Thanksgiving week

It’s late fall and the season is winding down, which gives Chris and me the opportunity to do some maintenance and home improvements. The first two weeks in November saw the complete renovation of the bathroom in Oak Knoll, as well as installation of central air conditioning in each of the guest rooms — yeah! We finished the former just in time to welcome guests in Oak Knoll this past weekend. Whew!

Around the village, most of the leaves have blown off the trees. Here in the garden, only the hornbeams are still hanging onto their fading summer foliage. Walking through the Southampton Village this morning, we saw the village crews putting up the annual display of Christmas trees that line Main Street and Job’s Lane. Additionally, this year, a number of the deciduous trees have been strung with tiny twinkling white lights, magical at night. With or without snow, Southampton will be a winter wonderland this season. And there are so many events planned for it, beginning next weekend!

Thursday, of course, is Thanksgiving, and this year Chris and I will be enjoying traditional turkey fare at Seasons of Southampton, the pretty catering facility literally steps away from A Butler’s Manor. (We’ll join friends for a late Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday.) In the meantime, the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season begins the day after Turkey Day with Black Friday. But as residents of a small resort town with no big box stores or malls and owners of a small business ourselves, we are especially excited about Small Business Saturday, a promotion to encourage shopping at local, small businesses. American Express is doing the promotion of this nationwide event, offering a $25 credit to the first 100,000 shoppers who shop a participating (i.e., American Express card-accepting) small business. I doubt I’ll get out to the shops in time to qualify for the credit, but I’ll be there. Our wonderful small shops are too precious to lose to the chains and the malls and the Internet, and need our support.

So as guests enjoy the fireplace instead of the pool, as hot tea rather than iced beckons after a walk on the beach, we settle in and enjoy the calmer quiet of late autumn season in Southampton. Still beautiful and, to many, even more appealing than during the hectic summer days.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quote of the Day: I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton

Ragamuffins on Parade

Yesterday was Halloween, and in the village of Southampton, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors an annual “Ragamuffin Parade” of little (and not so little!) children in costume, followed by a Pumpkin Trail of local merchants who hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters. In recent years, the event has been joined by a doggie costume parade sponsored by Little Lucy’s on Job’s Lane, a boutique that features the wardrobe of clothing, costumes, and jewelry your favorite pooch never knew she wanted. Not being parents, Chris and I haven’t attended the event before, but our neighbors Lynn and Gary’s 14-month-old twin girls were planning on participating, along with their two king Charles Cavallier spaniels, so we had to see them in action! Little Pearse and the Blenheim (reddish) dog were bumblebees, while Gigi and their King Charles (black and tan) dog were ladybugs. Are they cute, or what?

And…wow! Main Street was swarming with families, more crowded than on the busiest August weekend. There was barely room on the sidewalk to stand and watch the children collect their treats from participating merchants. After a while, Chris and I repaired to Silver’s and selected a seat in the window where we could watch the action from the warmth of the restaurant while enjoying an elegant lunch …something we never have an opportunity to do in August.
The weather is currently picture-perfect Autumn, with clear, bright, chilly days and a breeze to help blow the leaves from the trees. Out in our garden, Chris spends his free time digging up the bulbs that require overwintering (e.g., acidanthus, dahlia), while I am cutting the very last of the dahlias and roses for our rooms, augmenting the arrangements with the brush heads of ornamental grasses. The leaves on the Japanese maple at the back of the pool have turned their autumnal burnished orange, but the gigantic sycamore maple still has most of its leaves, all mostly green…it’s always a late-season holdout.
There’s still lots to do in the towns…birdwatching walks, weekend entertainment at many of the vineyards on both the South and North Forks, plus Long Island Restaurant Week, which starts this Sunday (three courses, $24.95!!). This Friday, the Parrish Museum’s Business Council will host its annual Friday night jazz event, which we hope to attend, pending arrival time of our check-ins.
Autumn is my favorite season of the year. The fire is crackling in the fireplace, and the pumpkins adorn the front porch. Come enjoy it with us at A Butler’s Manor!
Quote of the Day: For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad. —Edwin Way Teale

Autumn Leaves

Things are quieting down here, as the leaves turn color and fall from the trees (which is great for plate decorations). My morning walk bgins in near darkness; the sky is blue with candy-pink clouds by the time I’ve passed the village, and I see the sun rise from the ocean by the time I’ve made it to the beach. Our foliage (that which turns color other than brown) seems to be just past peak, which is about on target, timing-wise…a little surprising, since the rest of the growing season this year has been 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. Proof, perhaps, that the Earth is ready to slow down and get ready for a winter’s nap.

One of the perks of the job I frequently mention is that we meet so many people from so walks of life…and occasionally, we are able to return the favor of doing business together. We are happy to count Bill Kolb Jr, and his lovely wife Maryann among our favorite repeat guests. Bill’s Subaru dealership in Orangeburg, NY, is one of the busiest in the country. When we decided to trade in my beloved 1998 Outback on a newer model, no question but that Bill was the man. So this week when things slowed down and we had a day off, it was a perfect opportunity to drive up to the Hudson Valley and pick up our new (well, previously owned) car. We are now the proud owners of a 2009 Subaru Outback XT. Major bonus: The Palisades Parkway was in full fall color!!

We’re calling October “International Month:” In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had visitors from Germany, England (two different couples), Sweden, Brazil, South Korea, and this week we are enjoying guests from Scotland! It’s made for some really interesting breakfast table conversation. We were particularly touched by Elimar and Jorge, our visitors from Rio, who were celebrating a milestone anniversary with a worldwide tour (previous stop: China!) and in the whole wide world, they stayed with us at A Butler’s Manor. Yay for the Internet!
Quote of the Day: Oh how we love pumpkin season. You DID know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…we anxiously anticipate it every year. —Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer,” October 2010.

Run like the wind

I was walking early yesterday morning down Toylsome Lane in the estate district when suddenly, a small deer bounded out into the street from the driveway of one of the properties ahead. She made a wide question-mark-shaped turn in the street as she assessed my level of threat before dashing towards me. Just then I spied what she was running from: a large dog rounded the hedge and set off in pursuit. Now, deer are fast, but I’ve never seen this kind of speed. No flick of the tail and graceful canter here. This gal literally had her little white tail tucked between her legs, and she was running as though she was up against Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby.

The dog gave it up after 50 yards, and, satisfied, trotted back down his driveway.

A couple houses farther on, I turned the corner just in time to see the dog trotting out into the street ahead, looking as though he were on patrol. He’d apparently cut through his backyard and those of a couple of other occupants. Then I heard a whistle, and he turned around and disappeared down a side street. I passed the dog and his owner a couple of minutes later, where she was petting and probably trying to distract him from continuing his search.

A few seconds later, I came to the ancient Southampton cemetary (first burial, 1648). There, shielded by the surrounding hedges, stood the deer. I laughed. For all the world, it seemed like dog and deer were playing a game of hide and seek. I snapped the photo here just as she turned tail to trot away, game over.

Speaking of running like the wind, the Hamptons Marathon is happening this morning as I write. The weather couldn’t be better for the runners — the persistent humidity and rain we’ve put up with for three days dissipated overnight, leaving clear skies and temps in the low 60’s. As we have among our guests three competitors and three spectators, breakfast was a pretty small affair. I’ll look forward to refilling their weary bodies tomorrow with a nutritious protein and veggie entree (and special after-26-miles-I-deserve-it muffins).

The rain on Tuesday made finals at the US Mid-Amateur Golf Championship, held earlier this week at the Atlantic Golf Club, pretty soggy. Our frequent guests Ron and Alice are members of the club, and come out to play there every so often. They weren’t participating in the championship, but came out with friends from Seattle to enjoy it. We teased the Seattleites, accusing them of packing rainclouds in their baggage. But golfers seem to be an especially hardy sort, willing to drive those little white balls in nearly every type of weather except maybe snow (does any other sport offer an umbrella as an accessory?). Needless to say, hot tea went over well that afternoon, despite the 74-degree temperature.

Also happening this weekend and next is the Arts Harvest Southampton, a collaborative affair encompassing the visual, performing, and culinary arts. Southampton Village closes down part of Main Street each weekend to accommodate a bandstand for the live music performed all afternoon, the shops have sidewalk sales to peruse, folks are enjoying the action from outside tables in front of the restaurants. Tonight there is a live art auction of works by local artists, and a farm-to-table dinner, held on a long series of picnic tables in Agawam Park overlooking the pond.

Who says things slow down in the Hamptons after summer season ends?

Quote of the Day: When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” –Erma Bombeck

Post-Labor Day, 2010

And there you have it, the Summer of 2010, which came in with a shout: the best weather over Memorial Day (sunny and hot!) and exited with a whimper called Hurricane Earl on Labor Day. Except that Earl was a no-show, tiptoeing by 200 miles offshore on Friday night with only a little rain and wind in his backpack. It was, however, enough to spook many visitors to the area who would’ve otherwise made the holiday the last hurrah of the season. Pity, too, as the sun was back in full force on Saturday, and it was a spectacular day for the Grand Prix event on Sunday at the Hampton Classic.

Still, it was a nice weekend and guests enjoyed themselves, and the day after Labor Day it was immediately Autumn in the Hamptons…clear, sunny days in the low 70’s, with temps dropping in the evenings. The minute that sun drops behind the dune, you need your hoodie!

Chris and I had a chance to enjoy a picnic on the beach the other evening after all the guests had checked in, savouring an East Coast sunset (above) with our wine and smoked salmon. (How much better does Life get!?!) But the signs of the encroaching Fall are already upon us…I saw my first horse chestnut on Labor Day weekend, a chevron of Canadian geese honking their noisy way toward the south on Tuesday, and we’re all donning jackets to enjoy live entertainment on the deck at Tiderunners or at the North Fork vineyards, as we had a chance to experience again this past Sunday.

Caroline Doctorow (yes, THAT Doctorow, daughter of E.L., author of such classics as Ragtime) is a talented folk/blues musican who lives out here on the East End. On Sunday, she was the featured performer at Peconic Bay Vineyards, one of the North Fork wineries who we enjoy and recommend to guests interested in spending a lovely weekend afternoon listening to live entertainment on the peaceful grounds of a working vineyard. We like Peconic Bay’s La Barrique Chardonnay, which reminds me of California’s Napa Valley chards, and Chris of France’s Chassagne Montrachet. We met friends for a early dinner at the Frisky Oyster in Greenport, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a rare chance that we can get away as far as the North Fork until the off-season, and a great chance to be able to initiate or renew our acquaintance with locations old and new, so that we can better share them with our guests.

It is a marvelous time to come visit. The frayed tempers and traffic common in July and August have gone, the air is clear and the light beautiful, and all is far more calm and peaceful. Enjoy it with us!

Quote of the Day: Happiness is a wine of the rarest vintage, and seems insipid to a vulgar taste. –Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld

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A summer of friends

What’s better than a busy summer? A busy summer filled with repeat guests…and many more we hope will become repeat guests. Looking over the calendar over the past six or so weeks, I see that we have had a steady stream of visitors who have called A Butler’s Manor their home in the Hamptons at least once before. While we are continually energized by welcoming new guests (and meeting new friends!), there is a special kind of warmth created by those who choose to join us more than once.

This week, we have visiting again from Louisville, KY the sculptor Dave Caudill, who is picking up some pieces recently featured in the garden at the Chrysalis Gallery here in Southampton. We met Dave and his wife JoAnn several years ago when he was showing at a gallery on western Long Island and decided to venture east to the Hamptons. We loved Dave’s graceful stainless steel artwork so much after his first visit several years ago that we now feature two pieces in our garden. Here’s Dave (on the right with JoAnn), his brother Ed and sister in law Kitty in front of Garden Song.

Rain threatened during breakfast the other morning, so we set for breakfast inside. It turned out especially nice because everyone enjoyed chatting together, and lingered quite a while after the meal had been cleared. As I looked round the table, I realized that of the group, two separate couples were repeat guests — one from last year, another from last month! — and another couple had been referred to us by their daughter who had stayed with us earlier this summer. Sweet!
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No rain today, though…the weather has been perfect for our beachgoing guests. The long, hot season has definitely taken a toll on the plant life in the area, though. I notice on my walks that the plane trees at the end of South Main Street here in Southampton are already begining to drop their leaves. More remarkable is that the beach rose (rosa rugosa) that grows along the dunes, and which usually produces its cherry-tomato-like rose hips about now, instead began producing hips beginning the end of June!!

Alas, one repeat guest I’ll miss this year is our junior equestrian Zach, of whom I wrote last year. Zach is starting college this year, and freshman orientation is scheduled for precisely the same week of the Hampton Classic Horse Show. Life does move on! We wish him all the best in his collegiate life, but hope we see him next year!

To old friends and new, the best of August to you!

Quote of the Day: August creates as she slumbers, replete and satisfied.– Joseph Wood Krutch


A common question from telephoners seeking accommodations in the Hamptons is “Where can I find an oceanfront resort?” For those who aren’t familiar with the area (or whose idea of the Hamptons is influenced by the TV show Royal Pains), it seems logical that somewhere considered so glamorous should have restaurants, hotels and condos lining the ocean, Miami-style. I spend a lot of time giving such callers a history lesson of how the South Fork was developed, beyond its farming origins (which date back to the mid 1600s). The area now known as the Hamptons grew as a retreat for the Manhattan’s wealthy, and as such, we now have “summer cottages” (read: mansions) lining the beach…not condos, and not hotels.

Of course, the presence of the wealthy means there is a large service class that serves them. (Chris, of course, has literal experience in this realm, as it was his butler profession that brought us to the Hamptons in the first place.) I tell guests that they can spend many a pleasant hour walking or cycling down the streets in the estate district, and the only people they are likely to see are the landscapers that maintain Hedgeville. But in the presence of so much, it sometimes comes as a shock to know that there are those who have very little out here, too. And I was reminded of this forcibly the other day.

A few times during my morning walks (from A Butler’s Manor through the estate district down to the beach), I have seen an older man on a small Motocross-type bicycle who pulls a wheeled plastic trash can behind him. Yesterday, after dropping guests at Cooper’s Beach, I finally saw why: He stops at all the trash cans that stand at the resident-permit beach entrances and sorts through the trash, pulling out recyclable bottles and cans. Seeing him wordlessly sifting through the detritus of someone else’s languid day at the beach, with the profile of a large shingled estate in the background, really brought it home that, visible or not, more than the wealthy call the Hamptons home.

Quote of the Day: Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have. — Rabbi Hyman Schachtel

P.S. If you watch Royal Pains, that big castle in the opening credits? It’s Oheka Castle…in Huntington, Long Island (about one hour west of us). NOT in the Hamptons. Don’t believe everything you see on TV!

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Traveling in style

Which is the sweeter ride, the Wells Fargo Wagon, or a Bentley? A study in contrasts on North Main Street, prior to Southampton’s annual Fourth of July parade…
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Sometimes seeds blow into the garden or we’ve composted something that eventually gets worked into the soil, and then out of the blue, we get what Chris likes to call a volunteer. I find it fun (Chris, not so much) to see what shows up. Yes, yes, you can argue that anything you didn’t purposely plant is a WEED! — and of course, most of them are. But for example, stuck into the corner of a bed where we’re growing thyme, we have a volunteer tomato plant that is currently about 15″ high. Is it a Big Boy? Cherry? Some other type? If it makes it to full size, we may know.  Over behind the “real” tomato bed is one single sunflower…presumably the gift of one of the birds. Chris pulled out the pumpkin plant that threatened to take over half of the vegetable garden, sigh…guess I’ll be cutting my pumpkins this fall at Hank’s Pumpkin Town with the rest of the crowds. A tiny cedar tree appeared a couple of years ago in the middle of a bed of Lady’s Mantle…Chris transplanted it back behind the pool, where it is now nearly two feet high.

Speaking of volunteers…The weather was perfect for the beach this past weekend, but the riptides were worrisome, and I was glad that all of our guests who enjoyed the ocean did so at Cooper’s Beach where there are lifeguards on duty until 5 PM. On Sunday, two of our guests, Mark and Jennifer, were enjoying the late afternoon hours with a long walk along the beach. A Korean church group had set up in an area quite a ways down the beach, beyond reach of the lifeguard station (even if it had still been manned; it was now nearly six PM). As they approached, a frantic woman ran up to them, screaming for help: One of their members had gone swimming and was in deep trouble. Mark dived into the dangerous surf, swam out, and pulled the man safely back to shore. That’s not only a volunteer, that’s a hero!

Quote of the Day: We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give. –Winston Churchill

Heat wave

We’ve had a heat wave this week, so hot and sticky (well, for the Hamptons) that it’s hard to get motivated to go outside of air conditioned comfort unless it’s to the pool or the beach — both popular choices of our guests this past week. Chris and I spotted each other for a couple of hours off apiece this week, and both times I went to the beach. On Tuesday afternoon, the ocean was as calm as the bay, with tiny little waves making their way up the shore as the tide came in, and I sat down where an errant wave would occasionally wash over my feet…wonderfully refreshing. Today, with widely scattered showers and thunderstorms predicted, the scene at the beach was far different: the waves were scarily beautiful, high and full and angry. I was a little relieved that the threat of rain had kept most people away from a swim, because the surf included a wicked riptide. Eastward, I could see by the clouds that East Hampton and Montauk were getting some serious rain but, while overcast, it was only spitting in Southampton — not even enough to worry about raindrops ruining my book.

Coming off the beach around 4:15, I watched a deer step through the car park and disappear into the grounds of one of the estates that line the oceanfront. I doubt that would have happened on a sunnier, and therefore, busier beach day…but then again, the deer here seem to be getting increasingly used to civilization, so who knows.

It was the oddest thing: We set up for breakfast on the patio this morning with one eye watching the clouds, ready to relocate the meal to the dining room if need be. At 9:30 AM, pretty much everyone was seated and the sun was high in the hazy sky…and raindrops started to fall. The guests, seated under the shade umbrellas that cover the tables, saw no reason to move inside. Puzzled, I commented that all we seemed to be missing was a rainbow.

David said, “We don’t see it because obviously this place IS the end of the rainbow!”

Clouds and mugginess will pass, but here at the end of the rainbow, I’m smiling.

Quote for the Day:  Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is. –Maryanne Radmacher-Hershey
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