We Midwesterners have endured an extraordinarily long, cold, bleak – and did I mention long – winter this year. So long, that forecasters have now declared that we are having a “compressed” spring which I believe essentially means we are moving straight from winter into summer. I choose to live here in the heartland and proudly so, so I hate to be one to gripe and complain about the weather. After all, it’s part of the deal. And yet, this year it was hard to avoid complaint. Collectively, I think we are officially over it. I know I am.
So it was on the heels of this particularly harsh winter that I declared 2014 would be “The Year of the Patio.” I promptly set up a Pinterest board, pinning all kinds of ideas I was sure I would never be able to execute. I called upon my brother-in-law to help me with my quest to find new patio furniture. After considerable research on his part (that’s how he rolls), we set out for a day-long adventure that resulted in absolute success – at a 20% discount, no less. (That is also how he rolls.) I contacted the landscaper and told him to give me something with strong visual appeal and exceedingly low maintenance requirements on my part. (He delivered on both counts.) I spent several weeks in search of all of the perfect flower pots and lanterns and doo-dads to give the patio just the right amount of Jen flair. And today, on this very day, I think my patio has achieved near perfection by my standards. If we only get 14 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day (a depressing thought if I think about it too much), I am going to enjoy every possible minute I can out there. Until a mosquito bites me. Then all bets are off.
I am a firm believer that every project in your home needs an inspiration piece. Maybe it’s a vase or a framed print or a pillow. But something must center you and be the guide for your design. In the case of my patio, it is my grill that takes center stage. A grill, you ask? Why yes, a grill. For I have the most lovely, whimsical, fun, and yet utilitarian grill I have ever seen. I am not a material girl, and I don’t get too excited about “stuff.” But I am telling you, I love this grill like it is a person. I mean, really. It is a charcoal grill with a propane start. It has a built-in thermometer gauge. It has a special side container to hold the charcoal. It has all the bells and whistles!
In 2005, I moved into this lovely little house of mine and almost immediately started prepping for the party to end all parties – a co-ed wedding shower for my sister and her husband-to-be. Plans were well underway when my sister emailed me an advertisement for a lime green Weber grill, exclusively available at Crate and Barrel. Now mind you, I have an affinity for all things lime green and this grill was clearly something special. But as a new homeowner, I took one look at the price tag and could not justify it. I sent my sister a polite “thanks for the heads up” and assured her it just wasn’t in the stars for me at the time.
|I love you, grill.|
About a week later, my sister’s now-husband David and I were out on the town for an evening of fun while my sister was working. It was a crisp June Friday night, and I remember it quite distinctly because we were at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts. As we were parting ways, David was kind of fidgety and asked that I call him when I got home safely. Now, he is a thoughtful guy, but even so this was a little out of character. I shrugged it off and made my way home. When I got home, it was pitch black and I had to gingerly climb the back stairs and then fumble around for the light switch in the kitchen so I could properly see to set my stuff down. There – set up right in the middle of my kitchen – was this grill. I remember first feeling shock and disbelief. It was singularly the kindest, most thoughtful, most generous thing anyone had ever done for me, before or since. I actually fell to my knees and cried from sheer gratitude.
That’s why I love the spirit of my sister and brother-in-law more than words can really say. They took one look at this grill and decided I needed it. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t Christmas or my birthday. It didn’t matter that it had a $400 price tag. What mattered was that it is okay to be ridiculously, over-the-top, crazy generous with the people you love every once in a while. What mattered was that it felt right to do something really, really nice for the sister who had experienced a rough couple of years and was just finding her way out of it. What mattered was that life is about celebrating, and this grill would be the center of celebrations – large and small – for years to come.
So here it is…my beautiful patio in all its glory, inspired by a grill. Cocktails and grilled meats, anyone?