Celebrate the First Day of Spring!

Springtime has returned (it becomes official tomorrow!), and with it your ability to spend more time outside. Now that the sun isn’t setting as early and the nights aren’t as cold, what can you do with all of this extra great weather? Here are some of our ideas for celebrating the first day of spring:

Plant a garden! You don’t have to have a highly sophisticated green thumb to have your own garden. If you’ve got fertile ground where you live, you’ve got options. If you’re intimidated by the idea of growing your own food, you can just start with herbs – rosemary, basil, parsley and mint are all easy to grow and show off to your guests. Plus, you can always share with neighbors and friends if you have too much — a great way to break out of the winter season hibernation ennui! And a garden doesn’t just add color to your outdoor space – it adds character.

Invite over some friends, family or neighbors for a backyard barbecue potluck. Set out coolers with drinks and popsicles. Having a party outside has a twofold benefit: you get to reconnect with your loved ones and the great outdoors.

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Celebrate the new season by going someplace that’s new to you! Springtime is a prime travel time because as winter thaws out, more destinations become accessible to those of us who are accustomed to warmer weather. When spring is in the air, it’s hard not to feel inspired watching everything be reborn around you. Take your family or some pals out for an adventure through nature, taking photographs as you go, then share them at the end of the trip. If you’ve got some artsy folks in your troupe, let them know they’re more than welcome to bring their gear and draw or paint anything that piques their interest.

We hope you have a marvelous time inaugurating the new season. If you’re one of those fancy people who are already on the ball and has a whole shebang planned, we’d love to hear your special plans! Here’s to a wonderful spring for everyone.

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Spotlight: Belgard Idea Books

Everybody wants a beautiful home, and everyone knows that it is your own personal style and taste that turn a house into a haven. But it’s intimidating to start from scratch, which is why we’ve put together the 2014 Belgard Idea Books. There are seven, each tailored to your own geographical region, and they are all brimming with ideas for how to transform your outdoor living space!

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No two homes are alike because no two individuals who live in them are completely alike. The purpose of these idea books is not to prescribe a particular ambiance for your home but rather to give you a large enough palette so you can take what you like and create a space that is suited to your individual taste. They’re also designed to let you see what your living space is capable of and how seamlessly it can flow into your surroundings, whether you live in a close-knit neighborhood or on hundreds of acres on the tranquil frontier.

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One of the advantages of the Idea Books is that since they are arranged by geographical area, you won’t have to waste time finding something you absolutely adore only to find out that the nearest distributor is 1,000 miles away. Each idea book is relevant to the landscape, climate and idiosyncrasies of your region. Our Idea Books feature all different types of homes, showing you that there are innumerable ways to customize a hardscape to make your space truly one of a kind.

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There are thousands of ways to transform your outdoor living space. Maybe you don’t have a pool that’s dying for a new paver in your backyard, but that doesn’t mean the pavers you see wouldn’t look great as a backyard party area or even as a driveway. These Idea Books are here to provide inspiration so you can take the best of all possible worlds and make your own. Design is a collaborative effort and the Idea Books provide enough possibilities to give you the confidence for manifesting your own personal, original vision of what a sanctuary your backyard can become.

 

Daylight Savings Time: What to Do with the Extra Sunshine

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One of the most exciting moments in the transition from winter into spring is the return of sunlight after 6pm. This year, Daylight Savings time lands on March 9th. We wanted to share some ideas and activities to help you all acclimate to the process of regaining your bearings.

When you wake up Sunday morning, you’ve already lost an hour. Considering the fact that the sun will be going down much later than it has been for the winter time, you won’t feel completely robbed of time. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to party. Losing an hour gives you less time to check off your to-do list, and if you’re spending your day rushing around to make up for “lost” time (honestly, where does it really even go?), then you aren’t giving your body the rest it needs.

If there’s one thing we’re big proponents of, it’s relaxing and having a beautiful space in which to do it. So how can you make the most of lost time? It sounds like a paradox, but there are ways to work within its framework. Here are some of ours:

Go to bed an hour early on March 8th. We know, we know; this doesn’t sound thrilling. But just because society increasingly treats sleep like a luxury does not mean that it is. Sleep debt can never be repaid (those college all-nighters have pretty much filed for bankruptcy by now, and they’re not even sorry). Your livelihood and the collective livelihood of your family, community, city and country depend on everyone being well rested. The benefits of sleep are priceless (and sometimes invisible).

Spend some extra time outside before hitting the hay. Take advantage of the extra daylight and spend it outside burning off some of that pent-up energy so you can rest well and ease into the time deficit. Work in the garden, spend time getting your pool ready for warm weather, or play some outdoor games with the family. Wearing yourself out will make getting to sleep earlier immensely easier, and when you wake up rested you’ll be glad you did.

Spending time enjoying your outdoor living space is immensely more satisfying in the daylight. Now that your circadian rhythms are considerably less ruffled than they would have been with an hour less of well-deserved rest, you can face the week ahead and enjoy relaxing outside after work in the sun!

Start Early & Be Ready for Summer

It may be bitter cold across most of the country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get excited for spring and summer now. These cold winter months do have an advantage: they give you ample time to plan your outdoor living space, so you can revel and relax in it when summer arrives. Here are some pros of planning ahead:

Let’s say you want a new paver for your backyard patio and pool. If you wait until summer to start thinking about it, you’ll have missed an entire season of enjoying your new outdoor space with your family and friends. Use the seasons to guide you. Determine what you want during winter, complete it in the spring, and then inaugurate your space in the summer! We’ll work with you to create a timetable that suits your needs.

Thinking about what you want ahead of time during the colder months will also help you consider what you’ll want year-round.

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Questions like “will I be able to use this when it’s chilly?” and “how will this color of paver look in the winter?” as well as “what kind of maintenance will be required in the colder months?” can be best answered when you’re in the thick of it. This way, you won’t just be thinking ahead for summer; you’ll be thinking ahead for the upcoming winters to come.

For those who love the great outdoors, winter can be a major bummer. But giving yourself something to look forward to in the next season can make you feel just as productive as you are during spring, summer and fall. And, you might just come to enjoy these months of nature’s chilly curfew.

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There’s an old adage that reminds us that though we can’t control the winds, we can adjust the sails. Nature has this made abundantly clear for many this year. We may not be able to control the symptoms of winter, but we certainly can find ways to look forward to the future. After looking back at how productive your winter was and seeing the fruits of your labor pay off in the summer, you just might embark on another fantastic project the next time winter comes calling.

Recipe of the Month: Traditional Wassail

iStock_000001436037MediumIf you’ve ever celebrated the holidays with someone of English ancestry, you may have had the pleasure of sharing a pot of delicious wassail. Wassail was originally considered a symbol of greeting and celebration. Drinking was often accompanied by caroling and general merriment, which makes it perfect for the winter season. Wassail, which means “be you healthy” or “be whole,” is a hot mulled cider traditionally enjoyed with others as an ancient southern English ritual intending to ensure a good cider apple harvest the next year.

So how exactly does one go about concocting this drink from olden days? It may have a rich history, but it’s very easy to whip up. You only need six ingredients, none of which require traveling back in time to the English courts:

  • 2 quarts of apple cider
  • 2 quarts of pineapple juice
  • 2 cups of orange juice
  • Juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Start by combining the apple cider, pineapple, orange and lemon juices in a large pot over low heat. Add the cloves and cinnamon sticks, bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour. Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves and serve.

You can serve wassail hot or cold, though it is traditionally served hot. If you’d like it to be less tart, you can quarter the lemon juice or add more cider. Feel free to modify the recipe to suit your palette. (Ghosts from King Arthur’s Court are not going to come haunt you for breaking tradition.)

And voila! Fresh, homemade wassail. Enjoy!

Product Spotlight: Arbel Stone

If you’re seeking a hardscape that speaks to your inner naturalist without making you sacrifice style, look no further! This week we’re putting our beautiful Arbel under the spotlight. Take a look at what this paver can do for you.

Part of the Natural Collection, Arbel is ideal for anybody wanting to shy away from the more geometric patterns and opt for something that looks natural and professional. It comes in six earthy shades that are perfectly suited for a driveway, walkway or pool area.

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With just enough grooves and ridges on the stone to retain harmony with the natural world, yet pleasant to walk on with your bare feet, the Arbel surface is the perfect stone for anyone who’s itching to feel at home in the great outdoors.

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The natural, rustic shape of this stone combines the best of both worlds: the unassuming ambience of the outdoors and the refined attitude of modern design. Who says you can’t be functional, elegant, and feel in touch with nature all at the same time?