The Hardscape Professional’s
“Wish List”

Belgard offers season’s greetings to all outdoor living designers and installers with some of our favorite gadgets and tools of 2016 that can help propel your business forward in 2017.

Virtual Reality Headsets

It’s not just science fiction anymore! Technology is changing rapidly, and the time is coming when these nifty goggles will be a useful tool in helping clients visualize their new Belgard space. For the forward-thinking designer or contractor, this is one of those tools that quite soon will change the game. Click here for PC Magazine’s top picks for 2016.

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Aerial Video Drones

Drone technology continues to get better and easier to use each year. Some Belgard contractors already use drones to capture images of new installations to promote on a YouTube channel or Facebook page, and it’s time for you to join the club! It’s one of the best ways to showcase your talents to a potential client. Click here for PC Magazine’s favorites for 2016.

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iQ Dustless Saws

With OSHA’s new Silica Rule, minimizing job site silica dust is more important than ever, both for the health of your crew and to maintain compliance. We highly recommend the iQ Power Tools brand for a variety of saws with integrated dust collection. To see the difference a dustless saw can make, click to view this video.

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paverplacers2Battery-Operated Paver Placers™

The Pave Mor® slogan is: Save time, save money and your back. That pretty much sums it up. Their original models work off of a standard air compressor, which is a still great. But their new battery-operated versions give you the freedom to function far away from an outlet. To see how these tools can improve installation efficiency, click here.

Get a Sneak Peek at the
HGTV® Dream Home 2017

driveway

This year, HGTV purchased an existing three-bedroom, three-bath home on the beautiful coastal St. Simons Island, Georgia. Architects, contractors, and designer, Brian Patrick Flynn, descended on the home and began the incredible renovation that transformed this hidden gem into a beautiful, one-of-a-kind, HGTV Dream Home. As the design unfolds, viewers will have the opportunity to enter for a chance to win the home and prize package by entering daily on HGTV.com starting December 28, 2016. HGTV will give the home away to one lucky winner in March 2017.

As the exclusive hardscape sponsor of the HGTV Dream Home 2017, Belgard is proud to offer a sneak peek at this coastal retreat. Once registration opens, we’ll offer a full virtual walk-though of the outdoor living spaces. But for now, here’s a little taste of what you will have a chance to win in 2017.

No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of the U.S., age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Sweepstakes starts at 9 a.m. ET on 12/28/16 and ends at 5 p.m. ET on 2/17/17. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. For full official rules, visit www.hgtv.com or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: “HGTV Dream Home Giveaway 2017”, P.O. Box 52915, Knoxville, TN 37950. Main Sponsor: Scripps Networks, LLC d/b/a Home & Garden Television. HGTV, HGTV Dream Home, HGTV Dream Home Giveaway and their associated logos are trademarks of Scripps Networks, LLC. Photos ©2017 Scripps Networks, LLC. Used with permission; all rights reserved.

Festive Backyard Lighting Ideas

For the next few weeks, it may seem like you’re holding a constant “open house” between planned events, holiday gatherings, family members visiting from out of town, or college kids home for winter break (not to mention their friends who might drop by). Keep your outdoor living spaces company-ready with these festive lighting ideas.

Decorative String Lights

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Today’s string light options are literally endless. Instead of choosing holiday-specific string lighting, you may want to consider choosing decorative string lights that can stay up all year long. Decorative string lights not only add a festive atmosphere, the chosen style can help define the design scheme of your outdoor living space. World Market offers an eclectic mix of string lighting options that vary from whimsical holiday themes to designs inspired by various cultures around the globe.

Classic String Lights

BEL14-136_Christmas CardYou can’t go wrong with classic string lights. They’re available everywhere and are great for wrapping around posts, lining porch ceilings, framing doors, or decorating walls to create an instant party atmosphere. Because of the simplicity of their design, they can be used alone or in combination with other lighting options without conflicting with an existing design scheme.

Hanging Lanterns

Whether you choose store-bought lanterns or decide to take on a DIY crafting project, hanging lanterns around your outdoor living space is a shabby-chic way to add festive outdoor lighting. Lanterns can use either real or battery-operated candles. Just be sure to keep safety in mind with real candles and remember to extinguish them at the end of the night. For DIY ideas, a quick search on Pinterest will get your creative juices flowing.

Colored Bulbs

Colored bulbs are a fun way to turn any outdoor light fixture into a holiday-themed decoration — including sconces, post lights, tabletop lamps, and flood lights. Home Depot offers a variety of colored bulbs for both interior and exterior lighting. Mix and match colors for a vibrant look, or choose all one color to create a stylized monochromatic lighting design.

Unique Gifts for the Outdoor Living Enthusiast

Everyone has that one person on their list who’s tough to shop for, year after year. If that person loves spending time in his or her outdoor living areas, ditch the thought of gifting yet another ugly sweater and take a look at these outdoor living gift ideas.

lanternsIndoor/Outdoor Lanterns

Whether outfitted with real candles or battery-operated flameless candles, lanterns add charm and ambiance to outdoor living spaces. For a wide variety of styles and price ranges, check out the selection at Pier 1 Imports. They also offer remote controlled LED candles, which come in handy when guests drop in unexpectedly. Press a button and voila, you’re ready for company.

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heaterTabletop Heaters

Nope, this is not a lamp. It’s actually an outdoor-rated 1,200-watt tabletop electric patio heater. It emits a soft glow with the look and feel of a lamp, but also heats up to 115 square feet of surrounding space. Home Depot has several styles available of both electric and butane tabletop heaters, as well as larger patio heaters. For more information on the model shown, click here.

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gms_res_bel2015_patio_walls_firepit_megalafitt_westonwall_westonfirekit_002_previewFire Pits

Various styles of metal and ceramic fire pits can be found at big box stores like Home Depot or Walmart. However, if you’re ready for something a little more permanent, Belgard’s Weston Stone® Firepit is available in five color blends, installs quickly, and will be the favorite gathering spot in the backyard for years to come. Click here to find a contractor or dealer.

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bbq-accessoriesDeluxe Grill Accessories

Don’t get the same old barbecue tool set again this year; go for something with a little more pizzazz, like a motorized steam-cleaning grill brush, a handle-mounting grill light, and a blue-tooth connecting grill thermometer that can pair with your phone. At Brookstone, you can buy these cool grill accessories separately or in bundles. And if you hurry, you can get a discount with the promo code: THANKS.

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santa-letter-indoor-outdoor-pillow-cSeasonal Throw Pillows

Let’s face it, outdoor living is not just for summer anymore. Now that outdoor living has become more of a year-round activity, you can actually find seasonal outdoor throw pillows. Pottery Barn has a nice selection of holiday-themed or wintry designs of both indoor/outdoor pillows and decorative seasonal pillow covers.

Planning an Outdoor Thanksgiving

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Incorporating your outdoor living areas into your Thanksgiving Day plans can help multiply the space you have available for entertaining and provide additional activities to help keep your guests entertained. Depending upon the weather in your part of the country, your outdoor living spaces can be used in a number of creative ways.

outdoor-kitchen-prepOutdoor Cooking

Much of the country is expecting unseasonable mild temperatures this Thanksgiving, offering a rare opportunity for outdoor dining and cooking. By either smoking or frying your turkey outdoors, you free up the inside oven for cooking side dishes or keeping prepared dishes warm. You can also use the grill for a variety of side dishes or appetizers — like roasted veggies or grilled stuffed jalapeño peppers.

The “Enclosed” Porch

If the temperature prohibits outdoor dining and entertaining, you can create additional heated space by temporarily enclosing a screened-in or open porch with heavy gauge clear vinyl sheeting. The sheeting will eliminated wind and hold in heat. The enclosed space can be heated with space heaters, but be sure to keep them a safe distance from the sheeting or anything flammable.

S’mores Bar — Yes, Please!!

Let’s face it…how many kids really like pumpkin pie? Not many. And how many like s’mores? Just about all of them. No matter what the temperature, people of all ages will love heading outdoors to roast some marshmallows after the big meal. If you want to really have some fun, take your s’mores experience to the next level by setting up a s’mores bar with some new and interesting ingredients. Here are a few ideas to get your started.

  • regular and pumpkin-flavored marshmallows
  • graham crackers
  • Ritz crackers
  • Vanilla wafers
  • milk, dark, and white chocolate bars
  • strawberry slices
  • Peppermint Patties
  • Grated coconut
  • peanut butter
  • Nutella

roasting-marshmallows

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

How to Cook a Cajun-Style Deep-Fried Turkey

Before we get started, don’t be intimidated by the word “Cajun” in reference to food. Many people have the mistaken impression that Cajun cooking is all about seeing how high you can get on the Scoville heat scale. That is inherently untrue. Although some dishes, like sauce piquante and boiled crawfish, will definitely leave your mouth tingly, the overwhelming majority of Cajun and Creole cooking is more about intense flavor versus intense heat. When talking about a Cajun-style deep-fried turkey, the description is more about the cooking method than the seasoning. In fact, this blogger lives in south Louisiana and regularly fries turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and we like to try different flavor profiles. A family favorite is one we call the “Casian” Turkey (which is Cajun-fried, but marinated and rubbed with Asian flavors).

The Equipment

setup

You will need a 30-quart fryer, a propane burner, a meat thermometer, a turkey rack (which goes inside the bird), and a turkey lifter (which hooks to the rack to lift it). You can buy the full setup online from Academy, Walmart, or other big-box stores. Next you will need about 3 gallons of peanut oil, which is the best choice for frying turkey because it has a high flash point (less likely to catch fire), high smoke point (ensures good flavor), and can be used multiple times before disposal — in case you’re frying more than one. In Louisiana, neighbors often like to get together and take turns using the oil. Basically, men love to cook when there’s danger involved, and there’s an excuse to get together and drink a little beer. If you’re making an event out of it and frying multiple turkeys, you may need a little extra oil.

The Bird

Your turkey should be no more than 14 lbs. If you have a lot of people to feed, you can fry more than one and can even experiment with different flavor profiles for each. Make sure every turkey is completely thawed. This is very important. Frying a frozen turkey is VERY dangerous. The ice reacts with the hot oil in an explosive manner. Once thawed, a turkey is completely safe to fry. Just be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey.

The Fill Line

Remember that the turkey will displace the oil when you place it into the fryer. Do not overfill the pot with oil. You want enough oil so that it will cover the bird once submerged, but not overflow the pot and catch on fire. Many turkey fryers come with a max fill line, but you can determine the exact amount you will need by placing your thawed turkey in the empty pot and filling it with water until the top of the turkey is barely covered. Remove the turkey, allowing the water to completely drain out of the turkey and back into the pot, then measure and mark the water line.

The Marinadecajun-injector-creole-butter-injector

The flavor profile is completely up to you, but you will need to generously inject your marinade into the meat of the entire bird. The recommendation is 2 oz. of marinade per pound of meat. You can create your own marinade, or for a variety of marinade flavors that each come with an injector, visit the Cajun Injector website. For our “Casian” turkey, we add a little dry sherry to a basic teriyaki marinade.

The Rub

Insert the turkey rack through the cavity of the turkey (neck side down), pat the skin of the turkey dry with paper towels, then generously rub the bird with your favorite seasonings. For our “Casian” turkey, we make a rub with salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger, and a little bit of curry powder. Too much curry will take over, but you can be generous with the garlic and ginger.

The Fun Partslhcb_04_fry_174d

Set up your frying station OUTSIDE on a flat surface, a safe distance from structures and wooden decks. To avoid oil stains, do not place the fryer on top of concrete pavers. Heat the oil to 350° F. You can actually begin heating the oil while preparing the bird, but don’t leave the pot unattended. Hook the lifting tool to the turkey rack and slowly lower the bird into the oil. Cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound, until the dark meat has an internal temperature of 175-180° F and the white meat has an internal temp of 165-170° F. It takes about 45-60 minutes to fry a 13-14 lb. turkey. When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot and place it in a pan on paper towels to drain. Let the turkey stand for 15 minutes before carving it.

Turkey photos by Oxmoor House, courtesy of Time, Inc.