Outdoor Living Holiday Gift Guide

For many people, outdoor living has become so much a way of life, they spend more time on their back patio than in their interior living room. For those outdoor living enthusiasts in your life, here are some of our favorite gift ideas this holiday season.

imageRain-Drum Accent Table

Rain drums, named for the pleasing sound they make when hit by raindrops, have existed in Asian cultures for thousands of years. This cast-aluminum version from Pottery Barn adds old world charm to an outdoor living room and works well as a coffee table, side table or accent table.

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imageColorful Hanging Lanterns

Decorative outdoor lighting adds ambiance to any outdoor living area. This colorful tabletop display of hanging globe lanterns from Pier 1 uses either standard wax or battery-operated tea lights to add a festive glow to any outdoor kitchen or living room. The decorative handcrafted set includes a sturdy iron base and handblown glass globes.

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imageCountertop Brick Oven

With four versions to choose from, the countertop Belgard brick oven can easily turn any outdoor kitchen into a gourmet cooking space without the time and expense of a full custom brick oven installation. The countertop oven is available in copper or silver finish with either a pyramid (shown) or dome roof line.

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imageCajun Turkey Fryer

Cajun cooking is all the rage, and no Cajun holiday is complete without a marinated fried turkey, crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. This whole-turkey deep fryer package from Home Depot has the tools to turn the average homeowner into an outdoor Cajun chef, including pot, stand, propane regulator, turkey stand, and meat thermometer.

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imageCajun Injector Kit

Either the perfect complement to the turkey fryer or a gift idea on its own, the Cajun Injector Marinade Kit includes four different marinade flavors, a marinade injector, dry seasonings and a recipe booklet. Injecting the marinade into the meat ensures that every bite is loaded with flavor.

Fall Back Outdoor Lighting Ideas

This week, we once again had to “fall back” as Daylight Saving Time came to an end. This time of year typically has wonderful weather for outdoor living in most areas of the country — no more hot steamy nights, yet not quite cold enough to send everyone scurrying indoors for warmth. But in order to take full advantage of your outdoor living space once the clock has been turned back, it’s time to invest in outdoor lighting. Here are some of our favorite modern ideas for illuminating your outdoor living space.

Illuminated planters

Flower pot by day, light source by night, illuminated planters are a chic and modern way to shed a little light on your outdoor living space. Outdoor-rated LED illuminated pots are available from a number of retailers in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Or for the DIY-er, a quick browse through Pinterest will help you generate unlimited ideas for your own unique creations.

Pendant lights

Today’s trendy outdoor living rooms and kitchens emulate the look of their indoor counterparts. One of the easiest ways to create an indoor look for an outdoor room is to install outdoor-rated pendant lights over bars, coffee tables, and dining areas. With thousands of fixtures available, design options are endless. In addition, the nature of designing outdoors allows for bolder, and more creative choices.

Hardscape lighting

If you’re planning to install pavers, garden walls, or Belgard Elements kitchen or fireplace units, be sure to plan a lighting scheme prior to installation. Low voltage lighting can be affixed directly into the hardscapes during installation to provide attractive ambient lighting throughout your outdoor living areas.

Hardscape lighting

String lights

Nothing says “outdoor entertaining” like string lights. From bare bulbs to Japanese lanterns, today’s string lights are available in a variety of motifs that complement any outdoor living design scheme and add a festive atmosphere any time of year. To put up permanent string lights, consider having an electrician install outlets into the eaves of soffits and porches with a conveniently located light switch to turn everything on or off at once.

Fall DIY Project: Lavender Pine Cone Fire Starters

ideas for enjoying your Belgard Backyard from
Lifestyle and Entertaining Expert, Alexandra Hedin.

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The outdoors provides the perfect spot for entertaining during the crisp days of fall – but those crisp days also call for a way to stay warm. An outdoor fire is the perfect centerpiece for a fall celebration. A basket full of pine cone fire starters next to your fire pit or outdoor fireplace invites the party to continue as the evening cools down.

Homemade fire starters are easy to make. By making them yourself, you can infuse them with scents like lavender, which is a natural mosquito repellent.


Here’s what you’ll need

  • Muffin tin
  • 12 paper muffin liners
  • 1 ½ pounds paraffin wax
  • Candle wick
  • 12 dried pine cones
  • Dried lavender blossoms & sticks
  • 8-10 drops lavender essential oil


Fire Starter StepsHere’s how to make them

Step 1: Line the muffin pan with the muffin papers. Fill each paper half full with cut pieces of lavender sticks. Top each one with a few blooms.

Step 2: Wrap a short length of candle wick around each pine cone and place on the top of the lavender blooms. Make sure the wick is sticking out of the top.

Step 3: Melt the paraffin wax in a double boiler over low heat. If you don’t have a proper double boiler, fill a small pan with an inch or two of water and place a mason jar in the center of the pan. Fill the mason jar with small chunks of wax.

Step 4: When the wax has melted, add a few drops of essential oil. Gently pour melted wax into each cup until filled to the top.

Step 5: Let cool. You can leave the starters in the paper cups or remove them. The paper provides an additional point of lighting when you are starting a fire.

* Hot tip * The wax melts easier in smaller portions. Divide the wax in three equal quantities and work in batches.

For more inspiration, recipes, and crafts visit alexandrahedin.com.

Gourmet Backyard Tailgating,
the New Orleans Way

Football season is outdoor kitchen season! Time to light the pit or Belgard brick oven and prepare to kick off an afternoon or evening of backyard tailgating. And, although the traditional fan favorites of hamburgers and hotdogs will always have a place at the backyard tailgate bash, today’s gourmet outdoor cooks are always looking for unique ideas to take tailgating to the next level.

The above chargrilled recipes were cooked using Schwing’s SOS Shells on a gas pit. From left are chargrilled oysters, veggie medley, and shrimp.

For gourmet outdoor tailgating fare straight from the food mecca of New Orleans, try grilling or baking with Schwing’s SOS Shells. The idea for SOS Shells was born from the New Orleans tradition of chargrilling oysters on the halfshell over an open flame. A popular dish in many New Orleans restaurants, the practice was time-intensive and difficult to duplicate at home until local restaurateurs, the Schwing family, created their stainless steel version of the oyster shell.

Highly conductive, dishwasher safe, oven safe, grill safe and reusable, SOS Shells offer the opportunity for really interesting outdoor kitchen creations, limited only by the imagination. Originally designed for chargrilling oysters, they can actually be used for all sorts of recipes and work extremely well in tailgating situations by allowing for individual portion sizes to go directly from the pit to the plate.

Now, for some New Orleans-style chargilling!

The traditional chargrilled oyster recipe is fairly easy to duplicate — the secret is in the sauce, which can be made ahead of time and even refrigerated or frozen for future chargrilling. On a stove, combine equal amounts of butter and olive oil with lots of pressed garlic and your favorite seasonings. Originally, the recipe called for simple Italian seasoning, but many restaurants have put their own unique spin on the concept by experimenting with different seasoning combinations. Feel free to mix it up with your own favorite flavors. For a lower-fat version, reduce the butter and oil by half and replace with beer. Cook the sauce over medium high heat for a few minutes to allow the flavors to fuse and any alcohol to cook out.

Once the sauce is prepared, load the shells with oysters, shrimp, veggies, or whatever ingredients you like. Place the shells on the grill at medium to high heat, spoon sauce into each shell, and cook until done. For shrimp, look for a warm pink color. For oysters, look for the edges to get curly. Throughout the cooking process, you may want to purposely spill some of the sauce onto the fire to get it to flame up and touch the food. This is what will give your recipes that chargrilled flavor. To follow the traditional recipe, when the oyster edges become curly, top each one with shredded parmesan cheese and allow it to melt before removing it from the pit. Some restaurants also finish with finely chopped scallions or parsley. Again, feel free to get creative.

Remember that once the shells have been placed on the pit, they will quickly become extremely hot and cannot be handled by hand. For safe handling, use tongs to move your shells around the pit or to place them onto a plate. Remind your guests that the shells will be very hot to the touch.

For a finishing touch for your chargrilled creations, have some warm French or Italian bread on hand to dip in the sauce left in each shell once the prepared dish has been eaten. After all, the New Orleans way is to never waste a drop of the sauce.

Fall is the Perfect Time for a Backyard Movie

MovieNight_TALENT_005_renditionideas for enjoying your Belgard Backyard from Lifestyle and Entertaining Expert, Alexandra Hedin.


Movie nights are a fabulous way to entertain guests of all ages – especially when they can be hosted outdoors. Setting up a movie night is as simple as a large white sheet and a projector. Turning a basic movie night into a fabulous event doesn’t take much more than decadently flavored popcorn made on the grill!

The Set Up

Arrange outdoor seating around an area where you can easily hang a large white sheet. Between two trees or against a wall is often the simplest. When arranging chairs, be sure to place them around each other and not in front of each other. For additional seating in front, add large pillows. Low tables around the seating area will keep treats and beverages nearby.

The Popcorn

Perhaps the most important part of any movie night is popcorn! There’s no reason to move your popcorn making indoors. A simple cast iron pan and a metal strainer become a perfect popcorn popper for your outdoor grill!

Here’s what you need

  • Cast Iron Pan
  • Metal strainer
  • ½ cup Popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons Canola Oil
  • Butter
  • Candies, toppings, salt

Here’s how you do it

Step 1: Warm the cast iron pan over high heat.

Step 2: Add oil and popcorn kernels to the pan.

Step 3: Cover the pan with a strainer and shake the pan back and forth.

Step 4: Continue shaking the pan as the kernels pop.

Step 5: Once the popping has slowed down, turn the heat off and shake the pan for one more minute.

Step 6: Remove pan from grill and pour popcorn into a bowl. Top with butter and favorite toppings while still warm.

*Hot Tip* Warm butter on the side of the grill while the popcorn pops so it’s ready to pour over the popcorn when finished.

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Looking for some decadent popcorn flavors? Try these:

Backyard-Movie-1Buttered Pecan

In a dry cast iron skillet over high heat on the grill, toast 1 cup of chopped pecans for 3-5 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to brown the nuts evenly. When nuts are browned, add ½ cup butter and reduce heat to medium/low. Swirl the pan to allow butter to melt evenly and pecans to be coated with melted butter. Pour over 2 cups of popped popcorn and toss to coat.


While the buttered popcorn is still very hot, toss with 2 tablespoons butter, 1 cup Golden Grahams cereal, 2 cups mini marshmallows, and 1 cup chocolate chips. Cover with a lid to let the chocolate and marshmallows melt a bit before serving.

Cinnamon Roll

Gently warm 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in ½ cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour over warm buttered popcorn and toss to coat.

For more inspiration, recipes, and crafts visit alexandrahedin.com.

DIY Outdoor Decorating Ideas

Be your own exterior decorator! Create an outdoor living space that feels more like an extension of your home with these simple and inexpensive do-it-yourself projects.

Recycled CratesRecycled Crate Creations

Wooden palettes and crates can be cleaned up and re-purposed for a number of uses. Create rustic shelves, end tables, coffee tables, planters and vertical gardens with ease. Ideas for fabulous crate creations are merely a Pinterest click away. To avoid potential injury, be sure to secure any loose nails and sand any rough areas or edges.

Candles2Let There Be Light

Adding ambiance to any outdoor living area is a simple as adding a variety of candles of various sizes. For additional character, convert eclectic vases into unique candle holders. Metal vases like the ones pictured here allow the candlelight to create interesting textures in evening light. Consider flameless candles with built-in timers, so your comfy space is waiting for you each evening.

BirdhouseMemento Mosaic

Can’t bear to throw away your grandmother’s platter, even though it’s chipped? Break it up into pieces to recycle it as a mosaic outdoor project like a tabletop or a decorative item. This birdhouse was created with the remnants of a pottery water pitcher that survived the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina. Broken pottery pieces were glued to a basic birdhouse that was purchased from a crafts store, and the roof shingles were cut from pine cones and glued in layers. Whimsical drawer pulls added a finishing touch.

Hardscape photography for manufacturer Belgard located in Kansas, Missouri and NebraskaSplashes of Color & Comfort

Break up a monotone design with colorful pillows of various shapes, sizes, and colors. For longevity,  purchase waterproof fabric or treat fabric with waterproofing agents. Don’t know how to sew? That’s what fabric glue for! If you can cut a straight line, you can make a pillow. Construct pillows inside-out, leaving a small section open to flip the pillow right-side out. Stuff the pillow and secure the opening. Voila!

Recycled WindowTurn It Into a Planter

All sorts of things can be recycled to create interesting container gardens. Here we have a barrel that has been re-purposed as a planter and an old wooden window as a decorative element for a planter box. Another idea is to create an arbor with an old wooden ladder. Secure the length of the ladder along a wall and hang potted plants from the rungs.