We had an amazing time soaking in the sun and celebrating life in the West at the annual Sunset Celebration Weekend held in Cornerstone Sonoma on May 20-21. We occupied two spaces on the event campus, with our company booth and fire pit lounging area by the Beer Garden and the Belgard Wine Bar on the opposite side of the campus. We’d like to offer a special shout out to our friends at Black Diamond Paver Stone & Landscape, Inc., who installed the fire pit, seat wall and patio for our lounging area. Members of the Black Diamond team were also on hand throughout the weekend to greet attendees and answer questions regarding landscaping and hardscape design and installation.
Our weekend began with Media Day on Friday. Belgard took part in the event by distributing materials to the visiting media representatives and offering refreshing mimosas at the Belgard Wine Bar.
Saturday was open to the public and was a perfect California day — sunny and warm with clear blue skies. Throughout the day, we educated attendees on various pavers and retaining walls and offered tips on outdoor living design and installation, as well as contractor selection. By stopping to ask questions, visitors to our booth were rewarded with an additional wine tasting ticket that could be redeemed across the campus at the Belgard Wine Bar. Additional festivities throughout the event included live music, cooking demonstrations, various product and education booths, food trucks offering a variety of delicious fare, and more.
Sunday was an equally gorgeous day with a continuation of live entertainment, wine tastings, festive happenings and lively conversation around the Belgard fire pit. Anyone who missed the event who would like to ask questions from a Belgard expert on outdoor living design is welcome to call 877-BELGARD (or 877-235-4273) to setup a one-on-one consultation.
Extreme weather can sometimes take a toll on your outdoor living spaces. Keep your Belgard outdoor living area looking as beautiful as the day it was installed with these tips and tricks for protecting your investment in harsh climates.
Beware Rapid Temperature Fluctuations
Belgard hardscapes are constructed to withstand natural freeze/thaw cycles, and the refractory cement materials used to manufacture Belgard fireplaces, fire pits and brick ovens are designed to withstand very high temperatures. However, rapid shifts from one extreme to the other can still have an adverse effect, and there are simple ways to prevent damage.
Keep brick oven and fireplace doors closed to prevent snow and ice from building up inside the unit.
When not in use, cover grills and fire pit openings with covers to help prevent build-up and ensure proper working order.
If snow or ice does build up on a fireplace, fire pit or brick oven, be careful to remove any loose snow or ice and warm the unit up and thaw it slowly.
Protect Your Outdoor Kitchen
It’s important to protect all of your pipes, appliances and equipment so that your outdoor kitchen is ready to use in the spring.
Shut off water to your outdoor kitchen and drain all water lines to outdoor sinks, ice makers, refrigerators and kegerators. Leave the drain valves open.
Turn off all of the power to appliances.
Clean the inside of appliances and cabinets and wipe everything down to remove residual moisture.
Do not cover outdoor refrigerators or ice makers, which could cause moisture to get trapped and cause electrical damage.
Cover any sinks to prevent debris from settling in the basin. You may want to consider removing the faucet and storing it indoors.
If counter tops are made of stone, consider applying a sealant to prevent leaf stains or cracks caused by freezing moisture.
Prevent Deicing Downfalls
Deicing agents can sometimes have a corrosive effect on paved surfaces. Although Belgard pavers are manufactured to be more resistant to salt absorption than asphalt or solid concrete surfaces, there are additional tips that can help ensure lasting beauty of your paver walkways, driveways and patios.
There are certain words that just seem to go good together: peanut butter and jelly; Simon and Garfunkel; Grandparents and patriotism. It is hard nowadays to find a person from an older generation who does not have a deep love for their country. Many have fought for their country or have had friends or family who have served. This year, National Grandparents Day falls on the anniversary of one of the most devastating days in American history: September 11th. Take the opportunity to honor both your grandparents and your country by putting together a wonderful “America” themed backyard party that they are sure to love and remember.
What to Cook
Warning: the following recommendation takes about five hours to cook, so plan ahead. For this party, try and cook some old fashioned pulled pork. Pulled pork is relatively easy if you take away the time it takes to cook it. Start by seasoning your pork with your favorite dry rub. Try ingredients such as brown sugar, salt and pepper, celery salt, chilli powder, paprika, thyme, and onion powder. Feel free to add whatever seasoning you desire. Wrap it all up in foil, and let it sit at room temperature while you heat up the grill. You want the coals to burn to a white ash, with temperatures reaching about 200 degrees F. Place some wood chips on top of the coals. This writer recommends pecan or cherry. Then place your pork on the grill using indirect heat. To keep this temperature, add coals every two hours to the grill. Once your pork has reached an internal temperature of about 170 degrees, remove it from the grill and add more foil to it to keep those juices in. The pork will be finished when you can easily pull the pork apart by hand. This whole process should take about five or so hours.
Hopefully you have yourself a wonderful vegetable garden by now. Take advantage of the end of the season and pull the remaining veggies from the garden. You can also show off your gardening skills to grandma. Add your garden-fresh veggies to a salad, or cook them on the grill. Prior to grilling, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Seeing that you are going to have plenty of time to kill while you wait on that pork to cook, you should plan on some easy-to-play backyard games. A classic one that everyone knows is horseshoes. Just don’t let grandpa cheat. Croquet is another one that is fun for the whole family. A good croquet set is an inexpensive buy at your local sporting goods store. If you can, convince the kids to prepare and put on a funny skit for their grandparents. This could end up being the most memorable part of the day.
What’s a backyard BBQ without a few drinks? In addition to everyone’s favorite wine or light beer, try making some classic cocktails that grandparents surely know and love. A good old fashioned drink to serve your guests is, you guessed it, an Old Fashioned. Make it official by purchasing a few Old Fashioned glasses. Place a cube of sugar in the glass, then pour a few dashes of Angostura bitters on top. Put a splash of club soda or water into the glass. Crush the sugar with some sort of spoon or wooden muddler. Rotate the glass around so that the sugar and bitters line the glass. Place a very large ice cube in the glass. Proceed to pour in the rye, or bourbon if you prefer, then voila! You have yourself an Old Fashioned. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. If you like it a little sweeter, you can also add some of the cherry juice.
For dessert, once again do something simple and classically American. Baking a batch of cookie for grandma, rather than the other way around, is sure to put a smile on her face. Perhaps whip up an apple pie. This will keep the America theme going. After all, what’s more American than apple pie?
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
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
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.
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:
Looking for ideas to transform your backyard or create curb appeal that will be the envy of the neighborhood? Order your free Belgard Idea Book for ideas on how to use a variety of hardscape colors, patterns, and textures to enhance the beauty, functionality, and value of your home. From picturesque walkways and cozy outdoor fireplaces to gourmet outdoor kitchens and traffic-stopping driveways, the 2015 Belgard Idea Book will help you explore the possibilities.