Saturday, August 1, 2020


Hard to believe it's August already. Brian and I were talking the other day and saying it seems like summer was just getting going. We both love the summer season and it's much too short here in Illinois. 

The end of July is popular for birthdays in our family. Our oldest son, Philip was born on July 21st. One of the happiest days of my life. He made me a mother, which is something I had dreamed about since I was 12 years old. Philip would've been 32 years old this year. His life ended tragically in 2009 when he was only 21 years old, due to the diseases of mental illness and subsequently, addiction. After 11 years, I thought his birthday wouldn't be so hard, but it was. Brian and I both were glad to see that day come to a close.

And then Brian himself turned the big six-oh recently! He sure doesn't look 60, does he? I got a huge chuckle from a comment on my Instagram that said the first time she saw a picture of Brian, she thought "You go girl with that young guy!" 🤣 We spent the day doing what Brian loves best ~ going back to his home town and relaxing by the lake (Lake Michigan..."The Michigan Ocean" as we affectionately call it) and going out to eat at a hip, new Mexican place that had a huge selection of different tacos. Of course, I made my "young birthday guy" his favorite birthday cake: a banana cake with cream cheese frosting. We purposely avoid processed sugar as much as possible, so I was excited to find a banana cake recipe that used honey. The good thing about this recipe is that you can also make it vegan by using maple syrup and flax eggs, and you can even make it gluten-free by using GF flour. You can find the recipe from Cookie + Kate here. I'm making the cake again today because I have some overly ripe bananas I need to use. I'll skip the frosting this time. We'll just eat it as a snack cake.

More birthday celebrations at the end of the month with my mom turning 80! That's my cute little red-headed mom in the middle with me (with the glasses) and my aunt; my mom's sister. Just like I said about my husband, I certainly don't think my mom looks 80! I hope that when I'm that age, I look and feel as good as she does. She takes very good care of herself, eating a very healthy diet and exercising every day. We celebrated by taking Mom out to lunch at a wonderful seafood restaurant in the Chicago suburbs. The food was amazing (Brian's caprese salad with shrimp; my wild-caught grouper; side dish of wild rice pilaf and roasted potatoes and vegges) and huge portions that gave us plenty of leftovers to take home.

For my mom's birthday gift this year, I posted on Facebook asking any who knew my mom, to please send me small notes of why they love or admire her. I collected the notes and put them in a big glass jar. My aunt made that pretty tag for the jar. I went to Mom's house on her actual birthday and presented her with the jar. She lifted the lid and pulled out one of the notes. She unfolded it and read it and burst into tears. She said, "Are all these messages for me?" I told her yes and she just sat there, softly crying for awhile. We spent hours going through each message; lots of tears shed but plenty of laughter, too. I think this was one of Mom's favorite birthday gifts ever.

 As much fun and filled with love all these "big" birthday celebrations were this year, originally we were going to have a big family party at our house. I pictured our small house bustling with all our loved ones, sitting around the kitchen, living room and patio, talk and laughter carrying through the air, plenty of good food and drinks going around. But with the coronavirus still rampant, we had to cancel the party. It broke my heart to have to do so.

Hope you're all having a good weekend. It's cloudy and cool here today ~ enough where I could turn off the AC and open windows and doors. 

Be well and safe! 💗


  1. You and your family look so good! Brian looks so good because of the care you give him, the love and care you take in the home you keep and the food you make. I honestly believe that with all of my heart. Our families don't realize how much work it is to do all of that and now that I have been working hard at making things homemade, I realize that it is a labor of love. All of these things add to longevity. You two are lucky to have each other. I am so glad you both have each other with all that you have been through. Philip is smiling down from Heaven at this, I just know he is. :)

    Love you both.

  2. I’ll try that banana cake- sounds good!
    All that restaurant food looks delicious too.
    All your birthday talk reminded me my brother has a birthday coming up in a week- thank you.
    I’m glad things are well for you all even though I know you miss Phil very much

  3. Late happy heavenly birthday to your son, Philip. We understand getting through the birthday part... July 4th was hard for us as that would have been my son Jeff's 41st birthday. Some years are harder than others. You and Brian are in our prayers as we understand. // Late happy birthday to Brian! And late happy birthday to your mom! Nope, neither of them look their ages! Your mama is so cute. That was truly an awesome birthday gift you came up with for her! // Life is sure different now, who knew 2020 would be like this. // We finally had some rain this week and the temps are so much better, still in the 80s though, but much more tolerable. Blessings and prayers, Melanie!

  4. For sure you can never forget the birth of your firstborn child. Or ever actually get over his loss. Sending hugs your way. Brian still has a boyish appearance. And your mom definitely does not look like she's 80. Can definitely tell you are all family and all looking quite lovely. Love the idea of the jar of messages to celebrate your mom. Have a blessed day.

  5. What a wonderful present you gave her! Sounds like it was just what she wanted. I'm hungry now with all that food talk!

  6. All of you look super young. So sorry your son's birthday still is so painful, I am sending you a big hug. Happy birthday to your Mom and husband, great idea with the jar. Stay safe.

  7. Hi Melanie,
    I bet your mom was so touched by you having your family and her friends write little messages of love to her. Hope Philip had a wonderful Heavenly birthday. Your mom is adorable. Glad she had a great birthday. Have a wonderful new week ahead. xoxo

  8. What a thought gift for your mom! I'll bet she will treasure it and re-read through those notes. I love banana cake. Your photos all look so good. Meaning the food looks great (I have a hard time taking pictures of food) and that you're a good photographer all around. Love your instagram pics. Happy Birthday to Brian. Sending you warm hugs in memory of your dear Phil. xo

  9. Your mother is adorable! Such a tiny lady but probably full of spunk. I'm so glad her birthday surprise turned out wonderfully. The day out celebrating sounds like fun and oh that beautiful food! This birthday season must be so packed with emotion for you as you celebrate the birthdays but miss the presence of your dear boy. From one mother to another, thinking of you.

  10. Beautiful people and from what I have gathered from over 10 years of following is that you are all just as beautiful on the inside where it is most important. beautiful food too, yum :) and my beloved Lake Michigan. I grew up with only a half mile walk to the shoreline . . . just over a sand dune and across Lakeshore Drive in Michigan City. I like Brain's tee shirt, it's nice seeing happy people enjoying life together, sure beats all the disturbing people we see all over the news these days. It's glorious to see your lovely smiles.


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