I just moved into my own place and want to start fresh with spices. Which ones do I really need?
Tyrell Howard, Spokane, Wash.
Cooks rely most on these nine essentials: ground cinnamon, ground ginger, cumin seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, whole cloves, sweet paprika, whole nutmeg, whole allspice and cayenne pepper.
Try buying longer-lasting whole spices whenever possible, and grinding them as needed. (Ground spices taste fresh for about six months; give them a quick sniff before use to check potency.) Buy those you need less frequently in the smallest containers possible, and store all spices in a pantry or another cool, dark, dry spot.
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Tip: To make a great seasoning for pork, chicken or fish, combine 4 teaspoons sweet paprika, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice; store it in a jar for up to 3 months.
My necklaces are always getting tangled. How do I unknot them, and what’s the best way to prevent this from happening?
Erika Bier, Helena, Mont.
First, unhook the chain, so you’re working with a line rather than a circle. Then gently tease out the tangle with the tip of a pin.
For a particularly tough knot, add a tiny bit of baby oil to reduce friction, but take care to keep it away from any gemstones.
To avoid future tangles, lay your jewelry in an organizing tray that can sit on your dresser or in a drawer. This one from Wolf is fitted with a slip-free insert that inhibits tarnish. It also prevents delicate necklaces and bracelets from touching — and getting snarled ($19 for 1 1⁄2-inch standard tray; $25 for necklace insert, wolf1834.com).
How can I maintain my dog’s coat between trips to the groomer?
Isaiah Tomlinson, Richmond, Va.
Regular brushing once or twice a week not only keeps your pet looking her best — it also gives you a chance to detect changes that could be signs of a serious medical condition.
Only bathe your pet about once a month (more frequent cleanings can dry out her skin). Brush first, removing any mats, and then use a pet-safe shampoo, as well as a conditioning rinse, if you have a long- or wire-haired breed. (Try Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo and Conditioner; $17 and $19, amazon.com.)
Some long-haired dogs may need trims between groomings, too — around the eyes (for visibility), the chin and jaw (to keep food from getting stuck), or the paws (to prevent dirt from collecting). A vet or groomer can show you how to do this safely at home.
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate