Get Ready for Backyard Waterpalooza!

There is no doubt about it, summer is here, particularly if you live in the south! As soon as the kids get out of school, the heat index climbs, and their need for stimulation increases. Well there’s no better way to beat the heat than water play. Whether you have a pool or not, there are lots of fun games with water that will keep the whole family entertained throughout the summer.

WATER BALLOON GAMES

Water Balloons

Who doesn’t love water balloons? They are quick, easy, and available just about anywhere. Over the course of a couple of days, you can fill several Rubbermaid containers with water balloons. Be cool and keep it a secret so when you make the big reveal, you will be the big hit!

  • Balloon Toss: Start out with something simple like a water balloon toss. Remember the egg toss? Well, it’s the same idea but its only water, so there’s minimal clean-up. Partners start close together and with each toss, step back until the inevitable…someone’s balloon explodes and everyone erupts into fits of laughter.
  • Balloon Volleyball: This can easily become your best sport. Each team consists of two to four people. Groups of two will each hold the end of a beach towel to launch, catch and volley the water balloon over the net. If you don’t have a net, don’t worry.  Set up a couple of chairs or simply use a broom to represent where the net would be. Be careful, though! If you launch the balloon straight up, it will likely explode on your own head.
  • Balloon Cornhole: Set two containers or bowls filled with water in the same way you would set up cornhole boards for tossing bean bags. Reward point amounts for getting the balloons into the containers.
  • Balloon Battle:  Depending on the ages of the children, you can close out the water balloon day with a good old-fashioned water balloon fight. The adults may even want to get in on this one!

WATER GUN GAMES

Water guns will always be a big hit with people of all ages. In addition to the fun of a free-for-all water gun fight, there are some fun organized games you can try.

  • Target Practice: Try setting up some ping pong balls on golf tees and engage everyone in a little target practice. Or you can set up jars and see who can get the most water in the jars, or make a pyramid of disposable cups and see who can knock the most off.
  • Water Tag: Set up an obstacle course and divide everyone into teams. First person to get hit is “out”. Last man standing wins. If you want to make a really cool obstacle course, call a local appliance store and ask for some used boxes.

FUN WITH SPRINKLERS

Sprinklers

On a really hot day, there’s nothing like a sprinkler to keep you cool. Here are a couple of ideas for organized sprinkler activities.

  • Obstacle Course:  For this one, you’ll need multiple hoses and multiple sprinklers. Set the sprinklers at various locations and create an obstacle course where the kids have to try to run through without getting sprayed.
  • Homemade Slip and Slide: Get a roll of plastic sheeting from the hardware store. Roll it out and weigh it down with bean bags every few feet. You may also want to duct tape it to the grass for additional reinforcement. Drizzle a little liquid soap here and there, wet it down with a water hose, and you’re ready to slip and slide. Keep the sheeting continuously wet with sprinklers or a water hose. Or do this on a rainy day, as long as there’s no lightening.

Memorial Day Kabobs

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Where has the Spring gone? May has been alive with hustle and bustle, and just when you think you can’t do any more, Memorial Day pops up to give you a long weekend to unwind with friends and family, as well as gather together to celebrate our freedom and honor the men and women who have served our country.

Gatherings like this are a great time to get into the kabob spirit. Kabobs never discriminate! You can be a carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, or just about anything you can think of. This time of year, farmers’ markets and family gardens are becoming abundant with zucchini, squash, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and eggplant — just to name a few potential vegetable ideas. Fruits such as pineapple, bananas, cantaloupe, and honey dew melon are easy to cut up and have ready to make up some fruit kabobs. If you are looking to stick to a Memorial Day theme, use blueberries, strawberries, and bananas for “red, white and blue”. Or buy a fresh pineapple, leave the core intact, and cut slices into star shapes. If you have little ones, this is a great time to enlist their help. They can help wash and thread fruit or veggie kabobs. Wooden skewers, rather than the metal ones, are probably the better option when you have kids involved. Just be sure to soak wooden skewers in water ahead of time if you plan to put them on a grill.

For tastier veggie kabobs, you will want to season your vegetables somehow. If you are not into making your own marinades, you can try any number of store-bought options. The easiest is some kind of oil-based salad dressing. The oil helps coat the vegetables to make them grill-friendly. You can hardly go wrong by choosing Italian dressing. Whatever you choose, the overall goal should be to add a light flavor while not disguising the flavor of the veggies or meats.

Most meats are kabob-friendly. Chicken and steak are the most common, but feel free to branch out. Choose meats without bones and cut them in to bite size pieces. For best results, marinate meat for a least an hour in a covered container or food storage bag prior to cooking. For a more intense flavor, marinate the meat overnight. Like with veggies, oil-based dressings also work well for marinating meat. Or for a zesty home-made honey BBQ marinate, try the following:

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp honey or agave nectar
  • ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

The Unmatched Versatility of the Tandem Platform

Belgard has a long-standing reputation for innovation in the hardscapes industry. The newest line in the Belgard evolution is the most versatile to date: The Tandem® line of wall products, which offers the natural look of chiseled stone and includes a range of specific products that together can accomplish more outdoor living design goals and site solutions than any other hardscape product on the market.

ANCHOR_S_BEL2015_COM_Walls_MegaTandem_005_previewMega-Tandem™ Wall

The flagship of the Tandem line, the patented installation system of Mega-Tandem Mass Segmental Retaining Wall allows it to be quickly and efficiently installed for a variety of uses that range from residential to heavy commercial, including use as gravity walls and flood walls, and in most cases reduce excavation.

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Tandem® Wall

Capable of building straight or curved retaining walls, seat walls, or freestanding walls for lighter residential and commercial use, Tandem Wall also utilizes a patented installation system and includes an optional ashlar pattern, as well as the larger block pattern — for a total of 24 distinct aesthetic options.

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TandemGridTandem® Modular Grid

The incredibly versatile Tandem Modular Grid can be used to enhance the face of a porch or deck or to create outdoor kitchens, built-in seating, furniture, and more. With the use of galvanized grids, Tandem veneer units affix to a wooden frame or existing structure to create limitless outdoor living designs.

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Tandem® Column Kit and Tandem® Cap

The Tandem Column Kit and coordinating Tandem Cap unit can be used to complement other Tandem outdoor living designs or as stand-alone structures. Build a mailbox, create a driveway entrance, embellish existing posts, or add a column to a freestanding wall. You won’t believe how quickly these kits install.

What makes the Tandem platform so unique?

Both Mega-Tandem Wall (pictured below) and Tandem Wall are installed using three basic components: textured concrete panels, polypropylene connectors, and aggregate.

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Tandem Modular Grid and Tandem Column Kit also include three basic components: textured veneer units, galvanized grids, and specialized connectors. The textured face of all Tandem products are designed to work together to create coordinated outdoor living designs.

Grid and Column Kit2

Patio Design Ideas

The primary benefit of installing a hardscape patio is the lasting beauty. But precisely because it’s going to be there for a very long time, it’s important that you put a good bit of thought into the design. You want to make sure that the space will reflect your personality, as well as suit your functional needs. Below are some inspirational ideas for fabulous hardscape patios using Belgard pavers and wall products to reflect a wide variety of personal styles.

Cozy Rooms

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Fun & Funky Paver Patterns

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Fire Pit Patios

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Sleek & Contemporary

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Permeable Patios

For more patio design ideas, visit our Perfect Patios Pinterest Board.

A Rose By Any Other Name Still Smells as Sweet

Enhancing Your Hardscapes with Elegant Perennials

Nothing says “beautiful” like a colorful perennial garden. Webster refers to perennials as “being happy again and again”. The word perennial describes a plant that generally lives for two years or more while annual describes a plant that may have a one-year or single season life span. When choosing perennials, you are actually creating a look in your garden space that you can cultivate year after year without the continuous pocket drain and effort.

When looking for pops of color, many people opt for annuals, but there are so many ways to create a colorful garden from perennials. One of the perennial favorites many of us know and love is the rose. The rose is one of oldest flowers in cultivation with hundreds of different varieties. When choosing a type of rose, you might gravitate to the more fragrant varieties. As the weather warms up, you will likely be spending more and more time outside in your backyard. Now that you have created or are in the process of creating your dream backyard, why not surround yourself with the fragrant smell of roses that comes back year after year?

Getting Started

Select a sight that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day with good drainage. Roses succumb to root rot easily. They grow in all types of soil, however they do appreciate a plethora of compost or manure mixed in. When planting roses, never let the roots dry out completely, make sure to soak the entire plant overnight before planting. The canes should be about two inches below the ground in a warmer climate zone and at least four inches in a colder zone to protect from freezing. Mounding up the soil at least six inches around the root of the plant. Using mulch will help to protect your roses from both bug infestations and disease.

Companion Plants

Companion plants such as marigolds, mint, and geraniums are great because they help to keep a wide variety of pests away, as well. Be careful with the mint though; it can be invasive.

Plants in the Allium family such as garlic, shallot, and chives are a nice addition to any rose garden. It has been said that Alliums help to enhance the roses’ perfume quality. That alone is a reason to choose them. The flowers tend to be spherical and can produce pink, purple, white, and yellow flowers that are sure to add that extra pop to any garden. In addition, many are edible for humans, as well as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. The Allium family is also a helpful mole control.

Other possibilities you might consider when planting and creating a rose garden will depend upon your goals. Plants like larkspur, lantana, and lavender will help to attract butterflies, add a multitude of color, and help to fill in the areas surrounding the roses. There are also many long blooming flowers that serve well as cutting flowers, ferns, ornamental grasses, and of course the classic boxwood.

One thing to remember is to choose flowers and plants that have similar soil and water conditions as roses. Roses love water, but need to have well-drained soil. You can groom and shape your roses to take on any look, or you can let them grow with wild abandon. If you treat them right, they will be back again next year to make you happy “again and again”.

Quick and Easy Backyard Fiesta

iStock_000023365878_MediumCinco de Mayo is on a Thursday this year, which may make you inclined to think that it will be a little hard to pull together a fabulous celebratory backyard bash. After all, it’s been a crazy week with a mile-long to-do list, plus all of those end-of-school-year activities. All the more reason to take a deep breath and relax with a mid-week margarita!

Here is a list of some easy tips for pulling off a casual backyard Cinco de Mayo fiesta like a pro — with nothing more than a quick trip to the grocery store and a peek inside the back of your hall closet.

Decorations

Ok, so you’re the type of person who typically likes to channel your inner Martha Stewart when it comes to preparing for a party. Well, it’s doubtful you’ll have time to make your own paper maché piñata in time, so it’s time to get creative with existing supplies. Unless, of course, you happen to have an old piñata in the back of your closet, in which case, dig it out!  For other decorations, think in terms of earthy textures: wooden items, wool blankets, burlap sacks left over from the 4th of July sack race (which make excellent table drapes)…you get the idea. Fruits and vegetables also make festive table decorations — for example, a glass bowl or trifle dish filled with limes, avocados, or tomatoes.

Menu

When planning your menu, think dishes with minimal prep. A slow cooker and a packet of taco seasoning can come in handy for making “crock pot chicken fajitas” or “pulled pork tacos”. Another idea is to turn meal prep into a party activity by making Mexican pizzas on the grill. For a quick-and-easy “homemade” salsa recipe, throw a large jar of cheap salsa, a can of mild Rotel, and some fresh cilantro into a food processor. Spice it up with a little cumin and garlic powder, then puree everything together. It looks and tastes like restaurant quality, and they’ll think you whipped it up from scratch.

Beverages

Of course, let’s not forget the best part of Cinco de Mayo celebrations! Obviously, you will add Mexican beer to the grocery list. But for a perfect pitcher of homemade “top shelf” margaritas on the rocks, forget the bottled mixes — instead buy frozen limeade. Mix the limeade per directions, replacing one can of water with gold tequila. Add a healthy splash of orange liqueur (like Triple Sec), salt the glass rims, and you’re good to go. If you want to add a pitcher of mojitos, use rum instead of tequila, and grab some mint from the garden for muddling in each glass as you serve it. If you want to get really fancy, muddle in some strawberries, too. For kid-friendly versions, just make the limeade per package instructions, using water only, then garnish with salt (or mint/strawberries) and lime.

Now…make a quick grocery run, and get ready to enjoy your fiesta!