Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Winter Furniture and Mink Throws for the Rich!

With leisurely summer vacations and the autumn solstice now behind us, it's that time of year again to knuckle down and face the hectic Fall Social Season as well as the onslaught of holidays ahead. Except for the Pillsbury Dough Boy, I haven't seen any Christmas ads on TV yet. But as soon as Halloween is over you know very well that all hell is about to break loose. It's exciting to be sure, but scary as well with all the crazy work coming up!

Of course in major homes (like this one where I work) the house staff, secretaries, personal assistants and events planners get an early jump on all this, starting in mid-summer. We've already had our Christmas cards designed and printed, and they're going to the calligrapher in November as soon as we finalize the list - the usual fuss about who's in and who's out this year.

More importantly, we've already pinpointed the dates for a major fundraiser, two political cocktail buffets, and the annual Christmas gala for friends and family. All of which makes it easier for our events planner to schedule caterers, musicians, florists, house decorators, valet parkers and security, with plenty of time to design party invitations and save-the-date notices.

On my end, I have to keep up with all the gift shopping for the season and make sure that all goes smoothly and timely, especially for gifts that must be shipped overseas. Mercifully I have our personal shopper to lean on for most of the heavy lifting. But my other big task this month is to bring down all the winter furniture and trappings from the attic.

What? What's that you might ask?

I know, right! But it's true. While most of us have furnishings and accessories that suffice us year round in our comfy homes and apartments, not so for the super rich. There's such a thing as spring and summer furniture and fabrics, versus autumn and winter.

Lightweight breathable fabrics with airy light colors and floral prints are for spring and summer furnishings, of course. Heavier fabrics (such as wool, tweed, flannel and corduroy) with darker solid colors and plaids are for the autumn and winter months - providing a warm and inviting look on cold wintry evenings.This goes for bed clothes (sheets, pillow cases, bedspreads, duvets and shams) as well as draperies, curtains, furniture pillows and throw blankets. So we've got a lot of work to do in switching the house from summer to winter.

I have to tell you that in this house most of the throw blankets are made of genuine mink, although there's a big one in the Family Room made of Chinchilla. Which reminds me, I need to run get them out of cold storage where we send send them during hot summer months - along with the household furs. But in case you're curious, for more information about fur throws you might check out this website. They have many different furs from mink to rabbit to suit anyone's budget. Well, except for mine I guess. But I'm totally cool (which is to say warm) with my old-fashioned cotton quilts.

The whole subject of furs is intriguing and complicated. Certainly I'm aware of PETA's stance on animal rights and their objection to rich people wearing furs for the sake of glamour - and they have a point. Indeed, just this week California became the first US state to ban the manufacture and sale of clothing items made from furs. Prada has announced they'll eliminate furs in their future fashion lines. And a major world-famous department store, Selfridges in London, has announced limited sales of exotic skins.

But furs have been a part of human history since the dawn of time in keeping people warm - from cave dwellers in prehistoric days right up through British royalty and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. The argument is strong that with modern fabrics and manufacturing techniques the need for furs to keep humans warm is no longer necessary. So it becomes a matter of personal conscience, asethetics, and the passion for beauty that keeps furs in the picture. If Regina ever stops wearing those exquisite ermine furs when she's holding court at Buckingham Palace, then perhaps we'll witness a sea change in this social delimna. We'll just have to wait and see where all this goes. 

Sorry for straying so far off topic, but it's a fascinating and confounding subject. All of this assumes we'll even have a winter this year anyway, but with climate change and all, who knows, right? I guess the most prudent thing to do is to keep going on with traditions as if all is well and nothing is wrong.

I hope your plans for autumn and the holidays are going smoothly and that you don't have to break your backs dragging winter furniture down from the attic. And by all means, don't forget to grab your furs out of cold storage before the winter chill sets in.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening,
Andrew


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Lab Notes: National Dog Day 2019!

Hello dear ones,

My name is Nash. I'm Andrew's Yellow Lab. There's another canine fellow living  here too named Nick, a Golden Retriever. He's a real piece of work that one, and wouldn't retrieve anything if his life depended on it - but more about him later.

Technically we belong to Mr. Farber, the rich man who owns this house and three-acre property. But Andrew is our go-to guy for treats, walks in the park, and unpleasant visits to our vet. Basically we're outdoor dogs, mainly because the humans around here are afraid we'll shed or pee or poop inside the house - which is more Nick's fault than mine, but I get blamed for it too.

Anyhow, it's been really hot today so Andrew let us go upstairs to his garage apartment to chill and watch TV. While he's out running errands, I'm taking the opportunity to jump on his laptop (which he really doesn't like!) to remind you that National Dog Day is coming up on the 26th on this month. I thinks it's so cool how it corresponds with the Dog Days of Summer, which Nick and I have both enjoyed immensely.

The thing is, we've got it good here with our rich owners; plenty of food and treats, a really fun groomer coming once a week to tidy us up, and there's a huge infinity swimming pool in the back yard that's open all night. Rich people have a thing for pedigreed dogs like me and Nick, which I don't fully understand. But I can't help but worry about all the homeless dogs I see out there roaming around on the streets without pedigrees, and the desperate ones in shelters.

There's so much we can all do to help. Like when Andrew takes me to Petco (one of the few pitiful stores that lets my species come in) he always hits the "Donate" button to shelters when we get to the cash register. In fact, rich humans can add animal shelters to their charity list (especially the no-kill ones!) and many of them do already. They and we can also donate our time just to go to the shelters to pet and play with all the abandoned cats and dogs who need affection so badly.

Humans can also volunteer to be temporary foster parents until a permanent home can be found for lonely souls. Nick told me he had foster parents at one point in his life but they took him back and exchanged him for a cat, which wouldn't surprise me one bit! But I'm pretty sure he said that just to scare and intimidate me. I know for a fact (from his chart at the vet) that he's been here since he was a little pup.

It's not that Nick is a bad guy, but he really gets on my nerves. He got to this house first and claimed his territory. Ok, fine, I understand that. But then when I came along he was totally indignant and never lets me forget for one minute that this is his place. If someone dares to pet me on the head, he'll absolutely knock me over to get his own head petted. When it's time for treats, he gets his first or otherwise there's a scuffle.

Then if Andrew or anyone else is throwing tennis balls (which I LOVE to chase) Nick just lays there like  "Let that other fool run after it". Which makes me furious! Some retriever, huh?

His whole game is controlling the balls, not running after them. And he will spend his entire miserable day trying to get the ball away from me. Like if I go down to the pool to take or swim, or god forbid take a nap, then BOOM! the ball is gone! Seriously, the guy has issues which really drive me mad. (Well, not that kind of mad; I have all my rabies shots and can prove it!)

Uh oh! I just heard Andrew's car door slam! He'll be coming up the stairs any minute! Gotta close his laptop quick and curl up in a corner, like I'm sleeping!

Until next time...

Woof,
Nash
 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Unique Christmas Gifts for the Rich!

Yes, I know it's only the middle of summer. But while our rich employers are frolicking on the beach at their summer retreats, I assure you that all over the globe personal assistants, personal secretaries, personal shoppers, and house manager/butlers like me are already busy making plans for Christmas.

As absurd as that may sound, it's absolutely urgent to pin down holiday parties so that you can get the event planner, the caterer, florist, musicians, tent-rental company, valet parkers and security all on the same page for the same date.

It also takes time to design and print holiday greeting cards, save-the-date notices, party invitations, and thank-you notes - especially if you're engaging a noted designer of some repute. Then, for your closest friends and loved ones, if you're Christmas gift this year includes a luxury car with a custom designed interior, that takes the motor companies time, right? Likewise custom designed jewelry; it takes time to research and pick out the best stones, and then to decide upon the right setting.

Moreover, there's the endless gifts to the vast array of friends and associates to figure out, which in the world of the rich and super rich can be extremely complicated and tricky. So yes, Christmas plans start early in this crazy nutty world. Over the past few years I've written several posts describing ideas and distinctive gifts that might aid in the struggle.

In a post called Luxury Gifts for the Rich and Super Rich I recommended perusing the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog, or wandering through the London Silver Vaults for unique gifts, which still holds true today. In The Orient Express I mentioned gifts of travel being the up and coming thing, which always creates a stir. And in What To Buy For Someone Who Has Everything I brought up the basic stable of fine wines, brandy, and cognacs as being welcome gifts on any occasion.

If you have a moment, this year I'll add a few more ideas:

How about hiring a renowned photographer to take pictures of your elaborate grounds and gardens and turn them into meditative works of art for the interior walls of your home? Here's a link to Curtis H. Jones Pure Nature Fine Art Photography and his various soothing styles. You can contact him personally at curtishjonesphotography@gmail.com and ask him about the luxury Magical Backyard Art Photography service. (This could be quite a unique gift, especially if done in secret while your friends, the homeowners, are away for the day.)

On another note, Cartier's famous Tank Watches are for the ages and appropriate for both men and women nowadays. In the world of luxury horology they're surprisingly not that expensive, many in the $3,000 to $10,000 range. It might be advisable to have a few of these on hand in your gift closet for those last-minute surprises, or perhaps a forgotten birthday.

For more frivolous gifts, there's always Hammacher Schlemmer. This depends, of course, on how well you know your rich friends and their interests, and when the need to impress each other with expensive gifts is no longer necessary. For over 170 years this company has been offering the most unique and crazy gadgets under the sun, and it's a lot of fun just to browse through their catalog.

Finally (also on an arguably-frivolous note) how about giving your friends the gift of a White Christmas, no matter what part of the country or climate they live in, by covering their home and gardens with snow? Prices vary from city to city and depends on how much coverage and depth of snow you want, of course. But imagine the delight in children's eyes in Miami or Phoenix, Arizona when they wake up to snow on Christmas day. Priceless! Just Google "snow machine" in your city to find an estimate.

I hope this has been somewhat helpful in making your gift plans this year? It's never easy buying things for the rich.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening.

And Happy Shopping!
Andrew





Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Gold Diggers and the Rich!

Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated...but stupid is forever!
                                                                                                                  - Aristophanes

Although comic playwright Aristophanes wrote this way back in ancient Greece around 385 BC, it's as if he'd come face-to-face with my employer's new girlfriend. I kid you not, this woman is driving me nuts with her unrelenting antics and idiocy. (I said new, but she's actually beginning her second year around here.)

Don't misunderstand me. She's actually quite charming in her own déclassé sort of way. And her appearance is unquestionably pleasant for a sixty-year old woman - tall, slim, with long blond hair - regardless the gauche and unskillful makeup. But with my employer's money, her wardrobe has decidedly improved from off-the-rack at Nordstrom's to off-the-rack at Neiman Marcus - although it's still far from haute couture, if she even knows what that is. We've also noticed some recent and glittering diamond baubles mixed in with her regular and somewhat gaudy costume jewelry. All of which is none of my business, of course.

Since the divorce a few years back there's been a steady stream of gold-digging women in and out of my employer's life. But this one actually told me in confidence that she's not looking to get married, but just enjoying the friendship. (Which, I might add, includes the above-mentioned luxury gifts, travel on my employer's jet, and expensive five-star hotels and restaurants. What's not to enjoy, right?) 

But there's something missing about this woman. I would call her an airhead, a dumb-blond, or a bimbo - but that was sound rude and sexist, wouldn't it? Not to digress into clichés, but it's like her elevator really doesn't go to the top floor. When my employer invited her on her first trip to Europe, she asked Ester the Upstairs Maid to help pack the things she had laid out, among them being a whole roll of United States First-Class Stamps.

Ester: Are you taking these, Ma'am?
The Girlfriend: Yes, I want to send post cards to all my friends.
Ester: Excuse me, Ma'am, but you might need to buy the stamps in whatever country you're in.
The Girlfriend (after a pause):  Oh, silly me, I hadn't even thought about that. Do you need any stamps?

Then, back in January of this year when there was that awesome total lunar eclipse, just to make conversation I asked The Girlfriend the next time I saw her:

Me: Did you happen to see the eclipse last week?
Her: No, I missed it - I was out of town.
Me: Where did you go, China? (Although I didn't actually say that out loud.)

As innocuous as this all may seem, I don't understand how my employer puts up with her. It's difficult if not embarrassing to watch her try to host a cocktail party, where her conversation rarely goes beyond the weather or something silly she's watching on Netflix. But perhaps that's the whole key to their relationship; her naivety, lack of sophistication, and non-taxing tug on the intellect. Who knows?

I just try to mind my own business (well, to an extent), keep out of their way, and remind myself that there's a paycheck involved here every couple of weeks. Besides, July is coming up and it's time to begin Christmas plans - gifts, designer cards, decorations, caterers - so I'll be too busy to focus on Her Ladyship Duchess of Dumb.

I do hope you're having a splendid restful summer this year, between the spring and fall social seasons.

And as always, thanks for stopping by this evening,

Andrew


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Do Rich People Iron Their Sheets?


You'll have to admit that when staying in a fine hotel that offers turn-down service it's always a pleasure to see ironed sheets and a chocolate on the pillow or bedside table. It not only lets you know that the bed has indeed been changed from the previous night's guest, but it also feels quite nice to slide in between freshly ironed bed linens.

But after that first momentary pleasure, five minutes later the sheets get all wrinkled again, don't they? Which is why in my own humble apartment the sheets come directly out of the dryer and straight onto the bed - skipping all the labor of ironing.

Hotels have these massive rotary machines to both iron and fold the sheets in one quick and easy task. But in a private home, there's nothing quick or easy about it. The whole procedure is labor intensive (to say the least!) and can take a couple of hours or more to complete. It's common knowledge that Martha Stewart has her sheets ironed and changed every day. But she's rich and has a full house staff (including a laundry tech no doubt) to accommodate this obsession without having to lift a finger herself.

The Butler Academy I attended attached great importance to ironing sheets for our rich employers, and part of my two-year curriculum allowed for home studies. So one day I got this box of freshly-washed but crumpled sheets from FedEx and my task was to both iron and fold them correctly and send them back to the academy as soon as possible.

Oh dear lord, what to do? I'd never ironed so much as a handkerchief in my entire life! My first thought was to hire someone to do it - which would be efficient of course, but cheating. And I really wanted to learn the job top to bottom, especially since part of a butler/house manager's task is to train new employees.

So the next step, simply borrow an ironing board and iron, right? But oops, not one of my déclassé wash-and-wear friends owned such a thing. So off to Walmart I went to purchase the clumsy instruments. (And then back again an hour later to buy an ironing board cover. Who knew, right?)

I have to tell you that this whole procedure, being the first time, took me the entire afternoon! The pillow cases were a snap and the king-size top sheet, while time consuming, was relatively easy as well - compared to the fitted bottom sheet that turned out to be a real bitch to wrangle and iron.

Then folding them correctly into tight little bundles was another nightmare altogether - especially, again, the bottom sheet sheet. Mercifully Cheryl Mendelson's brilliant book entitled Home Comforts (required reading by the academy) has detailed charts about how to fold anything from clothes to dinner napkins and bed sheets - which was a life saver! And all said and done I got a 90% grade on that test, which was a huge relief.

There are such things as small Rotary Irons for home use. Miele makes an affordable one (about $2,000) that's great for ironing dinner napkins, pillow cases, and the top bed sheet. But there's nothing on God's green earth to help with the bottom sheet.

I hope this post has been somewhat helpful in deciding whether or not to iron your sheets and how to go about it. Personally I don't recommend it one bit if you can avoid it. I think it was Socrates who said, "Work once begun must be continued." (Or was that Gandhi?)

Good night, and as always thanks for stopping by this evening.

Andrew


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Cleaning in the World of the Rich!

"Housekeeping ain't no joke!" - Louisa May Alcott

After a long and harsh winter it's that happy time of year again when the weather starts to warm up, birds begin their welcome migration north, and spring flowers start to push up through a thawing earth. While it's a cultural commandment that now is the time to start our spring cleaning, it's also a kind of innate awakening that makes us want to throw open the windows, let in the fresh air, and to clean up the mess from our winter hibernation.

I don't know about you, but for me this mixed blessing comes across mostly as a dreaded chore. When it's freezing cold outside all I want to do is snuggle up and watch Netflix - to heck with cleaning the house, right? So it just builds up and up until it becomes like this huge monumental task. And while you may begin your spring cleaning with a broom and a mop, it's like I need to start with a rake. Lordy lord!

For the rich and super rich, with their enormous mansions and multiple homes all over the world, you might imagine this is a gigantic, labor-intensive event as well.

But no, not so!

In these homes with a full year-round staff of housekeepers and groundskeepers, we do what's called Zone Cleaning on a continuing basis. This simply means that in addition to the daily task of tidying up throughout the entire house, one room is selected each week for deep cleaning, on a rotating basis.

Let's say a guest bedroom with a full marble bath is the zone for the week. Here's a list of what all we do, which might give some tips in your own spring cleaning.

- Open the windows and balcony doors to air out the room.

- Clean the inside of the windows. (The groundskeepers clean the outside.)

- Strip the bed and flip the mattress, including sprinkling both sides with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda to absorb any odors, then vacuum off. Wash or send out the bed clothes for dry cleaning.

- Vacuum underneath the bed with a flat vacuum.

- Vacuum the walls, the ceiling, the drapes, and the furniture.

- Vacuum or carefully brush all the lampshades (depending on the delicacy of the fabric), and wash or polish the finals.

- Dust the artwork on the walls with a female ostrich feather duster.

- Dust the chandelier or light fixture. (There are outside services to polish the crystals, when needed.)

- Sterilize the door nobs, the light switches and the bathroom handles with an alcohol wipe.

- Move bedroom furniture and vacuum underneath. (The groundskeepers assist with this.)

- Polish all the marble in the bathroom. (We use products from Stone Care International.)

- Replace all towels (even if they haven't been used) with fresh ones.

With all hands on board, this task only takes a couple of hours, and every room in the house gets deep cleaned on a regular basis. So you see, there's no real need for panic come spring. The entire house is thoroughly deep cleaned all throughout the year.

Having said that, you'll likely want to have all the chimneys swept in the spring, but you'd engage an outside service to do that. In addition, some homes have both winter and summer furniture. So we might find ourselves lugging the dark heavy winter furniture up to the attic and bringing down the lighter floral-print furniture for the spring and summer.

And not forgetting that rich people are always toying with their homes; endless and whimsical  re- decorations, perhaps complete renovations, or maybe even additions added to the house. Spring seems to be the time of year when they want to do this, so be on the alert whenever this disruptive madness comes your way.

On this first day of spring, and as always, thanks for dropping by this evening!

I hope this has been helpful in some small way and that your spring cleaning goes smoothly. Martha Stewart has some tips on her website, in case you get stuck. But fair warning: it may give you a bigger headache than I have!

HAPPY SPRINGTIME!

Andrew


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Winter Doldrums in the World of the Rich!

"I'm seeing a lot of new faces in the audience tonight, especially on the old faces." - Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.

With the spring social season just around the corner, this is the time of year when rich people all over the world begin to trickle home after mysteriously vanishing to Switzerland for a few weeks. While their face lifts and other unmentionable nips and tucks might only take a few hours in surgery, it takes a couple of weeks or more for the healing and bruising to subside. And there are plenty of luxury spas in Switzerland to accommodate this recovery time.

At the end of the month we're hosting a small soirée for several couples who have just returned from their winter "vacations", ready to step back out into high society. Dame Covington is practically giddy in anticipation. Said she, "I wonder if we'll recognize anyone?"

My employer and his new girlfriend did go to a rejuvenation spa in Switzerland, but only for a week. And there are no discernible nips, tucks or bruising that we can tell. Ester, the Upstairs Maid, has a keener eye than I, and she suspects they have opted for Botox treatments this year, rather than plastic surgery. While I've noted some puffiness now and then, I can't really tell the difference between too much alcohol or if they're simply retaining and bloated.

But I'm looking forward to the party and the parade of stretched foreheads, alarmingly wide-open eyes, and the sometimes-permanent smiles that come from too many trips to the fountain of youth. Chef and I both agree that a snappy (if somewhat bitchy) cocktail party is just what we need to get warmed up for the onslaught of the social season - which could be a humdinger this year considering how politically polarized everyone has become in the last couple of years.

To be sure, it will be a welcome relief from a rather dull winter this year. Unlike in years past before the divorce, there were no large galas or other dazzling events, no holidays celebrated here in the house, only a smidgen of small rather-dull cocktail parties now and then - all of which I blame on the obnoxious new girlfriend. But nonetheless, we in the house staff tried to make the best of it.

In the last post I told you about Christmas with Dame Covington, which was utterly charming. Then New Year's came along and turned out to be totally uneventful. Although the new girlfriend said she wanted to have a quiet evening with just a few of her déclassé friends over for cocktails (which I really wasn't looking forward to) they wound up going to one of their private dinner clubs in the city. Which gave me the chance to celebrate the evening with a few déclassé friends of my own.

Then Valentine's Day crept up, like it does on all of us, right? And I really didn't know what to do. I did have the good sense to have our florist fill all the vases in the downstairs with red-rose arrangements. And Chef made sure we had plenty of champagne, chocolates and caviar on hand, just in case.

But again we got a reprieve! They booked rooms at the Plaza Hotel and had dinner at the Oak Room (on the ground floor of the hotel) the night of their arrival. And then the next day they had Valentine's lunch at the Plaza's Palm Court. As cliché as that all may sound, we were delighted to have the evening free! Chef made some chocolate-dipped strawberries for Dame Covington, and she was delighted as well.

I hope you got through all the holidays without undue stress, and that your winter blues have passed smoothly. Spring is just around the corner, with all the hope and renewal that always seems to bring.

As always, thanks for stopping by this evening,

Andrew