It’s not even 10 am and I’ve got my errands around town done, arriving back home in a state of mind completely adjusted by my drive.

It’s the little things here that make the morning.

On the way to drop Bryce off at school, I finally had time to pull over and snap a picture of these two doors on a double on Calhoun Street.  Someday I’ll meet the owner and learn this technique – because how could you not walk through those doors feeling like you’d stepped into a children’s book?  Imagination bonus points!

Next, I scored two low-hanging magnolias on Octavia Street for my spring perfume, which is marinating in a jar of vodka in the pantry.  Sixteen ounces of New Orleans spring soon to come; but it’s early, so fragrant blooms are scant, and I’m on the lookout for any sign of life from every branch and bush.

But the best thing was this:  I was blasting REM in the car, something I like to do while people-watching as I drive.  It makes a soundtrack for life on the streets.  Try it sometime.

On Claiborne Avenue, by Washington, the Mardi Gras Indians are often spotted in plain clothes, parking themselves in lawn chairs on the neutral ground.  They collect there on any weekday after work, just enjoying the middle of the busy street like it’s their own front porch.  I watch them all the time, because who doesn’t love the Indians?

So today at that intersection my song is “Final Straw,” a decidedly upbeat and country-ish song.  It jives perfectly with the scene on the corner.  An elderly black man in a jazz hat, golf shirt and jeans is doing that shuffle-step-shuffle you see at second line funerals, and regular parades.  It’s so New Orleans, isn’t it – life and death dancing together?  The heart beats in the feet, and the feet and the beat and the street come together all the time.

He’s got his eyes on the ground, working on his moves.  He’s in his own world and has no idea that in MY world, he’s dancing to the country-pop happiness of an eighties rock band.  I’ll keep that to myself… but I honk the horn and give him a thumbs up.  He looks up without missing a step and gives me a nod.  Keeps dancing.  I can’t get a picture, but he lives in my mind now.

The light turns green and I head for home, noting the loaded jasmine vines on the corner of Nashville, which I’ll steal later for the perfume that captures spring – here, now – in a bottle.


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Delicate blown glass bottles, waiting to be filled.

Two years ago when I decided to commit to our front courtyard as my own “yard,” I dreamed of blooms and vines and everything in happy colors in the spring. My gardening experience boils down to four house plants I’ve learned to keep alive over time; so this was a big deal for me.

Still… how do you live in New Orleans without feeling some responsibility to add to its beauty? Living things thrive here, and I began my journey of learning what works, and what does not.

I will not bore you with the details of the many plants I’ve tried, and failed, to grow. Let’s just say that everything in my garden has survived the efforts of this hopeful, but incompetent, gardener. The remaining soldiers are plants with a strong will to live – and my short attention span demands that only things with flowers are planted here. My plants have to earn their keep by providing beauty if I’m to spend my time tending them and enduring the dirt, bugs, bites, scratches and sore muscles!  The abundant landscape in my courtyard today represents to hardiest, most stubborn of beautiful things.

So now what?  In the spirit of cultivating mindful living, I’m bottling the lush, fragrant beauty of this spring by creating a one-of-a-kind New Orleans scent. It comes from the actual fruits of my courtyard in 2019.

What’s in it?

  • Gardenia
  • Confederate jasmine
  • Lemon zest
  • Fresh cut grass

All the things I love about spring, now being extracted into a signature scent for this year.  These particular plants, this particular year, and my particular frame of mind are going to be bottled in a state of mindful gratitude, in GORGEOUS little blown glass bottles.

How’s it going so far?

It should be ready for Mother’s Day!

And I’m creating the “mother” for a formula that will evolve over time, gaining accents over YEARS, to be modified and added to each season, passed down over decades to others who love the idea of capturing time in scent.  It’s a new tradition I can’t wait to share.

Here are my thoughts as the project progresses:

This batch of perfume will form a “base.”  I’m making about 8oz of the “base,” and will bottle half of it for gifts.

I will add the above ingredients to the remaining base over the next few months, as these flowers continue to bloom.

This makes the simple joy of a morning cup of coffee on the balcony that much more joyful.  Every new bud gives me something to add; like this morning:

I’ll add volume to the base and split some of it off into another jar as summer progresses.  Each morning I strain out the old flowers and add the new ones to the alcohol base.

Another “base” will be formed from this, adding roses when they bloom, honeysuckle, and lillies.

I’ll start a new base this fall when our citrus trees bloom, and to that one, I’ll create a warmer, earthy scent of the citrus blooms, wood and bark, and camelias.  The smells of fall.

Each of these bases will be added to over time – years – and I’ll have meaningful gifts to give that come from my own garden.

The most important thing?  My garden is full of things passed down from the women in my family!  Our heirloom plants have been rooted and shared for generations, going all the way back to my great-grandmother’s lillies.  My Mimi’s honeysuckle… my mother’s violets…

The idea of a “signature scent” isn’t new, but this one is unique to a special New Orleans garden, and I can’t wait to share it.  I think over time I will be able to help friends with my base scents, allowing them to personalize their own creations for gifts for daughters on special birthdays, saving flowers from special events (even funerals of loved ones), neighborhood scents with contributions from everyone, shared in bottles across a certain place in town… the possibilities are endless.

Please comment with any ideas or suggestions or questions – and let me know if you’d be interested in a scent of your own, for yourself, or a Mother’s Day gift.

Happy spring!





New Orleans is a crazy cat lady… and we are her cats.

Some of us were born here, and some of us are adopted. Some are misfits who wandered in and never left.

We are instinctive cats, creative cats, cats who don’t like to be fenced in. Other places fence us in.

Some think we are unruly, fighting in the alleys at night, coming home late and making noise. And we do that sometimes.

We also stretch in the sun, listen to a little jazz and stare at the lazy river, purring. We follow the umbrellas and dance like cats do. We gather on the porch sometimes, just enjoying the Brees in fall. We call to one another across the streets, because we recognize other cats when we see them.

We are a nation of pedigrees, strays, calicos, tabbies… all colors and styles of cat collect here. We had a Tom cat for a while. He owned the football team. Man, we miss that old cat.

Anyone will tell you, we NOLA cats are our own breed. We fight and disagree; drink the poison water and thrive. We chase rats and they always get away. We’re not always a pretty bunch, and we’re no strangers to hard times; but we’re where we belong, so we stick together.

We hiss and scratch with cat-like precision and outrageous style when we get kicked around… ask Roger Goodell. He hates cats.

The crazy cat lady loves us one and all. Her name is NOLA, and she’s three hundred years old. Her accent can hurt your ears, but she’s the best cook in the world and welcomes every stranger with a kiss. She throws jewels on the trees so we can live in beauty, always, and she keeps the music turned up loud, because she’s a little hard of hearing. She keeps an umbrella handy, in case someone dies and there’a a parade.

Old NOLA-the-Cat-Lady knows how to love, how to welcome a guest, and she spoils her cats. We are one breed, after all. Nothing unites us like our disdain of inferior animals – like a Ram. Or a falcon. An Eagle, perhaps. The blind Zebras are dangerous, and super-shady.

Strangely, there is one neighborhood GOAT we do love. He wears a number nine, probably in a show of support for us cats, to honor each of our nine lives. When we see the GOAT, we pull together, put our tails up in the air and arch our backs. We keep our chins up and puff out our chests, as he asked us to do.

NOLA cats don’t meow… we make a strange noise that sounds like… WHODAT!

The Crazy Cat Lady taught us that.

Chippy stayed a while last year...



Our homeless population in New Orleans has always been a topic of controversy.  What causes these people to be homeless?  Why don’t they help themselves?  What are their stories?  Are they scamming?  Are they faking?  Are they mentally ill?  Why doesn’t the city just DO something about it?

**

Often, when I hear, “Something has to be done!”  I feel an undertone that makes me feel like the “problem” of homelessness is just something we’d rather not see.  My Uptown neighborhood app, Nextdoor, is full of comments, discussing the homeless like stray dogs.

“Just quit feeding them and they’ll go away.”

Well… I don’t have any answers.  I don’t know who is faking, who is scamming, who is mentally ill, or who is just plain hurting and poor.

It’s not my job to figure that out – it’s too big.  There are too many layers.

But I know this:  NO ONE wants to spend the holidays under an interstate overpass.  NO ONE wants to huddle beneath the concrete pillars against the wind and rain and cold.  NO ONE deserves to have all their earthly possessions confiscated by a caravan of police and city workers, doing a “sweep” before any big event.  Tourism tops humanity – every time.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Here is what Marianne Williamson once said in a lecture, and it has always stayed with me:  We do not need to worry about what happens AFTER we give.  If we give money; yes, they might buy alcohol or drugs.  If we give food; true, we may enable a homeless person to remain on the street one more day, just postponing the solution.  If we give warmth and clothing, we may encourage the recipient to delay seeking help.  BUT… when we see a movie, do we worry about the money we spend being spent in the wrong ways by the Hollywood Stars?  Drugs?  Parties?  Excess of all kinds?  When we attend a concert, do we wonder if the performer is strung out?  Not spending his (our) money wisely?

No.  We give money for all kinds of things for one simple reason:  It gives us pleasure.  We love the music.  We love the film.  We love the lecture.  We love the experience.  IT MAKES US FEEL GOOD.

So.  There it is.  It’s the GIVING that matters.  It’s what makes us human.  It’s what makes the world a better place – and it’s a blessing to US to know that we’ve sacrificed something to give to someone else.  It’s the simple matter of the golden rule.

With all that in mind, we, and many friends around the neighborhood and school are going to do what we can during the holidays to help the homeless have a little joy.  We will be creating Blessing Bags to distribute, and here is the list of items in each bag; which we hope you will pass along and spread the joy of the season far and wide.


(I found many of these things on Amazon and Overstock in bulk at unbelievably cheap prices.  For less than $250, we have enough of each of these items to create 50 complete bags).

I gave up a new pair of jeans.  Talk about making you think…

This makes me much happier, proving that the one who gives receives more than the one who is given to.

In groups, each person could purchase in bulk just one of the items, and gather together to make the Blessing Bags as a community.

**  I will follow with some pictures once all this arrives and we create the gift packages.   My plan is to lay the soft blanket on the ground, folded in half, then place all the things on the blanket.  Pull the corners to the center, and wrap a big bow (Christmas scarf) around it to contain everything.

I don’t just want to give the stuff.  I want to give a cheerful package, gift-wrapped, that makes someone feel special and loved.

Throughout the holidays, I’ll be making batches of these and bringing them (hot) to as many homeless people as we can.  SO easy, and I love this idea of serving a hot meal in a way I can actually do, and not just talk about.

Let the holidays begin, friends.  And let us bring joy to ourselves by giving to others.


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