Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Heartwarmer

I write occassionally about the special occasions that bring guests to A Butler's Manor, such as Matt's proposal to Nicole. Weddings in the area are of course a key attraction, as are class reunions and milestone birthdays. Once we had a week-long family reunion where the family (who occupied all five rooms) all left their shoes in a neat row by the staircase and slept with their doors open. In this latter circumstance Chris's training as a butler stood him in good stead as he tiptoed upstairs each day with early morning coffee.

The other day, we had another family reunion, much smaller. Three siblings....and the youngest sister was meeting her brother and sister in person for the first time in her memory. 

When Little Sister called to make the reservations, she told us about the planned reunion. She had been a toddler when their father left her mother, taking the older children, who were in their early teens, with him. 

Older Sister had pined for the baby sister she remembered and, as an adult, had tried with little success to track her down. Father had forbidden the older kids to even mention their sister's name. After he died, she found among his papers information that helped her track the younger sister.

Little Sister, upon initial contact, needed time to process things, and promised to arrange a meeting by Spring. This was that meeting. She wanted neutral territory, somewhere comfortable and homey and...safe. She thought A Butler's Manor would be perfect.

Each sibling lives in a different state. The sisters each lived within driving distance. Brother flew in, and Older Sister picked him up. 

Little Sister arrived early (we'd authorized the use of the garden for a pre-check in meeting) and asked us to put a memento she'd created for her siblings in their rooms once we had them ready. It was, luckily, a beautiful Spring day, the garden full of daffodils. We set up a pot of coffee and waters for them to enjoy while we prepared their rooms. 

To say she was nervous understates her emotional state. It was somewhere between excited and terrified.

The older siblings arrived on schedule, and as requested, Chris and I met them at the front door and escorted them back to where Little Sister sat (actually, paced) at a table before the fountain. Brother brought roses, champagne, and glasses. We brought loads of Kleenex.

It was an emotional meeting, to be sure. From the doorway, we watched for a moment as there was a wordless, five minute group hug. Over the afternoon, evening, and late into the night, there were many, many tears, much laughter, and thousands upon thousands of words, building the bridge that will span a 35 year absence.

When they checked out the following day, we had tears in our eyes too. Life will be certainly be different for this now-reunited family. We wish them long, happy years of exploring their similarities and differences, of get-togethers, holidays, phone calls and visits.

Chris and I are thrilled to have witnessed their joy, and feel so honored to have been a small part in helping facilitate it.

Seriously, who wouldn't want to be in our business!?

Quote of the Day: Certainly, people can get along without siblings. Single children do, and there are people who have irreparably estranged relationships with their siblings who live full and satisfying lives, but to have siblings and not make the most of that resource is squandering one of the greatest interpersonal resources you'll ever have. --Jeffrey Kluger

Sunday, April 6, 2014

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"


Friday, March 21, 2014

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


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas in Southampton!

Wanted to share a lovely video that captures the holiday spirit present in Southampton this time of year!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hamptons International Film Festival Returns

We've been enjoying a wonderful, temperate Autumn season here at A Butler's Manor. Though we closed the pool for the season this week, the garden is still showing lots of colors, including dahlias, roses, and fall anenome. It's been warm enough the past few days that we've been able to serve breakfast on the patio, usually unheard of in October.

Last weekend was Septemberfest in Southampton Village, well attended and much enjoyed. Especially enjoyable was the music! I spent part of Saturday afternoon passing out schedule information in front of the Chamber of Commerce, and got to enjoy Nick Kerzner's classic rock and original solo material. Friday's kickoff party featured our old "Rhythm & Twang" favorites The Lone Sharks, and two other favorites were part of the line up on Saturday and Sunday: Mashup band New Life Crisis and smooth jazz Certain Moves. The chowder contest had run out of samples by 1:30 PM, with a closely contested victory declared for a Manhattan-style chowder from Paul's Italian Restaurant (#6 for those of you who had mugs!). The Southampton Center opened with its first exhibition of Charles Addam's work featuring his classic Addam's Family cartoons, and the Maniac Pumpkin Carvers had created a display of all things Addams Family (look closely and you'll see that Uncle Fester, on the left, has a glowing light bulb in his mouth) -- brilliant!

Coming up beginning Thursday, October 10 and running through Monday, October 14, is the Hamptons International Film Festival. Now in its 21st year, The HIFF was founded to promote the vision of independent filmmakers from around the world. It's always a star-studded occasion, drawing local film actors and directors such as Stephen Spielberg, Alec Baldwin, Mercedes Ruehl, Martin Scorcese and Renee Zellwegger, as well as those from Hollywood and abroad. While most of the venues are in East Hampton, there are two screens in Southampton's theatre, as well as Sag Harbor's one. Coolest thing: One of the featured films, Louder Than Words, is inspired by a true story that one of our repeat guests was a part of. They will be staying with us again, and are eager to see how the movie turns out (and see the actor who plays him)!

A big draw on the East End in autumn is agra-tourism; our pumpkin farms, corn mazes, wineries and farmstands are all in high gear. Particularly busy over on the South Fork is Hank's Pumpkintown, located on Montauk Highway in Water Mill, right across the street from Duckwalk Vineyards.  Hank's keeps getting bigger and better each year, with pumpkins, slides and all manner of climb-aboard things for the kids, as well as food, apples, and much more. If you're visiting us and aren't planning on sampling either, let us know so we can route you around the traffic!

I'm recovering from foot surgery, so will miss out on the corn maze this year, and miss seeing our guests in the next week or so until I'm cleared for takeoff. Chris is running the Manor with the help of Kristen and Deb while I'm off my feet, so you know you're in good hands!

Quote of the day:  It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on screen. --Anthony Burgess

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Walker Cup Match Comes to Southampton

There is a common misconception that on Labor Day, the cars roll westward and the villages in the Hamptons shut up shop like closing time at Disneyland. For years, a local joker even posted a huge cardboard sign visible from the westbound lane on Labor Day Monday: "Last one out of Montauk, please turn off the lights."

It couldn't be further from the truth.

Not only does the advent of the post-Labor Day season auger in some great events, but the weather generally remains gloriously temperate, the water at the beach is as warm as it ever gets, and the general air of frenetic merrymaking, as though time was running out, disappears. Road rage isn't a daily worry. And you stand a better chance of getting a reservation at Nick and Toni's.

National Golf Links of America, Southampton, NY

And there are some great events to look forward to in September. For starters, National Golf Links will host the 2013 Walker Cup Match, which will be held here in Southampton next weekend (Friday - Sunday, September 6-8, 2013).

Team USA at National Golf Links, Southampton, NY
The Walker Cup is a golf trophy match between teams made up of the leading amateur golfers of the United States and Great Britain/Ireland. It's held on odd-numbered years and alternates between courses on either side of "the pond," as my British husband would say. (The professional golfers' version of this is the Ryder Cup, played in even-numbered years. Originally between Great Britain and the USA, since 1979 the Ryder Cup has been contested between the USA and Europe.) 

The last time the Walker Cup was held at National was in 1922, only two years after the tournament was initiated. This year, the American team is looking to bring the trophy back to our side of the pond, having lost in 2011 to the GB&I team whilst playing at the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club. (Sorry, I've now got a British accent stuck in my mind.) 

Fascinating fact: The match is named for George Herbert Walker, grandfather of former president George Herbert Walker Bush (and thereby great-grandfather to former president George W. Bush), who was president of the United States Golf Association in 1920 when the contest began.

The National is a gorgeous golf course located just northwest of Southampton Village and overlooking the Peconic Bay. Its landmark windmill is iconic of the Hamptons, and simply walking the course is a lovely day's excursion. It's particularly appropriate that the Walker Cup will be played here, as the course -- built in 1908 under the direction of founder Charles B. Macdonald -- was designed to incorporate playing challenges similar to those found in the better links courses in the British Isles such as St. Andrews, Prestwick, and Sandwich.

By our bookings here at A Butler's Manor, it appears that we are nearly evenly split between supporters of Team USA and Team GB/I. Given the competitiveness that golf can bring forth, we may be setting separate tables at breakfast...

Tickets for the Walker Cup are available for the whole three-day event, single days, or just the practice round on Friday by clicking here

Quote of the Day: Golf is a game in which you yell 'fore,' shoot six, and write down five. --Paul Harvey

Friday, August 23, 2013

Where do they all come from?

I can't believe it's the third week of August already.

It's been a busy summer, in spite of the funny weather (a day of rain, followed by three or four days of great summer weather, followed by a day of rain, etc.). And probably because, similar to how great you feel once free of pain or illness, the return of sunshine after a day of showers feels even MORE like summer, our guests haven't been too dejected by the weather.

A repeat guest who'd stayed with us last weekend emailed to say what a nice time they'd had. "We love your breakfasts," she wrote, "and we so enjoy talking to the interesting people you always seem to have staying with you."

We are blessed to have a wide variety of guests from all sorts of places. I'm the reports maven, so Susan's comment sent me off to the computer to see where our guests are coming from this year. 

Of course, the majority of guests come from within a 150-mile radius in the TriState area (NY, NJ, CT), with 25% of all guests coming from Manhattan. New York and New Jersey residents make up over 50% of our guests. Interestingly, by state, the next highest percentage of guests who are US residents are from California, followed by Pennsylvania. All in all, our little bed and breakfast has hosted guests from exactly half of the fifty states this year; since we've been keeping records of this kind, we've had visitors from 45 out of 50 states in the Union, and from 35 countries.

International guests make up almost 17% of all our visitors, led by the United Kingdom (6%), Australia (4%), Germany and Canada (2% each). One gray area is that quite a number of international visitors come to us via New York City: they are living there for a period of time due to work. In this way we've hosted guests from Luxembourg, France, China, Brazil, Japan, Denmark, and more.

Needless to say, breakfast is rarely boring around here...and I love that guests enjoy it!