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Outdoor Spaces

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There is something magical about the way the flicker of firelight draws people in. Perhaps embedded in our DNA is the knowledge that equates fire with warmth, nourishment and community. Light a fire pit in your backyard and you will see what I mean. A fire pit adds a beautiful and functional element to any outdoor space. It is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee on a chilly morning, gather with friends for a glass of wine at sunset or roast marshmallows with the kids. It extends the time we are able to enjoy the least-used “room” of our homes, the patio, spending nights cuddling up around the warmth of the dancing flames. 

There are fire pits to fit every style and budget, from a simple, portable wood-burning vessel to an elaborate, permanent one built of stone or bricks with piped-in propane. When choosing which one is right for you, there are a few things to consider. Where is a suitable, safe location for the fire pit? Free-standing or built in? Do you want to burn wood or opt for instant ignition with propane or natural gas? How many people do you want to accommodate? And what material works well with the aesthetics of your home? You can find a wide variety of ready-to-light fire pits in home stores and catalogs. Home improvement stores carry lots of kits to construct one yourself, or you can engage the services of a landscape contractor to install one. No matter which fire pit you choose, the irresistible ambient glow will make home feel like a resort!

Another way to add fun is to bring a little slice of Italy to your garden entertaining with an outdoor pizza oven. Like fire pits, they can be portable or built in, and the sky is the limit on design options. In recent years, there has been an explosion of pizza oven models available that use propane, wood or pellets to create pizzas at home that rival your favorite restaurant. Make a batch of pizza dough, or buy pre-made dough or crusts. Assemble an array of sliced veggies and fruit, cheese, meats and fresh herbs. Add a couple of sauce options. Cooking dinner becomes the entertainment as your family and guests assemble their own toppings and slide their pizza into the oven to bake to crisp perfection. A portable pizza oven can be used on an outdoor countertop or small side table. Or the built-in pizza oven can take center stage and set the tone for your entire backyard. Put on some music, plug in the market lights, and transform your backyard into the place everyone wants to gather and linger long into the evening.

Easy Peach-Prosciutto-Burrata Grilled Pizza
Start with store-bought naan bread and drizzle with olive oil. Top with slivered prosciutto, fresh peach slices, grilled in advance if you like, burrata cheese and chopped walnuts. Put in a hot pizza oven or on a pizza stone on your grill for 6-7 minutes to crisp the crust and melt the cheese. Remove and top with torn basil and balsamic glaze. 

Written by: Laurie Eager

Laurie Eager is the author and illustrator of In Papa’s Garden. A seeker of beauty every day, she works part time as an interior designer, loves adventure travel, all things French and dark chocolate. She lives in Stockton with her husband, Steve, and can be found most mornings enjoying a cup of coffee and the first rays of sunshine in their abundant vegetable garden.