Just saw that I last blogged in mid June. Whoa. Summer sure has a way of getting away from me (which is probably the opposite of how our guests feel, i.e., getting away for the summer).
|The butler on the set|
The company was founded by former butler colleagues who saw the need for a completely scent-free, non-chemical, yet highly effective green cleaning product to be used in the estates of the rich and famous…and in the homes of the hoi polloi (that’s the rest of us). Chris is a spokesperson for the product, helping to launch it at a “soft opening” about a year ago at the DEMA (Domestic Estate Managers Association) conference in Florida, and contributing blog material, tips, and expertise.
|At the Farmer’s Market last Sunday|
|Coastal Living Showhouse, Junior Master Bath|
|Coastal Living Showhouse, Master Bedroom|
|Coastal Living Showhouse, Kitchen|
Meanwhile back at the ranch… Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, Italian peppers and rhubarb are in full swing in the vegetable garden, so I’m making much use of all of them when planning menus. Our neighbor across the street has taken to putting up a small table of his excess produce with a little sign inviting people to take some…free…but take only what you need. Sweet!
Are you ready for a getaway that will leave your soul refreshed? Join us at Southampton’s #1-ranked bed and breakfast and let us pamper you!
|Columbine, ajuga, and viburnum in bloom|
Whew. With Memorial Day receding into the rearview mirrors of our guests, we are now looking ahead to this weekend, when we join six other historic properties for the Southampton Historical Museum’s 6th Annual “Insider’s View: Tour of Southampton Homes.”
The one antique at A Butler’s Manor to which I can trace the entire provenance is our 1912 Chase & Baker player piano, which has been in my mother’s family since the year it was built. It spent its first forty years in the Chicago area where my mother grew up, journeyed to Los Angeles when she married and dominated our family room there for the next forty years before coming to me in 1999. I worried originally that its elderly parts, perhaps desiccated by arid California climate, would crumble amidst the seasonal changes and frequent humidity of the East End. Instead, I found to my delight that the old girl obviously relished the change of scenery; her tone only grew rounder and more mellow once transplanted to the Hamptons.
One of the things that sets the Hamptons’ ocean beaches apart is the fact that, from Southampton to Amagansett, there is nothing commercial on or adjacent to them. No on-the-pier oceanfront restaurants where the waves splash against the pylons (sigh). No t-shirt shops. Nowhere to purchase suntan lotion or a hat or flip flops or sand toys. No free-standing burger joints with sand on the floor, no to-go windows to grab a slice of pizza, no place to pick up a six pack of beer.
- June 10: Chocolate Paired and Made with Wine
- June 17: Wine-Themed Poetry Night
- June 24: ROSÉ WEEK: Rosé in the Raw–Wolffer rosé wines paired with shellfish, at the Wine Stand. ($25 per person in advance, $30 at the door)
- June 4: The Wines of Alsace and the Loire Valley
- June 11: Sparkling Wines
- June 18: Tasting Techniques
- June 25: Special Edition: Big Rosé World ($25 in advance, $30 at the door)
I’m so excited. We have a very cool Aussie designer and master blogger staying with us at A Butler’s Manor right now. She is here because she loves all things Hamptons/Cape Cod, and she has a design business in Queensland where she sells a lot of things that look like they grow here. I already follow her blog. I aspire to her daily blog activity for either Chatter From the Manor, or In My Words, my writer-persona blog. (In my spare time!) In point of fact, she’s in New York to attend a blogging conference. Until she told me that, I had no idea there was such a thing!
It’s a lot of fun to see visitors enjoy their exploration of the area, and Anne-Maree is so exuberant that I want to share her impressions (and all the photos!) by attaching her blog here. If you’ve not yet been to the Hamptons, between our blog and What to Do page and Anne-Maree’s, this will give you a good feeling for our little town. If you’ve been here before, it will bring back happy memories!
It’s been a big month for art events. The second weekend of July was the massive ArtHamptons fair, and last weekend was art Southampton , both held in separate locations inside a huge, air conditioned luxury “tent” (well, it qualified as a tent because it wasn’t there last week and won’t be there tomorrow, but this structure had glass fire doors, a bar and a snack bar). I dropped by to see what was on offer at the second show, which was modern art from dealers from all over the world, and was impressed by the scope of the show. What was particularly nice was that, unlike most art or antiques events held out in the Hamptons, both events offered extended gallery hours, the latter until 10 PM most of the four nights it was open. This is a novel concept, as most events force visitors to choose: Beach? Shopping? Special Event? during daylight hours. It’s nice to be able to fit it all in!
On a smaller, more local scale, Art in the Park was held the third weekend of July in Agawam Park over Saturday and Sunday. Art in the Park is sponsored by the Southampton Artists’ Association, who also hold a number of shows each year at the Southampton Cultural Center. No bar or air conditioning here; just a true village art festival featuring some extensive local talent. And there’s plenty of it.
Just in case you thought the Hamptons were just all about the beach!
Sometimes the best things to do truly are the simplest. Last night, after all the guests at A Butler’s Manor had left for their respective evening plans, Chris and I packed a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers and went to the beach to watch the sun go down. True, on Southampton’s beaches you won’t see a sunset over the water, nor–since our air quality is so good–will you get the brilliant oranges and reds of a Southern California sunset (which is, alas, caused by smog). Instead, the colors are pure blues and pinks, in wispy clouds over a steely ocean.
And almost nobody else is there. After the need for sunscreen diminishes, the beach is the quietest place in the Hamptons.
And the best part is that it’s free, because after 5:00 PM, beach parking regulations don’t apply. And at Cooper’s Beach, the snack bar stays open until at least 6:00, so you can grab a burger or a wrap there.
Speaking of free, a visit to a farmers market is a great treat on a summer day. From late spring until fall, there are farmers markets somewhere in the Hamptons daily from Wednesdays through Sundays. Hamptons.com has a pretty comprehensive article that outlines who, what, when and where here.
Of course, the farmstands out here are numerous and divine, and they’re (mostly!) open every day. Closest to us, right around the corner on land that was once owned by the same family (Jagger) that also owned the property we now call A Butler’s Manor is tiny Hank’s Farm Stand, selling primarily berries…strawberries are just finishing up, and raspberries are coming up. At a farmstand you can’t miss the connection between the fertile land and the farmer who cultivates it. A good comprehensive list of area farmstands can be found here. Often, visitors to the Hamptons tend to forget its farming and fishing origins and are often only vaguely aware that both livelihoods are still very much in existence. (BSP [Blatant Self Promotion!] alert: It is precisely in that setting that my novel Blood Exposure is set, available now on Kindle. “Oh really, what’s it about,” you say? Check it out here.)
In fact, having made myself hungry, I’m off to pick up some fresh veggies for tomorrow morning’s frittata. And I’m planning another picnic on the beach…
Quote of the Day: They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. –Ronald Reagan
Many people enjoy ogling the “summer cottages” (read: mansions) in the Hamptons, and one of the most popular way to fund-raise out here is to offer house tours that allow the rest of us to view the interior of some of these houses up close and personal. (Two such house tours coming up this summer are the Westhampton Garden Club House Tour on July 10 and St. Ann’s Episcopal Church House Tour on August 2.)
Sometimes you might not be able to tour the estates, but you can own something that used to live on one. There are a couple of annual sales that highlight exactly this, namely Parrish Presents in late November that benefits the Parrish Art Museum, and the Decorators/ Designers/ Dealers Sale in June that benefits the Southampton Fresh Air Home. There are also a number of cool thrift or consignment shops here in the Hamptons, some of which we highlight on our suggested itinerary. Much of the merchandise, especially in the benefit shops such as LVIS (Ladies Village Improvement Society), ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) and the Southampton Hospital Thrift Shop is especially fine. The reason? When the wealthy summer population of Southampton and East Hampton clean out their closets or redecorate their homes, they don’t post a curb alert on Craig’s List. They tell their staff to donate the stuff or get rid of it.
Chris and I have found literally hundreds of our treasures at A Butler’s Manor through such resources.
One of the perks of Chris’s former profession as a butler are his connections with others who serve or otherwise service the estate district (i.e., contractors, landscape designers). More than once, he’s gotten a head’s up over stuff being discarded from someone’s mansion or the grounds surrounding them. (Just ask him about the various trees and shrubs that he’s rescued when various people decide to re-landscape!) Recently we scored a windfall when one of our friends, the estate manager for a large property here, was asked to broker the sale of some garden statuary since his principal was redesigning her landscape. Here are two of the three “girls” –full-sized bronze statues, signed and numbered –who now grace our garden! From the same estate, a set of four musical cherubs on plinths, a little more classical in style, will also find a new home at A Butler’s Manor, as soon as we can figure our where they will live.
Another recent find was due to the sharp eyes of my friend Joyce, who volunteers at LVIS in East Hampton. Joyce spotted a gorgeous roll of upholstery fabric that had been donated that is going to be perfect for our dining room chairs later this summer! I’ve found great vases at Elsa’s Ark Thrift Shop in Southampton, and cool clothes at Around Again, on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Colette Consignments, in Southampton and Sag Harbor, features designer clothes, shoes and accessories. And when they say “gently used,” they mean it. I’ve seen dresses in the shop with the original price tags still attached. I guess their original owners decided to wear something else to the benefit.
Chris and I figure we’re doing our part to go green and keep excess stuff out of our landfills. It’s a very satisfying way to reduce-reuse-recycle!
Quote of the Day: We are not to throw away those things which can benefit our neighbor. Goods are called good because they can be used for good: they are instruments for good, in the hands of those who use them properly. — Clement of Alexandria
November, and things are slowing down. Chris and I actually had a day off a week or so ago. It was a gorgeous autumn day and we decided to do a little sightseeing in our own backyard, for the dual purpose of enjoying ourselves outdoors and to be better able to advise our guests. In the nearly twenty years that we’ve lived on the East End, we’ve never been hiking at any of the three most popular locations out here, namely Mashomack, Hidden Hills, or the Elizabeth Morton Wildlike Refuge. We decided to start our exploration with Mashomack, just across the bay on Shelter Island.
The Mashomack Preserve, operated by the Nature Conservancy, occupies nearly 1/3 of Shelter Island, and is open year round. We went on a Wednesday in November, so I’m sure there were far fewer people on the trails than one would meet if hiking in July; however, such was the serene nature of the place and the layout of the trails that I expect there could be hundreds of fellow hikers in the preserve and you wouldn’t know it.
There are four well-defined and marked trails of varying lengths, from a one-mile wheelchair-accessible trail to a ten-mile hike that overlooks Gardiner’s Bay. Chris and I chose the six-mile Green Trail, marked by the emblem of the osprey. The osprey is one of the East End’s most celebrated examples of the power of environmental concern: the breeding population, once decimated by the thinning of their eggs caused by widespread use of DDT, has rebounded from 150 breeding pairs in 1969 to well over 230 pairs today, taking the breed from the Endangered list to that of Special Concern. Osprey nests are visible along many coastal wetlands, but Mashomack is home to one the largest concentration of nesting ospreys in the area. The nests are remarkable as they resemble chimney-sweep brushes of the sort you remember from the movie Mary Poppins; birds create large nests in the tops of dead trees or, more commonly, on human-created upright structures resembling telephone poles.
The ospreys have flown south for the winter now, but lots of birds and other wildlife remain to be seen on the trails. One of the more remarkable sights we saw was a red-tailed hawk eating his lunch on a trail-side post in an open field.
Fields, wetlands, coves seeded with oyster and scallop beds, pine swamps…the variety of ecosystems within such a relatively small area was incredible.
In addition to being a wonderful place to breathe and appreciate nature, the Nature Conservancy has on-site a charming visitors center with interactive displays on all aspects of the flora and fauna. We spent quite a bit of time there, playing with the displays and discussing what we’d seen with the very knowledgable and friendly Nature Conservancy staff member.
The entire East End is a respite from busy city and suburban living, and we realize how very lucky we are to live and work in such a beautiful corner of the world. Even so, as we drove away late in the afternoon, bound for the South Ferry back to A Butler’s Manor, Chris commented that our afternoon walk in the woods truly felt like we’d been on vacation!
Quote of the Day: We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down. ~Robert Sweetgall