Sunday, July 31, 2011

People make the difference

I'm mentioned before how wonderful it is for us, as bed and breakfast owners, to see our guests not only enjoying their meal, but enjoying each other around the breakfast table. What's particularly wonderful to see is when people end up exchanging email or phone numbers in order to connect again, whether for business or pleasure. Not too long ago, we had two sets of guests who have each come out several times a year apiece, never at the same time. We have so enjoyed each couple, and were pretty certain they'd have a lot in common. So we sort of "set them up" over a glass of wine around the fireplace. Such fun!  Chris and I finally cut out to make ourselves dinner, but we heard them all laughing and talking in the living room for a long time afterwards.

I have to believe that such connections happen in places that feel like home. A bed and breakfast such as A Butler's Manor fosters a vibe that I'd like to believe attracts people who also care about others. This weekend, we had a couple of women traveling on business, attending a big charity shopping extravanganza called Super Saturday whose proceeds benefit the fight against ovarian cancer. They had flown in from Florida, and alas, one of the gal's luggage was lost in transit. The airline had promised delivery by 11:30 PM, and documents were taped on both front and back doors to make sure a delivery person wouldn't fail to leave the bag due to any missing paperwork. But at midnight, when two other guests came home from their evening out, Victoria was still pacing the living room, frantic that none of her clothing had arrived.  Hearing the story,Wendy --who had never met Victoria before -- volunteered to loan her a T-shirt to sleep in, and sat up chatting with her awhile to wait. The luggage still hadn't arrived by the time Wendy went to bed.


When when we found the release paperwork still in place on the back door the next morning, Chris and I too were concerned. And when Victoria wasn't down for breakfast by 9:45, Wendy and the entire breakfast table were worried: If the luggage hadn't arrived, how was Victoria going to attend the benefit? She needed her clothes and makeup. Everyone was comparing lost luggage horror stories and waiting for the answer.

And then Victoria came out to the patio, dressed in a lovely, freshly-pressed summer dress and gave the waiting table a thumb's up.

The whole table erupted in cheers.

I love that kind of interplay. It's a simple little drama, grueling to go through; thankfully, your stress level drops immediately after the issue has been resolved. But it's just kind of neat when suddenly you have a whole house of strangers pulling for you, offering to loan you supplies.

That's the difference between staying in a B and B and staying in a hotel. (Okay, if it were someplace like the Pierre, perhaps you could summon a concierge to go shopping for you. Maybe.)

By the way, Super Saturday was deemed quite a success...lots of shopping and celebrity-sighting. See a video of it here.

But for us in our little world, the fact that Victoria got her luggage and was able to enjoy her weekend was equally a success.

A small world? Maybe. I guess it's all in what makes up your perspective.

Quote of the Day:  “One thing I’ve learned: Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Kindness that catches us by surprise brings out the best in our natures.” -- Bob Kerrey, former Governor, Senator

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Who needs the beach?

Who needs the beach???
One of the services we offer here at A Butler's Manor is to take guests to Cooper's Beach, saving them the ($40!!) cost of parking there. As the south shore Long Island beaches are beautiful (and those on the East End especially pristine), most of our guests takes us up on the offer. But for those who aren't a fan of sand or waves, an afternoon in the garden or by the pool beckons, as evidenced by one of our recent guests shown here.


Speaking of the garden, it's been especially gorgeous this year -- Chris has been working hard at it, of course, but credit is also due to our newest team member, Tim, who joined us in March and has been instrumental in keeping the grounds looking the way they should. Tim's a friendly guy, and a true local; if you happen to be perambulating the garden on one of his workdays, he's a wealth of information.


Out and about in town: The Hamptons get a lot of press as a site for high-level benefits and elaborate catered parties when our summer population is in residence, but there are a lot of fun events that you don't have to make six figures a year to enjoy. Case in point: The Southampton Chamber of Commerce is now in its third summer of running drive-in movies on Monday nights in the Cooper's Beach parking lot. Cost is $40 for a carload, and it's tons of fun...like a tailgate party at a ballgame, with kids on lawn chairs arranged around the family SUV, and people wearing glow sticks after dark, and the big collective gasps/cheers/boos when something happens onscreen. This Monday they're screening The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock. And hey, our Buick Roadmaster wagon (a.k.a. the Butlermobile) is the perfect vehicle for the event. Wonder if I can bring my pillow and come in my jammies, like in the old days...?


Quote of the Day: "Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of color before me, who could ask for more?" ---- Bev Adams, Mountain Gardening

Monday, July 4, 2011

A sparkler for the Fourth of July




I grew up in Southern California within earshot of Disneyland's famous summer fireworks display (at 9:35 sharp; you could set your watch by it). During college, I worked at the Park, and in the summer, I volunteered to help with crowd control so I could watch the show, which began after speakers all over the Park announced "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Wherever you are in Disneyland, direct your attention to the sky over Sleeping Beauty's castle as Disneyland presents FANTASY IN THE SKY!"

I recited that announcement to Chris on Friday night, when we were at Cooper's Beach watching the annual Grucci fireworks show put on by the Southampton Fresh Air Home, a camp for physically challenged children. Hundreds of families were similarly ensconced in sand chairs with the remnants of their picnic dinners. Folks were selling glow sticks and a really cool version that looked more like a multicolored Star Wars weapon and had the capability of being turned off.

And then I saw, off to a far side of the darkening dunes, a sparkler. And oh, how it brought back memories. Remember Catherine Wheels, that your dad mounted to a fence? The fountains that changed colors? Or the whistling Piccolo Petes? Back when I was a kid, you could buy the fireworks by the each or in a number of different sized assortments. In my neighborhood, everyone brought their assortments out and set up at the end of the driveway, and we had an impromptu neighborhood fireworks display. I'd like to believe that this benign red-white-and-blue scene was enacted without incident all over America, but of course, it wasn't. Fireworks can be dangerous, and today, they are banned for sale in more than half of the states of the Union -- New York included. Which is why the presence of a sparkler on Cooper's Beach on Friday was so surprising...and wonderful.

Chris and I compared notes, and found that though we'd grown in up two different countries 5500 miles apart, fireworks were universal to us both, if not used for the same event. (Naturally, no one in the UK celebrates our Independence Day with a sparkler or a Piccolo Pete. But they DO break out the bottle rockets and fountains for November 5, Guy Fawkes Night, aka Bonfire Night .)

I never get tired of a good fireworks show, and Grucci's presentation for the Fresh Air Home was first class all the way. (As good as Disneyland's? Well...)

A couple more fireworks shows are on the calendar here in the Hamptons -- tonight, July 4, is the big show in Montauk on Umbrella Beach, always a great spectacle, as well as one in Westhampton Beach. A favorite "off holiday" show is the 31st annual Great Bonac Fireworks Show in Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton -- especially cool if you have access to a boat -- which takes place on Saturday, July 16. I hear the jury's still out on whether the East Hampton presentation will happen on Labor Day or not. This hugely popular July 4 show has been sidelined to Labor Day for the past few years due to the presence of nesting Piping Plovers on the dunes. (Piping plovers are endangered birds who lay their eggs in depressions in the sand.)

So tonight, we're giving our guests the inside scoop on where to go (and where to park!) in order to enjoy some sparklers in the sky.

But I'd still love some sparklers on the Fourth of July...maybe just one box?


Quote of the Day: I always have the most fun on the Fourth of July. You don't have to exchange any gifts. You just go to the beach and watch fireworks. It's always fun. -- James Lafferty

Friday, July 1, 2011





This Wednesday night, June 29, began the series of summer Concerts in the Park, a free series of concerts coordinated by the Southampton Cultural Center. I've written about the concerts before; it's a summer night out that Chris and I try never to miss, and that we encourage our guests to enjoy as well. Bring a beach chair, a picnic, your bevvie of choice, the kids, the dog (on a leash) and a couple of bucks to contribute to the SCC when they pass the hat at halftime...it's a great deal of simple small town summer fun.


Wednesday's band was a wonderful young jazz trio called Michael Jazz Trio: the Godfrey brothers from Central Islip, NY, who share a middle name of Michael. Matthew, on keyboard, is the eldest at the ripe old age of 17; David, on bass and sax, is 15, and little brother Jordan, on drums is all of ten years old. And these kids write most of their own material. I'm a talent junkie -- gifted with a little artistic talent, but not enough to make a living at it -- I so appreciate talent in others. I was blown away by these kids. Check out their website. They're going far!

Regarding the Concerts in the Park: This year we are really putting our money where our mouth is. In conjunction with Southampton Building Services, owned by our friend Steve Lemanski, we are sponsoring the concert on July 6 featuring one of our all-time favorite bands: The Lone Sharks. The concert will be held at Cooper's Beach. Dancing in the sand as the sun sets -- I am already planning the picnic menu!!!

Dropped into red bar brasserie's newest sibling, called little/red -- a slightly more casual rendition of its big brother, located just off Agawam Park. "Slightly more casual" means that there are a couple of more pub-like options on its otherwise elegant menu, and that it does not take reservations. They have a large patio which should be open for dining in the next week or so. We enjoyed our meal (I had some yummy monkfish with sauteed summer squash, and Chris had mussels) but found wine options a little pricey and lacking in selection. However, I'm sure little/red will soon be as popular as the other siblings in the "chain" which include Fresno in East Hampton and The Beacon in Sag Harbor. I know we'll be back.

Speaking of new additions, it's always fun to check out some of the new shops in Southampton village that are in full swing by Fourth of July weekend. Not too surprisingly, we have a growing crop of preppie clothes shops in town, including Vineyard Vines, that perennial Cape Cod favorite that took over the large shop on Main Street where Villeroy & Boch had held court for so many years. Women's clothing shops are always plentiful, so it's nice to see a new shop for the guys: Peter Millar is perfect for the golf course. One shop I positively love is MacKenzie-Childs, whose fun painted enamelware and colorful accent pieces -- reminiscent somehow of Alice in Wonderland -- I first saw showcased in London Jeweler's East Hampton store. Someday I am going to figure out exactly where I can add some of their creative pieces to A Butler's Manor's decor...

Quote of the Day: "And the night shall be filled with music,/And the cares that infest the day/Shall fold their tents like the Arabs/And as silently steal away." --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done