Because there is no space too sacred or too safe from the reach off my organization mojo

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life107 Comments


I have a spice problem.

It started the day I walked into Penzey's Spices, right here in my hometown of St. Paul, and I've never really looked back to grocery store spices since.

Don't be fooled by their decidedly unsexy website. Penzey's Spices are the BOMB in terms of value, selection, quality and price. Over the years, I've pretty much replaced every single old jar of dried this and powdered that with a fresh, affordable and tasty replacement courtesy of Penzeys.

And because I'm still filling my days with all that stuff I never had time for as a full-time, she-works-hard-for-the-money graphic designer, the spice zone was the most recent recipient of my unemployed cleaning attentions.

Where do my spices live, you're wondering? I keep them here:


In an old house, you have to be creative with space. I will never know the joys of a walk-in pantry, and so I improvise, finding places for things that might not be ideal, but that work nevertheless. And what's the cute little reddish orange door?


That's just the express elevator to hell… also known as my laundry chute. It's such a convenient set up. I can toss down my dirty dish cloths AND grab some Albanian Rubbed Sage while I'm at it!


And I don't know about you, but there is something undeniably exciting at the thought of my sage being rubbed by an Albanian before it finds its way into my stuffing. But I digress…

Here's the long shot of the spice zone:


(And yes, this shot was taken from one of my more recent organizational projects, the mud room, which a week later is still looking mighty fine, if I do say so.)


I guess the point of my story is this: my spice house is in order, and if you've never checked out Penzey's, you really owe it to yourself to do so. And soon.

Because you never know what spices will soon be on your list of all-time favorites.


Cathy ZielskeBecause there is no space too sacred or too safe from the reach off my organization mojo

107 Comments on “Because there is no space too sacred or too safe from the reach off my organization mojo”

  1. #2

    I LOVE that type of jars. Simple, pretty, not too demanding of my attention… They blend. And that’s what a spice is supposed to do, ey? So why not the exterior too?
    Have to check that place out. πŸ™‚

    But… But what IS that spice, exactly??… 0_o

  2. #5

    Um…Dick Weed? I do know Penzeys and someone is really good at creating labels.

    I think before I stock up on more spices, I need to actually cook more meals. Where did you learn all those culinary skills?

  3. #6
    Katie J.

    This post comes at JUST the right time for me Cathy. I’ve been wanting to stock up on some spices and re-organize my spice cabinet, but haven’t gotten around to it lately. I work right in St. Paul, so will have to check out Penzey’s — Thanks for the info!

  4. #7

    dick weed! i used to grow my very own years back before i found the the weedless variety…thanks for the chuckle!

  5. #9
    Ginger Roberts

    Cathy, hon….you are so full of fun! You amaze me daily! I can have the worst day and come in to read your blog and just sit here laughing. Go Cathy!!!!!

  6. #10

    I may have to stop eating my cereal in front of the computer, or I’m going to end up with milk and shredded wheat particles all over my monitor and keyboard. I and can see why you love Penzey’s – they definitely have your sense of humor.

  7. #11
    Kris Van Allen

    Cathy, I just have to tell you about Fortner’s, if you’ve not heard of them. When we still lived “up nort der” we’d get it all the time…no web site I know of, they were still mail order last I checked. We’d get it at the MN State Fair, at that strange conglomeration of vendor booths under the grandstand. It’s a box of 4 mixes, and truly, they are wonderful.

    Although I am tempted to try the Dick Weed. Does the bottle suggest what I should “enhance the flavor of” with it??

  8. #13
    Laura Y

    Any chance that your new class at BPS can help me write about these silly but oh so important things in life?

    Love it!

  9. #15
    sue Treiber

    I need to get some dick weed for those nosy
    family members who like to go thru my cupboards.

  10. #16

    You mean to tell me that for all these years I that I have been calling moronic drivers “YOU DICKWEED!”, idiots who have 72 items in the 14 items and under express lane “YOU DICKWEED!”
    and people who don’t say “Thank you” after the door is held for them “YOU DICKWEED!”,
    it is actually a spice???

  11. #17
    Dixie Lee

    Being introduced to Penzey’s catalog was nearly spiritual! Love the double strength vanilla…
    and the sandwich sprinkle…

    and the bulk every thing I need to make some kickin’ spaghetti sauce.

  12. #18

    Thanks for the info, Cathy. I’m actually going to be in Minnesota -St. Paul- more specifically Eagan- for the first time ever in a few weeks (from way out here in New Jewasey). I have been searching the internet for really cool shops to visit while I’m there, so I’ll definitely be checking it out. And since I have such a strong, never-met-ya, but we’re BFF’s attachment, like so many other of your blog-followers, if you have any other suggestions for really cool places to visit while there, I’d love to hear ’em. I’ve been having a hard time finding anything around the web. Thanks!

  13. #20
    Jan Connair

    I refill my spices at my local health food store. They are fresh and DIRT cheap. Fresh cinnamon for 1/3 the price, at least, of buying it at the grocery. If you don’t have a Penzey’s around, it’s the next best thing.

  14. #21
    Katie Scott

    I’m with you on the local spices – I get my habenero fresh from a beach craft fair street market or from the health food store – my favorite is Frontier Seasoning Blends: Bombay Veggie Blend. I put it on everything.

  15. #24
    Wendy A

    I thought I was the only one in the world with a laundry chute in the pantry! LOL! Too funny. Your door is nicer than mine – maybe I will paint mine one of these days just to spice it up a little! (No pun intended!!).

  16. #25

    I love, love, love me some Penzey’s. I have been a loyal customer for more than ten years now…I am pretty sure that I have even more Penzey’s jars than you!!! My DH calls it my “obsession!” I love fresh veggies with either Fox Point Seasoning or Garden Salad Seasoning; their Bavarian Seasoning is to die for on a pork loin roast in the fall; and don’t get me started on their Double Strength Vanilla Extract…can’t live without it or their selection of cinnamons.

    I have visited a Penzey’s location in the Cities…it is right down the block from the Paper Source (insert heavy sigh here)…my credit card takes a rather large hit whenever I am in that particular block of town πŸ˜‰

    I’ll have to see about their dick weed stock the next time that I am in town πŸ˜‰

  17. #26
    jenn from mn

    Cathy ~ Thank you for your quick whit and passion! You help me to laugh out loud even in the face of the employment (or lack of employment) issues I was recently handed. Thank you and keep inspiring us!


  18. #27

    Yup. Love Penzey’s. In fact, I think I first heard about them here on your blog a few years ago. We have a store in the next town over from us in MA. A couple of years ago my father-in-law was visiting and we gave him a catalog and a gift certificate. He looked through every page of that catalog and knew exactly what he was going to get, and then we took him to the store. It was like a kid in a candy shop.

  19. #28

    Hmmm, the bottle of Dick Weed looks empty…. guess you’ll need to acquire more.

    You’re too darned funny!!! (You have a great sense of humor and great Photoshop skills, too!)

  20. #30
    Kirsten Juenke

    Dear Lord, this whole “never had time for as a full-time, she-works-hard-for-the-money graphic designer” stuff is making for some amazingly entertaining posts. I’ll just have to *ahem* give Penzey’s a call and ask for some Dick Weed.

  21. #31

    I notice the dick weed jar is empty. Hmm. Must’ve gone into the express elevator when you couldn’t find a recipe worthy of your dick weed.

  22. #32

    OMG, I’m glad I wasn’t sipping my coffee at the moment, because it would have sprayed everywhere…thanks for the laugh-out-loud moment to help brighten my day. DH knows the dick weed story from the previous post as well, and we both just had a grand ole time revisiting that story as well as laughing at the new one. Can I make that dick weed spice photo my new desktop wallpaper?!?!?! πŸ˜‰ Or I’m thinkin’, maybe a t-shirt!

  23. #34

    wth? (and when i say “h,” i mean “heck”) why would you *buy* dickweek when you can get it for free? just ask your local peace officer if you can ride along with him for a shift and you’ll meet hundreds of them. (all right; plus hundreds of very nice folk, too.)

  24. #36

    omygosh. i just LMAO and my 2-yr-old couldn’t figure out what i was laughing at. that was an awesome laugh on a monday morning (really, any morning). you crack me up. thanks!

  25. #38
    Dawn Jessie

    I love Penzey’s!! There’s no store near me so I use their catalog. I have issues from 2003 just because I like to re-read the recipes. πŸ™‚ And I like how they use spices (cinnamon sticks and bayleaves) to cushion the glass in the gift boxes.

  26. #40

    OMG OMG OMG OMG…I am laughing so hard right now Cathy. Thankyou so so much. I needed that so much.
    Dick weed…..We all should start our week with some dick weed.
    I love ya:)

  27. #41
    Karen Campbell

    I love Penzey’s, we have one in Overland Park, KS. It is the only place to get spices! I haven’t seen the Dick Weed, I will have to get some on my next trip.

  28. #42

    I LOVE Penzeys! I live by their flagship store, at least for a few more months. I was even planning on heading over there this morning πŸ™‚

  29. #46
    Angie K

    Vanilla Sugar from Penzeys is the ultimate! If you roll any cookies in regular sugar – stop that right now! If you sprinkle sugar on the tops of your delicious desserts – stop that right now! Run, (don’t walk) to Penzeys and pick up a bottle of this stuff. It’s awe(wait for it)some, as Barney Stinson would say…

  30. #47

    There is also one in Lakeville at the corner of 160th and Cedar, if you aren’t venturing to st paul. It might be easier to find. πŸ™‚

  31. #48

    Everyone who is familiar with Penzy’s… have you tried the Fox Point seasoning? I use it on flipping EVERYTHING. Yum.

  32. #49
    ann marie

    I’m sure you probably hear this all the time, but your blog always has me rofl! I have dill weed in my spice collection, and I never hesitate to show my husband that we have a spice named after him.
    Thanks for brightening my day! πŸ™‚

  33. #52

    OH, that Penzey’s is good stuff. I’ve actually eaten ice cream at the owner’s house in Milwaukee (he has a super-cool 50’s diner IN HIS HOUSE, complete with milk shake machine).

    Andyour photo reminded me to check my stock of Dill Weed/Seed πŸ˜‰ I’ll need more this year – we’re homeowners now and I plan to can some of the green beans as Dilly Beans.

  34. #53
    Heather Miller

    You crack me up! And I’m right there with you on Penzey’s fandom, though I haven’t picked up any dick weed in a long time. I’d been a regular Penzey’s catalog/online buyer until they opened one here on Long Island. I did a little happy dance around my living room when they announced it! Totally worth the 45-minute drive for the best spices around. Yum! πŸ™‚

  35. #63
    Kim from Seattle

    oh Cathy I must say what would I do without your daily blog… you really make my day…

    Thank you


  36. #64
    Lisa H.

    I’m totally with you on the Penzeys Spice love fest. Unfortunately, we don’t have any local stores, but I order quite often from their catalogs/web site and have been happily surprised the they even send me some free samples from time to time. I L-U-V Penzeys.

  37. #65

    I absolutely love Penzey’s stuff. I used to order it online, but they built a store in Scottsdale a few years ago and now I’m there constantly. Maybe I’ll put Dick Weed on my list of must try’s. LOL

  38. #66

    I had temporarily forgotten that my 5 year old daughter can now read – that is until she was looking over my shoulder during my daily blog read and annouced out loud ‘dick weed’ – thanks for the laugh Cathy – you really could do stand-up if this scrapbooking/graphic design thing doesn’t work out.

  39. #67

    I always felt that Dill Weed was some type of insult. I am glad to know others have minds that go elsewhere.

    While I am sad about SS, MAN am I jealous of the time that has opened up for you.

  40. #69
    Kelly B

    I live in Milwaukee & am lucky enough to get to go to real livePenzey’s stores. I’ll definitely be making a trip for that new spice. It looks like just the thing I need to sprinkle in my life – or is that eliminate from my life? Thanks for the LOL!

  41. #71
    Sandi Malloy

    This is so funny that I’m having visions of future presents for all my girlfriends. Now, off to empty some close to finished spice jars…after all….who needs that last bit of marjoram when there’s dick weed to be had?

  42. #72

    If you go down the International isle in your grocery store, you may find a can of “Spotted Dick” flown in from Britain. Perhaps, “Dick Weed” would enhance “Spotted Dick” nicely πŸ™‚

  43. #74

    Another laugh-out-loud-and-spit-out-the-coffee-moment! Love Penzy’s!! Haven’t given up their vanilla despite the lack of income!!! Oh yeah, lived on their Fox Point all last summer! And what about the Chinese Cassia Cinnamon.

  44. #76
    Sherri P eh

    Penzey’s addict here! A friend turned me on to them a few years ago, when they opened in our area. I’ve been hooked ever since. As a matter of fact, we were considering a run tomorrow, and I might have to print that photo of the Dick Weed, just in case I have trouble finding it in the store . . .

  45. #79

    I found out about Penzey’s via this blog a couple of years ago and got my foodie-parents hooked. So it was to my ever-loving delight when we got our very own store in Menlo Park, CA right before Christmas. I too am working on replacing all of my spices with the unbelievable Penzey varietals!

  46. #80

    Cathy, I notice the Dick Weed is empty; I guess it must be your favorite. Seriously though…what does one do with Dick Weed? What’s it taste like?

  47. #84
    Tiffany Rosson


    I needed a serious laugh and, Cathy, you never fall to deliver!

  48. #86

    I have a problem with Penzey’s spices as well. I just can’t get enough of the delicious aromas from each perfect little jar. My dad has found great gifts there for the people in his office and the big mama crate from Provence is like a cook’s dream come true – great wedding present.

  49. #88

    Now there’s a spice you don’t see every day πŸ™‚ And can I just say Thankyou! I know I can always pop in here and be guaranteed of a much needed belly laugh. You have such a wonderful way with words. I wish I could be half as witty as you are Cathy. Who knew even spices could be so entertaining?

    Western Australia

  50. #89
    Amy S.

    I so needed this chuckle. I am so out of it I actually had to think about it for a minute. I was like Dickweed, that’s not right

  51. #92
    Tonja Trump

    Ok it’s 6:11 am EST, and I am LAUGHING out loud hysterically! Thanks for that much needed giggle.

  52. #93

    You crack me up! 6am, the house is sound asleep, and I’m suffering from uncontrolable laughter.

    So thanks for the Penzeys turn-on. I have one for nuts and more. For fresh, fast, friendly, and great prices go to …sounds like an ad, but I’m just a loyal customer.

  53. #96

    A day later and I’m still chuckling about Albanians rubbing sage and Dick Weed. I guess that’s just how I roll. πŸ™‚

  54. #98
    Lisa Bracale

    Wow I thought I was up on my spices but I never heard of Dick Weed. Think I’ll have to buy some for hubby as a funny stocking stuffer.

  55. #99

    love penzeys! first of all; you are out of dick weed Cant have that. second, try sunny paris spice to make chicken salad; SO GOOD!

  56. #100

    Ok, so I live in Penzey’s hometown and for years have been told that I should go there but still haven’t but after all this raving I think I “get it” now LOL!

  57. #101

    I keep my Dick Weed in a baggie. I could never afford your stash of Penzy’s. I buy most of my spices in bulk from a local shop and I need a good system.

  58. #102

    Ah, inspirational! I have a Penzey’s habit as well, and my collection is in danger of outgrowing its allocated space. Organizing my spices has been on my list for a while. I’m going to go grafiti my Dill Weed now.

  59. #103

    +1 for Penzeys. I recently cleaned my pantry of all old spices and herbs and replaced everything (except one or two items) with Penzey’s. Alas, they were fresh out of Dick Weed when we visited.

  60. #104

    OMG Cathy…you are such a complete NUT — and I mean that in the most positive and good way! I love it. How totally hilarious! I have been an organizing fool in the past few weeks myself. I have all these little momentoes and things I’m going to to when I get time and they are piling up and driving me crazy! We all got the stomach bug this week and we’ve had to lay low…so I’ve been sorting the piles and organizing them into workable project files. I’m feeling so good about that. Thanks again for the laugh.

  61. #106

    And I thought Penzey’s was unique to Massachusetts! We discovered one here and were immediately enamored with the entire store. I’m so glad to hear that there is one in St. Paul as well, should I ever move home I’ll know that I can keep my spices WELL stocked. Dick Weed and all.

  62. #107

    I am completely cracking up, because I did not know that there were so many dedicated Penzey fans!! I am seriously addicted to after a friend recently introduced me to them and I have ordered from them like 3 times in the last couple of months. I just can’t get enough–their spices are amazing and I am so sad that I don’t live close to a store. I know this comment is rather late, but it just warmed my heart to see Penzey’s bottles!

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