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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)

So, so happy to have you back. Anxiously looking forward to new dishes!

September 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Welcome back to Seattle! Great Blog, found you through the blogs listed on MSN Dish Channel. Beautiful pictures etc. Look for an email from me..

September 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVipin K. Singh

Oh! I lived in Seattle for a year and still visit regularly but I've never made it to Bainbridge. Maybe next time...

September 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLee

it's good to see movement on your blog again. I've been following your blog for a while.Beautiful photos and wonderful recipes. We visited Seattle in the summer of '08 and took a ferry over to Bainbridge Island. We impulsively wanted to move out there. Loved it. Maybe one day...... Anyway, looking forward to your future posts.

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertulips and tirimisu

Melissa, I love your blog and every time I can I came back here to see your great pics and learn with your recipes and tricks. I just loved this post and most of all I could almost feel I was sitting in your porch enjoying everything you described. How lucky you are! The great thing is that now you will be showing us all the special things around Seattle and your Island...thanks for making possible to travel without spending...
Enjoy your new home!

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVerena

Thanks for such a warm and hearty welcome back, friends! I'm so glad you stuck around while the dust around here settled. I'm sorry to have been gone so much longer than intended, and I'm relieved you're so quick to forgive. :)

Meghan - I do indeed remember Carrie, in fact I just saw her last week! She kept me riveted with her stories of life in the Peruvian jungle, and that baby - what an angel!

Kitt - I wondered if I might be able to sneak in a mention of this blog to prospective landlords, but funnily enough they don't leave much space for addendums on those rental applications...

David - Why, yes we do! It's called a tent in the garden.

FoodJunkie - Hooray for vanilla extract! Unfortunately I had to leave most of mine behind when we moved, so I'll have to get to work on a new batch asap.

Pille - You're absolutely right, this is just what the doctor ordered after all those years in the Grassmarket. You'll have to come visit and see for yourself! :)

Jessica - I wish I could offer you more advice on finding a home, but I'm sure you'll find a way to make it work, even it takes some time to figure out. For us, it was just persevering until we found a landlord who was willing to rent based on impressions, rather than employment/rental history. As for moving back to the US, the one thing that always calmed me down (and still does!) is the knowledge that nothing has to be permanent. Europe will always be there. :)

Pamela - A fellow islander, how neat! You'll have to give me some tips on where to eat (and where to avoid...).

Rita - Thanks for the tip, and I'm glad to hear you're finding the area as lovely as we are.

CarolQ - How funny, I've never heard of Scrabster but I'm tickled that it made you think of me!

Bettina - Have you tried seducing them with a trip out here? I've seen people come for a visit in the summer and all but refuse to go home again... (p.s. the recipe sound divine!)

Tea - I'll say it again: just let me know which ferry you'll be on and I'll meet you at this end! :)

September 28, 2008 | Registered Commentermelissa

I've missed your blog postings. So glad you are safe and sound and back at it! Lovely photos!
Melissa

September 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterglutenfreeforgood

Welcome back!
Your new home sounds like heaven. I'll enjoy the cultural variation in your posts.

October 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

Come south a bit and have a taste of Portland as well. Paley's, Le Pigeon, Merriweathers, Heathman's, and a little place called Toast for breakfast. Welcome to food heaven..... what an adventure you will have!

October 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjai carney

Welcome to the neighbourhood. I fell in love with fresh ricotta when I lived in Australia and found the same problem you did when moving here.

Since you seem to love cooking "adventures" why not try homemade ricotta. It's dead easy and although the first time is a bit of a rush, it's really quite effortless. I make it on Friday morning's before leaving for work and let it drain so that on Saturday we can enjoy ricotta on toast or ricotta tarts.
3 ingredients: 1 gallon of milk, 1/3 cup + 1 tsp of white vinegar and 1/4 tsp of salt for sweet ricotta or more if you want savory ricotta.

You bring the milk up to 180-5 degrees. Pull it off the heat, add the vinegar, stir. While it curdles, add the salt. Let it sit for a couple of hours and then drain it in a cheese cloth lined colander or strainer. I like to use this mess strainer since it'll sit nicely in a tray. http://www.fantes.com/images/7801colanders.jpg - You squeeze out the water and voila! Fresh ricotta! Seriously, it's scrumptious and rewarding.

October 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Hello! While surfing around, i somehow stumbled onto your site and now i'm absolutely hooked on it. I was in Seattle earlier this year and when i arrived on bainbridge, i remember thinking to myself, how wonderful it would be to live there.

p.s. i have formed a love affair with the ferry boats and i trust you've had your share of ferry boat adventures thus far.

November 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commentericingontop

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