Tag: snowbird New Years

Decorate Your Vacation Rental with Hints of the Holidays

Decorate Your Vacation Rental with Hints of the Holidays Ten Tips to Bring the Holiday Feeling to Your Southern Home A year ago, my husband and I spent Thanksgiving at the beach and I loved it! It was that much better because Courtney and Bob, 

Cooking Class: Four Festive Hors d’oeuvres

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 Butternut squash crostini with arugula hummus Parmesan crisps with Prosciutto and orange marmalade preserves COOKING CLASS Four Festive Small 

Burns Night Winter Dinner Celebration

Burns Night Dinner Celebration Midlife Snowbird
Burns Night is a historic Scottish dinner celebration that can be adapted to a cozy, romantic dinner on a dark chilly winter night


Romantic Scottish Dinner Celebration

I had never heard of Burns Night until reading a chapter in a European book featuring Burns Night as part of a "year of festivities for families and friends." I have to admit, my first impression of Burns Night was that it's a romantic dinner for two in front of the fireplace on a cold winter night. Burns Night is actually a historical celebration of the life of Scotland's widely revered national poet

Burns Night Clapshot
Try a traditional Scottish comfort food entree of mashed potatoes and turnips, served with whiskey gravy. The crumbled sausage emulates haggis

and lyricist, Robert Burns, whose most famous work is "Auld Lang Syne," published in 1788. The traditional Scottish Burns Night celebration centers around the poetry of Robert Burns, whiskey and a main course of haggis with mashed potatoes and turnips. My simplified American version of Burns Night features a warm, cozy ambiance, a menu honoring Scottish comfort food and a nod to the history and influence of Robert Burns. Burns Night is perfect for snowbirds with a menu of simple ingredients steeped in tradition and offers an interesting alternative to the typical date night or dinner party.

A few observations of the authentic European Burns Night celebration compared with my

Americanized version. The proper celebration is held on or near Robert Burn's birthday, January 25, but my take is go ahead and host Burns Night anytime during the winter. Setting up a small table next to the glow of a warm fireplace and having a relaxing meal for two or more people is not only romantic, but memorable and distinctive. If no fireplace is available, improvise by placing the table in a cozy corner of your living room. The point is to not sit at your regular dining room table to get a new perspective, as if dining in a quaint restaurant. Scottish plaid tartans, dim warm lighting, a white tablecloth and napkins, flowers or greenery and flickering candlelight make a charming ambiance. Creating an unusual backdrop appealing to all senses is key to emulating the feel of the Scottish Highlands. Why not create your own Burns Night in the midst of the December holidays, on New Year's Eve, an anniversary or any special occasion when darkness falls early on chilly winter nights.

Your menu should offer several courses and closely resemble the simply delicious traditional comfort food of Burns Night, of which haggis is always, always the focal point. After all, Burns' poem, "Ode to a Haggis" is traditionally read aloud to guests when the haggis is ceremoniously brought to the table by the cook, accompanied by a lone bagpiper or Scottish music, which is referred to as being "piped in."

Haggis is a Scottish delicacy composed of minced sheep organs, oatmeal, onions and seasonings stuffed in the lining of the intestine. Because Americans are typically less comfortable eating organ meats and more importantly, because haggis is impossible to buy in the United States (unless you have access to sheep lungs, which are banned from sale), my version of the Burns Night entree features a soup course, then sausage, mashed potatoes and turnips with a whiskey cream sauce, plus a berry parfait for dessert. It takes time to get accustomed to the Scottish terms and unfamiliar food combinations, so don't let it put you off. The meal truly tastes amazing!

A few facts about Burns Night -- it was first held in 1801, five years after Robert Burns passed. Classic celebrations may be elaborate, loud and festive with many guests or quite intimate and cozy. The meal starts with a prayer of Burns' poem, "Selkirk Grace." The haggis is "piped in" with pomp and circumstance, then a whiskey toast is made to the haggis -- which is why a shot of whiskey is presented on each dinner plate. Apple juice is a good alternative to serving whiskey with this meal. Burns' poetry, songs, dancing and toasts to the lassies and lads are central to the authentic celebrations, which always end with guests joining hands and singing Auld Lang Syne.

Creating your own version of Burns Night may be inspiring to learn more about Robert Burns, his poetry and Scottish culture and cuisine. I adapted my recipes from the simple, yet rich recipes on page 164 and 167 of Pippa Middleton's book, "Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends."

Burns Night Menu

Authentic Burns Night Menu

Scottish Winter Soup Cullen Skink Snowbird Recipe
Scotland's most famous soup is amazing with a creamy thin broth, cod or smoked haddock, leeks, sweet onion, Yukon Gold potatoes, corn

Starter: Cullen Skink Soup

Main Course*: Haggis and Clapshot, also called "Neeps and Tatties" with Whiskey Sauce

*Served with a shot of whiskey

Dessert: Cranachan (Raspberry Cream Parfait) or offer a cheese course

My Americanized Burns Night Menu

Starter: Scottish Winter Soup (Cullen Skink)

Main Course*: Sausage Crumbles, Mashed Potatoes and Turnips with Whiskey Sauce (Clapshot / Neeps and Tatties)

*Served with a shot of whiskey (or apple juice)

Dessert: Raspberry Cream Parfait (Cranachan)


Burns Night Dessert Berry Parfait Midlife Snowbird Recipe
A traditional Burns Night dessert, Cranachan is a refreshing Scottish berry parfait with toasted oats and whipped cream with whiskey and honey

Burns Night Starter

Scottish Winter Soup

Burns Night Dessert

Creamy Berry Parfait


Burns Night Main Course

Sausage with Mashed Potatoes and Turnips

and Whiskey Gravy

Mashed Potatoes and Turnips


2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, quartered, then halved

1 1/3 cups turnips, peeled and quartered, then halved

6 T. unsalted butter

1/4 cup half and half OR fat free half and half

1 t. garlic salt

1/4 t. fresh cracked pepper

1/4 t. dried parsley or 1 T. fresh parsley or chives (garnish)

PREPARATION TIP: It may seem simpler to cook the turnips and potatoes in the same pot, then mash with an electric mixer. However, I tested the process both ways and it does make a difference in texture to follow the recipe exactly as written: boil potatoes and turnips in separate pots, then mash each separately with a fork by hand. I prefer the method as shown here.


Peel turnips and cut into quarters, then in half.

Cut unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes into quarters, then in half.

Bring two separate medium pots filled 2/3 with water and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat.

Add cut turnips to one pot and potatoes to the other pot.

Reduce the heat and boil both vegetables until fork tender, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain the water from potatoes and turnips, keeping each vegetable separate from the other.

Add half and half to the potatoes.

Add butter to the turnips.

Mash the potatoes with a fork. Repeat for the turnips. The texture can retain some chunkiness and doesn't need to be pureed.

Gently combine the potatoes and turnips into one pot. Stir in seasonings and keep warm.

Sausage Crumbles


12 oz. package sausage (seasoned or plain)

1 shallot, minced

1 t. fennel seeds

3/4 t. garlic salt

1/4 t. fresh cracked pepper

Optional: garnish with one tablespoon toasted oatmeal (in a nod to haggis) and dried or fresh parsley


Toast oatmeal in a small sauce pan over medium heat until golden brown. Stir frequently, remove from heat, set aside in a small dish and let cool.

Saute crumbled sausage in medium skillet until browned. Drain excess grease. Add seasonings and minced shallot, stir until combined and shallots are softened. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Whiskey Gravy

Burns Night Table Setting Midlife Snowbird blog
No fireplace? Set up a table in a cozy corner with an emphasis on tartan plaid and various textures plus flickering warm low lighting


2 T. whole mustard

2 T. whiskey

2 T. butter

2 T. flour

3/4 cup half and half OR fat free half and half

1/2 t. garlic salt


Gently heat whiskey over low heat in small saucepan until alcohol evaporates.

Add butter and flour, whisking until smooth.

Add seasonings and whole grain mustard, whisking until combined.

Stir in half and half in small batches and whisk until smooth.

Reduce heat and keep warm.

Suggested Brands: Jimmy Dean® Reduced Fat Premium Sausage, Yukon Gold potatoes


If available, use a chef's ring to hold the shape of the potato-turnip mixture. Place chef's ring on a plate, then scoop mashed potatoes-turnips into the chef's ring and fill to the rim.

Pull chef's ring up above the edge of the mixture and scoop sausage mixture on top.

Garnish with toasted oatmeal and parsley or chives.

If not using a chef's ring, place a portion of mashed potatoes-turnips on the plate, top with sausage mixture and garnish with toasted oatmeal and parsley or chives.

Spoon whiskey gravy in a circle around the edge of the mashed potatoes-turnips.

Add a shot of whiskey to the plate.

Repeat for each serving.

Serve warm - don't forget to toast the "haggis"



Two or three -- there may be extra sausage crumbles and whiskey gravy

Serving Suggestion:

--As the main course for Burns Night

--Main course for lunch or dinner

Equipment List:

--two medium pots

--one small sauce pan

--one medium skillet



--measuring utensils

--cutting board




--A 3" diameter chef's ring is recommended for stacking the entree, but not required


"My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go."

--Robert Burns, Scottish Poet and Lyricist, 1759 - 1796

Cooking Class: Five Elegant Hors d’oeuvres

Chef Patrick Whetstone expertly demonstrated elegant hors d’ oeuvres for the community cooking class Thick cut candied bbq rubbed bacon topped with garlic sauteed shrimp and fresh minced chives Beautiful bite sized purple potato salad bites stuffed with mustard aioli, hard boiled egg, bacon bits 

How to: Ice Bowl Centerpiece

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Snowbird Holiday Decor

Away for the Holidays in Your Snowbird Home


Snowbird Holiday Decor

High Impact, Space Saving Decorations for Your Snowbird Home

Snowbirds are notorious for lacking storage space in their warm climate homes, not only for everyday items, but especially for limited use Christmas and holiday decorations. Savvy snowbirds who are away for the holidays must get creative by maximizing their decor with colorful, big impact, multi-functioning items that can either be discarded or become compact when not displayed. The goal is to embrace the limitations of your snowbird home to bring out the best of your home. Likewise, snowbirds who don't migrate south until after the holidays can apply these same principles. After all, it's already stressful to decorate and host December holidays in your northern home, then pack up not only your holiday decorations, but your household so you can move into your Southern abode. Make your life easier by simplifying your holiday decor, wherever you happen to be located.

Big Impact Tips

Step One: Choose Your Color

--Choose one hard working multi-use color to make a big impact. Red is an excellent choice for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day. Blue works well for Hanukkah and New Year's Eve. Silver or gold are all purpose choices for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day.

autumn table scape, snowbird tablescape, snowbird holidays
Your table scape can easily change with the holidays by switching the Autumn colors with silver to burgundy and silver

--If you want to add a second color to switch it up a bit, do it. Silver candle holders paired with an Earthy deep orange color scheme would look gorgeous for Thanksgiving and then switch to silver and burgundy for Christmas; silver and black for New Year's Eve and silver with red for Valentine's Day.

--Your color/s should be combined in various hues, shades, textures and finishes. As an example, choose velvet, satin, metallics and both pale and rich variations of your color/s.

Step Two: Emphasize Focal Points

--Determine your home's focal points and then place your most attention-worthy items on/near them. Your focal points are likely the dining room table, coffee table, kitchen and bathroom counter tops, a fireplace mantle, plus any areas of interest such as a nice view out the window.

--Feature the color/s of your choice to draw attention to your dining room table scape. Continue the color with your paper or cloth napkins, plates and cups, table runner or table cloth. It is acceptable to mix one all purpose cloth table runner with paper products. If you have enough space to bring / store cloth napkins too, even better.

--Place your color-coordinated gift bags and festively wrapped items so they become a featured decoration -- put them on end tables, in the middle of your table or under your Christmas tree (if you have one.)

Step Three: Accessorize

--Repeat the featured color throughout the main living areas with compact or disposable items such as ribbons, helium balloons and candles.

--Bring clippings indoors of evergreens, palm leaves and any green foliage as a living accent to your holiday decorations. Evergreens will drip sap from the cut end, so avoid placing the ends directly on the furniture.

--Flowing ribbons from the craft store can be added to the greenery as part of your table scape and placed on mantles, tables, book shelves, on the powder room vanity and anywhere you group holiday decor.

--Silk rose petals are a romantic touch for Valentine's Day, wedding anniversaries and New Year's Eve. Place them on your bed, dressers, night stands and in a bathtub filled with water. Silk petals are inexpensive and easily fit into a small plastic bag for storage.

--Colored or white lights on a string add a lot of festivity without a lot of bulk. Many snowbirds string lights around the railings of their balconies and patios. They can also be strung on the interior of your snowbird home if you can avoid using nails or anything permanent to hang them up.

--Purchase or make a living floral centerpiece for your coffee table, hall table and dining room table. Repeat the central color you chose for your theme.

--Inexpensive potted seasonal flowers from the nearest grocery or super center are beautiful for any occasion. Group them together for more impact.

--If you don't have a glass flower vase available in your rental unit (most don't), get creative and improvise with a colorful disposable cup or cut the top portion off a two-liter plastic soda bottle. It's easy to peel the label off, wrap it with a ribbon to disguise it and it will hold a significant amount of cut flowers without leaking. Use a rubber stamp and ink pad from the craft store to imprint your cup with a semi- custom design.

snowbird, space saving decorating ideas, decorate on a budget
Mix artificial elements with fresh flowers for a festive seasonal bouquet in a disposable cup

--Generally snowbirds who own their second homes may have space to store an artificial Christmas tree and wreath, but most snowbirds in an RV or rental home do not. Find other ways to mimic a Christmas tree without actually having one. Put lights, garland and a few favorite ornaments on a table sized tree or carefully decorate a potted plant instead. Clip branches that can be brought indoors, placed in a vase or vessel and decorated with small ornaments, garland and lights.

Step Four: Localize

--Have fun with regional flair to make your holiday space feel distinctively different than your Northern home.

--If you have palm trees, a nearby beach, boat, lake, river or bay, add natural elements such as sea shells, sand dollars, sand, native plants, plus miniature boat anchors, rope and anything else unique from your area.

-- Should your winter home be in an area with cactus, bring that element into your holiday decor.

--Locations anywhere near the Big Easy can reflect that in your decor with musical notes, saxophones, trombones, beads and fleur-de-lys.

--Western style hats, boots, bandanas, silver jewelry and turquoise stones and accessories are terrific for Texan and Southwestern style regional decor.

Your Community

--Luminaries are a beautiful and festive way to bring the holiday spirit into your snowbird community. If your area doesn't already do so, approach the neighbors and / or HOA or community management about starting a new tradition. Be mindful of safe practices and fire codes if you use traditional candles. Battery operated candles are always a great alternative to traditional candles.

"Leave a little sparkle wherever you go"