Tag: what to do in the off season

Prepare for Power Outages Whether Home or Away

Severe weather events are less problematic with a whole home standby generator PREPARE FOR POWER OUTAGES WHETHER HOME OR AWAY Why a Whole Home Standby Generator System Makes Sense for Snowbirds Snowbirds know a problem with your home while away is very stressful. Not only 

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


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 ones in our homes and back yards. Because of the massive realignment of what is "normal," entertaining guests in our homes has evolved into a new way of thinking and a more careful, conscious effort to be safer in the ways we interact, as well as how we serve and consume food and beverages.

For me, personally, gone are the days of a large gathering in favor of a smaller, more intimate event. Potluck food is still possible, but perhaps in a different presentation geared towards individual portions and a "hands free" attitude. I admit, even though we socially distanced for meals outdoors and in garages during 2020, it took time to readjust to entertaining. Despite extensive experience, I had forgotten how to be a live host versus a virtual host. Below, I've compiled an overview of tips for Summer outdoor entertaining, "2021 style." 

Restyled Summer Entertaining

Glass carafes and recyclable aluminum cups are more eco-friendly than individual plastic water bottles

When the Covid-19 pandemic completely turned life as we knew it inside out, reinvention was the key to keeping our sanity. Virtual events became accepted as a reality and live events emerged in new formats. As an example, we met up with our neighbors for evening "fence parties." Each couple sat in the very back of our own yards with snacks, beverages and lawn chairs pulled up to talk across the 20' expanse of grass that was separated by our own fences. It gave me a beautiful new perspective of my yard from a different angle and an entirely new appreciation for being able to socialize at a distance.

Now the summer of 2021 is restyled into a new normal of entertaining in person again. For me, it's about going back to the basics of summer entertaining. We've hosted 20 or 30 guests for parties and cookouts in the past and no longer feel the need to be as elaborate. Now, I prefer to host a limited number of guests; serve good, flavorful food; add a splash of color with accessories; sit on comfortable chairs with ambient lighting surrounded by a beautiful garden or night sky backdrop. Less is more.

Years ago we hired an in-home private chef to prepare my husband's milestone birthday lunch for quite a few guests. It was a wonderful, memorable experience that taught me many things, including this: a private chef is not less work for the hostess, it actually adds to the work to oversee each step to ensure your event goes smoothly. Anyway, one great idea from that party was the concept of serving individualized portions. In hindsight, it foreshadowed the future and it also provides an opportunity for the hosts to determine how many portions they need to prepare and serve.

Individual Servings in Lieu of Big Bowls

Think in terms of eliminating big bowls of chips in favor of individually wrapped chips and snacks instead. I used to think individual servings are rather wasteful. What if your guests don't want a specific amount of anything? Will they consume less or more than offered? However, it is the new reality of the pandemic world and if it reduces the chances your guests will be ill, it's worth it. Individual servings are good for:

Beverages: Bottles, cans, cups

Finger Food: small bite appetizers that can be picked up with a toothpick or arranged in single servings

Salads / Crudite / Chips / Sides: Serve in very small bowls, personal platters, short plastic cups or mason jars

Skewers: Serve meat, seafood, fruit, shrimp cocktail and/or vegetables on a small skewer or stick

Ramekins: Individual ramekins are great for baked casseroles or other hot food

Desserts: Cupcakes, ice cream bars, parfait cups, pies and more

Commercially Wrapped Packages: Chips, sandwiches, crackers, nuts, snacks, desserts, etc.

Condiments: Packets of ketchup, mustard, taco sauce and mayo


If your guests can't finish everything, offer to pack it to go home with them if they prefer.

Eco-Conscious Entertaining

My parents were way ahead of their time with reuse and recycling, even in the 1970's when you had to drive somewhere to drop off your newspapers, glass, plastic containers and cans. They grew up that way because of their depression-era parents and taught me the mindset way before the city provided each home with recycling containers that we wheel to the street every other week. In 2021, the level of eco-conscious has certainly evolved into another stratosphere.

--Skip the plastic. Use glass, ceramic, metal or washable flatware, carafes and dishes

--Omit paper products: use fabric napkins and/or personal washable/bleachable kitchen towels as a napkin

--Eliminate one-use products (such as disposable "red plastic" cups) unless they can be recycled. Substitute recyclable aluminum cups instead.

--Instead of plastic water bottles, serve carafes of iced tea, filtered water and cold beverages

--Place a pretty cloth or reusable plastic tablecloth or table runner as your anchor for a beautiful table. Flowers from the garden in jars or potted flowers will add a touch of charm.

--Don't forget to put bottles of hand sanitizer in key areas of your home, including the kitchen, bath and food area

--Tiki torches and/or overhead cafe-style string lighting add memorable charm as well as practical function to reduce trips and falls

Pot-lucks in 2021

Potlucks, buffets and large bowls of food such as chips/dip and so forth are a risk, so try to do everything to reduce the chances of spreading anything from guest to guest. Foods prepared in a home kitchen vs. commercial kitchen carry a higher chance of food-borne issues.

If you've never hosted or attended a themed pot-luck, this is a good time to give it a try: Baked potato bars, pulled pork/smoked meats, tacos/Mexican, Italian, Greek, Asian-fusion, deli salads or even chicken sandwiches can all be purchased from commercially prepared establishments. Suggest to guests in advance that they RSVP and bring $5 to $10 per person (depending on your budget) to cover the costs of the meal and have one or two families coordinate ordering and delivering the food.

If you prefer an old-fashioned potluck, keep plenty of hand sanitizer near the food and encourage guests to bring individual portions, as suggested above. If your potluck involves brats, hotdogs, pork, burgers, meat or poultry cooked on-site over a grill, have the grill master dispense the meat onto each person's plate.

Beat the Heat

During 2020, we spent every very small social gathering with family outdoors and distanced from each other. This meant dining al fresco during some very hot days of summer on the deck, but that was better than the alternative of staying home. Here's suggestions to beat the heat:

--Stay in the shade wherever possible under umbrellas, trees, awnings and so forth

--Bring portable electric fans and extension cords so each person has air blowing directly on them or provide paper fans

--Stay hydrated: consume cold beverages

--Use cold compresses on your neck and ice-pack hats for your head if available

--Serve ice cream, slushies, frozen treats and desserts and so forth

--Don't overdo it! Limit your time in the heat and don't let your pet/s be in the heat too long either



"Throwing an unforgettable party doesn't require a ton of time or money, it just requires a little thought, creativity and heart.

-- Maury Ankrum, Event Planner, Author

Alys Beach – Stunning Architectural Tour

Architecture Tour of Stunning Alys Beach, Florida Renowned for Iconic Architecture, New Urbanism Movement If you’ve never experienced Alys Beach on the Gulf Coast of Northwest Florida’s panhandle in-between Panama City and Destin, I highly recommend it as a must-see while in the vicinity. Renowned 

Weekend Lake Getaway

Oakwood Resort is a gorgeous Midwestern lakefront resort, an hour’s drive from our home, has beautiful spacious rooms and is dog friendly WEEKEND LAKE GETAWAY For us, there’s a long gap from the winter snowbird season until we begin again, so weekend getaways are an 

The Off Season

Summer weekend getaway to Chicago along the River Esplanade

The Off Season

Besides daydreaming about their warm climate home, what do snowbirds do during the off season?

Embrace Your Primary Home

It's easy to get swept up in your winter home, after all it's what you're working towards up to half of the year. But don't overlook opportunities to embrace your primary home and region during the off season. Make plans to do things you

plant a garden, do things you can't do while away for the winter
Make plans to do things you know you can't do at your winter home, such as growing a garden

know you can't do at your winter home. Participate in local classes, events, shows or activities that maybe you've taken for granted. Grow a garden, meet friends for lunch, visit a museum or festival. This summer, I accomplished a bucket list goal to make an Amtrak trip to Chicago and was it ever memorable. Other side trips included Indy, Michigan and visits to local vineyards, including Two EE's, voted 2017 "Best Wine Tasting Room" by readers of USA Today.

Get Organized

Snowbirds have to be super organized to plan for and maintain two residences, even if one is a rental. Anything overlooked or forgotten is not so easily remedied without help, time and/or expense.
I use the off season to tackle projects that I know I cannot work on while away. It might be organizing boxes of greeting cards or photos, cleaning a closet, storage area or weeding things out to give to charity.

If there is a project you plan to work on while away, get it organized as well. For me, a few of my coin collection books are easy to bring along to "home sweet home 2". Working on my cloud-based files, such as ancestry.com while away is another ongoing project easily accomplished no matter where I am.

Another big one is organizing your personal files. Examples include financial, banking, investments, passwords, address books, corporate accounts, medical/health files for you and your pet, contracts, auto shipments, legal stuff, recipe files and anything else that may be affected while you are away.


I also anticipate the upcoming season -- what is going to need handled? In preparation for our milestone anniversary that we celebrated during our first time being snowbirds, I brought small mementos and photos from our wedding to our winter destination. It was important to me to celebrate with special items from our day.

If there's other milestones occurring during your time away, plan ahead so it's not a last minute scramble to find that meaningful photo, recipe, address, card, gift or special item.

A new local favorite--Two EE's, voted best wine tasting room by Readers of USA Today, 2017

Clean/repair/maintain your primary home

Clean the oven, fridge, freezer, washer/dryer, windows, cobwebs, drawers, cabinets, nooks and crannies. Repair loose shingles, stain the deck, store or give away your unneeded or out of season stuff. It's better to tackle it here and there during the off season than let it go until the last minute when you're about to embark on your trip. We already had plenty of pressure getting ready for our first time as snowbirds when we realized the drainage tile in our backyard had become plugged and needed replaced at the eleventh hour during an especially freezing cold week in January. The last thing we wanted was a flood, but the extra expense and timing made it extra stressful.



Step Up Your Game

It's not necessary to create a sterile model home while you're away, but you'll feel much better leaving a clean home behind and returning to one. If someone is staying in your home, they need to make sure it's as good or in better condition by the time you get back. If your home is unoccupied, it will look presentable when visitors occasionally check in.

I checked off a long time bucket list goal to visit Chicago via Amtrak

Stay Connected

Loved ones are typically a major part of any snowbird's existence. When at home during the off season, snowbirds must make an effort to seek out, reconnect with their loved ones and make plans to spend meaningful time together. Snowbirds who are away for a longer extended time find that it's especially important to resume the normalcy of seeing their children, parents, grandchildren and friends.

Many snowbirds visit each other during the off season. Our snowbird friends live in Wisconsin, Western Indiana and Illinois. They visit each other's homes to  stay in touch, tour their primary homes/hometowns, and meet each others' loved ones. Snowbirds spend a lot of time together at their winter homes and it's important to stay connected during the off season.



Make New Connections

My husband and I enjoy attending annual family reunions during the off season. We feel connected to our family because we've developed genuine friendships with them over the years. When we were aspiring snowbirds, we learned more about the lifestyle from multi-generational family snowbirds who shared their experiences with us.

About six months prior to our second year as snowbirds, we invited extended family to visit us in Destin. Beth and Alan are seasoned snowbirds who spend time in Gulf Shores, Alabama and they had never been to Destin. So they visited us at the start of their snowbird season and then a few days later, at the end of our snowbird season, we drove to Gulf Shores to stay with them. It was a fantastic experience, because not only did we get better acquainted, we each had personal tour guides to show us new and different regions.

Invite Loved Ones to Visit Your Snowbird Home

Not only do your guests need time to budget and plan, so do you. The off season is a wonderful opportunity to invite loved ones to enjoy your winter home with you. And it gives you both something to look forward to!



"Change the way you see things and the things you see will change."

--Dr. Wayne Dyer, American author, motivational speaker