Please welcome guest author Miellyn Fitzwater Barrows for the final installment of KAPOW, wherein she talks you through romantic patio lighting, the ins and outs of fire pits, setting up an outdoor cinema, and a fancy new kind of s’mores. —Ed.
Need to catch up? Here are all four installments of KAPOW Your Backyard.[divider]
KAPOW Issue 4: Flame On with the Human Torch
A founding member of the Fantastic Four, Johnny Storm was just like you and me until one day he caught some cosmic rays and acquired powers to burst into flame on command. Now the man really knows how to light up a room. Let’s take a cue from Mister Hothead and brighten up our backyards.
THE FIRST PROJECT:
“Project Lighten Up”
I am obsessed with outdoor cafe-style string lights. Not yo mama’s Christmas bulbs, these little clear orbs elicit thoughts of french cafes, yacht clubs, and ice skating in the park.
Sophisticated, romantic, and durable, they will turn your backyard evenings into Jay Gatsby’s lawn, Amelie’s favorite cafe, and a Downton Abbey wedding reception all rolled into one. Imagine the longing glances across trays of fruit, the butlers bearing wine, and the way your jewels sparkle in the light… all in your own backyard.
It’s the optimum lighting situation for a beautiful evening. Really, who doesn’t look good in soft light? It’s like living in an Instagram photo. It’s like a live version of Photoshop. It’s like Vaseline on the camera lens (for you Luddites). In addition to looking good, you’ll be able to see things. Which is nice. And safe. And helps to prevent tripping over random objects. All good things in my book.[divider]
THE SECOND PROJECT:
“This Yard is on Fire”
Fire pits are not actually the pits; they’re the tops! On cool summer evenings, you can gather your friends around one of these sparky puppies and talk about the biggest thing Faulkner and Tom Cruise have in common (their widely unrecognized sense for comedy, of course) while drinking whiskey out of flasks, listening to Vampire Weekend, and pretending to be in a Tommy Hilfiger commercial.
The musky smell of burning wood is one that takes you back to corn roasts and camp and that ill-advised natural perfume you may have worn for a hot minute in the 1990’s. Let’s just focus on the corn roasts and camp, shall we?
But back to the fire at hand. There’s nothing more primal than rubbing two sticks together to make fire (although I’d recommend going slightly less primal and using a lighter and some fire starter sticks or newspaper. It’s much faster, and who wants to be a cave man anyway?)
You’re curious, aren’t you, as to where one would get firewood in the middle of the summer? It’s actually easy! A quick Craigslist search turned up plenty of vendors in my area. If you don’t have similar luck, you can find it from on-line retailers. Amazon has a handy option. Or if you have scrap wood lying around from home projects, that would work, too, so long as they aren’t treated boards. No need to breathe in chemicals!
You have a lot of options for fire pits. You can buy a metal tray-style one from your local hardware store [Ed. note: As a bonus, most of these can be used as ice buckets when you’re not in a fire mood], get a chimney which can direct the smoke a little better (but lacks that raw open fire feel), or you could build one yourself out of bricks. From my research, this particular DIY will take a lot of time and money. I like the easy way out. Check out my companion Pinterest board for options and ideas.
Important note: Never, ever throw your ashes away in a can inside your house or garage. You should leave them in the fire pit for a few days, or if you want to clean it out sooner, put the ashes in a metal bucket with a lid. You can transfer them to a plastic bag in your trash bin on trash day or when they are COMPLETELY cool. Still keep the trash bin away from the house. My motto is “House parties, yes. House fires, NO!”[divider]
THE THIRD PROJECT:
- a projector
- a movie device (phone, laptop, dvd/blu-ray player)
- speaker system
- outdoor extension cords
- furniture and accessories
Nothing beats the feel of a drive-in movie on a big screen. You can do this yourself in your backyard with a screen and a projector.
You should know that as far as projectors are concerned, the lumens matter. And the inputs/ports. You want to be sure that you can run it from whatever device you have (phone, laptop, dvd/blu-ray player).
This one is very highly rated on Amazon and runs just over $300. You could get cheaper ones (ones that just run on your iPhone, for example) but they won’t have as clear a picture and it’ll need to be pretty dark for you to be able to see anything. Unless you live in the light pollution-free sticks, not being able to see the picture kinda defeats the purpose of having an outdoor projector. I’m a believer in not getting the cheapest electronics. It’s definitely a place where an extra few bucks can go a long way.
You’ll also probably want a separate speaker system. You should be able to set up a couple of Bluetooth speakers paired to your player.
There are tons of options for the screen from the fancy one pictured above to the less expensive pop-up style or you can improvise with a white bed sheet with a DIY PVC pipe mount. Up to you!
- Water Crackers
- A wheel of triple creme brie
- Toasting sticks
This update on a childhood favorite has a familiar composition while lending a more sophisticated combination of tastes. It will blow your mind how awesomely similar it is to traditional s’mores while having a completely new flavor.
Let the brie come up to room temperature, then cut into 1” cubes. Skewer the cube of brie through the rind (it helps it stay on better) and then heat the cheese over the fire until it starts to bubble slightly. Spread Nutella on a cracker, then use the Nutella cracker and a plain cracker to sandwich the brie and slide it off the stick. Eat immediately.[divider]
This post has a companion board on Pinterest! You can find it here.
Enjoy all four installments of KAPOW: