Scents of Spring


 The house smells delirious. Flowers blend into a Jo Malone concoction: rosemary, lavender, wisteria, geranium, with a faint underwhiff of dirt filtering through the open windows, filling the house with scent. A hint of dirt is a thing, you  know, in your costlier, more complex, fragrances.

I’m a little surprised at this pungent kaleidoscope, as the day is chill and damp, not the humid warmth I expect we need to cajole such a lavish bouquet.

The rosemary is doing well in the upper window boxes; there are three across the front of the house. I planted it with some hesitation, late last summer, when my latest notion for a permanent centerpiece had flopped, as usual. While rosemary survives in our gardens, remaining green through the winter, always a plus, the shallower depth of window boxes presents a challenge when the temperature dips below freezing for a stretch. And rosemary can be…overpowering, perhaps too much so for a bedroom window.    

Would You Hire Me to Write About Gardening?

I am a new member of the American Horticultural Society. While this sounds impressive, it’s no big deal. Just give them $35 (or more if you’re so moved) and they send you a membership card that you can stick in your wallet. In my case the card will immediately fall out and be ink-stained and sticky with jelly bean guts and various other substances that mysteriously lurk in the bottom of my bag, which is neither here nor there, just saying.

The Society’s website ( says that membership entitles you to a subscription to The American Gardener magazine, discounts at 300 public gardens throughout North America and the Cayman Islands (which I think needs explanation, if not exploration), on-line member resources, the annual seed exchange, and special events. 

On the Road: Havana


THE AIR IN HAVANA is sweet on Thursdays, laundry day. The scent of fabric softener from sheets flapping on lines strung across balconies and streets overwhelms the malaise of diesel exhaust from the candy-colored 1950s cars and various claptrap, pasted-together vehicles that tootle about the narrow streets. They are, these cars, just as fantastic as you’ve heard.

If I were to go to Havana again, instead of pants I’d pack a skirt. Something swinging, colorful, sparkling with sequins that would swish along in time to the beat of the streets and catch the sun. Hola! I’d echo the call of the people I met; Trump he loco! which is invariably the second thing said. Si, si, Trump he loco.

They may not have much, but they do have cable TV, Florida stations overdubbed in Spanish, so we non-Spanish speakers  know something important is happening, like Chuck Schumer is weeping, but we’re not sure exactly why. Commercials are untouched, in English, delivered without irony. Cheerios, Crest smiles, Shield your home, the Slomin shield. Dial 1-800-alarm me.
This winter, The Prince and I flew to Havana to celebrate a Rather Large Birthday. His.

Fabulous Finds


I’D MUCH RATHER find things than buy them. If I wait long enough, what I want usually appears, though I might not know I want it until it does.

Whatever it is will be lying about in discarded splendor, or given to me (since people know I have a magpie’s delight in cast-offs, the shinier the better,) and would be quite satisfactory or even better than what I might have bought. This is why I rarely buy anything (besides food—I have yet to dumpster-dive for celery and steak).

There are wonderful wrought-iron Alice in Wonderland chairs in the dining room that once belonged to actor John Heard’s mother, Helen, a long-ago friend who gave them to us (please don’t tell her son, he might want to snatch them back).  She also gave us a pen-and-ink drawing of a race horse that may or may not be Important, but that I happen to like.

The chair backs are high ovals with the metalwork knitted into a loose basket weave. They were a tad rusty, which is both good and bad. If your back itches you can rub up against them, which feels good. Doing so in your best cashmere sweater is bad.

The Swedes Invade Georgetown


THERE’S IKEA, H&M and A Man Called Ove, the best-selling “feel good” novel by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman. And don’t forget hygge, the trendy yet unpronounceable Scandinavian word that covers comfort in food, furnishings and clothes.

Now, enter COS and & Other Stories, higher-end siblings of H&M, flagship of cheap chic, just opened in Georgetown. It’s a Scandinavian invasion.

COS, which has taken over the Benetton store at the corner of Wisconsin and M, NW, wears an air of paranoia entirely suited to today’s DC. No photos please! Any questions go to PR.

One manager, who told us nearly nothing, gave his first name only, and looked nervous about it, so we’ll keep it to ourselves. More forthcoming was a black-clad cool salesman who was too excited about the wares to zip it. Another manager, forehead scrunched into worry lines, asked if the salesman had given his name and when we said no, she said “good. We need clearance from PR.” We just smiled and admitted our disobedience.

The space is dazzling, with large windows, bleached floors and minimalist displays —a few of each item hang from racks with signs telling you to just ask if you don’t see your size or color.
Men’s and women’s clothing are arranged on three levels; for now, kid stuff is only available online or in the brand’s Los Angeles location. There are suits, dresses, shoes and accessories, with the highest price point a suit for $295 and the lowest, $9 for a pair of sparkle socks. The lines are clean and classic, many of the styles are comfortably oversized, at least for women. The menswear runs more to the schoolboy chic look of Thom Browne, on a budget.