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Sunday, December 4, 2011

how to buy a lovely gift.

Eddie Ross will teach you how to tie a bow that melts in your hands when you pull it
The trick is that you have to know the person you're giving the gift to. Sounds easy, but it's so often not. I know-- how do you buy a thoughtful, delightful gift for a family member you barely see (except at Christmas time, when you're expected to give them a gift!)? Here are some things I think about to brainstorm some ideas for the perfect gift, even if I don't know the person inside and out. I use answers to these questions to give me an idea of the shape of a person, their personality and tastes, and I try to use my sense of their self to match them up with a gift.
  • What do they like? I try to brainstorm ideas of the things they are into, like my cousin who likes things a little bit shabby chic, a little bit country, a little bit homemade. I pick these keywords to make a list that gives me an idea of their tastes. If I am out shopping and see something that matches up to the list of words, then there is my great gift.
  • What do they wear? There is a lady at church who wears purple. She doesn't always wear this color, but most of the time, she does. I don't know her that well, but if I had to give her a gift, it would be something purple. Not to mention a person's fashion tastes will give you a clue of what else they might like that might not necessarily be wearable.
  • What is their favorite color? See the example above.
  • What do they have in their home? What are the objects they display? Once again, these things tell you something about a person's tastes. I wouldn't want to give someone something exactly like what they already have, which would be like buying them a sweater they already own but in a different color.
  • Have they traveled, and, if so, what was their favorite place? Do they have a place they have always wanted to go but haven't made it there yet? In this case, I am thinking of my friend who loves Scotland. She hasn't gotten there (yet!), but I have given her gifts that are reminiscent of the place she loves, like a vintage book about Scotland. 
I delight in giving beautiful, meaningful gifts, but I know so many people do not (perhaps not their love language?). Instead of something that shows the thoughtfulness that goes behind spending the time to earn money, to go shopping, to pick out a gift, and to give that gift, gifts can turn into a stressful ordeal for the giver (have to find something! oh, just give anything that looks like it will do the job) and for the receiver (great, another piece of junk I have to store or get rid of). If that is the case, try to find someone you know who you think gives the best gifts. Watch how they operate or ask them to give you a quick tip or two on how they pick their gifts. One of my aunts and another of my friends are both amazing gift givers, and I learned a lot about giving gifts from them. 

Another tactic is to be observant, as the questions above nudge you to do. Find details from the person's appearance, home, or their other belongings to give you clues. If they say they like something in conversation, remember it and write it down for future reference. (I keep a running list all year long for gifts I'd like to give my family and close friends, filled with things that I have heard them say they like/need/want.) It could be anything, from their favorite candy or gum, to more extravagant, expensive items. If you are super sleuthy, you could make a list with a variety of items at different prices to fit your current budget. 

For example, I knew that my husband thought a messenger bag from San Lorenzo made from recycled leather was really nice after he admired it in a shop. I wrote it down on my "wish list." However, we have had very small gift exchanges since he admired the bag, but I also knew he prefers to eat with chopsticks any time we have Asian-inspired food for dinner. So, last Christmas, instead an expensive gift like the bag, I got him chopsticks and dark chocolate. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

beginning to look a lot like christmas.

Found here.

It finally is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, now that it's December and everyone around me is allowing themselves to get ready for the holiday. Me? I squeal like a little kid, fists balled up in excitement at the thought, and I was thinking of plots and plans for my holiday before Thanksgiving, all to be enacted the day after. Black Friday is a part of my Christmas tradition-- not to go shopping, but to put up the tree, string lights, hang ornaments, and listen to Christmas music. This year, though, I didn't do these things with my mom, as we have for years, but gleefully and a little homesickly with James. I admit that I glomped him a couple of times on the way to get the tree at Hunter Tree Farms. I couldn't contain myself as we bought a tiny 2-ft tree and carried it home on the bus.

It really is “the most wonderful time of the year”… so many things delight me at Christmastime. The way red & green traffic lights seem like they’re joining in the festivities, the way an orange suddenly smells like Christmas & brings to mind stocking-toes stuffed with walnuts & oranges, the way a house decorated for the holidays feels like it’s hugging you the entire time you’re indoors, the way cold weather & grey skies don’t seem dreary at all but like the perfectly appropriate backdrop for a holly jolly world… the way shopping becomes invigorating & even thrilling as you find the perfect gifts for loved ones and all closets hold secrets until the big day! The way advent candles and nativity scenes remind me of the solemn, beautiful Christmas story and how an innocent baby Jesus was born to save us all for God’s cherishing. Christmas cards & holiday movies & Christmas music & gift wrapping & Christmas parties & getting more and more and more excited to load up the car and travel to be with beloved family for lifelong traditions!
My friend Stephanie put it so well. Happy Holidays, dear reader, and Merry Christmas. I hope December is full of twinkling lights, joy, sparkle, and warmth.

Monday, November 28, 2011

velvet.

Velvet throw pillows may be a little much when you have...


a velvet couch, but, gosh, the texture is delightful and luxurious.

And while lounging on my velvet couch, I'd wear this velvet dressing gown with these ...



velvet slippers that make me feel like Shirley Temple in The Little Princess after Ram Dass redecorates her attic. (Shown are last winter's bronze and plum slippers.)

Of course, if I left my plush and cozy corner of velvet and had to venture into the world, I'd top off my outfit with a headband of velvet leaves (with velvet ribbon) ...


only to come home again to rolls of velvet ribbon to make more lovely headbands. 


Thursday, November 3, 2011

italian salad.

I almost got mugged on the street, and this salad was born out of it.

James and I had gone to the Wallingford Pizza House because of some bad meal planning on my part, and we got their Peppergoacini pizza. It had large slices of salami, pepperoncini, and dollops of goat cheese, all floating on gooey mozzarella. I was enraptured and immediately became obsessed with pepperoncini peppers. We didn't eat all of it and got the two remaining slices to go.

On the way back, as we passed a glass pipe shop, a very unhappy man came storming out of the shop and slammed his foot into the shop's A-frame sign on the sidewalk. He fumed, swearing, about how the guy in the shop was kicking him out. James and I were taken aback, but kept walking, crossing the street. The guy turned on us.

"Hey, can I have your pizza?" We looked at him in disbelief. James answered-- "No," and we kept walking, as did the guy.
"Come on, lemme have your pizza." James again said no, and, "Why do you want our pizza?"
"Come on, I'm a fat guy. I want your pizza." For the third time, James said no. We all took a few steps, the guy only a foot or two in front of us. He was muttering to himself, and turned, pushing his arm into James's chest.
"You crossed the line into my life...!" I couldn't catch the rest, all I saw was this belligerent jerk pushing my husband around, trying to take our leftovers. (Which we were keeping. I was not about to give this guy food that we probably couldn't even afford but bought anyway.) But James stood his ground, I held onto the pizza box, and we turned around, walked back the way we came, passing the pipe shop and the retail clerk coming out to see if we were okay and telling us that our pizza-loving "friend" had come in threatening to smash the shop's cases. We crossed to the other side of the street to continue on our way home.



I love complex, layered, main course salads, like that blackened scallop salad I wrote about earlier. This salad is inspired from the pizza we had that night because I can't get those flavors out of my head. I'd love to go to the Wallingford Pizza House again, but, for now, I'd rather make this salad at home. Less chance of having my leftovers stolen.

Layered Italian Salad

salad greens
1 Roma tomato, diced
about 2 Tbsp. of pepperoncini slices (from a jar), diced
about 1 Tbsp. sliced olives (from a can), diced
about 3 thin slices from a medium red onion, cut into 1" pieces
1 15-slice package of thinly sliced salami
1/4 of a small log of herbed goat cheese, crumbled

red wine vinaigrette, as follows:
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. parsley
pinch of crushed red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste, but err on the side of more black pepper
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. grate parmesan cheese
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

Prepare a bed of whatever kind of salad greens you prefer. I was using red leaf lettuce. Prepare your vegetables: dice the tomato, dice the pepperoncini, dice the olives, cut the onion. As with most things, buy the best ingredients you can afford. Here, I used generic ingredients, but I'm sure you can go for the fancier option and it will taste amazing.

Cook the salami. Lay the slices in a hot skillet and let it crisp. This won't take long, and the salami provides its own fat, so don't bother greasing the pan. I used about 5 thin slices per salad. Let the salami cool before cutting. Meanwhile, put the onion into the pan and flash sauté in the salami's fat. Because the onion is sliced thin and because there isn't much of it, this will not take long.

Make the vinaigrette by pouring out the vinegars into a jar with a lid or a high-walled container that you can use with a whisk without splashing yourself. (I used a combination of red wine and rice vinegar because the brand of red wine vinegar in my cabinet is very strong.) Measure out the rest of the herbs, spices, sugar, and parmesan and stir into the vinegar. Pour in the olive oil and emulsify by either shaking the lidded jar or whisking.

Assemble the salad: greens, diced tomato, diced pepperoncini, diced olives, salami bits, crumbled goat cheese, and finish by drizzling the vinaigrette over. Suggested side: this focaccia by The Cilantropist. I've made this bread several times, and every time it has turned out without trouble. The salad, in the proportions I've given, serves 2 as a main course.

I should also point out that this salad is very pungent and vinegary. Don't eat it if your mouth is irritated for whatever reason!

Monday, October 24, 2011

earwoms: Jacob Golden, Baaba Maal, and Ghostland Observatory

Three songs I can't get out of my head:

A song that evokes fall, when the air is crisp and leaves turn brown and blow against the sidewalk, crackle-crunch under your feet. Put it on a playlist next to Patrick Wolf's "Land's End" or George's "Track Through The Woods."

"Television" -Baaba Maal feat. Sabina Sciubba
Has a tripping, babbling brook sort of melody (like Ali Farka Touré-- that's the traditional African sounds coming through from the Senegalese singer) with shimmy-shake beats reminiscent of the Brazilian samba school songs.

Sounds like a black-glitter Goldfrapp with a Mika who decided to be a full-blown rock star. The Austin band often gets compared to Daft Punk, but they decidedly have their own sound. I haven't gotten into the rest of their music, but this song? Make sure you save it for your Halloween dance party.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

cozy scarves: etsy roundup.

One of my favorite things about fall is wearing scarves and jackets and sweaters to stay cozy in the crisp weather. Here are some of my favorite handmade scarves from etsy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

rain and bow.

From my living room window. The weather is quite something today.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

bare walls.

What makes a house my home is books on the shelves and pictures on the walls. But after getting married and encountering what it is like to decorate in marriage, James and I learned more about compromise that is so essential to marriage. (In fact, what we have to work hardest to compromise about is our decorating aesthetic and music tastes.) We do, however, come to a compromise, because this is about making a home for the both of us.

"The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt
My aesthetic was fairly simple: "If I like it, I'll hang it up." This embodied itself in a vintage ship print of a painting by Gordon Grant, a Gustav Klimt print of "The Kiss," and a black and white diptych of trees in a foggy field. James finds most of it distasteful ("The Kiss" passes because it hangs in our bedroom, and we like to see ourselves in it.)

James's philosophy on decorating our walls is a little more thoughtful: "It needs to make me think of something significant, most likely a person, or a place that I've been. It should trigger memories. Aesthetic taste is completely arbitrary, and I don't often know what it even means to like the look of something." This philosophy is how he makes the judgement of what is valuable and worth using to decorate his house-- what is worth using to make his home a home.

A photo I took from the Grand Canal in Venice. 2003
For now, his philosophy shows up on our walls in the form of meaningful photography (like a photo from our engagement pictures, travel photos of places I have been, and old family photos) as well as an intaglio print from a very close friend.

An engagement picture. Taken by a friend.

There are other things that walk the line, like a silhouette of a lovely girl named Zelma, cut at the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport in October of 1941. I make the case that it is a memento of a city I grew up in, done only a month after my dad was born. The other piece is a reproduction map I bought at the Newberry Library in Chicago, a place I went with one of my best friends during my visit with her during her undergrad. Both of these evoke memories of people dear to me and places I went with them.

Finding pieces of artwork that are aesthetically pleasing to me and also recall memories for James does not happen all the time. For now, as we wait for the art that does all these things we require, we are making memories with bare walls.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

sauteed greens bruschetta.



This can be eaten a number of different ways. Make up the recipe with just the vegetables, and you've got a lovely spinach side dish. Leave out or keep the meat and put it on sliced bread to make a bruschetta appetizer, or dump the meat (or no meat) mixture on some puff pastry and call it a tart. Or, prepare it as you see it here, which will serve as a main dinner course.  Any combination of greens will do; I've used an arugala and baby mustard greens salad mix as well as plain, fresh spinach to great success. A tomato in place of the figs will also do, but the figs definitely taste better. And plain feta or plain goat cheese are interchangeable, as your wallet allows.

Sauteed Greens Bruschetta

olive oil
3/4 small onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
1-2 bunches of spinach, washed
plain feta
5 small figs
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 Tbsp dijon mustard
honey
1 baguette
1 lb mild Italian sausage

Using 3/4 of an onion, cut in half and slice thin into strips. Begin to sautee in a skillet with some olive oil.

While the onions are cooking, smash and peel the garlic cloves. Mince finely, and press to let the juice run out, as if you were beginning to make a garlic paste. Add the garlic in with the onion and cook until it starts to look like it will begin to caramelize.

Put the sausage (without the casings) in with the onions and garlic and let cook until the meat is cooked through. If you want the meat to be more browned and crispy, you can cook it more, but the spinach also needs to be cooked, so that will add some more time for the sausage to cook.

Add in spinach, and sautee until the greens have wilted. Push the greens and onion and garlic over to the side of the pan and pour in about 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Let the vinegar cook in the pan then mix the greens into it. Do the same with dijon mustard, using about 3/4 of a tablespoon. (Push the greens over, put the mustard in the pan, let it cook for a couple of seconds, then mix with the greens.)

Spread the mixture out and drizzle very lightly with honey. Mix.

Finally, crumble a little bit of plain feta (or goat cheese) into the greens and let cook until the cheese is a little soft. Serve as is (if cooking without the meat) for a side dish, or continue with the recipe.

Cut a baguette in half. Place the greens mixture evenly along the bread, and also scatter the diced figs. Crumble more feta along the bread, on top of the sausage/greens/onion mixture. Bake at 350 for about 6-10 minutes or until the cheese has softened and melted a little. Serve warm or at room temperature.


The amounts given will provide 4 servings.

Monday, October 3, 2011

book plates or ex libris.


Beautiful hand-painted book plates by Bernard Maisner. "Glorious Bugs"

I am an only child, and, growing up, I was often a lonely child. Like so many other lonely children before me, I found companionship in books. I found that I did not enjoy the world set before me, so I instead read, falling into other worlds and other lives, losing myself to the present. Remembering a day in second or fourth grade (I remember the classroom, not the teacher): I was so engrossed in The Wizard of Oz, snatching a few more pages in between lessons when I shouldn't have, my teacher had to call out to me multiple times to get my attention. I reluctantly put away the book and was scolded accordingly.

Olivs Guess's bookplates I found at a garage sale.

So it follows that I would naturally love all things related to books: the art of writing and calligraphy, pens and nibs, blank journals, decorative papers, and white papers of all stock. I learned how to bind my own books. And, finally, shockingly, when I was at the end of my adolescence, I learned that such a thing existed as a book plate. (How did I ever make it so long, loving books as I do, without knowing what a book plate was?)

The book plate in my Etiquette book. (John R. Sealf)

The idea of a book plate complimented the ideas in my head I had about books. The sentiments behind book plates are simple-- to mark ownership and and the pride in owning the book.  Mark Severin, a Belgian bookplate engraver said, "A book without a plate is, to me, like a child waiting to be adopted. A man really loving a book wants to tighten his bonds with it, to honor it, and to treat it with respect. He wants to show that he has had it as a friend and to make it that much different from other copies of the same volume...."*

Book plate of Thomas G. Judd (I bought the book for the book plate.)

Having a book plate in my books also means that I would not have to admonish my friends to whom I loaned my books to give them back or to treat them well. Some book plates perform the task of admonition themselves with simple phrases like "Any one may borrow,/ But a gentleman returns" or "If through respect or love I lend/ This book unto my worthy friend,/ He must not soil, abuse, nor tear,/  But read with diligence and care;/ And when its contents you have learned,/ Remember, it must be RETURNED."* If only those words had been in some of my books I have loaned, then perhaps my cheap (but cherished) paperbacks wouldn't have returned to me with much-broken spines. (One incident happened many years ago, but I still remember how incensed I was at the book's mistreatment.)

So, if I leave you with your interest peaked, go here, to another blog by a book plate lover.

*Quotes taken from a book about book plates, given to me on my 17th birthday. The Art of the Bookplate is by James P. Keenan, published in 2003 by Barnes and Noble, Inc.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

klimt's treasury.

In the vein of putting together looks from disparate sources, here is a just-made treasury on etsy:

Click here to see more.

Friday, September 30, 2011

fivelives presents: an autumn lookbook

I present to you a fivelives autumn lookbook. A little bit preppy-- with a literary bent, a little bit romantic and a little bit raw to offset the sweetness. And a good dose of wearability. This is what I am daydreaming about wearing, if I were given half a chance, as the season changes from summer to fall. 


1.
Newbird

dress, cardigan, shirt, boots, bag, earrings

All hair accessories by fivelives, found here, or at the side bar.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

earworm: Lykke Li



She's pronounced "Lee-ki Lee." Kind of like "lickey lee," but that's a bit of a crass English translation. I looked her up on youtube for interviews to double check how you say it. She's a Swedish pop star who's not unknown, so this isn't about new, fresh music. She's got plays on radio stations.

What this is about: the sinuous, liquid, swishing-in-my-head "I Follow Rivers" that will have you singing the chorus on the first listen. And a girl crush. A soft, sweet voice, lovely cool music, and a banging top bun that I wished I had worn more when my hair was long enough to do so. Yeah, I'm crushing. (Don't worry, James thinks she's cool, too.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

breakfast.


These are the crepes that James makes. These are the crepes that James makes from an Alton Brown recipe. These are the crepes that James makes that I put an orange rum sauce over.

The orange rum sauce was a dud. But the crepes are, as always, delicious. Best with Nutella, those crepes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

chicken chili.


There was no transition to fall for me. I got on a plane in 100 degree heat, and I got off to highs in the 80s and lows in the 50s. Where did summer go? That left me craving warm, hearty food, food that sticks to my ribs, comfort food.

I'm not just craving comfort food because of the weather. Moving was and is still stressful. We're living with little furniture and a skimpy pantry because we're not settled enough to have found places to fill our apartment and our larder. That means lots of beans in our food and making big batches of things we can eat for a couple of days and freeze the rest. Even though it's a super duper cheap meal, it's delicious and filling.


Chicken Chili

chicken (1/2 of a roast chicken)
2 c. dried pinto beans, or 4 cans
1 jalapeño, minced with seeds
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
1 ear roasted corn, kernels sliced off
1 can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. paprika
pinch cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
enough water to cover


Cook dry beans as usual. (Pick through the beans for any bad beans or rocks. Rinse the beans, then soak overnight in 3-4 cups of water per cup of beans. Rinse the beans again and cook them at a rolling boil for 1 hour on the stove.)

In a crock pot, combine the drained beans, chicken (I had roasted a whole chicken and used about half of the meat from it. You can definitely get away with less chicken.), vegetables, liquids, and spices. Add enough water to top the mixture. Cook on high for at least 4 hours, if not longer, until the beans are tender and the chili is a good consistency.* Adjust the seasonings as needed. (You will probably need to add more chili powder and salt. The cayenne may need to be decreased or increased according to your taste.)

Serve with your choice of cheddar, sour cream, toasted tortillas, corn chips or tortillas chips, etc.

*I'm still new to cooking with dry beans, so the times given may be a little off. Use your own good cooking judgement.

Note: As with all cooking, you should make changes to suit your tastes. Upon making this at a later date, I found we had run out of brown sugar. Two Tbsp. molasses and a large pinch of white sugar added such depth of flavor. At that time, I was also wanting a sharp tang in my chili, so a few dashes of Tobasco and a nice drop of balsamic vinegar gave me the tang and kick I wanted. This chili, in my experience, can withstand an individual's tasteful experimenting.

etiquette.

I must confess to dissembling. There was one collection I deliberately did not share, because I wanted to save it for now. Another of my collections are vintage etiquette books. I've found one at an antiques shop in Ruston, (the top book covered in roses, from the 1920s) and three of them at the Centenary Book Bazaar for less than it would take to do a load of laundry at a laundromat (A 1941 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette, a 1959 Amy Vanderbilt Complete Guide to Etiquette, and a '60s book of hosting from Esquire).

They are old-fashioned, but genteel, and while it would be folly to directly apply their precepts to learning your manners today, they do still make their point about what etiquette truly is-- behaving (and dressing) appropriately for every time and place.

Monday, September 12, 2011

earworm: "Within Our Darkest Night"


James and I have been attending Church of the Apostles since we've move to Seattle, and the Eucharist service last night followed the traditions of Taizé. We came home revived. The music and service was a balm to our souls and to our ragged emotions that have been all over the place since moving and settling in and trying to make our way in a city we're falling in love with but that we're not sure loves us back. (Unlike New Orleans, which seems to have unseasonably beautiful weather every single time we visit.)

The song that has stuck with me through last night and this grey morning is "Within Our Darkest Night." The lyrics are simple, repetitive, and sink into you. "Within our darkest night, you kindle a fire that never dies away, never dies away." It reminded me of my God, who, even in the darkest night of the soul, is still with me. I need that right now, so I put this song on repeat. It is my prayer.

Friday, September 2, 2011

moving.

This is what my life looks like right now, and has been for the past three or so weeks. We had a crazy moving schedule that included uHaul trucks, shipping containers, spending two weeks out of carry-on bags, couch surfing at friends' and families' houses, and finally flying 2,600 miles away from our last home. Add a wedding in there somewhere, too.

We said our good-byes.... to our first home, to my sprouted window box and plants, to our lovely neighbors, to our friends. Now we're saying hello to Seattle. (Gosh, my legs are tired from walking this city... and it's hills!) I'm in the midst of learning how to grocery shop with a higher standard of living and learning how to find some furniture for our new apartment that isn't IKEA, Target, Big Box Store of Your Choice, etc., etc.

p.s. I will admit something embarrassing to you: my Southern accent comes out real bad when I say "hill." Even if I'm trying really hard, it sometimes comes out "heel." Facepalm, indeed.

p.p.s. Posting may be sporadic... I have no camera right now... well, I have a cell phone camera. We'll see.

Friday, August 19, 2011

seared scallop salad.


The origins of this salad, like the New Orleans Ice Cream, came from James's and my honeymoon. A seared scallop salad was the first dinner I had in New Orleans for that trip, and it was lackluster. Let me explain: we were freshly in from the northern part of the state (which, for those not from Louisiana, is about a 5-6 hour trip), it was dinner time, and we had no plans. Our feet took us into the French Quarter, and, regrettably, into a tourist-trap restaurant. We were hungry, and although I was unimpressed by my meal, I was inspired. I knew I could make it better than the restaurant, and here is how I did it.

Blackened Scallop Salad


salad greens
1 apple
dried cranberries
1 pack of frozen scallops
pecans (plus sugar, chili powder, and cayenne)
blackening spice mix, as follows:
1/2 TBsp paprika
1 tsp garlic
1/2 TBsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 oregano
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp dry mustard
balsamic vinaigrette, as follows:
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 TBsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 TBsp olive oil or canola oil
parmesan, for garnish

Prepare a bed of whatever kind of salad greens you prefer (leaf, romaine, mix...). Julienne 1/2 of an apple, and scatter over the lettuce. Scatter a handful of dried cranberries over the salad.

Rinse and pat dry scallops (I recommend 1 pack per person eating). Season the scallops with the blackening spices. Heat the pan with a little bit of oil just below the smoking point, and put the scallops in; stand back because the scallops with pop. Turn them with a spatula till they're cooked through. You can tell because they will start popping and will begin to brown on one side. Be careful cooking with cayenne because when cayenne is heated, it will burn your eyes. Make sure your cooking space is ventilated; open your doors and windows!

Make the spiced pecans: Chop a handful of pecans until they are in small chunks. Put about 4 tbsp of sugar in 1/2 c of warm water till the sugar is dissolved. Add the pecans and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain the water and return the pecans to the bowl. Add 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp chili powder, and a pinch of cayenne. Place the pecans on a cookie sheet covered in foil and bake at 350 till done. Stir every few minutes and watch the nuts so they don't burn.

Mix the vinaigrette by combining all ingredients except the oil. Mix well. Add oil and incorporate. Use a jar with a lid, if possible, and shake the jar to emulsify the oil into the vinegar. Or, use a small whisk and a high walled container (like a measuring cup).

To complete the salad: put scallops, scatter nuts, and drizzle vinaigrette over it all. Top with fresh grated Parmesan.