Product Spotlight: Aqua Bric Pavers

Ah, the rectangle. So simple at first glance, but trust us, this seemingly plain shape offers much more than meets the eye.

Take our Aqua Bric pavers, for example. The stones feature clean lines, subtle yet attractive colors, and superior ease of use. But it’s our Aqua Bric’s surprising versatility that makes it such a popular choice with our customers.

Its basic shape allows it to adapt to an incredibly diverse range of design styles and patterns. Lay them in running bond, herringbone, basket weave, or a pattern of your choosing for a totally unique look!

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And did we mention that these are some of our most durable and environmentally friendly pavers? Meticulously engineered to reduce water run-off, our Aqua Bric pavers are ADA compliant for Floor or Ground Surface Standards. So you’ll never have to worry about wear and tear on your hardscape or yard.

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The bottom line? Aqua Bric pavers are a perfect fit for any hardscape. They’re versatile, durable, environmentally friendly, and ready to help bring your dream design to life.

To get some inspiration for your next project, download your free Idea Book today!

Summer Recipe: Salted Caramel Ice Cream

The salted caramel flavor train is sweeping the nation and its next stop is right in your kitchen! Last month we gave you a skinny margarita recipe, and now that summer’s here it’s time to indulge. You’ll need an ice cream maker, so if you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one from a neighbor or friend! Here’s our recipe for homemade salted caramel ice cream:

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Equipment

  • Ice cream maker
  • 10-inch heavy skillet
  • 2 medium-sized bowls
  • Small, heavy saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • Large bowl
  • Airtight container

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
  • 2 ¼ cups heavy cream, divided
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs

Step One: Heat 1 cup of the sugar in a dry, 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir it with a fork so that the heat distributes evenly. When it begins to melt, stop stirring and cook it by picking up the skillet and swirling it around so that it melts evenly. When the sugar takes on a dark amber color, it’s time for Step Two!

Step Two: Add 1 and ¼ cups of heavy cream to the sugar (this might spatter, so be careful!) and cook until all of the caramel (AKA dark, melted sugar) has dissolved. Move this mixture to a bowl and then stir in the ½ teaspoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pro tip: if you don’t have two ½ teaspoon measuring spoons, use the same spoon for dry ingredient first, then the wet ingredient last. That way you’ll end up with the right amounts of both.

Step Three: Bring milk, the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Stir occasionally.

Step Four: Lightly whisk eggs in a medium-size bowl, then add half of the hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour it back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until a custard-like consistency appears and coats the back of the spoon, registering 170 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Do NOT let the custardy mixture boil!

Step Five: Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and then stir in the cooled caramel. Chill the custard, stirring occasionally, until it’s very cold – this will take between 3 to 6 hours. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker (it’ll be soft), then transfer it to an airtight container and put it in the freezer to firm up.

This recipe will last you a whole week, so once you’re done be sure to save some to show off what a cooking maestro you have become!

Need more inspiration? Check out our Idea Book and learn more about how to take your hardscape to the next level.

 

Planning Ahead for Summer Outdoor Parties

School’s out for the summer and it’s the perfect time to make the most out of some good weather and the great outdoors. Summers are chock full of opportunities to throw a party – it seems like every week there’s a new reason to celebrate! Graduations, holidays, you name it. But party planning isn’t all fun and games. It can take a lot of hard work and preparation to keep the chaos at bay.

With that in mind, we’ve got some tips and ideas on how to celebrate the most important days of summer.

Have the Best Hydration Station in the Nation

Whether you’re planning a party for the Fourth of July, National S’mores Day, or Labor Day, you’re going to need to keep your guests safe from the summer super-villain known as dehydration. You’ll be everyone’s favorite host or hostess if you keep cold refreshments outdoors in several easy-to-spot locations. Clear containers with metal spigots are cheap, attractive choices for self-serve drink dispensing. Plus, everyone will be able to avoid passing out from heat stroke before the fun starts.

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Trust us on this – everyone will thank you for using the ancient art of peer pressure to stay hydrated. It sounds basic, and even obvious, but millions of Americans are chronically dehydrated. It’s not just from lack of water consumption; popular beverages like tea, coffee and soda dehydrate you more than you might expect. With busy day-to-day lives, it’s easy to forget the basics sometimes and it helps to be reminded. So whip up some fresh lemonade (with real lemons and even some mint leaves if you’re feeling decadent) to keep your guests happy, healthy, and full of energy to keep partying. If you’re hosting the Fourth of July get-together, bonus points if you make strawberry lemonade (because it’s red, of course).

It’s All Fun and Games

The thrill of playing games isn’t just a great way to avoid awkward conversations with your friend’s great-uncle’s boss about politics. They’re a wonderful way to bond and have fun with people you love (and get to know new people). For a Fourth of July or Labor Day party, break out a game like Apples to Apples or Pass the Popcorn (this one’s especially great for movie buffs). These kinds of games are the perfect party game: they’re low-stress and minimally competitive. You don’t want to be the party thrower who gets everyone embroiled in a friendship-ruining game of Risk or Monopoly.

You can play Apples to Apples outside, but if you really want to take advantage of the green grass and summer sun, play a game of kickball or four-square. These kinds of games are fun for young and old alike, and there’s a reason kids love them so much. Children are certified experts in fun. According to the U.S. Department of Fun, you’re going to have a great time. Okay, that department isn’t real. Yet.

Unwinding

If you’re having a low-key get-together, these tips are for you. The Fourth of July is about reveling in freedom and relaxing underneath a canopy of stars and fireworks with people you care about. Not much of a party planner? No problem. You don’t have to turn your house into a public park to have a good time. Try coordinating a trip with your friends to go to the nearest fireworks display. Have everyone meet up at your place then carpool to the festivities. Make sure you have a designated driver and then relax, thinking about the kitchen you won’t have to clean up tonight. When you get home, everyone can curl up around the fire pit and roast s’mores together.

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If you’re not much for hosting parties on the big days, try something new this year and celebrate National S’mores Day! It’s on August 10th and it’s our new favorite excuse to eat the celestial combination of marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. If you’re a homebody or a camping fan (or fanatic) here’s our suggestion for celebrating this day of deliciousness. Plan a backyard camping ‘excursion’ for you and the kids or some good friends, tell spooky stories and feast on s’mores to your heart’s content. Buy all different kinds of chocolate: exotic flavors, flavors you’d never think to combine, flavors you’ve never heard of.

Life is better when you’re having fun and making good memories, and there are endless ways to make each day memorable. How do you plan on celebrating these holidays? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

Product Spotlight: Anglia Edger

So you’ve got your pavers picked out. You’ve found the perfect retaining wall. Your visions for your own backyard paradise are finally starting to take shape.

Now what?

Now it’s time to put the finishing touches on your hardscape project!

Released in 2012, our Anglia Edger is the perfect product to give your yard the polished, professional aesthetic you’re looking for. Use it to cleanly separate your gardening handywork from your walkways or lawn. Its natural chiseled finish and tapered ends accentuate the natural texture and flexibility of the curb unit. Available in two colors – Cotswold Mist and Gascony Tan – the Anglia Edger compliments driveways, patios, walking paths, and small planning areas.

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The large multi-size units of the Anglia Edger create a natural looking curb with a minimal number of joints. That means installation is clean, simple, and efficient! Not to mention cost-effective.

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Proper edging is the key to making your hardscape really pop. It’s also critical to keeping grass and weeds from disrupting your garden. Our Anglia Edger brings you a stylish solution that’s easy to install and easy on your wallet.

If you’re interested in learning more about how our Anglia Edger can tie your hardscape together, contact us!

 

 

Memorial Day Grilling Tips & Ideas

The first thing that comes to mind when planning a Memorial Day get-together is the age-old query, “what are we going to eat?” Typical Memorial Day fare includes hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. This year, feel free to break tradition and grill up something new with some of these ideas:

Kebabs

Kebabs are a staple of grilling events, but have you tried any unconventional combinations of foods on your skewers? Here are some that are sure to deliver on flavor:

  • Peaches, pork, pineapple and sweet Vidalia onion
  • Pineapple, red bell pepper, chicken, and shredded coconut
  • Curry-marinated beef, zucchini, cherry tomato and potato
  • Eggplant, lemongrass tofu, yellow squash and cherry tomato

To make the most of your meats and vegetarian equivalents, you’ll need a good seasoning or rub to anchor the flavor so you don’t end up with a bunch of tasteless food sticks. For a good chicken and pork rub, try Rufus Teague’s Meat Rub. For any and everything, try Konriko’s Greek seasoning. There’s a world of flavor out there and there’s likely to be someone local with an online spice apothecary – and being able to buy local is always a plus.

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Burgers

There’s a world of possibility out there when it comes to burgers. Entire restaurants have been dedicated to serving up dozens of types of burgers with a wide array of flavor infusions. To create something memorable this year, fold in a little bit of brown sugar to create a sweet and rich flavor. For a richer flavor, fold in minced garlic. Don’t go buck wild loading your burger with a lot of junk unless you want meatloaf.

Whatever you do, season your burger liberally and don’t add salt until the patties are formed. And once they’re on the grill, flip them as often as you’d like. It helps them cook faster and distribute flavor evenly. And once they’re done, be sure to have plenty of toppings set out so everyone can deck out their burger.

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Grilling Tips

You can use gas or charcoal to grill. Gas burns cleaner, but some people prefer the smoky flavor you get from grilling with charcoal. If you’re trying to stay environmentally friendly while entertaining, go with gas. If you want to be kind to the earth and still get that smoky flavor, you can just use additive-free lump charcoal (AKA charred wood), and don’t use lighter fluid.

Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature (and to kill any lingering bacteria). If your grill is heated properly, it will sear foods on contact without drying it up or causing it to stick to the grill. Searing may not seal in the juices of whatever you put on the grill, but it causes them to caramelize, making the flavor rich and decadent. To reduce sticking, oil the grill rack when it’s hot with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel.

Now for the fun part: cooking the marinated the meat. Marinades will drop some serious flavor bombs into your food. You need to make sure that the marinades are soaked in before you toss the meat on the grill or else you’ll get some fiery Pompeii-esque backsplash. Once they start to look done, use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature to make sure the meat is ready. If you are making kebabs and are worried about some of the pieces falling off the skewers and into the grill, put a grill basket below the grill rack to catch any runaway foods.

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For safety, keep a squirt bottle of water nearby to douse the flames of any flare-ups, since flare-ups resulting from dripping fats can compromise the flavor of the meats and also be a general nuisance.

When the meat is ready, let it sit on a platter for about ten minutes so the juice can distribute evenly and so you don’t burn your palette!

Party Time!

Now you’re ready to grill. Be sure to share some of your favorite foods to grill and let us know how your grilling adventures turn out!

Product Spotlight: Mega-Tandem Wall

Part of our transitional collection, Mega-Tandem is designed to give the timeless appearance of chiseled stone to complement any hardscape. It’s a recent addition to our products that’s only been around since last spring. Mega-Tandem is one of our more versatile walls because it has such a natural appearance, making it perfect for anyone who wants a subtle addition to their home or business.

The texture of Mega-Tandem feels like natural stone, so if you’re looking for a hardscape wall that blends naturally into your surroundings, you’ve found it. It’s great for homes as well as commercial use, as its earthy appearance has the perfect balance of aestheticism and functionality without being ostentatious. It looks so much like it belongs there that you’ll find yourself wondering if it’s actually been there all along.

Mega-Tandem can be used to create curved or straight retaining and freestanding walls. If you’re looking for a stately look, try a straight retaining or freestanding wall…

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…but if you’re in the market for something less austere and more inviting, go for a curved wall:

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Belgard is the only hardscape manufacturer to be granted the Good Housekeeping Seal, so you can rest assured that you’re getting the best and will be taken care of should you have any concerns. Our products are designed with sustainability, beauty and functionality in mind because you deserve a product that’s eye-catching as well as enduring – not to mention something eco-friendly that you can feel good about.

If you are interested in putting up a retaining or freestanding wall for your home or business, let us know! We are happy to help you assess your aesthetic and practical needs to ensure that you end up with the best hardscape possible.