Songs and Spirits Weave Through the History of Wind Chimes

windchimesThe soothing sounds of tinkling wind chimes are common in homes, gardens and on porches across the world.  But was there a greater purpose for these pretty ornaments?  Where they simply discovered by accident or handcrafted with care?  You may be surprised at the rich and intriguing history of wind chimes, from the Buddhist gardens of Asia to rural farms, logging lands and even coastal areas.  Their beauty and charm is almost legendary.

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Grilled Brie and Mango Chutney Quesadilla from Monica Sallouti: Wine Country Caterer

ChefMonicaIf your summer schedule includes a catered event or a much-needed vacation to wine country, consider Monica Sallouti, a Certified Natural Chef, for your gourmet dining needs. A self-described rent-a-chef with a motto of “I love cooking, so you don’t have to,” Sallouti works with a local abundance of artisan goodies and gifts from local farmers to make delicious and beautiful meals. Her personalized catering services are available for a single dinner, an event, or an entire week—simply call ahead to discuss availability.

We’re excited to share her recipe for Grilled Brie and Mango Chutney Quesadilla, excellent as an appetizer or a light meal. To prepare this savory dish you’ll need an outdoor bbq grill—browse a luxury assortment at Outdora.

For more information on Monica Sallouti and her services, visit her website.

Grilled Brie and Mango Chutney Quesadilla

This recipe is on my Greatest Hits list for guests and clients. No matter how many extras I make, it always seems like I should have made more. I’ve improved upon a recipe I found in Nicole Aloni’s Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen. If you have chutney that holds the sweet-to-tart to pleasingly hot continuum, please use it. Or for speedier preparation, try Trader Joe’s brand of mango chutney.

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Simple Guidelines for Planning a Summer Outdoor Kitchen

cal-flame-outdoor-kitchen-cabinetsWhen planning and laying out your in-home kitchen, careful consideration is put to efficiency and aesthetics.  These same guidelines can be the basis of design for your summer outdoor kitchen.  Whether you decide to design your summer kitchen on your own, or choose to hire a professional, these simple tips will help you decide how to have the perfect summer kitchen for you and your family.

LOCATION: When deciding on where your summer kitchen should be located, keep these tips in mind.  Try to locate the summer kitchen in an area of your backyard that allows the most flexibility in entertaining, serving food, and accessing the main house.  Locating a summer kitchen in a far remote section of the yard will create fatigue for the cook, and inconvenience for the guests.  Locate the summer kitchen adjacent to the back patio area, pool, and patio entrance to the home. This way guests are engaged in eating and recreation, and the cook has close access to the indoor kitchen.

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On the Fringe: Viticulture Challenges and Solutions

Hopewell Valley Vineyards in DelawareWhen you think of grape growing in the United States what states in particular come to mind? California, Oregon, and Washington are probably at the top of your list and for good reason. These states not only grow the most grapes and produce the most wine, but also happen to be blessed with ideal climates for wine-grape cultivation.  Sonoma County is a prime example of an ideal grape growing region, with long sunshine hours, a stable and moderate climate, and enough rainfall to sustain vines without drowning the grapes.

However, some of the most interesting viticulture practices can be found outside prime grape growing country, where less than ideal climatic conditions force growers to think creatively as they try to grow grapes fit for winemaking. The purpose of this series is to investigate these marginal regions, the challenges faced by the wineries there, and the creative solutions these wineries  employ to grow wine-worthy grapes.

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How Did the Hammock Become a Backyard Haven?

Hammock napPeople love to laze in their backyard hammock basking in the haven of relaxation it creates.  But where did this unique piece of furniture come from and how did it become the must have fixture that it is?

Southern Roots

We have the Mayans to thank for the invention of the hammock.  That same ancient culture that brought us exquisite pyramids on this side of the Atlantic, developed their own system of writing and used an incredibly accurate calendar is also responsible for the luxury and rest available in a hammock.

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The Fire Element Then and Now

History of FireThe mystical, magical fire element can be associated with so many terms: purification, renewal, destruction, energy, change, enlightenment, illumination, spirituality, damnation, etc. Although this powerful element can terrorize the land and destroy possessions and people that are precious to us, it also enables life to generate, especially in the case of plants and trees in the western and southwestern parts of the U.S. So where did this Jack-of-all-trades get its start?

The history of fire starts long ago. If we turn back the hands of time to at least one million years ago, this is where fire started—in the hands of Homo erectus and Australopithecus robustus. These ancestors of modern man were found with hearths, and evidence shows they used fire for simple purposes such as cooking, light, protection and warmth. In addition, fire brought them together for socialization and eventually became a symbol of religion, ritual and myth. This is when the element began its long road to transformation.

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Finding the Perfect Companion for your Garden Trellis

Rose TrellisFor any garden it is important to create a sense of intrigue and mystery through the use of colors, textures and heights. Whilst personal taste will always remain at the forefront of design, careful planning and attention given to the contrasts, focal points, and highlight colors are as important in the garden as they are to interior designers. A garden based on one level can be a stunning horticultural masterpiece but the simple integration of a few structural items can provide the vital component to add an extra perspective that both gardener and visitors can revel in.

A simple way of producing such height diversity is to add some trellising to the garden, allowing for a huge range of beautiful and stunning climbing plants to offer blooms and scents at an entirely new level. Adding both depth and interest to the garden the variety of climbers is immense, offering the perfect plant for everyone.

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Maintaining a Sonoma/Napa Vineyard

Sonoma VineyardAn area of 285,300 acres. That’s how much space is taken up by the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Valleys, let alone the rest of northern California. With that much coverage and all the award-winning wines that come out of the area, you can bet plenty of maintenance goes into every acre.

Due to the distinct local micro-climates, this area in northern California has the ideal climate for raising a vineyard. If you’ve never raised a vineyard or even grown grapes, you might be surprised at the kind of care that goes into producing them. Vines are managed differently depending on the vineyard’s approach. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on the basic practices of an average smaller vineyard in northern California.

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Sustain Your Family All Year Round with a Garden Greenhouse

Juliana GreenhouseFood is an essential part of every day life, so it can be a significant expense. How much money do you spend at the grocery store on a weekly basis?

Depending on the size of your household, you might spend anywhere from $50 to $200, and this amount only increases when you’re expecting family and friends or cooking for holidays and celebrations. Probably one of the highest expenses is fresh produce, and it’s frustrating when you end up buying fruits and vegetables that rot within a couple days of purchasing. If you’re tired of relying on the grocery stores for quality organic produce, take matters into your own hands and setup a home greenhouse in the backyard.

Finding the Right Greenhouse

Fortunately, there are many types of greenhouses so it doesn’t matter whether you live in a mansion or a small apartment, because you can still grow some crops. Below are some of the basic structure designs.

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Smoking Out the History of BBQ Cooking

Barbeque It’s a summer staple across the continent and an all year round favorite in the sunny south.  But BBQ cooking has a long, intriguing history that’s actually debated with passion in some circles.

The First Smoked Meat?

Folks who call themselves “true barbecue” enthusiasts would define the process as smoking beef or pork outdoors.  Most likely this originated from Native Americans, who did it out of necessity.

When they were successful on a hunt it was important to either eat the meat quickly or preserve it to enjoy later on.  Spanish explorers found that the natives used the sun to preserve their meat, building racks over small fires to smoke away the insects and other pests during the process.

Ingeniously, the Natives were also doing what many of us today would call BBQ or smoking their dinner.  Did the Spanish introduce spices to the recipe or were the Natives already using them?

Indigenous people of the West Indies called this process “barbacoa,” which could be where the modern term came from.  You can enjoy it (without having to hunt for your food) with the Big Green Egg or the Viking C4 Outdoor Cooker, two of the smokers available at Outdora.

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