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I am happy to announce I made it through another adventurous year! I am even happier to see what the coming year brings to this crazy journey I call my life.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

This was by FAR the best birthday I’ve ever had – thanks in large part to the amazing friends and family I was surrounded by for countless days, dinners and parties. Of course I want to share at least a snap shot of one of those joyous occasions with you all – where the food, the company and the setting came together so wonderfully, I’ll be hard pressed to beat it in the years to come.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

It was (and continues to be) important to me that during my birthday I spend some quality time with my oldest/nearest/dearest friends who have become family to me over the years (decades really).

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

They are so supportive of my goals, ambition and pretty much any hair brained idea I come up with (and subsequently wrangle them into). So, as I reflect on the year I just had and all the possibilities to come, I want to show them how much them mean to me. One of my favorite ways to do that, obviously, is to cook for them, and spend time making new memories around the dinner table.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

After all, having family and friends (both in Seattle and scattered around the globe) is one of the biggest things to celebrate!

And, so, when it came time to plan a birthday dinner, I wanted it to be as special as those people are to me. I kept it clean and simple with a slight nod to a nautical, “Anchors Away” theme.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Again, because these people really are always up for my shenanigans, they brought their A game, inclusive of some slightly nautical attire and all the delicious wine and appetizers for our leisurely pre-dinner, fireside hang out.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

And to really top it all off, West Elm of Seattle was wonderful enough to get in on the action by supplying me with some of the most timeless, yet updated entertaining pieces.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

From their summer collection (as you can see above), they graciously gifted me the Outdoor Metal Drink Bucket, Outdoor Metal Drink Dispenser, Outdoor Metal Ice Bucket and two of the Pad Printed Serve Bowl in Ikat. These were the perfect addition to my birthday table, and the best part is they all continue to do double duty in my every day life throughout this Labor Day weekend and beyond (uh, hello Football Season anyone?!?!?!)

Source: West Elm

Source: West Elm

Now, you all know how I feel about sharing: I LOVE IT!!! (except when it comes to pizza, colds and secrets) So, how excited was I when West Elm gave me an extra Outdoor Metal Drink Dispenser to giveaway on the blog?! If you want to enter the giveaway, simply follow the directions at the end of the post no later than Friday, September 6th by 11:59pm PDT.

Now then, aren’t you dying to know what I made for dinner in all those pictures above?!

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Easy Caprese Salad: Your basic trio that stands up to any table of dishes. Halved grape tomatoes, diced mozzarella and chiffonade basil with a drizzle of high quality olive oil and Balsamic jelly. Finished off with Himalayan flaked sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Watermelon Salad: This is both light and refreshing, and brings together opposing textures that is just surprising enough to make your taste buds sit up straight. Cubed watermelon, shredded mint and basil, grilled and diced Cypriot Halloumi (cheese) and a bit of zest plus the juice from half a lime.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Summer Couscous: Having a base for your main dish is a great way to both ground your central flavor palette as well as create a vehicle for all the flavor you don’t want to get lost on your plate. Couscous does this wonderfully. Sauté half a sweet onion in the bottom of a pot till translucent. Then add your chicken stock with olive oil till it boils, add the couscous plus a bit of white wine if you have it. Then stir in currants, a half cup (ha ha, sorry, I couldn’t resist) of a vinaigrette (I used a homemade one I had on hand with grapefruit and champagne vinegar), stir and refrigerate. Once chilled, stir in a half cup of finely diced Italian flat leaf parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.

Grilled Top Sirloin Steak: I had hoped to do Flank Steak for this dinner, but didn’t call the butcher ahead (shame on me, right?!) so I ended up with a big old cut of top sirloin (yeah, I know, what a down grade, right?!) But, I love my mom’s flank steak marinade, so I just used it anyway. Okay, well, I didn’t use it verbatim because I couldn’t find it in my binder of recipes….and I couldn’t get ahold of her on the phone, so from memory, I pulled together the following the morning of and let the steak marinate for about 5 hours, flipping once: half a bottle of red table wine, quarter cup low sodium soy sauce, quarter cup chopped scallions, quarter cup Dijon mustard, a generous splash of honey or agave nectar, a tablespoon of ginger powder, a dash of cumin and coriander, fresh ground pepper and a couple tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s delicious.

And for dessert, I made homemade carrot cake with homemade cream cheese frosting. But that recipe stays under lock and key….a girl has to have a couple of tricks up her sleeve that no one can replicate, right?!

Seriously, how did the room not catch on fire?

Seriously, how did the room not catch on fire?

Making a wish....

Making a wish….

Showing the cake who's boss. Yes, I blew them out in one try - even the black candle of death in the middle....

Showing the cake who’s boss. Yes, I blew them out in one try – even the black candle of death in the middle….

We sat around the fire and ate our cake, and I have honestly haven’t felt that happy in years. It was truly the best birthday I’ve ever had!

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

So, let’s celebrate by giving away something awesome!!!!

Source: West Elm

Source: West Elm

GIVEAWAY DIRECTIONS:
1. Since the Seattle summer continues on into September, we have weeks of get-togethers, games, concerts and general outdoor awesomeness ahead. Head over to the West Elm New Dining + Kitchen section of their website and find a piece you would love to add to your entertainment arsenal.
2. Come back to this post and leave me a comment with the link to the item. (who knows, maybe I won’t be able to resist it either and I’ll pick one up for myself to highlight in a future post this season!)

That’s it!

Don’t forget there’s only one entry per person, but of course you can always spread the word to your friends (I’m sure if they win, they’ll have you over for drinks!) Keep your eyes peeled next week for a winner to be announced!

 

UPDATE!

We have a winner, folks! Our Random.org selection pulled Andra Freet as the lucky winner of the Outdoor Drink Dispenser. Congratulations, Andra! I’ll get in touch with you to get you your prize!!!

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