by Jenn (eating bender) on May 11, 2010


I am back in Chicago after a fabulous – albeit too short – trip to Arizona. I sincerely appreciated all of the birthday wishes, comments, emails and Facebook love this weekend. It made my 23rd birthday special and caused me to reflect once again on how lucky I am to have this community. Thank you!

While I was at home with my family, Papa Bender was at it again – pulling out all the stops for both a delicious birthday dinner and breakfast! Care to see the final result? :)

Dinner: Papa Bender’s Surf ‘n’ Turf Special

The picture looks very “artsy” because it was taken at sunset. Le sigh…

Stop raining Chicago!!!!

That is all.

Anyway, this surf ‘n’ turf special was made up of flank steak, lobster tail, marinated onions and swiss chard. It was heavenly, which was fitting since it had that glow to it 😉

Speaking of “light,” did anyone watch Lost tonight? If so, did anyone else say, “huh?” when it ended?

I am still so confused and have no idea how they are going to resolve this in two episodes!

Let’s all console ourselves by taking a look at the wine that Papa Bender had on hand for dinner 😉

It was called Muirwood Chardonnay Arroyo Seco. Crisp, fruity and relatively cheap. I like it.

It was a fabulous dinner and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my birthday eve.

The next morning, Papa Bender made both a birthday and Mother’s Day brunch for the ladies. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved my mom’s Belgian waffles and my dad’s French toast. For some reason, whenever they tried to swap and have one make the other, it didn’t taste the same! To play it safe, my dad stuck to his specialty – and it was amazing.

Breakfast: Papa Bender’s Top Secret French Toast

I truly don’t have any idea what he adds to make this French toast stand out above all others. Perhaps its the ratio of cinnamon he uses, but it always surpasses anything I try to make myself or order at a restaurant. In true throwback style, I topped my toast with butter and grape jelly – a childhood favorite that I used to eat on pretty much any breakfast item (waffles, too)!

It was truly a delight – thank you, Papa Bender :)

Thanks also to my lovely friends, who sent me some sweet notes and treats.

Last but not least, a big thanks to…my MOM!

The photo above was taken during our trip to Maui last year (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 if interested!).

Now I know Mother’s Day was on Sunday, but if there is anyone who understands why I’m late, it’s Mama Bender :) I was born two weeks late, after all. Plus, her tendency to be tardy has been passed along to me – in other words, better late than never. Every day should be Mother’s Day anyway, right?!


Dear Mom,

We both know that a lot has happened in the past year and I just want to thank you for being there for me through it all. You are my best friend, confidante and ultimate wedding planner (I threw that last one in there just for you). Thank you for always keeping me on my toes, for giving me the best advice – even if I don’t always take it – and for loving me no matter what crazy ideas are up my sleeve. You’re the reason that I am motivated to be my best self every day and treat others with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Even during those times when their actions make it hard to do 😉

I will never be able to truly repay you for what you’ve given me. But I hope that by continuously telling you how much you mean to me and how grateful I am for who you are and what you do every day, you’ll know that if my “repayment” was in love, I would have already paid you back 23 years ago.

You’re the best! Haleakala…xoxo


Now I’m oozing with emotion over here!

Thanks for reading, bloggies :) Hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!

Question: How did you celebrate Mother’s Day? If you’re a mom – happy belated!!


1 John May 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Went to my parents and spent 5 hours with them and my brother and his new wife(married 2 weeks ago) and my niece. Just chatted and then ordered pizza. A lot of guys oder pizza here as they phoned us back and said it would take twice as long!

Surf and turf looks great!

2 Jessica @ How Sweet May 12, 2010 at 4:20 am

That is so sweet. <3 We had a cookout at our house with both moms! :)

3 Erica May 12, 2010 at 4:24 am

awwwwwwwww what a fabulous birthday you had :) Again- love how close your family is. Ok honestly, Papa Bender needs to open a restaurant! But he has to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner because he makes great meals for all three! Loved lost last night- listen to the Jay and Jack Lost podcast (it always- de-confuses me!). Have a great week Jenn!

4 Lauren May 12, 2010 at 4:45 am

What a wonderful trip! It’s so great that you had the chance to spend your bday with your family. They look like amazing people and Papa Bender sure does know how to celebrate you! I love when my dad cooks for me still. He is still the best in my opinion and will always be! 😉 Happy birthday love!

5 Amy @ Second City Randomness May 12, 2010 at 5:14 am

Yeah, this rain is really bringing me down! Silly Chicago weather… 😉

Sounds like you had a great birthday! yay!

6 Brittany May 12, 2010 at 5:42 am

Papa Bender always has delicious meals up his sleeve. Let him know that I’ll be coming for dinner. :)

I love the sweet note to your mom and I’m sure she will as well. Mother’s are truly the best!!

Glad you made it back to Chicago safely – and that the card arrived. Have a lovely day!

7 Brandi May 12, 2010 at 7:19 am

So glad you had a good trip to AZ :)

And yeah. Lost. I’m lost. Too bad I’ve wasted 5 years of my life on this show because now I have to know how it ends, but I have NO CLUE what’s going on. Why didn’t they ever say the brother’s name? I think it’s Esau – Jacob and Esau?!?

8 Jenna May 12, 2010 at 7:28 am

Happy belated birthday! :) It looks like you celebrated mothers day the best way possible, too.

Unfortunetly I didn’t get to spend mothers day with my mom. :( But I will see her soon and THEN we will celebrate!

9 Jenna May 12, 2010 at 7:29 am

Happy belated birthday! :)

Unfortunetly I didn’t get to spend mothers day with my mom. :( But I will see her soon and THEN we will celebrate!

10 CaSaundra May 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

Wow–Papa Bender can come cook for me anytime–looks amazing!

11 Heba May 12, 2010 at 9:41 am

Happy belated birthday! I still have to write my 24 passionate pursuits! :-p I’ll show you when I’m done!

I love the letter you wrote your mom – it’s really heartfelt and touching. I’m a sucker for cards and notes – I try to write one every chance I get!

Oh – and I keep hearing from hubby that the weather sucks in Chi. I’ve been out of town visiting family too in VA… it better get nicer by next week when I’m back! Hope we can get together soon, btw!

12 Tracey May 12, 2010 at 9:45 am

Oh man, you had to come back to this Chicago cold rainy weather from Arizona! I’m sorry. The weather in Chicago has been so messed up, it’s May for goodness sakes!

13 Karla May 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm

So glad to hear you had a good trip! I LOVE this note to your Mom–it’s pretty much exactly what I would write my Mom. Aren’t Moms the best? Mine wanted to go to the zoo as a family since none of us had been to the local one since about 15 years ago. It was certainly a blast from the past!

Hope you had a lovely birthday and a great start to your week Jenn! See you soon :)

14 Kelsey May 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Awww, what a nice way to spend your birthday and Mother’s Day! All that food looks ridiculously delicious, too! I’m jealous… Anyway, I’m an intern for Healthy Monday, a non-profit group that aims to use Monday as the day to promote healthy habits and behaviors. We’re looking for bloggers who would be interested in including a Healthy Monday tip each week on their blog, and your blog seems like a great place to do that. Your tips can be about anything you like! You can check out our website at Let me know if you’d be interested in helping us out :)

Oh! And happy belated birthday!

15 BroccoliHut May 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Haha, love the artsy photos!
I didn’t get to see my mom for Mother’s Day, but she’ll be here in less than 48 hours–so excited!

16 Lara (Thinspired) May 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Happy Belated Birthday! So sorry I missed it, but it was my sister’s birthday too! May is obviously a good birthday month :)

Papa Bender’s dinner looks amazing! Lobster?! YUMMMM.

17 Mimi (Damn the Freshman 15) May 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Ha! Butter + jelly is JUST what my mom always made toast with. It is awesome. Probably the only party that peanut butter is not invited to. Well, maybe just on one bite’s worth of bread, but that’s it. Butter says back off.

18 traveleatlove May 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Happy belated birthday! Here’s to a wonderful year for you!

19 Foodie (Fab and Delicious Food) May 15, 2010 at 8:12 am

Happy Belated Birthday, Jenn! Glad you had a good one!

Papa Bender sure knows how to make delicious meals! Everything always looks awesome!

What a lovely written note to your mom! So beautiful and sweet!

20 Marianne May 21, 2010 at 1:28 am

Happy Birthday!

And you thought you were belated 😉

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