Open for the 2014 Season!!

Anyone on the East Coast can attest that it has been a long, cold snowy winter. So last week, when Chris and I returned from vacation and prepared to reopen for the 2014 season, we were so gratified to find only this little remnant of snow left at A Butler’s Manor. Hey, we may not be out of the winter woods yet — I have pictures somewhere of snow-laden trees in early April, but I also have pictures of a freakishly warm April when we served breakfast on the patio. After the first winter where meteorologists actually named the storms, like they do hurricanes, I figure we’re due for a warm Spring. Bring it on!

We opened this past weekend to a full house of people who probably thought the same thing, and I’m wondering if the unusually high number of pre-bookings for the upcoming year reflects a lot of folks who just want to have a vacation somewhere warm and comforting to look forward to? It’s only March, but things are booking fast, so if you have a date in mind to come visit the Hamptons, check out our availability calendar today!

Spring formally arrived yesterday about 1 PM and we were cheered by bright sunny skies and crocuses peeping through the winter debris in the garden. I was greeted by a robin perched on our mailbox. Hooray!

Hamptons Restaurant Week begins this Sunday, a favorite event for both locals and visitors alike, where dozens of restaurants on both North and South Forks present three-course prix fixe menus for $27.95. It’s a great time to sample some of the restaurants that are difficult to get into once Summer arrives. (The Sticky Toffee Pudding dessert offered at The Living Room at c/o the Maidstone in East Hampton is worth the visit all on its own!)

Coming up on the calendar is the annual Parrish Art Museum Spring Fling, always a fun, well-attended party to benefit the children’s programs at the museum. This year, in addition to the food, drink, live band, and silent auction, they are featuring a scavenger hunt, advertising it as your chance to become an art detective. Fun!

In other local news, the fascia is being completed and interior work is continuing on the much-anticipated opening of a Southampton branch of Citarella Markets. Citarella is a New York City-based foodie market known for their great meats and seafood. The Southampton store will bring to three their presence in the Hamptons (they also have markets in East Hampton and Bridgehampton). Speaking as someone who visits the supermarket every day (whether I plan to or not!), this will be a welcome addition to our current grocery options. Now, if we could only get a Southampton Starbucks….

Off to start cleaning up the garden in anticipation of a bright, warm Spring!

Quote of the day: Every spring is the only spring–a perpetual astonishment. –Ellis Peters

September!

First day of Autumn — hooray!! Not that the weather necessarily tells the story. Four of our guests are at the beach today, and temperatures are expected to be in the upper 70’s. Though that it slated to change tomorrow, with slightly cooler temps scheduled for the rest of the week.

A little chill in the early morning air? Dark skies at 5:30 AM? Pink clouds as the sun comes up? I love it. I love fall, and all the trappings…and I love the sense of calm that pervades the Hamptons as Fall settles in. Gone is the frenetic summer crowd, desperate to pack every second of fun into their weekend, worried about whether the party is starting somewhere without them. It is so much easier to relax when you appreciate that the hours when you can wear shorts are more limited. I’ve decorated the mantle for fall; I’ll add pumpkins in October. I just can’t let Halloween encroach on fall just yet…

And there is still so much to do. Up next weekend, Sept 28 & 29, is SEPTEMBERFEST, a celebration of arts and music and history and food in Southampton Village, beginning with a kickoff party on Friday night featuring the band New Life Crisis. Beginning at 10 AM on Saturday, there will be street musicians at various spots on Main Street, Job’s Lane, and Agawam Park, Taste of the Hamptons and a chowder contest in the park, a farmer’s market on the grounds of the Parrish Art Museum, arts and crafts activities, historical demonstrations, hayrides, rides in Wells Fargo’s iconic stagecoach, concerts, art shows, and much more. The village will be HOPPING! Come visit and enjoy it!

Actually, the Parrish Art Museum has vacated the property on Job’s Lane, and will celebrate its grand opening in its brand new quarters in Water Mill the weekend of November 11.  Owned by the village, the grand old building that housed the art museum for over 110 years will continue to be a cultural hub for Southampton. And speaking of new tenants, the old Rogers Memorial Library was sold late this summer. It’s rumored that, following restorations to the historic Queen Anne structure, it will reopen possibly as retail space. And, drum roll….Pottery Barn has signed a lease on the grand corner building on Main Street and Hampton Road that housed Saks Fifth Avenue for 60 years. It will be great to have the beautiful building that anchors the village occupied once more!

We’ve had some fun shops come to town this year, and with a little more room to breathe this week, I wandered downtown to check them out. There’s a decided British note in the air in Southampton with shops such as Jack Wills and Grahame Fowler joining Ralph Lauren downtown. (Me, being an Anglophile, very much likes this, of course.) It looks like Ralph’s current line is very equestrian, always a great look, but for the real deal, look for your barn coat at Horse Haven on Hampton Road. And of course, there’s lots of end-of-season sale action happening.

September is definitely the best time to be in the Hamptons!

 

One man’s trash?

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

 

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

Getting ready for the holidays

Chris and I love Christmas. And we love a house that celebrates the season. I have to admit: I have never lived in a place where I didn’t know even before I moved in exactly where I’d set up the Christmas tree. We start decorating the day after Thanksgiving, and it usually takes several days to do. The division of labor is clear: He does the outside stuff, I do the inside stuff. We both do the Christmas tree. Look carefully at the picture to the right — there’s Chris up in a tree, stringing lights in the large evergreen next to the car park. (Boy, is THAT ever a job. Could we ever use a friend with a “cherry picker” to do that!)

As for me, cookies are baked, shopping is progressing, cards are in the works. I found a cool new site called Pandora.com that designs a music “station” around your personal preferences, and so I’ve created a station called Instrumental Holiday which plays in the background of my computer all day while I work.

So many people think that this time of year is “dead” in the Hamptons. They couldn’t be more wrong. True, the traffic looks nothing like a summer weekend — you can get to East Hampton in twenty minutes, instead of more than double that in August. But each village is decorated for the holidays, with lit Christmas trees flanking the sidewalks of the center of town. And lots to do.

Found some great stuff at last weekend’s Parrish Presents bazaar. This is one must-do event for anyone visiting over Thanksgiving weekend: an annual shopping event comprised of wonderful boutique items, a silent auction for incredible things like Chanel handbags and golf and spa weekends at La Costa, and — our favorite — a huge “tag sale” of gently used furniture and housewares, donated by the community (often by the very wealthy membership that supports the Parrish Art Museum). There is a benefit cocktail party on Friday night, then the event is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday for a modest $5 entrance fee. We scored tickets to the cocktail party, where we saw more of the Meadow Club membership (affluent residents of the Estate District) than we ever see all summer long.

The funniest thing is how this party plays out. In the queue of folks waiting for the doors to open at 5 PM, there is a vague odor of mothballs in the “country winter wear” (even if it’s Prada or Dolce Gabbana) likely unearthed for the first time this year. Few bother to check their coats. Everyone shoots straight past the (wonderful) exhibition in the museum itself, past the open bar and past catering staff proffering hors d’oeuvres, past the boutique and silent auction areas — straight for the tag sale, which occupies all of the old Rogers Memorial Library next door to the museum. The crowds pushing through the tag sale building resemble a queue on a Disney ride. Parrish staff are attaching red “SOLD” tags right and left for buyers who, in many cases, could afford to buy the whole building. Once the initial pass through the offerings is made, everyone seems to adjourn to pick up a drink and a nibble or two, make one more leisurely pass through the tag sale, before heading back into the museum where the boutique and bar are situated. It is a thoroughly enjoyable event. (And we came home with, among other things, a great slubbed silk chair and ottoman…yeah!)

Here in Southampton, a whole series of holiday-inspired events called Southampton: It’s A Wonderful Village are planned. This Saturday, for example, there are guided tours of the Historical Society’s Rogers Mansion, all decked out for the season…horse and buggy rides through the village…a parade of fire trucks, each decorated with lights, at dusk…a tree lighting of the enormous evergreen in Agawam Park (which they DO use a cherry picker to decorate!)…outdoor movies shown on the corner of Main and Job’s Lanes…lots of music, cookies, cider, and goodwill to men throughout. As soon as our guests are settled and concierged, I’ll be in the center of the village, enjoying the holiday spirit!