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).

 

Outdoor Kitchen Trends

Just as the kitchen has always been the heart of the home, the outdoor kitchen is quickly becoming the heart of the backyard outdoor living space.  According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), more than 75 percent of all U.S. households currently include an outdoor grill or smoker. However, that’s only part of the story. More and more homeowners are converting patio grilling areas into fully functioning kitchens that become the central gathering place for family and guests. Check out some of the latest trends.

Bar-style seating

Bar-style seating has become very popular in outdoor kitchen design for the same reason it’s popular in indoor kitchen design…it creates a communal atmosphere where family members and guests can all interact during the prep and cooking process. It also provides additional dining space, and with the addition of a television, becomes the perfect spot for outdoor tailgating.

Kitchen: Weston Stone® Bar Foot Rail: Bullnose Coping.  Pavers: Bergerac® with Old York™ border.
Multiple cooking surfaces

Today’s outdoor chef isn’t happy with just a standard grill. Modern outdoor kitchen design quite often includes multiple cooking surfaces — including gas burners, gas or charcoal grills, ceramic smokers,  and wood-burning or gas ovens.

Kitchen: Tandem® Modular GridPavers: Lafitt® Rustic Slab.
Everything including the kitchen sink

A growing trend in outdoor kitchen design is to include all the “creature comforts” of an indoor kitchen. Nearly every indoor kitchen appliance now has an outdoor-rated version — including ice makers, refrigerators, dishwashers, keg coolers and more. With a fully-functioning outdoor kitchen, there’s no need to constantly run indoors for supplies…everything you need is at your fingertips. Add a stereo system, wi-fi access and a TV, and you can truly live in your outdoor living space.

Kitchen: Celtik® WallPavers: Mega-Bergerac®.
Stainless steel cabinets

Stainless steel doors and drawers are popular because they are resistant to rot, weather and insects. Stainless also adds a striking look to coordinate with grills and appliances. Over time, some stains will appear on the surface, but can easily be removed with a stainless steel cleaner, making them look as good as new.

Kitchen: Belair Wall®. Pavers: Lafitt® Rustic Slab.
Seat Walls

Built-in seating has been trending for years in outdoor living rooms, especially around fire features. Now, the trend is making it’s way into the outdoor kitchen. A seat wall helps define the space, adds a striking aesthetic, and allows you to provide ample seating for large gatherings to supplement seating provided by barstools and dining tables.

(Left) Kitchen: Weston Stone®. Pavers: Lafitt® Rustic Slab with an inlaid Moduline Series® border. (right) Kitchen: Belair Wall®.
Pizza Ovens

Forget calling for delivery when you can enjoy a homemade pizza with an amazing flame-grilled flavor. Whether we’re talking about economical gas-powered tabletop ovens, or gorgeous built-in wood-fired brick ovens, outdoor ovens are definitely trending. The great thing about a brick oven is that it’s not just for pizza. Nearly anything you would bake in an indoor oven can be cooked in a brick oven. You may never cook indoors again.

Oven: Bristol™ Series from the Belgard Elements Collection.
Modular Kitchens

The Belgard® Elements Collection of modular outdoor kitchen units enables homeowners to have the look of a custom outdoor kitchen for a fraction of the cost and time. Belgard Elements are built in a factory setting and shipped in sections to be quickly installed on-site, meaning your kitchen will be installed in merely hours instead of weeks.

(left) Kitchen: Bordeaux™ Series from Belgard Elements Collection. Pavers: Laffit® Rustic Slab. (right) Kitchen: Bristol™ Series from the Belgard Elements Collection. Pavers: Lafitt® Rustic Slab with an inlaid Moduline Series® border.

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.

Tips for Planning the ‘Phased’ Project

Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to build your dream outdoor living space all at once. When building one phase at a time, proper upfront planning can save time, money and headaches.

Tip #1:  Choose a qualified design/build contractor

A large outdoor living build-out is an important investment in your home. Don’t trust that investment to just anyone. With a smaller job, an installation contractor is fine, but in order to properly plan a job that will be built in phases, you’ll need someone with design skills. For more information, read our Tips for Choosing a Hardscape Contractor blog.

Tip #2:  Design your complete dream outdoor space upfront

You can always scale it back, but it can be much less costly to design something that is never built than to retrofit a space later. This is especially true if future footings or underground utilities will be required. Many contractors will charge a fee for the design, but often credit that back to you when the work is done. For a realistic vision of how your dream space would look in your backyard, Belgard Authorized Contractors can utilize the Belgard Design Studio to import architectural plans or photos of your home to create 3-D renderings of their outdoor living designs that include furniture placement and potential landscaping. Fly-through animation will allow you to virtually walk through the design so you can truly get a feel for how you would live in that space. This can help you catch potential issues with the layout prior to construction.

Sample Belgard Design Studio 3-D rendering of an outdoor living area that could be built out in phases.

Tip#3:  Preplan for future phases

When you’re planning an outdoor living space, think of what you would plan for an indoor living space. Think lighting, music, televisions, cooking needs, and gas or electric appliances. Consider your local climate and think about ways of keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Running utilities all at once, including those that you won’t need until later, can be a huge cost savings in the end.  And if you plan to install heavy elements in a later phase, such as a pavilion or an outdoor fireplace, be sure to plan where any footings will be needed and install them prior to laying any hardscapes in those areas.

Tip #4:  Consider your lifestyle

When planning out the phases, discuss your lifestyle with your contractor so that you can plan the phases that will work best with your budget and how you would like to live in the space. A typical scenario would be to install the flat surfaces first, then build up, then embellish. For example, if a design includes a patio with an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, and seat walls, the phases of the plan may look like this:  1) patio  2) kitchen  3) fireplace  4) seat walls, lighting, and sound.  However, depending upon your lifestyle, you may want to rearrange the order of the phases or build in sections instead.

Tip #5:  Look for opportunities to reduce the number of phases

Construction economies can be achieved by building in fewer phases. Many Belgard Authorized Contractors offer the Belgard Preferred Payment program, which can help you build more at one time and spread the cost out over several months with same-as-cash financing options for loan amounts up to $55,000 that can include labor, materials, furniture, appliance, landscaping and more.

Coming up next week:

National S’mores Day is Thursday, August 10. Come back to the Outdoor Living Blog next week to learn how you can submit your favorite s’mores memory or recipe for a chance to win a Belgard fire pit!

Patio Design: Trends in Paver Laying Patterns

When designing a new paver patio, there are a number of options to consider with regard to paver laying patterns that will vary depending upon the style and shape of pavers you choose. Below are some examples of laying patterns to help guide you through the process. You can even mix and match different styles, shapes and patterns to create unique and interesting designs.

Traditional Shapes and Laying Patterns

For those who like to go with the tried and true, you can’t go wrong with rectangular and cobble-style pavers laid into one of the following traditional patterns. These patterns work especially well in smaller spaces that can be overwhelmed by larger styles of pavers.

Running bond

A running bond pattern is one in which the pavers are laid in rows running in the same direction. You can either go with a classic running bond, or you can get creative with color tones, borders and pattern direction.

Herringbone

A herringbone pattern is one in which rectangular pavers are laid in a zig-zag pattern. To add additional pop to a herringbone design, consider adding a contrasting border along the patio edges.

Basket weave

Basket weave patterns utilize rectangular pavers to create block designs. To add contemporary flair to this traditional laying pattern, you can alternate the color tones or laying direction to create modular designs.

 

Modular Shapes and Laying Patterns

Modular shaped pavers offer a variety of square and rectangular sizes that can be laid in multiple laying patterns that are less repetitive, visually dynamic, and create a contemporary look that works especially well for larger patios.

Three-piece modular patterns
four-piece modular patterns

Asymmetrical Shapes and Random Patterns

Asymmetrically shaped pavers create a natural look and often incorporate false joints that create the illusion of multiple shapes laid at random. Multi-shape cobble-style pavers can also be laid in a multi-piece pattern that emulates a more random look, as an alternate to using a traditional laying pattern.

Paver Borders

Border selection can add an entirely new dimension to a patio design. Options can range from using the same paver at a different angle to choosing a contrasting color, shape and/or style of paver (or more than one). But the options don’t end there. Once the border paver is selected, there are a number of border laying pattern options, as well.

Soldier course

The soldier course is likely the most-used laying pattern for a paver border. For this pattern, rectangular pavers are laid in a row, side-by-side.

sailor COURSE

Another popular border, the sailor course lays rectangular pavers lengthwise in one or more rows. For additional visual interest, wide sailor course borders can be created using more than one type of paver.

Inlaid borders

Striking designs can be created by laying a contrasting border further inside the paver field.