Cheers to 30 Years | An Intimate Backyard Dinner Party

There are just some birthday milestones worth celebrating...13, 16, 21, and then there's 30. When I turned 25, I started thinking about my next milestone birthday and in a world pre-2020, I thought that my dream celebration would be some big blow out bash BUT as the big 3-0 neared and after everything a year of quarantine taught me, I realized something...all I wanted my birthday celebration to be was a day of my favorite things surrounded by my nearest and dearest people. One peak at my instagram profile or even a quick scroll through the rest of the blog will make a few things about me clear: I'm happiest when fresh flowers are near, I feel my most beautiful in a great floral frock, and one of my many love languages is food- that said, it became clear that a floral themed dinner party of grand millennial proportions was exactly how I wanted to welcome a brand new {and very exciting} decade.

In the early stages of planning, I had reached out to a few local spots that I love. I knew I wanted a patio soiree but I also knew I wanted to do the cooking...not just to keep the party price tag reasonable but because I genuinely love entertaining! After all, details really are my jam. Logistically, the only venue that made sense was our own sweet little backyard so I set in on a pre-party patio glow-up. I knew if I was going to put all this time and energy into the smallest details like flatware, place-cards, and floral ice cubes, I'd need to create the perfect backdrop for it all. 2 weeks, 2 gallons of cement paint and primer, 6 curtains, and a whole lot of painters tape later I saw my vision taking shape. In a different life I would have been an event planner and my key to success is pretty simple: once my vision for an event is clear, I create a Pinterest board to help me collect ideas and streamline them to keep organized and make the vision come to life. If planning our wedding taught me anything it's that with all the incredible content out there today, one can VERY quickly move away from the original vision/plan/aesthetic and get lost in it all. With details locked down, location locked in, and all the encroutement ordered and en route, there was one last item to plan: the menu.

Naturally, being a June baby, I adore summer but planning a warm weather menu can be challenging. No one wants a heavy meal when it's 95 degrees out and certain foods faire better in the heat. I wanted something that wows {and feeds 10-12} on a budget and wouldn't require me to spend all day in the kitchen. After some recipe testing, tweaking, and selfishly just picking some of my favorite dishes I settled on the following: very light and low fuss appetizers to start and grilled cedar plank salmon for the main course. Sides included lemon risotto, my mom's vinaigrette salad, seasoned grilled squash, and french bread for the table. {Read on for the recipes} It was the PERFECT al fresco meal {if I don't say so myself} and only required maybe an hour and a half of my time spent in the kitchen which meant I got to enjoy my friends and take it all in. The day arrived and I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited to see it all come together. I set up what I could outside, made my first ever balloon garland, arranged {and rearranged} the flower pieces, and it all started to come together.

As Brad returned from cake pick up duties and the first guests arrived, I knew this was quickly becoming everything I ever wanted my 30th birthday to be. We welcomed, hugged, and broke into the backyard bar I'd created for the day. Friends helped me in the kitchen, while other friends helped Brad with grilling duties. Candles were lit, glasses were filled, and we sat down to dinner. With a compilation playlist of Ella Fitzgerald, Etta, James, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong playing in the background, the food was passed and the chatter started...a friend asked me two really amazing questions: what was the best and worst part of year 29 and what was a goal I had for 30. I'll spare you my answers but as I sat back to take it all in I was nothing but excited about what my thirties would bring me. And as the 3 and 0 sparked on top of the cake, and my friends sang me the forever embarrassing birthday song, I was overwhelmingly happy to be right where I was in that exact moment. Surrounded by the family of friends we have made in the life Brad and I have created together. Living away from our own families can be hard but knowing that I get to take a pretty amazing pseudo family into the next 30 years is all a girl could possibly want for her 30th birthday.


Cake: Kate Smith Soiree

Photography: Janie Jones Photography

Wine provided by Bright Cellars

Event Planning/Florals/Tabletop/Catering: yours truly


Teriyaki Cedar Plank Salmon

**You’ll want to soak the cedar plank fully submerged in water overnight and marinate the salmon fillet in teriyaki meat down overnight as well.

1 large salmon fillet (skin on)

Teriyaki sauce of your choice

Cedar Plank

Once the grill is ready, place the marinated filet skin down onto the cedar plank. (I like to pre slice serving sized filets before grilling for even cooking) Grill for 15-18 minutes.

InstaPot Lemon Risotto

2 cups Arborio rice

4 cups chicken broth

½ cup Sauvignon Blanc

½ an onion (diced)

3 cloves of garlic (minced)

2 T olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon

1 tsp salt

½-1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Lemon zest for garnish

1. Turn the Instapot to sauté’ and add olive oil. Allow to heat.

2. Add the diced onion and sauté for 3 minutes.

3. Add the minced garlic and sauté for an additional minute.

4. Pour in the Arborio rice and mix well until the rice is coated with oil. Toast for 2 minutes stirring frequently.

5. Add the wine and let simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Stir in lemon juice, chicken broth, and salt. Turn off the sauté function and close the lid setting the vent to the sealed position.

7. Set the InstaPot to high pressure for 6 minutes. (should take about 15 minutes total)

8. Allowing the InstaPot to naturally release for 7 minutes then manually release the valve.

9. Stir the risotto and add in the Parmesan cheese. Allow to cool with the warming setting still on to achieve desired consistency.

10. Serve immediately *garnish with lemon zest if desired

Grilled Squash

I used summer squash and zucchini cut in ¼ inch ribbons. Then coat with olive oil. I seasoned with dried thyme, dried rosemary, garlic powder, and salt to taste. For 6 squash total I’d estimate about ½ tsp of thyme, rosemary, and garlic powder, and ¼ tsp salt.

Mom’s Summer Salad Dressing:

½ Cup red wine vinegar

2-4 T Balsamic vinegar

1 T fresh chopped basil (about 6 leaves)

1-2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Dash of Salt & Pepper

2 T sugar

¼ Cup canola or vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients except the oil. Add sugar as needed for desired sweetness. Just before serving, add oil and use blender to emulsify.

**I use a spring salad mix and top with chopped praline pecans, feta cheese, and sliced strawberries.