Fireside Memories & S’mores Recipes

Last month, we reached out to our audience and asked them to share their fireside memories and favorite s’mores recipes with us as part of our National S’mores Day Fire Pit Giveway. We had an incredible response and received nearly 1,500 stories and over 600 recipes from all across the nation. It’s clear that spending time with loved ones around a fire is a heartwarming activity for people from all walks of life. Below are some of our favorite submissions. For more stories and recipes, be sure to visit the Outdoor Living by Belgard Facebook page, where we’ll be sharing more of these throughout the month.

Fireside Memories

The only time we got with my dad when we were children was camping. Being around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories was the best because we got a sweet treat, and we got my dad’s undivided attention finally. And mine were always the gooiest!   – Douglasville, GA

Sitting around a fire is one of the few great things I can still remember about my childhood with my grandparents.   -Algonquin, IL

I remember the kids being little and me running around to make sure they didn’t poke anyone or create little fireballs. Kids, now adults, still have fun making fireside s’mores, and I STILL run around trying to make sure they don’t poke each other and create little fireballs!  -Reston, VA

We made s’mores with my grandson on a makeshift fire pit just before my husband was diagnosed with cancer. My grandson’s response was so amazing. He was three.  It was really special to have that first experience with him.  -Trinity, FL

Every year we have a family reunion at our home. Family members fly in from all around the United States for a one-week event where we have a few nights of cookouts in our backyard. And s’mores are part of that on our homemade fire pit.    -North Oaks, MN

My first s’mores experience was when I was nine years old. I was camping with friends and was introduced by my friend’s family. I’ll never forget the incredible taste and experience. It is something that I plan to one day pass on to my children as well.   -Joliet, IL

My favorite memory is making s’mores around the campfire as a Camp Fire Girl, fifty years ago. S’mores have been the best campfire treat for a long long time. So glad they get a special day each year. Now that’s getting your just desserts.  -Pleasant Valley, OR

Our family was in the backyard, around our store-bought fire pit, making s’mores. Our youngest son decided he had enough and told us that he was “going home.” In his mind, we were on a grand adventure, even though we were just in our backyard.   -Jacksonville, FL

S’mores Recipes

A lot of folks suggested augmenting a classic s’more by trading out the milk chocolate bar for other candy bars: Andes® mints, peanut butter cups, Heath® bars, Mr. Goodbar®, et cetera — all of which sound delicious! But here were some recipes that had a little extra creativity.

This is a Trader Joe’s s’more! Take a large marshmallow, carve a small hole and put in these items from Trader Joe’s (whatever amount fits): choc chunks, dried blueberries, dried coconut chips. After toasting that, put between two graham crackers or lemon shortbread cookies.    -Cumberland, ME

This is an adult s’mores recipe that I created and is amazing: Grand Marnier® marshmallows, milk chocolate bar, waffle cookies. The combination makes wonderful s’mores that are not overly sweet.     -N.Mandelke,  Los Gatos, CA

Vanilla graham crackers, chocolate, peanut butter and marshmallow. -Cary, IL

We line up four vanilla wafers on a plate, add a small Heath® bar and two toasted marshmallows. We then top it with four more vanilla wafers and press down. Delish!!  –T. Karnowski, Andover, MN

Shortbread cookies, dark chocolate squares, raspberries and marshmallows!  -Grandville, MI

We like to make s’mores cones — Ingredients: Sugar cones, mini marshmallows, crumbled graham crackers, chocolate chips. Directions: fill cones with remainder of ingredients to the top. Wrap in foil and lay on grate above coals for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool.  -S. Miller, Homer, LA

Our favorite way to make s’mores is with chewy ginger cookies instead of graham crackers. Two chewy ginger cookies (homemade or store bought) with a little Nutella® then add a toasted marshmallow. A delicious classic with a little extra ginger twist.  -Ventura, CA

Enjoy!

Next week’s blog: Come back to the blog next week to learn about using columns as an accent in outdoor living design.

Multi-Dimensional Fire Pit Patios That Add Flare to Outdoor Living

Fire pits continue to rise in popularity, and with good reason. They add a fun and relaxing element to any outdoor space. The latest fire pit trends involve incorporating multi-dimensional patio design to create the ultimate backyard haven. Below are 10 dimensional fire pit patio designs that would instantly become everyone’s favorite gathering spot in your backyard.

1. practical elegance

According to a recent national survey of landscape architects, built-in seating is one of the top trends in outdoor living. This fire pit patio incorporates built-in seat walls, yet also leaves room for optional patio furniture. The design also incorporates permeable pavers on both the patio flooring and the seat ledges, ensuring that rainwater instantly infiltrates into the hardscapes.

Products: Belair Wall® (fire pit/walls) and Urbana® Stone (pavers/seats).
2. Room with a View

This terraced patio incorporates both manufactured stone and natural stone to create a rustic look that coordinates well with the picturesque mountainside view.

Products: Mega-Lafitt® (pavers) and Country Manor® Fire Pit with Tandem® Wall Cap (fire pit trim).
3. Carved out of nature

This design takes the natural look a step further by not only using natural stone as a landscape accent, but as a integrated element of the walls and fire pit. The surrounding landscape wall functions as a way to define the outdoor room, but also provides a ledge for additional seating.

Products: Tandem® Wall (fire pit and landscape wall), Mega-Arbel® (primary paver field), Old World Paver™ (inlaid border), Urbana® Stone (border).
4. Sunken Outdoor Living Room

By terracing off a sloped yard with retaining walls, this homeowner was able to emulate the effect of a sunken living room off of the pool deck, creating an intimate fireside gathering spot.

Products: Belair Wall® (fire pit, steps and walls) and Lafitt® Rustic Slab (patio).
5. Destination Spot

This terraced fire pit patio offers built-in enclosed seating on three sides, but leaves the fourth wall completely open for foot traffic. The angular design adds a formal touch to balance the rough-hewn textures of the hardscapes.

Products: Celtik® Wall (steps, fire pit and walls) and Mega-Arbel® (pavers).
6. Private Retreat

Natural greenery creates a virtual wall to block the wind and create an intimate atmosphere for this terraced fire pit patio. A retaining wall adds a finished look and provides a ledge for additional built-in seating.

Products: Weston Stone® (fire pit and seat wall) and Mega-Lafitt® (patio pavers and steps).
7. Intimate Nook

The low profile of the fire pit makes the seat wall the focal point of this design. The elegant arched wall is flanked with columns to create a striking look. The sunken level surrounding the fire pit creates a ledge that’s the perfect height for small children to sit and enjoy the fire.

Products: Weston Stone® (fire pit and seat wall) and Urbana® Stone (pavers).
8. Mediterranean flare

The decorative wall surrounding this fire pit uses Mediterranean design influences to help define the perimeter of the patio. The multi-level terraced design adds to the stylish look.

Products: Weston Stone® (wall/columns), Belair Wall® (fire pit/stairs), Mega-Arbel® (primary paver field), Old World Paver™ (inlaid paver border) and Urbana® Stone (paver border).
9. Integrated Design

Sweeping arches define the separate “rooms” of this multi-dimensional outdoor living space, tying everything together into one cohesive and flowing design. Built-in low-voltage hardscape lighting adds ambience and adds a safety factor for each of the level changes.

Products: Belair Wall® (fire pit, steps, seat walls, columns), Mega-Arbel® (fire pit patio pavers) and Lafitt® (pool deck).
10. Kitchen adjacent

This fire pit patio connects to the outdoor kitchen and provides an excellent place for family and guests to gather while the outdoor chef prepares dinner. Paver designs help define the transition from one outdoor “room” to the next.

Products: Weston Stone® (seat walls, columns, kitchen), Lafitt® Rustic Slab (transition, borders), Bullnose Paver (step), Old World Paver™ (inlaid paver border), Mega-Arbel® (primary paver field).

 

Explore the Outdoor Living Spaces of the 2017 Coastal Living Idea House

Belgard is proud to once again partner with Coastal Living magazine as a sponsor of the 2017 Coastal Living Idea House, located in the historic New England town of Newport, Rhode Island. The bay-front home boasts amazing panoramic waterfront views and is packed with classic style, smart decorating ideas and a trove of seaside inspiration. As the official hardscapes sponsor, we are excited to offer you this virtual tour of some of the home’s more than 1,000 square feet of outdoor living spaces.

Varied sizes of Provence® Slab are laid on the bias and bordered in large 15×30 pieces. The limestone driveway is lined with rustic Bergerac® pavers to add a contrasting texture and tie in with the brown color tones of the home’s exterior.

Step up to this welcoming front porch by way of the lovely Belgard walkway. The featured paver chosen for the Newport Idea House is our new Provence® Slab, which utilizes the innovative Satura™ color technology to offer the most realistic look and feel of natural stone available in a manufactured paver. To complement the blue color theme used throughout the interior and exterior of the home, the designers chose the Shenandoah Blue paver color, which emulates the look of natural bluestone and includes variegations of brown tones to coordinate with the home’s taupe siding. The paver sizes were varied and laid at a 45-degree bias to add a formal touch to what are otherwise casual outdoor living spaces.

Next, step onto the rear terrace, which includes multiple lounging areas, a dining area and a pool.  Striped fabrics and vibrant blue pillows pair with crisp white wicker to create a nautical ambiance.

Garden Wall: Celtik® Wall. Pavers: Provence® Slab.
Photo credits: Amy Neunsinger (top), Chipper Hatter (bottom).

Lastly, join us on the charming fire pit patio. A circular design of rustic Bergerac® pavers centers on a Countryside Fire Pit, beckoning guests to gather and share fireside chats while taking in the breathtaking view of Easton Bay.

Photo: Amy Neunsinger

The home is currently open for tours  Thursdays through Sundays through September 4, 2017.  For more information on dates and times, click here.  To virtually explore the interior spaces of this amazing home, visit the 2017 Coastal Living Idea House web page.

Hardscape Lighting Ideas

November 6th marks the end of Daylight Saving Time, when it’s once again time to turn the clocks back an hour. With darkness falling earlier in the evening, it’s time to explore a variety of outdoor lighting ideas that add ambiance, increase safety, and most of all allow you to get more use out of your outdoor living spaces. Whether you’re lighting an existing outdoor living area or planning a new one, here are a few ideas on how to light up your space.

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This lovely outdoor living room uses lighting techniques inspired by nature. The focal light emanating from the fire is enhanced by votive candles and low-voltage hardscape lighting that’s built into the walls of the outdoor fireplace. In the surrounding landscape, ambient in-ground lighting reflects throughout the picturesque waterfall. Uplights used for the shrubbery and trees add an ethereal glow.

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Fire can be used in a number of creative ways. This outdoor living room uses a European style fireplace and fire bowls that are all operated off of gas and can be turned on remotely. For additional fire elements, tiki torches are placed around the backyard to add a festive design element that coordinates with the “fire” design scheme.

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This design incorporates a variety of antique brass light fixtures, including attractive pathway lights in the planter beds and coordinating low-voltage hardscape lighting along each wall.

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Columns lights will both dress up a wall and provide additional lighting, as illustrated with the seat wall pictured below. This design also includes hardscape and overhead lighting in the bar area that allows for increased visibility behind the bar, without overpowering the fire pit area.

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Strategic use of pathway lights adds both character and an element of safety for a walkway or patio. The color of the light fixtures selected below incorporates complementary tones to those in the pavers, creating a cohesive design.

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In the poolscape below, low-voltage hardscape lighting was installed in a pattern that complements the sweeping arches throughout the design. To improve the safety, lights are installed on all steps and elevation changes, in addition to the seat walls. All lights in the hardscaped areas face downward, with upward lights facing the trees. The combination creates a subdued and cozy atmosphere.

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Belgard Elements, like the Bordeaux Grill Island pictured below, can be ordered with low-voltage hardscape lighting pre-installed, which adds to the look of the piece and also fulfills a utilitarian purpose.

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String lighting can be a festive way to add additional lighting and comes in a variety of styles to complement a wide range of design schemes. The outdoor pavilion below incorporates simple string lighting that creates a festive atmosphere without detracting from the richness of the rustic design elements. Additional lighting comes from pendants, sconces and hardscape lighting.

Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Maintenance Tips

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Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits constructed with Belgard hardscapes are designed to last for the life of your home. However, as we begin to move into the outdoor fire season, it’s important to properly prepare and maintain these fire features to ensure safety and functionality, both this season and for many years to come.

Keep it Clean
Regular cleaning of your fire feature is important for both safety and functionality. For gas units, debris and spiderwebs can clog the burners and cause malfunctions. For wood-burning units, accumulation of water or leaves can cause sparks and floating embers that could become a fire hazard. Be sure to remove any old ashes, coals, and water, and blow out any debris and spiderwebs prior to lighting your fireplace or fire pit. It’s also a good idea to purchase doors for your fireplace or a cover for your fire pit. This will help reduce the amount of debris and water accumulation, in addition to keeping out snow and ice in colder climates.

Hardwood is Better
Although many people like to just gather any type of limbs from the yard for burning in an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, this can be a safety hazard. Green wood and softwoods, such as pine, can hold a lot of water, which will create a lot of smoke and sparks as it burns. This is particularly dangerous for fire pits, which are more open and allow sparks to shoot out in multiple directions. For cleaner and safer fires, stock up on dry hardwoods, like oak or maple. To keep the wood dry, do not store it directly on the ground where it can pull moisture from the earth, in addition to attracting critters like snakes and termites.

Gas Starter Retrofitting and Maintenance
All wood-burning Belgard Elements fireplaces and fire pits are designed to allow for gas retrofitting — either with a gas starter system, or a full gas burner. Log igniters are particularly popular and typically last about 8 to 10 years before beginning to rust and requiring replacement. Remote controlled ignition systems are also popular. These can be designed for operation from inside of the house or from a mobile app. However, they often require additional maintenance, as wires and batteries can corrode due to exposure to the elements. For best long-term results, use a simple push-button igniter, similar to the ignition system on a standard gas grill. With fewer working parts, this simple system will typically last more seasons than a remote system.

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Fire Pit Design Tips & Trends

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Fire pits continue to rise in popularity, and it’s no wonder. There’s just something about gathering around a fire that’s inherently human. A fire pit instantly becomes everyone’s favorite gathering spot. It’s the ideal place to relax, unwind, tell stories, and get to know one another on a deeper level. If you’re thinking of adding a fire pit to your backyard, there are a lot of options to consider before you begin.

Decision 1: Mobile or Built-In

Many people opt for a mobile fire pit that can be moved around to various locations. Movable fire pits are certainly less expensive than a built-in pit, come in a wide variety of designs, and have the added benefit of portability. The primary drawback, however, is that a movable fire pit tends to only last a season or two before the materials begin to deteriorate.

An in-ground fire pit can be a cost-effective option.

Decision 2: In-Ground or Above-Ground

An in-ground fire pit can be cost-effective, however above-ground pits are more common. One trend is to create a “sunken living room” design for an above-ground fire pit. This offers the added benefit of built-in seating. In addition, the surrounding wall can act either as a wind barrier or a heat reflector, creating a warm and cozy room.

Decision 3: Gas, Wood or Hybrid

There are a number of benefits to a gas fire pit. It’s easy to start, there’s no mess, there’s no smoke, and it can be placed closer to the house. For purists, however, burning wood is one of the primal reasons to even have a fire pit. For the best of both worlds, consider a wood-burning fire pit with a gas starter. One popular trend is to install a gas starter with a switch that can be operated either locally, from inside the house, or with a mobile app.

Decision 4: Placement

An above-ground pit becomes a focal point of your outdoor living design. Be sure and place it where it balances with other large design elements. A gas fire pit can be placed just about anywhere, but a wood-burning pit will need to be at least 10 feet away from any structure. Before putting in a permanent fire pit, check for wind patterns that may cause potential smoke issues. Also, remember to leave ample room for seating around the pit.

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This sunken fire pit room uses a combination of natural stone and manufactured hardscapes.

Decision 5: Materials and Shape

Above-ground fire pits can be constructed from a variety of materials. The most popular options are brick, natural stone and concrete blocks, such as Belgard retaining wall products. Although design options are endless, most fire pits are either round or square. One reason has to do with the shape of standard fire pit liners. Fire pit liners are highly recommended and may be required by your local municipality. In addition to adding a finished look, a steel liner keeps excessive amounts of heat from absorbing into the surrounding stone. By reflecting the heat up and out, it adds to the life of the stone and creates a safer environment. It also increases the feeling of warmth for those around the fire.

Decision 6: Seating Options

Built-in seating is currently one of the top trends in outdoor living and makes an excellent addition to a fire pit design. Some people like to place seat walls four feet away from the fire pit, which allows for walking room. Others prefer a three-foot distance, which can allow you to prop your feet on the ledge of the pit. If using seat walls, consider leaving one or two sides open. This will allow for the option of furniture placement, which softens the look and adds interest to the design. To add comfort and color to seat walls, use a variety of throws and outdoor pillows.

The combination of built-in seat walls and open seating provides ample seating space an accommodates those who want to control their seating distance in relation to the fire.
The combination of built-in seat walls and open seating provides ample seating space and accommodates those who want to control their seating distance in relation to the fire.

Fore more fire pit design inspiration, visit our “Fire Pit Ideas” Pinterest board. To discuss your ideas with a Belgard authorized contractor or dealer near you, visit our contractor and dealer locator page.