Sandra Lee Celebrates Birthday with 'Romantic' Sunset Cruise and Kiss from Boyfriend Ben Youcef 

"I am making my years count instead of counting the years," Sandra Lee wrote, as she celebrated her 56th birthday on Sunday with an Italian getaway

Sandra Lee Celebrates Birthday with ‘Romantic’ Sunset Cruise and Kiss from Boyfriend Ben Youcef
Photo: Sandra Lee/Instagram

Sandra Lee has a lot of love in her life as she marks another year around the sun!

The Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee star celebrated her 56th birthday on Sunday with a trip to northern Italy alongside boyfriend Ben Youcef, 43.

"Romantic sunset cruise on Lake Como pre-party with my Ben," Lee gushed on Instagram, captioning a photo of her and Lee sharing an amorous kiss. "So romantic and special for my birthday!!"

"Happy birthday everyone — may your kisses be filled with love and passion," she added. "Loving 56 so far! So grateful… Xoxo Sandy."

Hours earlier, Lee shared another photo of her and Youcef kissing on a stone balcony in Verona, taken from a floor below. The pic, she wrote in her caption, was taken from Saturday during a "magical" day in Verona at Juliet's Balcony, the home and structure said to have inspired William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Lee's romantic getaway comes four months after she underwent a hysterectomy, a follow-up in her battle against breast cancer (7 years earlier, Lee had a double mastectomy).

She wrote in her post on Sunday that the experience changed her outlook on life.

"First and most importantly I am making my years count instead of counting the years," the cookbook author said. "After this past year of health struggles, I know that life is too short not celebrate every single chance I can get."

"Yay birthdays," she said. "What a gift they are!!"

PEOPLE confirmed that Lee and Youcef were dating back in August 2021. The two first met as friends at a Santa Monica restaurant months prior, and have been "inseparable" since getting together, a source said in November.

"It's almost like a first love for both of them," the insider explained at the time, adding that friends of the couple are affectionately calling them "Bendra."

Lee made their relationship Instagram official on Valentine's Day with a gallery of romantic and intimate pictures of herself and Youcef. Alongside the sweet snaps was an emotional caption in which Lee admitted she never anticipated she would find love again after the end of her 14-year relationship with former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"So this happened! Ben happened! Love happened! Happiness happened!" Lee wrote. "I was certain it never would again. I was shocked when it did. I swore I would never fall again, trust again, love again or open myself up again."

Sandra Lee, Ben Youcef
Sandra Lee, Ben Youcef. Amy Sussman/Getty Images; Michael Bezjian/WireImage

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Since then, Lee and Youcef have been getting the hang of being a couple in the public eye.

"We haven't got our kissing down yet," Lee told PEOPLE at the end of March, after attending the the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 30th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party, their first public appearance together. "We're normally really good at it."

Though practicing their kissing has become the couple's new mission, Lee expressed how smooth the rest of the relationship has been. "Everything's good," she said. "We're happy."

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