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« The Transatlantic Tomato Chase | Main | There's No Place Like... »
Friday
Sep192008

Landed

Moonrise over the Seattle skyline, from our patio

The first sentence is always the hardest to write, isn't it? I've been sitting here for two days trying to figure out how I should open this post - should I offer up excuses for being absent far longer than intended, or should I just pick up where I left off nearly three months ago? I know I just about vanished off the face of the earth after putting up that last post, and I wouldn't blame you for wondering if our plane from Scotland crashed or if Seattle simply swallowed us whole. In fact, there aren't really any excuses to give other than moving countries is one crazy business, and settling in has taken far longer than either of us expected. But then again, we weren't exactly rushing things either; between visiting various branches of my family, taking care of all the logistical things that accompany a big move and trying to actually enjoy the summer a little bit, we were here for six weeks before I even opened up craigslist and looked at the rental listings for the first time.

Can you spot the Space Needle? ;)

The good news is, though, that after several nightmarish weeks of house-hunting (and sleepless nights spent wondering if any landlord in Seattle would be willing to overlook our lack of verifiable income and local rental history), we've not only found a place, signed a lease, moved in, and stocked it with furniture, but it's a place so wonderful that I still pinch myself every now and then just to make sure it isn't all a dream. It's by no means what we pictured months ago when we started wondering what our new life would look like, but life always has a way of surprising you, doesn't it? The biggest surprise, I guess, is that it's not actually in Seattle at all; when push came to shove during our search, we realized that despite our initial plan, we would much prefer to be outside the city than in, in a place where we might be woken up by birds instead of car alarms, and where trees would far outnumber people. And that's what we found, a thirty-five minute ferry ride to the west of Seattle, on a bucolic strip of green in Puget Sound called Bainbridge Island. Our home is a little cottage that was built as a guest house to a 100-year-old farmhouse; both buildings sit on an acre of waterfront land, with uninterrupted views east to Seattle and the spine of the Cascades, and south to snow-covered Mount Rainier. Our cottage is small, but it is light-filled and cozy, and has views of either gardens or sea from every window. We have plum and cherry trees out the back, and a lovely patio out front that has hosted a barbecue nearly every night since we moved in. We're located a mere twenty minute walk from the Seattle ferry, and from the almost-too-quaint-for-words town of Winslow, which offers plenty of shops, restaurants and cafés when we don't feel like braving the big city. And our landlords, who share our property, are the icing on the cake, being just about the nicest people we've ever met - in particular, they've graciously offered themselves up for any kind of recipe evaluation or surplus baked-good disposal I might require. :)

Our very own plums!

So physically, we're all settled in; mentally, though, it's probably going to take a while longer. I still often find myself feeling like a foreigner here, stupefied at certain cultural things I don't seem to have noticed before - like for example the amount of choice on offer for everything. Whenever I go shopping I end up spending twice as much time as I should because I have to decide things like, say, which laundry detergent to buy. Do I want powder or liquid, the scent of spring rains or mountain breezes; regular strength or double concentrate; added fabric softener, deodorant or baking soda; bleach or bleach alternative; normal or enhanced sudsing power? And then there's the shock of realizing that so many things I relied on as staples of my European diet are going to be occasional, expensive treats here: sheep's-milk feta, good-quality ricotta, piquillo peppers and Spanish chorizo...

Overall, though, we haven't woken up a single morning regretting that we made this move, and particularly on the food front, any inconvenience is small potatoes compared to the rewards. After all, we can buy yard-long bunches of rainbow chard, purple carrots and heirloom tomatoes as big as melons at our island farmer's market; Mexican food and sushi are cheap and plentiful again; and on the pantry shelf are enough jars of homemade peach and berry jams - made with fruit we picked ourselves! - to last us half a lifetime. Most exciting, though, is that we have one of the western hemisphere's greatest food cities on our doorstep, with enough markets and restaurants and bakeries to keep us busy tasting and exploring for a very, very long time. It's a half-hour boat ride away, to be sure, but the way I see it, that just gives us a little more time to work up an appetite.

Welcome back, everyone, and thanks so much for your patience. It's good to be home.

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Reader Comments (61)

Welcome back (both to the Pacific NW and to blogland)! It's good to see some signs of life around here - they were missed :)

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Thou art a lucky Puget duck.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

yay! I have been one of the wondering ones, so glad everything has turned out so swimmingly!

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrachel

How exciting! I grew up on Bainbridge (live in Seattle now), and I see you've found the most charming elements straight off. Am jealous of your views! P.S. My cousin, Carrie R. (don't know if you know her well, or recall who she is), recommended your site to me a while back, and I'm so glad she did! Can't wait to see what you (re)discover here in the Puget Sound area.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan N.

Welcome to your new home! What a lovely spot. I've heard wonderful things about Bainbridge Island. If I were a landlord and saw your blog, I'd take that as a positive reference.

Have fun exploring!

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKitt

A fellow expat in Italy just moved back to the Seattle area, too, after 7 years abroad. Her house has a view of Mt. Rainer :) I can only imagine what you guys must be going through mentally. As always, beautiful pictures and words.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

Welcome back! I'm so jealous of your proximity to water!

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersprite

Gorgeous and so glad that you're back!
I am currently back in Seoul for three weeks getting more photos and interviews for my book! My first book!
Your photographs are so gorgeous and your composition is on point! Glad that you've settled in!

I too will base myself in the States, but still travel the world over for my work as a photographer and writer. The best of both worlds.

Ciao!
Felicia
This Time in Seoul

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThis Time in Seoul

Wow. Looks lovely!

Does your guest cottage have a guest cottage?

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

so happy to see you posting! welcome back! your new home sounds lovely.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkat

Dear Melissa,
I was actually thinking about you yesterday as I was using my home-made vanilla extract,which has turned out beautifully. Welcome back! Your new house looks lovely, I am sure it will be a lovely home too...

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFoodJunkie

Melissa, your new place sounds like heaven! After all those years in the middle of Edinburgh, you could do with life outside the city - especially if it's so cosy!!!
I'm sure you'll be settling in very smoothly from now on, especially as all the 'technicalities' are settled. Looking forward to your future posts.
Hugs from just outside the city limits of Tallinn.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPille

Wow, that was my first thought on seeing your view and the second was utter jealousy! I have heard so many wonderful things about Seattle that I have convinced myself I want to live there despite never having visited the Pacific NW! Oh well, I'll just need to live vicariously through you until that much longed for lottery win comes through...

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGemma

We are still here :) And I can't wait to hear about new adventures. It's so exciting for me to read about moving to different continent and the fun of that.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteroolong

I've missed you way more than I thought I would. I'm so glad you've settled; and your place looks divine.
xxx

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterfanny

M., You couldn't have landed in a more lucky spot! Nothing is coincidence, though, I say.

We stayed with friends on Bainbridge years ago...I remember walking a foggy, early morning beach and collecting sand dollars. One I kept for years until it crumbled. My great Aunt Ruh and Uncle Rayburn Spracher lived and died on nearby Anderson Island. Bald eagles nest there. Although I am in Rochester, NY, Puget Sound is OOMFPOE (one of my favorite places on earth). I have fond childhood memories of picking berries while waiting for the ferry...all the cars in a row. The mist...the foamy green water, and the ruddy, bearded ferry-men. The place is so quaint, years after my great aunt passed away my aunt left a note at the general store, just in case our cousin happened by....and she did.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan M

congratulations on you journey. my swiss husband and i (american) are moving back to america next february. he is rock solid certain we will not be able to get a loan or mortgage a home, because he has no credit history, and its his income that would fund it. i think i will share your experience, as maybe a glimmer of hope. i find that i am excited and nervous about the move. so many things will be different. you cant go home again, and all that :) but i will say, food prices are up on the top of our list too.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjessica

Wow, so amazing. I am jealous.
I don't know if you have read Kim O'Donnel's cooking blog in the Washington Post but she has just relocated to Seattle.
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/mighty-appetite/

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterchiquita

Cool! So glad you found a great place to live. I have been thinking of you lots since you came through Lyon and am so happy that you have got a good start back home.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLucy V

You're going to love Seattle! I moved back to New York last year, and while I'm deliriously happy to be here, there's so much I miss about Seattle. For a truly inspiring experience, be sure to visit the art studio of Little and Lewis on Bainbridge Island...their garden-inspired sculptures are unbelievable! Enjoy exploring your new home!

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkaren

Sounds and looks so very lovely; I'm happy to hear that all is well, even if changes and adjustments are still going on, which is quite normal. I'm very much looking forward to reading more of your thoughts and feelings on this new experience...lots more photos are welcome as well, of course ;)

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermichelle of bleeding espresso

Welcome back, Melissa!

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

Welcome back! Your new digs sound like heaven! I'm sure you will find lots to inspire you there. Can't wait to read more about it.

Welcome to the west coast! I'm eager to see what your beautiful blog will make of Seattle - every food blog I read from there tempts me to move north. I'm certain there will be some fabulous posts from you coming up!

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnita

I found your website via Angry Chicken - and I love it! And I live on Bainbridge Island :) Looking forward to trying one of your recipes this weekend.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpamela

Your new place sounds utterly beautiful. Glad you're back and I look forward to reading more of your culinary adventures.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSophia

Hi there
I have followed your blog for a while now, I love the posts and pictures. My husband and I moved to Seattle last year, and I love it. We live in Lower Queen Anne at the moment, when we first went to Bainbridge we fell in love, it's really lovely, don't you think it has a bit of a European touch to it?
Anyway, I am excited to hear what you discover around here. Have you been to Mt Rainer yet?
Nice to have you near!
PS- If you find yourself exploring West Seattle, try the Bakery Nouveau.

Cheers

Rita

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRita

Just lovely! All the best to both of you. We drove out to the Olympic peninsula last month. On the way home we stopped in Port Townsend and met an old friend of mine who lives on Whidbey Island, just north of you. So beautiful, so green and the bounty! I can't wait to hear more from you. Welcome back.
P.S. When the cookbooks are on the shelves, it's home, eh?

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commentervalya

Hi- new to your blog, but I am happy to see you are getting settled into your new home. Wow- the views you have. I love Seattle, but I can't imagine leaving Europe. I say this because I am living in the Atlanta Ga area- ok, anywhere sounds more interesting and fun to me right now. haha! Best of luck to the both of you.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

yay! so glad to see you back... welcome home to the pacific northwest! i'm a little further north than you but still get to enjoy similar scenery and take advantage of all that seattle area has to offer. looking forward to checking back here often this fall.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteramychristina

Melissa it's absolutely wonderful to have you back in our lives. My mom rejoices your return to the blog world as well, as once more I can fill her in and read to her wonderful articles of food, culture and anything inbetween. The pictures are amazing, and the food sounds beautiful. Bienvenida a nuestra vida. :D

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermalka lev adom

Ah, beautiful nostalgia for me...I grew up visiting my grandparents in a little seaside cottage near Winslow. I haven't been there since I moved off to Sweden and became an expat at age 20. Eleven years later I have now even become a Swedish citizen but your pictures make me long for aplets & cotlets, ferries and pastoral pacific northwest island life. We used to dig our own clams and grandma would make her famous clam chowder. It will be even more of a pleasure to drop in here for inspiration now.

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel at Corpus Bon Vivant

Oh, I can imagine how nice your place must be. A true little gem. Welcome back. It's great to read you again!

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbea at La tartine gourmande

Yay, you are back! It's good to here that you have found almost your dream home, and its very good to be able to read your blog! Welocme back!

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa-Marie

*welcome, excuse the spelling!

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa-Marie

Glad you're back and settling in your new home nicely.

Best wishes and a big hug,
Paz

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPaz

Fantastic to have you back.

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRobbie

How lovely...and how clever of you to find such an excellent new home. It's wonderful to have you back at the TL. Welcome home!

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlindy

I can't imagine what it must be like to move so far, but nice to hear you are settling into the new home. I do go to Seattle from time to time, so looking forward to what you'll write about the city and food scene there.

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKalyn

Welcome home. I'm happy to see that you had safe travels and are happily settling in.

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkoko

Welcome back! So very happy that you're finally home, settled and blogging! :)

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHelena

Love the jam photo. We've been making jam & fruit butter as well, not to mention preserving peaches & tomatoes for the winter famine.

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusy

Congrats on the move! I've always wanted to live near/in Seattle myself, so I'm very jealous.

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterboy meets food

I wondered if the move had knocked the blog gene out of you but here you are again, just like new. We just got back from a cruise from Europe and hit the small village of Scrabster, Scotland. I have to admit that I thought of you and your blog while there. We live in the Seattle area so I understand all the photos and yes, I can see the Space needle in the photo. Best of luck setteling in for the winter.

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarolQ

beautiful, beautiful photos. hope you enjoy your new home!

September 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermaggie

I discovered your blog during your absence, and felt myself quite swept up in it. I much look forward to reading more about your wonderful new food adventures.

How amazing, all the fruit trees!

September 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertori

for the first time in my life i have contemplated moving to the states, because of ur descriptions n lovely photos only:)can i see more please?

September 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergoogs

yeah!
I must say I enjoy your blog very much.
welcome back.

September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSidonie

I was so happy to see you're posting again. Your blog is super-wonderful and a real treat to read. I feel very envious that you are on Bainbridge Is. and in the Pacific NW; my brother lives there (now in Seattle, prior on San Juan Is.) and I pine to make a move to that most beautiful part of the world. Convincing the other four guys in my life (who are very happy living in the Nation's Capitol) is more difficult.

I noticed your lovely plums and wanted to share with you our latest post which includes a quick and easy weeknight dish which requires few ingredients and little time. A new fall favorite for Loulies:
Sausage and Italian Prune Plums Braised in Wine with Polenta

September 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBettina Stern

Yay! I, of course, am delighted to have you close at hand--and in such a beautiful spot! I feel the ferry calling me...:-)

September 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTea

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