This will change your life.

Dear friends,

I know that’s a bold claim. Anything life-changing sounds too good to be true. Especially something as simple as a container. This container:

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But when you love to cook as much as I do and you spend any time at all in the kitchen, trust me when I tell you this little tin will change your life.

It’s called a Masala Dabba box and I learned about it from my friend Rama who recently gave me an Indian cooking lesson. Each large tin holds seven small tins and comes with a clear inner lid and a stainless outer lid. I noticed that Rama moved effortlessly around her kitchen because she had a couple of Masala Dabba boxes filled with spices on her prep counter.

Rama’s demonstration was in stark contrast to the way I cook. I rarely organize a mise en place, nor do I bother to pull all the spices out of my cabinet before I begin a recipe. Invariably, I’m foraging through my spice cabinet, yelling at Mr. Mom “Where’s the cumin?” or “Are we out of cinnamon?” It’s a rather herky-jerky approach to cooking that I’ve never seemed to overcome.

So as soon as I spied Rama’s Masala Dabba box, I realized my life would never be the same after I organized my spices. I ordered two last week, thinking I’d create an “Indian Spices” box and an “Italian Spices” box. But after labeling them and filling them yesterday, I realized I need a “Baking Spices” box, a “Chili/Mexican Spices” box, and maybe even a “Basics” box.

These tins easily stack in a cabinet or store in a drawer. So when you’re ready to cook, simply pull out one or more tin, remove the lid, and you’re ready to go.

Are you ready to change your life?

With gratitude {for friends with ingenious solutions to life’s challenges},

Joan, who graciously accepts your gratitude in advance for this life-changing tip because that’s what friends are for


Dear friends,


Source: Mary Kate McDevitt

It seems I’ve been tucked away in a state of winter hibernation. I never meant to be away from this space for so long, but life has been wonderfully sleepy and vibrant at the same time. That’s what I love about winter: it seems perfectly natural to alternate long naps with flurries of inspired, pre-spring planning and daydreaming.

So much has happened since we last visited. In no particular order:

I learned how to cook Indian food from an authentic Indian cook. My friend Rama is a whirling dervish in the kitchen. She’s inspiring to watch and she’s promised to follow up her first lesson on northern Indian cuisine with a second lesson on southern flavors and recipes. In return, I’ve promised to offer a baking lesson. My niece has challenged me to tackle these lovelies and I’m just waiting for a spare moment to roll up my sleeves.

Though I’m following from afar, I’ve become the world’s biggest fan of Kate’s college tennis team. The new coach has arrived, the girls are deep into their season with a 7-1 record, and I’m loving that modern technology and social networking has allowed me to follow their every match even though I haven’t been able to attend any. That’s soon about to change, though. In two weeks, we’re headed to Kate’s campus to celebrate her 20th birthday and watch two days of competition live and in person. I can hardly wait!

Mr. Mom and I took a quick trip to Naples, Florida, where we celebrated Valentine’s Day and consumed an obscene amount of seafood. Last year I wrote this post during a business trip, after which I vowed to take Mr. Mom with me next year. “Next year” arrived last week and we enjoyed two unplugged days of adult time before I kicked into high-gear for 48 hours of jam-packed business appointments. Mixing business with pleasure in the Sunshine State was the best part of this dreary February for me.

The worst part? I brought home a nasty case of strep throat, followed by a sinus infection, and I spent three days in bed this week. I’m still coughing like a coal miner and limping back to some semblance of normal. Unfortunately, between vacation and illness, I’ve fallen seriously behind on my running program.  At least I’ve got about 42 weeks to catch up. A thousand miles seems far, far away from my sickly seat on this cold, winter day.

Still, the sun is bright today, the thick layer of ice that coated our part of the state on Wednesday is slowly melting, and I’m snuggled up with my two favorite boys researching gnocci recipes for our Sunday supper. With all that, who can complain?

With gratitude {for good meds and a winter that’s almost over},

Joan, who has a long list of spring projects on the docket and anticipates a lovely and productive March