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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61 thoughts on “Landed

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!FeliciaThis Time in Seoul

  4. 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…

  5. 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.

  6. 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…

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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 ;)

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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. CheersRita

  16. 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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

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

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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?

  27. 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

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

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

  31. 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! :)

  32. 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!

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

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