Outdoor Living Gift Guide

When it comes to gift ideas, let’s face it, some folks are tough to shop for. If you’re looking for some unique gift ideas for the outdoor living enthusiast, we’ve compiled some of our favorites for you.

ButaneHeaterTabletop Butane Heater

Enjoy your outdoor living spaces during the colder months with this attractive portable heater that operates with removable butane cylinders. With 11,000 BTUs of warmth and a stylish bronze coating, it not only adds to the functionality of your outdoor living spaces during this time of year, it’s adds character, as well.

slide1Countertop Brick Oven

Turn any countertop into a gourmet outdoor kitchen with this powerful, yet economical, brick oven. Available in either domed or pyramid styles in either bronze or silver vein, the countertop version of Belgard’s brick oven offers the flavor of wood-fired cooking with a small footprint and is available in classic wood-burning and hybrid wood/gas models.

Smores RoastingRackS’mores Roasting Rack

No fireplace or fire pit? No problem! With this specialized roasting rack that includes marshmallow skewers and a graham cracker tray, you can make s’mores on a grill or in an oven. Ooey, gooey, melty goodness…either indoors or out.

Jalapeno Roasting RackJalapeno Pepper Roaster

For those who like to kick it up a notch, this pepper roasting rack also works with either a grill or an oven and allows you to create simple, zesty appetizers by stuffing jalapenos with various types of cheeses or other savory ingredients.

Flameless CandlesRemote Control LED Candles

Light up the night with indoor/outdoor battery-operated candles, with the added convenience of a remote controller to turn them all on and off with ease. Mix and match various sizes and styles, including antique-style lanterns, to create an eclectic look.

Recipe of the Month:
Cranberry & Sweet Potato Bread

berry-bread-ck-222580-xThis month’s recipe is a healthy and delicious quick bread that will help you get a headstart on your New Year’s resolutions. Perfect for baking in either a traditional or brick oven, this dish works well as either a breakfast item or an after-dinner treat both before and after the holidays. Wrapped in cellophane with a twine bow, it also makes an excellent homemade gift for the neighbors.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup no-sugar-added canned mashed sweet potato
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 cup chopped cranberries
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

.  .  .

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine sweet potato, egg substitute, orange juice, and margarine in a bowl; add to dry ingredients. Stir just until moist. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle almonds over batter. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Image and recipe courtesy of cooking light. photo by howard l. puckett.

 

Product Spotlight: Belgard Elements Fireplace Collection

preassembledAn outdoor fireplace makes a stunning focal point and favorite gathering spot for any outdoor living room, however building a custom outdoor fireplace can be a time-consuming and disruptive project.

Installation3The Belgard Elements collection of outdoor fireplaces have simplified the process by moving the majority of the construction to a factory setting. Belgard factory-built fireplaces are shipped in sections and quickly installed with a bobcat in a matter of hours, as compared to the days or weeks it would take to build one from scratch on site. This efficient construction process not only greatly reduces the installation time, but reduces overall costs, as well. Each fireplace is available in wood-burning, natural gas, or liquid propane configurations, and each line in the Belgard Elements collection also includes coordinating pieces that can be used to create a cohesive outdoor living design, like outdoor kitchen units, wood boxes, and water features.

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Belgard Elements Bristol FireplaceBristol Fireplace

The Bristol Series is constructed with tumbled Weston® Stone walls with architectural accents of Arbel® and Urbana® Stone pavers. The rustic look of the Bristol line blends well in any landscape. Coordinating pieces include an arched hearth, wood boxes, brick oven, grill island, water features, and more.

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Belgard Hardscapes 2009 PhotographyBrighton Fireplace

For those who like the look of Bristol, but are looking for a more economical alternative, the Brighton Series is also constructed of Weston Stone, but offers simpler accents and features a smaller, built-in hearth. The Bristol fireplace is available with or without the chimney top and offers optional matching wood boxes.

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Belgard 2012 ~ Northfield BlockBordeaux Fireplace

The latest addition to the Elements line, the Bordeaux Series marries sleek contemporary styling with rustic charm by combining the stacked-stone appearance of Lamina® Stone with the limestone accents of Cordova Stone™.  Coordinating pieces include a grill island, wood boxes, and a brick oven.

For more information on Belgard Elements Fireplaces, click here to find a contractor or dealer near you.

Preventing Deicing Downfalls

OutdoorFireplaceThe recent blast of arctic air sent temperatures plummeting across the country, setting the stage for what has been predicted to be a colder than average winter with higher than average snowfalls. Many of you in high snowfall areas have probably already started stocking up on deicing agents for your walkways and driveways, which can sometimes have a corrosive effect and diminish the beauty of paved surfaces.

By choosing Belgard Hardscapes for your paver driveway, walkway or patio, you’ve already taken the first step to increasing resistance to the long-term corrosive effects of deicing materials. Belgard pavers are manufactured to be more resistant to salt absorption than asphalt and solid concrete, as well as more resistant to cracking caused by shifting temperatures.

746To ensure long-term resistance to the downfalls of deicing, regularly maintain pavers with sealers for additional protection and follow these tips:

  • Mix salts with sand prior to application
  • Don’t over-salt
  • Use salt for melting ice only, not snow removal
  • Once loose, remove ice to avoid salt buildup
  • Wash residue from pavers in the spring

For more information on caring for pavers in cold climates, click here.

Recipe of the Month:
Peppermint Stick Cocoa

cocoa-su-1011199-x

If you’re looking for a festive way to kick off the holiday season, we have the perfect cocoa recipe that is a delicious fireside treat and makes a stylish holiday gift. Prepare multiple containers at once, and you’ll never show up to a party empty-handed. Curl up with a hot mug and a blanket for a quiet night escaping the holiday rush, or enjoy with friends around the fire pit.

Ingredients

1 cup powdered milk
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

 

preparation

In a clear mason or decorative jar, layer powdered milk, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, chocolate chips, and peppermint candy.

notes

  • This mix will fill a 1-quart jar (12 servings), but if your containers are different sizes, just keep the ratio of ingredients constant.
  • On the back of the tag, write: “Mix contents in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup boiling water. Store remaining mix in airtight container.”

Image and recipe courtesy of Sunset Magazine. Photo by David Prince.

Designing with Fire

A gas fire table can make a unique gathering spot.

A gas fire table can make a unique gathering spot.

Research continues to name fire features as one of the top “must haves” in modern outdoor living, making designing with fire a hot topic. In the early days of the trend, the fire feature was typically an add-on freestanding element, like a ceramic chiminea or metal fire bowl, which could be easily moved to other positions as needed. However, the trend has evolved over time to include more built-in permanent fixtures — such as a custom outdoor fireplace, fire pit, or gas fire table — which require more planning in terms of the overall design scheme of the outdoor living area.

Safety First

When planning a permanent fire feature, there are a number of safety issues to consider. Before beginning, check with local municipalities regarding safety codes to avoid costly design mistakes. Never underestimate the value of a professional plumber when running and installing gas lines. Also, be sure the contractor uses only non-combustible materials, and remember to include a fire-resistant liner when building a fire pit over existing hardscapes. This is especially important if the fire pit is on top of granite or limestone, which can retain water and explode when overheated.

Location Location Location

This outdoor living room incorporates several units from the Bristol Belgard Elements collection of prefabricated outdoor living features.

The design of this outdoor living room centers on the Bristol fireplace and incorporates several other pieces from the Belgard Elements Collection.

A fire feature will be the visual anchor of the design. When determining the best placement, it’s best to check for building code restrictions. Although it varies by municipality, gas-burning fire features can typically be placed just about anywhere, but most building codes require a wood-burning feature to be placed at least ten feet from any vertical structure. When using a wood-burning fire feature, it’s also a good idea to test wind patterns in the yard with a portable grill to check smoke flow direction and avoid choking out seating areas. Making the fire feature the furthest design element from the home will create a dramatic view and take into account both safety and functionality.

Integrated Design

Once placement of the fire feature has been determined, additional hardscapes can be integrated into the design to complement the feature and create a cohesive outdoor living space. Paver patterns and retaining wall designs can mimic the lines of the fire feature, delineate separate gathering areas, or direct traffic flow. One option is to create a paver pattern in front of a fireplace that mimics the look of a rug. Seat walls can also be incorporated into the design but should be placed at least four feet from the fire feature to maintain a comfortable distance from the heat source. It’s important to consider how the space will be used and remember to leave room for furniture and walking space.

A faux "area rug" of Mega-Arbel pavers break of the design of this Urbana patio to enhance the "living room" concept of this design.

A faux “area rug” of Mega-Arbel pavers in front of the hearth break up the design of this Urbana Stone patio to enhance the “living room” concept.

Finishing Touches

A number of elements can be added to the design that will make the space more functional, as well as add ambiance. Low voltage lighting can be installed directly onto the fire feature, as well as nearby walls, pillars, and around landscaping to increase both visibility and mood. Outdoor rated music speakers can be installed at various locations around the space to allow for a consistent sound level without bothering the neighbors. And, custom cushions added to seat walls will add both color and comfort.