Friday, July 31, 2009

Abundance


The Italians have a word for it, which is so much richer, just rolling off the tongue: Abbondanza. High summer, and that is the word that springs to mind when I look out over the garden. The roses are on their second round (despite the wet June!), the dahlias are prolific, the hydrangeas in full bloom, and the grasses are lush and green. The bunnies (drat them) are having a field day.



Abbondanza also describes the perfect beach day today, with temps in the high 70's and a light breeze blowing offshore, and of course, everyone wanted to be there to enjoy those rays. When we picked up guests Linda and Greg from Cooper's Beach, they said it couldn't have been a better day...well, as long as you were cautious of the undertow in the high surf. Have I mentioned that our own Cooper's Beach is ranked #4 most beautiful beach in the COUNTRY by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (a/k/a/ Dr. Beach)? We are graced with such abundance.


Abbondanza was not the word that sprang to mind this week when we visited Bamboo, a favorite restaurant of mine in East Hampton. Bamboo, open year round, is a lushly Asian-style restaurant that Chris and I tend to forget attracts a hip summer crowd. It has a good sushi bar (and free sushi at the bar on Thursdays, if you can get anywhere close to the bar), a fabulous multi-course prix fixe menu offered year round, and are locally famous for their hefty watermelon martinis. We visited on a Tuesday, and it was crowded. Oh yeah -- it's July! For a change, we skipped the prix fixe menu and Chris started with crabcakes while I had a spicy crunchy yellowtail roll. One of their entrees is a mouthwatering black cod miso, which I love so much I invariably pass up the equally scrumptious Mongolian sliced beef (which Chris orders, thankfully, so I get to have a taste). But when the entree came, I was surprised: It was the smallest portion of cod I have ever seen...perhaps 4" long by 1-3/4" wide by 2" high. What are these, Summer portions? So that we all keep our bathing suit figures? Hmmmf.

I can hardly believe it's already August, the "highest" of High Season. In addition to the crowds at the beaches, the villages are thronged with shoppers and diners. We try to find for our guests here at A Butler's Manor an abundance of whatever combination of sun, water, activity, great food, and great shopping that will make their visit especially relaxing and memorable. Some of our guests have rented a boat in Montauk, others are hiking over on Shelter Island, another pair are attending "Super Saturday," the shopping extravanganza to benefit ovarian cancer, while still others are out enjoying the pool. The last is more my style. Maybe I can join them...

Quote of the Day: When you are grateful, fear disapperas and abundance appears. ---Anthony Robbins

Wishing you abbondanza!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Free Entertainment

I admit it, most things in and around the Hamptons are not cheap, especially in the summer. Which is why it's wonderful to share some of the best things we've found you can do here for little or no money.

Our favorite event here in Southampton is the Concerts in the Park series held at Agawam Park on Wednesdays between July 4th and Labor Day weekends. The band might be R&B/rockabilly (like the perennial local favorite group, the Lone Sharks), reggae, Big Band, Latin Jazz, 50's & 60's, or many other styles. It almost doesn't matter. What matters is that you grab a beach chair from the back porch, pick up a sandwich at Schmidt's or Job's Lane Deli or a pizza at La Parmigiana, uncork a bottle of wine, and enjoy the sounds of music in the open air as the sun sets over the park, and the sight of the little children (and sometimes adults!) dancing in front of the bandstand. The event is free, but the Southampton Cultural Center, who organizes it each year, sends out a bucket brigade at intermission to collect donations, and we encourage people to put what they can in that bucket...this is a wonderful resource that we stand to lose without support.

Other communities out here have outdoor concerts as well -- Montauk, on the village green on Monday evenings in July, Sag Harbor at Marine Park on Bay Street on Thursdays in August.

Chris and I haven't had the opportunity to catch one of the games of the new Hamptons Baseball League, part of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, but they are fielding several talented teams this year, with games nearly every day of the week in various locations around the Hamptons (Southampton/Stony Brook University, right up the road, is our nearest venue). The ACBL is sanctioned by the NCAA, partially funded by Major League Baseball and is one of only nine summer leagues approved by the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball, so these guys are good!! More information here: http://www.hamptonsbaseball.org/page/show/68092-hamptons-collegiate-baseball-the-next-big-thing-

Not free, but mighty cheap for a full day of fun (and somehow, an event you'd almost expect to be in the Hamptons during the summer season): Go watch a polo match. For six weeks midsummer, Mercedes Benz sponsors the Polo Challenge matches in Bridgehampton. Okay, so you don't have a friend with VIP passes to get you in the tent, but $20 a carload will get you bleacher or tailgate seats (and you'll actually get to see the match). Never seen polo up close and personal? This is a fast moving sport, and the horses are incredibly trained. More info here: http://www.sportpolo.com/spectators/bhpolo.htm

One of the best values ever is the annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, which this year will take place August 23 - 30 off Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton. All ages compete in world-class hunting and jumping events, and Olympic champions often compete in the Grand Prix event on the final Sunday afternoon. Events on the days up until the Grand Prix are $20 a carload, with a fantastic shopping arcade of related merchandise to wander through, and the Grand Prix itself, a premiere equestrian event, is $20 per person for bench seats, $30 for premium seats. (Just for fun, you can check out the celebrities competing in their own right for media attention in the VIP tent opposite the ring.) Bring your hat and some sunscreen and see some exquisite horsemanship -- you'll be whistling My Fair Lady's "Ascot Gavotte" as you go. More info here: http://www.hamptonclassic.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=111&Itemid=87

Finally, many guests here have been enjoying our favorite free entertainment each night: Firefly season in Chris's garden. Fireflies have been working their magic each night from dusk on, sparkling against the backdrop of the deep green foliage and illuminating the ghostly white flowers of the Annabelle hydrangeas, spireas, and astilbes with their brief, teasing radiance. And for those like me, who didn't grow up in an area where fireflies are summer residents, it's worth the stroll out of the car park at A Butler's Manor past Mrs. Jagger's field next door, where the sheer abundance of fireflies in their preferred habitat makes the open space a fairy-lit wonderland, almost like a miniature holiday display.

Who says you can't enjoy yourself in the Hamptons without spending a lot of money?


Quote of the Day: The summer night is like a perfection of thought. ---Wallace Stevens

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Master's degree in travel packing



I consider myself a pretty good vacation packer, insofar as I usually manage to plan my vacation wardrobe so that I bring only what I actually end up wearing and using, with a spare gym bag for purchases I might make while away. Still, for any trip over 2 days, I keep that scale handy, because somehow stuff gets heavy when you layer it in a suitcase and overweight penalties on airlines are increasingly expensive. (What a luxury vacations by automobile are -- a packer and shopper's dream. The car as traveling storage space! Imagine the freedom!)




I mention this because every so often guests at A Butler's Manor surprise us with their luggage...or lack thereof. Sure, I'm impressed when a business traveler arrives with only a rolling computer case that carries his laptop and a change of shirt, tie, and undies for a single night stay. And only today, a woman arrived for a three-night stay with only a small, lightweight case (in which, she assured me, she'd still packed 3 pairs of shoes). But my hat goes off -- in fact, I sink into a deep curtsy of awe -- to the rare travelers like David and Jane, in the picture here. Look closely, and you'll see one small rollaway case that could fit in the overhead bin, one medium sized case, and two backpacks. Why am I impressed? Because A Butler's Manor was the last stop on David and Jane's TWO MONTH vacation from Sydney, Australia. AND they took home souvenirs. Now THAT'S packing!!!


Quote of the Day: Travel light in life. Take only what you need: A loving family, good friends, simple pleasures, someone to love, and someone to love you; enough to eat, enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing. ---Unknown

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hedgeville


I mentioned last week that a recent guest categorized Southampton as the Hedge Capital of the US. Yes, locals make jokes about our estate district being called Hedgeville. In fact, a few years back, Foster's Farm, one of the last farms in the village of Southampton gave up planting crops like corn and potatoes and instead planted privet. Like a hedge fund, they're a hedge farm.

It's true that the majority of the estate district is surrounded by tall, immaculately manicured rows of privet bushes, and some of those hedges are cut so exactingly that you'd swear they were really fuzzy green walls. I often tell guests that if you flew over the village in a plane, it would look like a rat maze. Now, in July, the privet is in bloom...pretty, slightly fragrant small cream-colored flower clusters called panicles. It has such a distinctive odor that I believe there is a men's line of cologne called Privet.



However, while out and about yesterday, I saw a different form of privet hedge trimming. Laughing, I had to pull off the road to photograph it. This would be a privet caterpillar?? Someone sure has a sense of humor...and a nice sharp chain saw!



(By the way: If like me you like seeing the houses behind the hedges, the time to visit is anywhere from November to late April. The homeowners, who for the most part are not in residence then, probably aren't aware that most privet varieties drop all their leaves in winter. Call it reverse leaf-peeping!)



Quote of the Day: A hedge between keeps friendships green. ---Old French Proverb

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A small town parade






Jamie, a recent guest, made a great observation about Southampton on his blog that if Greenwich, CT was considered the hedge fund capital of the US, then Southampton must be the hedge capital of the US...miles of manicured green fences around our fabled mansions, designed to keep the curious stares of the hoi polloi at bay. (An entertaining read, not the least because his blog is devoted to breakfasts! http://thebreakfastblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/butlers-manor-southampton.html )


But today, July 4th, a whole different side of Southampton is in evidence, as the village holds the only Independence Day parade in the Hamptons. It steps off just feet from A Butler's Manor at the train station, so cars line our usually uneventful street, crowds pass by the B&B on the sidewalk, beach chairs and coolers in hand, andin the garden over breakfast, you can hear the drum and bagpipe corps warming up before the 10 AM step off. This is a true small town parade, and it seemed today as though the whole small town turned out to watch it. Always, and appropriately, it is led by color guards and veterans representing each war, and I have to admit, I was teary because for the first time, there were no local WWII vets riding in the parade...only a decorated car with a sign "In Memory Of" paraded to remind us of the contribution of the Greatest Generation.


Still, the flags wave, and the crowds cheer, and the little kids dance at all of the various musical entries, be they bagpipe corps, a Dixieland band, or a vocal group perched on a borrowed flatbed truck. Floats are homemade and often pulled by the tractors of the local farmers (and those John Deeres are polished within an inch of their lives!), fire trucks of all vintages from the nearby villages fire up their sirens, horns, and bells, and every member of each of the Little League teams march in uniform. We have Minutemen in authentic (worsted wool!) costume who shoot their rifles and even fire the cannon to the delight of the crowds (excepting the dogs), but we also have representives of our town's diversity, including the Shinnecock Indians in full costume, and a Latino organization called F.A.C.E.S. that fielded a dance troup that really makes you want to get up and dance!


It will never rival the Macy's Day parade, but the Southampton Independence Day parade is small town Americana at its finest.
Quote of the Day: I can be myself here in this small town...and people let me be just what I want to be. ---John Cougar Mellencamp