Spring cleaning

Okay, here’s my dirty (clean?) little secret: I love spring cleaning.

Like the onset of autumn, which reminds me of the beginning of a new school year, spring — and spring cleaning– signify a new, sparkling beginning of the year. And since A Butler’s Manor reopens in early Spring, it’s literally the start of our new year.
So Chris, Kristen and I have been busy. We repainted the bathroom in Eton Court and installed new track lights, shampooed all the carpets and rugs, replaced the skylight in Villefranche’s bathroom and the carpeting on the stairs.
In addition, when Chris and I journeyed to Italy last November to celebrate our 25th anniversary, I bought one thing only, but it was a biggie: a crystal chandelier from Murano Glassblowers in Venice. As scheduled, the chandelier arrived the first week we reopened, and last week, we installed it in the upstairs hallway. WOW! We now gotta whole lotta bling going on…!
Now it’s time to start the spring clean up of the garden, where croci are all in bloom and the daffodils are getting ready to pop.
Spring cleaning to me also means going through the piles of recipes that I compulsively clip for ideas. And trying some. This weekend we sampled a french toast with a toasted walnut/orange/cranberry compound butter, and a frittata with broccoli and cheddar with a crust of shredded potatoes. The latter was a particular hit because it is also gluten-free. I continue to develop menus that can accommodate both those who follow a gluten-free lifestyle and those who don’t, without sacrificing taste or texture.
In other news…word on the street is that the self-absorbed Kardashians are filming one of their “Take” series out here this summer: Kourtney and Khloe Take The Hamptons. Ugh; just what we don’t need on a summer week–more potential traffic caused by folks hoping to see a celebrity in their midst. (Can you tell that I am not a fan!!) I devoutly hope that their pop-up store “Dash” will pop up in Montauk, not Southampton.
It is now a bright Spring day, perfect for working in the garden. In this case, though, we plan to visit one: Bridge Garden opens for the season this weekend. Bridge Garden is a five-acre property in Bridgehampton now maintained by the Peconic Land Trust, to which it was deeded some twenty years ago. It’s always fun to get ideas from other gardeners. I’ve already got several ideas for our pots saved on Pinterest…
Quote of the Day: “Reshaping life! People who can say that have never understood a thing about life–they have never felt its breath, its heartbeat–however much they have seen or done. They look on it as a lump of raw material that needs to be processed by them, to be ennobled by their touch. But life is never a material, a substance to be molded. If you want to know, life is the principle of self-renewal, it is coonstantlt renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itself, it is infintely beyond you or my obtuse theories about it.” –Boris Pasternak, “Doctor Zhivago”

Hampton Classic Horse Show

The last week of August is the annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, a stellar week-long equestrian event held in Bridgehampton. It is one of the great entertainment values out here — every day except the final Sunday (Grand Prix), attendance for a whole carload costs only $20. (By contrast, parking at Cooper’s Beach costs twice that. Which is why we offer shuttle service to the beach! –but I digress…) I haven’t been able to attend the Classic for probably ten years now, but this year I was determined to go at least once, to see my favorite equestrian.

Zach, his mom, and often his father and grandmother have been guests at A Butler’s Manor every Classic week since we opened in 2002, and I look forward to their visit every year. When we first met, Zach was a few days shy of 12 years old, a serious little guy with a shy smile and a big appreciation for my breakfasts. (I always plan a menu that includes Southwest Souffle, Banana French Toast and blueberry muffins during his visit.) He’ll turn 18 next week, and every year, I’ve wanted to go see him compete. Yesterday I finally got a chance to do so.

The Classic has grown in scope since the last time I attended. Yesterday, I counted 2 (3?) show rings besides the Grand Prix ring, plus a couple of training rings and practice areas. It is a joy just to watch the riders warming up their mounts. The show rings are gorgeous…reminiscent of a beautifully-landscaped backyard that just happens to have fences to jump. The boutique arcade has nearly as many shopping stalls as Bridgehampton has shops. And there is a good-sized food arcade, tents with exhibits, pony rides for the kids, and lots more –kind of like a small scale country fair with an emphasis on horses. What is really impressive are the horse stalls, which are under huge tents on either side of the grounds. Some of the stalls have little rooms adjacent to the horse enclosures where the owners, trainers, riders can hang out in between competitions. Some of these stalls look like outdoor living rooms and have real furniture, and even rugs on the ground…and some of the tack trunks are so gorgeous, I’d like one for our living room!

I didn’t know where or even when Zach would be competing — two or three competitions per show ring are listed starting at 8 AM, the length of the event determined by the size of the class. I found the High Junior Jumper Class in the Grand Prix ring, and amazingly, it was just about to start when I found a seat in the bleachers.

Watching a jumping event is awesome — the synchronicity of horse and rider as they approach and take the jumps is incredible to behold. The polish of these young riders belies their age. They sit astride their horses with such grace, and of course, in full dress, they are beyond elegant. And oh, the horses. Sleek and groomed, manes braided or beribboned, every piece of brass or silver polished to a high shine…The first few riders took down a fence or two during their round. I think the field of some 24 riders was nearly a third of the way through before a rider was “clear” — no fences, no faults. From that point, the tension really builds, as to place, the riders must complete the circuit in the shortest amount of time without toppling a fence.

Zach was announced approximately 2/3 through the field. By this time, I had alerted everyone sitting around me, so we were all collectively holding our breath as he urged his glossy chestnut horse over the fences. The triple jump was closest to me — three fences close together. Seven people I’d never before met were all counting aloud one…two…three! as he cleared each of the bars. Across the ring, over a double, then two last fences and…he was clear! And he was in fourth place on the leader board! (The blurry picture of him jumping the gate, above, was taken with hands as nervous –and proud!– as I know his mother Deborah was as well!)

The second to last contender had a fantastic circuit that catapulted her into the lead, so Zach finished fifth…but the first six places are ribboned, and get to participate in a victory canter around the ring. That’s him riding up to collect his ribbon. I feel like a proud parent!!

Only drawback for Zack: The better he does, the earlier his trainer wants him at the show! — so he misses out on our hot breakfast entree! (Consolation prize: a daily care package with muffins, fresh fruit, breakfast bars and bottles of water.) But the swimming pool sure feels great in the late afternoons after a hot day on the back of a horse…

Quote of the Day: A horse can lend its rider the speed and strength he or she lacks, but the rider who is wise remembers it is no more than a loan. —Pam Brown