Tag: leisure pursuits

Here Vs. There: The Top Question I Am Asked the Most

Here Vs. There: The Top Question I Am Asked the Most Why Snowbirds Consciously Choose to Live In Two Places Curiosity about the choice to live in two places vs. one primary home are what I am commonly asked when the subject of being a 

What The Golden Bachelor Has in Common with Snowbirds

Lake Kalamazoo , formed as part of the Kalamazoo River connects the twin towns of Saugatuck and Douglas What The Golden Bachelor and Snowbirds Have in Common The Golden Bachelor and Snowbirds Have Another Chance at Finding Love More than 7.7 million viewers to date 

Books Connect Snowbirds to Community: Six Favorite Local Gulf Coast Books

I am honored to have two original maps published in "Florida's Emerald Coast, A Pathway to Paradise" by Robert Reynolds
I am honored to have two original maps published in "Florida's Emerald Coast, A Pathway to Paradise" by Robert Reynolds

Books Connect Snowbirds to Community

Six Favorite Local and Regional Gulf Coast Books

At the end of summer when the weather starts changing and there's a lull in the seasons, it's the heart of the off season for snowbirds. I've found myself caught between the daily grind of my Northern home and planning ahead for the next snowbird season. It's not quite time to get caught up in the excitement of spending a winter away and there's still a lot to do to get to that point. Unfinished plans, unexpected commitments and personal goals are just a few of the barriers between now and the prospect of escaping to our beloved warm weather community. For me, bridging the off season gap is super important and I've found books to be therapeutic in many ways.

Books have always been a favorite past time and they bring many calming memories of reading by the lake, in the car as we travel or just sitting on the sofa in the evenings. Over the years I've collected local and regional cookbooks as well as beautiful coffee table books about my snowbird community. Each book is a prized possession because you can't just buy them anywhere. They are more special because they are exclusive to the southern community that we call home. Each one carries a memory: finding his and her local cookbooks in a charming downtown bookstore of the Walton County seat; browsing local books in The Henderson Park Inn's gift shop area after our anniversary dinner and shopping with the ladies in Seaside, a charming beach community of Northwest Florida. 

I've included an overview of favorite books in my collection and I encourage you to find your own personal local and regional books. New and used book stores, gift shops, local markets, online and everywhere in between, there's an array of books just waiting to be found. Books are more than just bound paper with ink. They transform, inspire, calm, inform, provide history, stories and entertainment as well as solace no matter where you are.


Books Bridge Time and Distances

One of the biggest comforts of either my Northern or Southern home are my growing collection of local and regional books. Each one is special with it's own story of how I acquired it. Not only do I purchase books for myself, I also look for books to leave behind for someone else to connect with and enjoy. I encourage each of you to find your own collection of meaningful books and share what makes them extra special.

Of the books featured in my collection, the most personally meaningful is "Florida's Emerald Coast, A Pathway to Paradise," because the author included two of my original graphics in the book. Robert Reynolds found my original map of Florida's Emerald Coast that I created specifically for my Midlife Snowbird blog and now the revised map is immortalized on page two of his latest book. Upon the author's request, I created a second map of Walton County Florida's rare coastal dune lakes and that map is featured on page 32 of Mr. Reynold's book. To say it is an honor is an understatement. I have read the first edition of "Pathway to Paradise" cover to cover and highly recommend Mr. Reynold's books for anyone who loves Northwest Florida and wants to know more about the "History, People Walton County Communities, Highway 30A and Nature."

GREAT AMERICAN GRILLING: The Ultimate Backyard Barbecue and Tailgate Cookbook

Author: Kent Whitaker

Pages: 287

Photos: Yes

Publisher: Great American Publishers, Brandon, Mississippi



Sizzling Starters

Serious Grilling

Something Extra


"My grandparents in Alabama and Mississippi grilled over pecan, charcoal and other woods. My dad mastered the art of campfire cooking and back yard grilling.... My career in culinary writing and writing cookbooks began after I won the Emeril Live/Food Network Barbecue Contest.... In this book I share with you 250 of my favorite recipes for grilling, barbecuing and tailgating. It is my hope that if nothing else, you will have FUN cooking from my book, and, of course, cook some great food. A common theme in my writing is history, and this book is no exception." -- Kent Whitaker


Author: Lucy Buffet

Forward by Jimmy Buffet

Pages: 264

Photos: Yes

Publisher: Grand Central Life and Style, Hachette Book Group, New York, New York



Cocktail Hour

Gumbo Love and Other Deep South Soups

Sassy Salads

Sandwiches and Such

Sweet Things

Party Favors: Dinner Party Menus


"LuLu's Kitchen is Lucy Buffet's culinary guide to classic Southern coastal cuisine and features more than 120 signature recipes from her famous Gulf Coast restaurants, LuLu's. The greatest passion of this self-proclaimed gypsy rebel and reluctant entrepreneur is cooking food for the people she loves.... She currently serves more than one million guests a year at her two LuLu's locations. LuLu's Kitchen is brimming with authentic family recipes, humorous stories and plenty of wit and wisdom."


Author: Eleanor Lynn Nesmith

Photography: Jean Allsopp

Pages: 221

Photos: Yes

Publisher: Design 360, llc, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida



A Place Called 30A

Santa Rosa Beach

Grayton Beach






Rosemary Beach

Alys Beach


"Along the Gulf Coast of Northwest Florida, a string of picturesque towns known collectively as 30A... offers a retreat. Featuring hundreds of images, 30A Living explores nine of the the colorful towns that enliven this unique twenty mile stretch of beach and takes a rare glimpse inside eighteen inspiring homes from Santa Rosa Beach to Alys Beach. From the outside these homes are remarkable... Step inside where design cues and details reflect the area's strong architectural traditions..."


Executive Editor: William Hagerman

Pages: 287

Photos: Yes

Publisher: Dunavant Gulf, LLC, Memphis, Tennessee


Breakfast on the Beach

Beachside Picnics

Sunset Toasts

Starlit Dinners

Sweet Evenings


"What's exceptional about Henderson Park Inn is the unforgettable experience created by the snow white sandy beach, emerald Gulf waters, nature's preserve at Henderson State Park, and rustic manor of the Inn, which are complemented by the tasty foods at Beach Walk Cafe, and the other Great Destin Places that continue to provide a lifetime of warm memories for their guests... whom they call family."


Author: Kent Whitaker

Pages: 192

Photos: Yes

Publisher: Great American Publishers, Brandon, Mississippi



Starters and Soups



Sides and Sauces


"Join renowned cookbook author Kent Whitaker on a tasty scenic journey along the five coastal states of the Gulf of Mexico... Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Along the way, experience some Gulf Coast history while reading profiles about beautiful places to visit in the area and enjoy expert tips.... Best of all, you will enjoy delectable southern seafood recipes... to please everyone."


History -- People -- Walton County Communities -- Highway 30A -- Nature

Author: Robert O. Reynolds

Mr. Reynolds included my original map of the Emerald Coast on page two of his latest book, "Florida's Emerald Coast, A Pathway to Paradise"

Pages: 161

Photos: Yes

Publisher: Emerald Waters Press, LLC, Tucson, Arizona



Early History

The Highway 30A Corridor

Walton County Communities

The Coastal Dune Lakes of Walton County and Choctawhatchee Bay

Plants You'll See on the Emerald Coast

Communities Along Highway 30A

State Parks and Trails on Highway 30A and the Emerald Coast

Creatures of the Emerald Coast

A Timeline of Events in the Development of the Emerald Coast

Life on the Emerald Coast and Scenic Highway 30A, Present and Future


"This book tells the story of Florida's Emerald Coast with an emphasis on Walton County, and roads including Scenic Highway 30A, an iconic road that has been important in the development of the region... You'll meet a diverse set of characters, the people who planned, developed and managed the range of communities contained in the story... I will discuss the rare and beautiful coastal dune lakes that help to make the region unique... Florida's Emerald Coast is a place that gets in your mind and makes you want to return, as I continue to do for cherished vacations." -- Robert Reynolds


"Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

-- Stephen King, American author


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BeachFront, Ocean Front, Ocean View: What to Know

An example of prime beachfront property, the units are directly accessible to the sand at ground level. Miramar Beach, Northwest Florida. Beachfront, Ocean Front, Ocean View What to Know About the Nuances of Beach Rental Terminology Snowbirds looking for a place with “beachfront” in the 

Cook Like a Pro: The Basics

Beautiful and simple butternut squash pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese Cook Like a Pro The basics of cooking like a professional chef When it comes to cooking, I’ve found that snowbirds fall into two groups: the non-cooks and the foodies. I consider myself a 

Cooking Class: Four Festive Hors d’oeuvres

Platter of English cucumber slices topped with citrus whipped cheese and balsamic vinegar and chives
The small bite hors d'oeuvres are beautifully presented, everything is more sparkly and has an element of being that much better.
Beef tenderloin blue cheese bites with fresh chives and a mini plastic fork to hold it together
Beef tenderloin blue cheese bites
Crostini topped with arugula hummus and butternut squash relish, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar
Butternut squash crostini with arugula hummus
Parmesan crisps with Prosciutto and orange marmalade preserves topped with fresh celery leaves
Parmesan crisps with Prosciutto and orange marmalade preserves


Four Festive Small Bite Hors d'oeuvres

The December holidays are all about something extra: extra festive, extra special and hopefully not too much extra work. Our city's Parks and Recreation Department offers community cooking classes and I was once again fortunate to learn from one of the area's best instructors, professional chef Patrick Whetstone.

The small bite hors d'oeuvres we learned to make are beautifully presented, which is much of what makes this time of year so special. Everything is more sparkly and has an element of being that much better. More flavor, high quality ingredients and extra attention to make the presentation gorgeous. These small bite recipes accommodate a variety of  dietary requests: plant-based, meat eaters, cheese lovers and keto-friendly. You can adjust the quantities to your preference, the number of pieces is only an estimate, subject to many variables. For less stress, make at least some of the components a day or two in advance or purchase items you prefer not to make such as Parmesan crisps. Chef's tip: cooked food that will be chilled, such as the beef tenderloin and butternut squash relish can be a little more over seasoned when heated because it will become more subdued when chilled.

All four recipes are delicious, easy and most definitely suitable for snowbird entertaining. Not only are these hors d'oeuvres festive for the holidays, they are great for any event year round. The recipes shown here are written based on my notes from the class presented by Chef Whetstone. Bon appétit!

Snowbird meals tend to be much simpler, using fewer ingredients and a very limited selection of appliances and gadgets to prepare them. Choose the freshest, highest quality ingredients and find alternate ways to make your favorite recipes. Forget about what you don't have to cook with, instead focus on what you can accomplish with what you do have. - Midlife Snowbird

Elegant Hors d'oeuvres

Prosciutto Parmesan Crisps

Parmesan crisps with Prosciutto and orange marmalade preserves

24 - 36 Pieces


Recommended: Homemade or Purchased* Parmesan Crisps

24 - 36 Parmesan crisps, homemade or purchased

2 - 3 oz Prosciutto ham, torn into pieces

1/3 cup orange marmalade or apricot preserves, or to taste

Celery leaves for garnish

*Pre-made Parmesan crisps are typically available in the cheese or deli section of the grocery or specialty food store


Homemade Parmesan crisps recipe or use pre-made crisps from the grocery

Assemble Prosciutto ham piled on the Parmesan crisps, then top with a dollop of preserves and a celery leaf for garnish. Serve at room temperature.

Elegant Hors d'oeuvres

Beef Tenderloin Bites Stuffed with Blue Cheese

Beef tenderloin blue cheese bites

12 -15 Pieces


Recommended: Serve with mini plastic party forks*

6 oz. beef tenderloin, room temperature

4 oz. blue cheese wedge or crumbles, room temperature

1/4 c. heavy cream

2 - 3 t. fresh chives or to taste, sliced thin

2 T. canola oil, approx

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Kosher salt to taste

ALTERNATE CHEESES: Brie, goat or fresh mozzarella



Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine blue cheese and heavy cream. Set aside.

Heavily coat all sides of the beef tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Heat oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and bring to temperature.

Sear tenderloin in hot oil on all sides until there is a crust on every surface.

Place skillet with beef tenderloin in oven to finish cooking, about 5 to 7 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check until it reaches the desired temperature: rare, medium rare, medium, well done etc.

Remove meat from oven and let it rest about 5 - 10 minutes.

Slice beef tenderloin against the grain into 1/4" wide pieces.

Pipe or spoon blue cheese mixture into the middle of each slice of tenderloin. Fold over and place mini plastic fork into it to hold it in place.

Garnish with fresh chopped chives.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

*Mini plastic party forks can be purchased at party supply stores such as Party City

Elegant Hors d'oeuvres

Cucumber Rounds with Citrus Whipped Cheese

Cucumber rounds with whipped citrus cheese

36+ Pieces


Recommended: Honey Ginger Balsamic Vinegar

1 - 2 English cucumbers

Honey ginger balsamic vinegar to taste

3/4 c. cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 c. heavy cream

Zest from one lemon

Zest from one lime

Fresh chives to taste

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Kosher salt to taste


Combine cream cheese and heavy cream, then add salt and pepper to taste plus lemon and lime zest. Set aside.

Remove ends and 50% of the peel from cucumber/s, slice into approximately 1/4" rounds.

Pipe or spread a dollop of the whipped cream cheese onto the top of each cucumber slice.

Top with fresh chives. Drizzle with honey ginger balsamic vinegar or a flavored balsamic vinegar of your choice.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Elegant Hors d'oeuvres

Crostini with Arugula Hummus and Butternut Squash 

Butternut squash crostini with arugula hummus

24 - 36 Pieces


Recommended: Pre-sliced baguette bread



One loaf pre-sliced baguette bread

1/4 c. Extra virgin olive oil or as needed

Kosher salt to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Brush tops of sliced baguette with olive oil

Bake on sheet pan approx 3 - 5 minutes or until toasted, the center of the bread should be soft. Do not over bake.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with Kosher salt, set aside to cool


Butternut Squash Relish

3 cups fresh butternut squash, small diced

1/4 c. red onion, diced fine

2 T. Balsamic vinegar

2 T. Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh basil, approx 5 - 6 leaves, sliced chiffonade style

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste


Preheat skillet to medium-high. Add oil to skillet and allow oil to get hot.

Pan fry butternut squash in skillet until it is softened and brown, approx 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add onions to squash, season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill mixture in the refrigerator.

Prior to serving, add balsamic vinegar to the butternut squash mixture. Re-season if necessary.

Set basil chiffonade aside until ready to assemble.


Arugula Hummus

2 T. butter, room temperature

1 T. garlic, chopped (from a jar has stronger flavor)

1/2 c. onion, diced

2 fl oz. white wine

1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 c. vegetable stock

3 c. arugula

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste


Sweat onions and garlic in butter in saute pan.

Add garbanzo beans and white wine, cook until wine reduces.

Add stock, let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain liquid into bowl and reserve it.

Puree bean mixture with arugula until smooth in food processor OR use an immersion blender. Add reserved liquid as needed to achieve a spreadable texture. The desired consistency is wet sand, it should not be runny. Adjust reserved liquid if more is needed to obtain the proper thickness. Re-season as necessary.

Chill mixture in the refrigerator.



Assemble crostini with a thick slather of the Arugula hummus mixture. Top with butternut squash relish. Garnish with basil chiffonade. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.


"Life is like a giant hors d'oeuvre tray in that it is to be savored."

-- Jack Fitzgerald, Canadian Author

Autumn Tour of Saugatuck on Lake Michigan’s Eastern Coastline

Autumn Tour of Saugatuck on Lake Michigan’s Eastern Coastline A Nostalgic, Romantic, Artsy Waterfront Vacation Destination When my twin sister first announced she was coming home to the Midwest from Hawaii, she invited me to go on a “mini vacation within a vacation.” We have 

Outdoor Summer Entertaining

Individual charcuterie boards are fun for small outdoor parties OUTDOOR SUMMER ENTERTAINING Tips to Host Your Guests 2021 Style The global pandemic brought an entirely new appreciation for the simple things in life. Time spent outdoors. Good food. Friendships. And the ability to host loved 

Walking Tour Ruskin Place Park, Seaside FL

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Ruskin Place Park

Walking Tour of Ruskin Place Park in Seaside Florida

Ruskin Place Park in Seaside Florida, former site of scenes from The Truman Show, filmed in scenic Seaside

Artist Colony, Townhomes, Shops, Live Entertainment 

Ruskin Place park is a wonderful destination for anyone touring the Seaside, Florida community in South Walton County of Northwest Florida. It is a community within a community that was designed for quieter moments away from the more crowded areas.

Originally conceptualized as a live/work concept for an artists' colony with shopkeepers residing above their storefronts, Ruskin Place has evolved into a multi-use neighborhood within Seaside. It is set up to be a purposefully less-trafficked business district away from the busier, more touristy areas of Seaside with permanent residences and vacation rentals located on the second and third floor townhomes lining the park, some of which have rooftop terraces. The center of the park serves as an event center for live entertainment and special occasions such as weddings.

Ruskin Place was the site of the fictional town of Seahaven's business district when the movie "The Truman Show" starring Jim Carrey was filmed on location in 1998. The entire town of Seaside was featured in The Truman Show and Ruskin Park scenes include a set-created fictional Seahaven Insurance, where Jim Carrey's character walked to walk. The town of Seaside allocated funds from the proceeds of their production/location fees to fund The Seaside School as well as make improvements to Ruskin Place park.

"Emerald Coast" magazine featured Ruskin Place and an online article was published March 20, 2013.

Ruskin Park is a hidden gem in the Seaside community. Take a closer look around your own community to find the special parks and places that may be lesser known than the more obvious attractions. You may be surprised at what you find.

The photos are from February, 2021, I hope you enjoy the photo gallery.


"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

-- John Muir, Scottish-American "Father of the National Parks"

21 Considerations of RV Snowbirds

Before becoming an RV snowbird, there’s many considerations including expenses and type of recreational vehicle [Miramar Beach, Florida] RV Snowbirds 21 Considerations Before You Buy a Recreational Vehicle Travel in recreational vehicles, known as “RV’s,” has always been a big thing, but with the 2020