum
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 (6-oz) can frozen limeade concentrate, undiluted

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Recipes and photos courtesy of time inc.

Get Ready for Backyard Waterpalooza!

There is no doubt about it, summer is here, particularly if you live in the south! As soon as the kids get out of school, the heat index climbs, and their need for stimulation increases. Well there’s no better way to beat the heat than water play. Whether you have a pool or not, there are lots of fun games with water that will keep the whole family entertained throughout the summer.

WATER BALLOON GAMES

Water Balloons

Who doesn’t love water balloons? They are quick, easy, and available just about anywhere. Over the course of a couple of days, you can fill several Rubbermaid containers with water balloons. Be cool and keep it a secret so when you make the big reveal, you will be the big hit!

  • Balloon Toss: Start out with something simple like a water balloon toss. Remember the egg toss? Well, it’s the same idea but its only water, so there’s minimal clean-up. Partners start close together and with each toss, step back until the inevitable…someone’s balloon explodes and everyone erupts into fits of laughter.
  • Balloon Volleyball: This can easily become your best sport. Each team consists of two to four people. Groups of two will each hold the end of a beach towel to launch, catch and volley the water balloon over the net. If you don’t have a net, don’t worry.  Set up a couple of chairs or simply use a broom to represent where the net would be. Be careful, though! If you launch the balloon straight up, it will likely explode on your own head.
  • Balloon Cornhole: Set two containers or bowls filled with water in the same way you would set up cornhole boards for tossing bean bags. Reward point amounts for getting the balloons into the containers.
  • Balloon Battle:  Depending on the ages of the children, you can close out the water balloon day with a good old-fashioned water balloon fight. The adults may even want to get in on this one!

WATER GUN GAMES

Water guns will always be a big hit with people of all ages. In addition to the fun of a free-for-all water gun fight, there are some fun organized games you can try.

  • Target Practice: Try setting up some ping pong balls on golf tees and engage everyone in a little target practice. Or you can set up jars and see who can get the most water in the jars, or make a pyramid of disposable cups and see who can knock the most off.
  • Water Tag: Set up an obstacle course and divide everyone into teams. First person to get hit is “out”. Last man standing wins. If you want to make a really cool obstacle course, call a local appliance store and ask for some used boxes.

FUN WITH SPRINKLERS

Sprinklers

On a really hot day, there’s nothing like a sprinkler to keep you cool. Here are a couple of ideas for organized sprinkler activities.

  • Obstacle Course:  For this one, you’ll need multiple hoses and multiple sprinklers. Set the sprinklers at various locations and create an obstacle course where the kids have to try to run through without getting sprayed.
  • Homemade Slip and Slide: Get a roll of plastic sheeting from the hardware store. Roll it out and weigh it down with bean bags every few feet. You may also want to duct tape it to the grass for additional reinforcement. Drizzle a little liquid soap here and there, wet it down with a water hose, and you’re ready to slip and slide. Keep the sheeting continuously wet with sprinklers or a water hose. Or do this on a rainy day, as long as there’s no lightening.

Memorial Day Kabobs

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Where has the Spring gone? May has been alive with hustle and bustle, and just when you think you can’t do any more, Memorial Day pops up to give you a long weekend to unwind with friends and family, as well as gather together to celebrate our freedom and honor the men and women who have served our country.

Gatherings like this are a great time to get into the kabob spirit. Kabobs never discriminate! You can be a carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, or just about anything you can think of. This time of year, farmers’ markets and family gardens are becoming abundant with zucchini, squash, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and eggplant — just to name a few potential vegetable ideas. Fruits such as pineapple, bananas, cantaloupe, and honey dew melon are easy to cut up and have ready to make up some fruit kabobs. If you are looking to stick to a Memorial Day theme, use blueberries, strawberries, and bananas for “red, white and blue”. Or buy a fresh pineapple, leave the core intact, and cut slices into star shapes. If you have little ones, this is a great time to enlist their help. They can help wash and thread fruit or veggie kabobs. Wooden skewers, rather than the metal ones, are probably the better option when you have kids involved. Just be sure to soak wooden skewers in water ahead of time if you plan to put them on a grill.

For tastier veggie kabobs, you will want to season your vegetables somehow. If you are not into making your own marinades, you can try any number of store-bought options. The easiest is some kind of oil-based salad dressing. The oil helps coat the vegetables to make them grill-friendly. You can hardly go wrong by choosing Italian dressing. Whatever you choose, the overall goal should be to add a light flavor while not disguising the flavor of the veggies or meats.

Most meats are kabob-friendly. Chicken and steak are the most common, but feel free to branch out. Choose meats without bones and cut them in to bite size pieces. For best results, marinate meat for a least an hour in a covered container or food storage bag prior to cooking. For a more intense flavor, marinate the meat overnight. Like with veggies, oil-based dressings also work well for marinating meat. Or for a zesty home-made honey BBQ marinate, try the following:

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp honey or agave nectar
  • ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

The Unmatched Versatility of the Tandem Platform

Belgard has a long-standing reputation for innovation in the hardscapes industry. The newest line in the Belgard evolution is the most versatile to date: The Tandem® line of wall products, which offers the natural look of chiseled stone and includes a range of specific products that together can accomplish more outdoor living design goals and site solutions than any other hardscape product on the market.

ANCHOR_S_BEL2015_COM_Walls_MegaTandem_005_previewMega-Tandem™ Wall

The flagship of the Tandem line, the patented installation system of Mega-Tandem Mass Segmental Retaining Wall allows it to be quickly and efficiently installed for a variety of uses that range from residential to heavy commercial, including use as gravity walls and flood walls, and in most cases reduce excavation.

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HERO-Tandem

Tandem® Wall

Capable of building straight or curved retaining walls, seat walls, or freestanding walls for lighter residential and commercial use, Tandem Wall also utilizes a patented installation system and includes an optional ashlar pattern, as well as the larger block pattern — for a total of 24 distinct aesthetic options.

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TandemGridTandem® Modular Grid

The incredibly versatile Tandem Modular Grid can be used to enhance the face of a porch or deck or to create outdoor kitchens, built-in seating, furniture, and more. With the use of galvanized grids, Tandem veneer units affix to a wooden frame or existing structure to create limitless outdoor living designs.

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TandemColumnKit

Tandem® Column Kit and Tandem® Cap

The Tandem Column Kit and coordinating Tandem Cap unit can be used to complement other Tandem outdoor living designs or as stand-alone structures. Build a mailbox, create a driveway entrance, embellish existing posts, or add a column to a freestanding wall. You won’t believe how quickly these kits install.

What makes the Tandem platform so unique?

Both Mega-Tandem Wall (pictured below) and Tandem Wall are installed using three basic components: textured concrete panels, polypropylene connectors, and aggregate.

Mega-Tandem3

Tandem Modular Grid and Tandem Column Kit also include three basic components: textured veneer units, galvanized grids, and specialized connectors. The textured face of all Tandem products are designed to work together to create coordinated outdoor living designs.

Grid and Column Kit2