Sunday, March 28, 2010

A happy coincidence

Spring weather report: A little cooler than usual this weekend with a cool breeze though the sun is out, and we had guests enjoying the area on bicycles yesterday. Beach report (at 7 AM this morning): Water a granite grey-green, with small, choppy waves. Great day for a brisk walk on the beach with someone you love.

All the harbingers of Spring are present: fat red robins out on the grass, the first daffodils in the garden, buds on the forsythia just showing a hint of their brilliant yellow flowers to come. Yesterday Chris reveled in his first sunny Saturday spent in the garden, turning over the vegetable beds and starting seeds for lettuce, peppers, and both edible and ornamental sweet peas among other horticultural delights.

Many of you know that I write books in my spare time; that in addition to A Butler's Life  and our cookbook, I've written two novels of psychological suspense and, most recently, one of women's fiction. Alas, if there's something harder for me to do than to find time to write, it's to market the books to a potential agent (who in turn hopefully sells the novel to a publisher). Nonfiction, such as the memoir A Butler's Life is sold by proposal and, on request, an outline and sample chapters, meaning you needn't necessarily have the book completed before you query. Fiction, on the other hand, is sold only when the book is completed, editied and polished to within an inch of its life.  But you don't send that polished manuscript in unless you're invited to do so. Before that, you send a query and if the book interests the agent you're targeting, he or she may ask to see more of it.

I've been committed to trying to find a home (besides mine) for this new book, and last week I queried a particular agent. Her name was familiar, but with the research I've done on agents, after awhile names DO look familiar, and besides, I knew from my records that I had previously (unsuccessfully) pitched a book to her. A day or so later I received an email saying that she would be happy to look at a few chapters, especially as she remembered me and had such a nice experience while staying at A Butler's Manor last fall. Eeeeek, no wonder her name had sounded so familiar! Since Chris and I rarely learn what most of our guests do for a living, I'd never connected the dots. Still, whether or not it pans out, I'm still grateful that a happy association with our inn afforded this opportunity!

Wish me luck!

Quote of the day:  The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.  --Benjamin Disraeli

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring ahead

Oh, were the rainstorms brutal this past weekend! As I write this, there are still towns upIsland that still do not have power, and all over Long Island, the tree crews have more work than they can handle, cleaning up the downed trees and fallen limbs. The wind howled at almost hurricane strength and the rain pelted against the windows, but luckily, on the East End, we were spared the flooding and major damage...and at A Butler's Manor, with guests in residence (and daylight savings time springing forward!) we didn't even lose power. Whew!

Today the sun came out, and around the (nicely watered!) garden, we see the first peepings of Spring in the little lavender buds of crocus and daffodil foliage peering from beneath the leaf mulch. I walked down to the beach this week to see the ocean, and it is angry...lots of whitecaps, and lots of waves. A long winter has stripped some of the sand from the beach, unveiling some of the old wooden revetments that were built long ago to contain the sand drift. I saw a gaggle of geese poking around Agawam Pond near Gin Lane beach --not Canadian geese, but the huge Greylag geese, which are the size of a really husky swan, and every bit as aggressive This gang, though, is so used to being fed bread scraps all summer long that they probably believed I was going to pay for the photo above with some food.

Speaking of food, Hamptons Restaurant Week begins this Sunday -- three course prix fixe meals for $24.95, what a deal! Participating restaurants include all of our favorite recommendations, such as Plaza Cafe and red bar brasserie and Tuscan House in Southampton, Muse in Water Mill, Bobby Vans in Bridgehampton, Oasis in Sag Harbor, and Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue. For us, however, it will be a chance to sample restaurants we haven't tried or those that are too far for us to go to during high season (anywhere in Montauk, for example). I've warned Chris that the only meal I'm firing up the stove for next week will be breakfast!

Quote for the day: If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, -- quieter, warmer. --Dag Hammarskjold 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Piano rolls

We're back from our annual sojourn to Southern California and are already welcoming guests for our ninth season. And right off the bat, I'm reminded about why we so love this business -- the extraordinary people we meet at A Butler's Manor.

Back in June 2005, a journalist named Aimee Fitzgerald Martin wrote a series of light pieces titled My Favorite Things for Long Island's Newsday in which she profiled me and my piano. The piano, a Chase & Baker player) is one antique that has been in my family since it was built in 1912. Originally manufactured in Buffalo, NY, my mother learned to play as a child, and had it shipped it from her native Chicagoland to southern California in 1960. I grew up pumping the pedals to power the piano rolls which create the music, and following my father's death in 1999, shipped the piano back East, where it now anchors the front parlor of A Butler's Manor. I have close to 100 original piano rolls, many with words, and occasionally, we have impromptu piano bar nights here at the B&B. Fun!

A gentleman named Bill Grimaldi saw that Newsday article. He'd never had a player piano himself, but years before he had come across four piano rolls which had once been part of a decorator setting, probably at someplace like TGIFridays. Bill lives midway up Long Island, and he said he'd been meaning to drive out to the Hamptons and look us up so that he could give them to me. And so on this sunny March morning, he arrived at our door, boxes in hand. Four titles, perfect for my collection which centers on old jazz, including Pennies From Heaven and All By Myself.  I invited him in, spooled one of the rolls and played it, and we were both thrilled. To me, it is so extraordinary to have someone drop in out of the blue to give you a gift, but still I know what he meant when he said it had made HIS day, because there is a certain satisfaction in seeing something go to exactly the right home.

A toast to Bill, whose simple act of kindness reminded me once again how wonderful human beings can be to one another.

Quote of the Day: You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.  --Mahatma Gandhi