A Catalyst for Change

Nothing remains without change. ~ Buddha
Near the end of September, we received some unexpected news: our landlord would be putting the house we had been renting (since April) up on the market, and soon. At first I was upset; the thought of moving again so shortly after the stressful process of moving here felt unbearable. We had two large dogs, no furniture, and needed a commute that wasn't awful for two people who worked on separate sides of the island. We could have stayed until the house sold - who knows, it might have been right away or taken years - but we decided not to take a chance on having to take the first available rental, and began looking for a new place immediately. After nearly a month of searching, we finally found it: a small, but unique and brightly lit place in Kailua, HI, the next town over. And that, my friends, is where I've been these last few weeks - in the process of packing, cleaning and saying goodbye to our old place and unpacking into our new one.

When we left Eugene, it felt like we had emptied our lives of more than half of our belongings, paring it down to the things that felt necessary for feeling like we were at "home" when we made the difficult move from Oregon to Hawaii. But when we were packing up our stuff this time, it suddenly felt overwhelming how many things we actually still had. It was stressful and was not how I wanted to spend my evenings after working all day. Over 50% of our remaining things consisted of kitchen stuff - small appliances, serving dishes, pots, pans and gadgets. Suddenly, we were giving up our big, granite-topped counters and ample storage space for a much more modest kitchen where our things would barely fit and where even food storage was problem. Instead of several cupboards filled with food, we now had only one. But somehow, after frantically unpacking because we had guests arriving the first weekend we were living there, it all fit. And you know what? It already feels like home.

Contrary to what LB might tell you, I've been wanting to become more of a kitchen minimalist in many ways. I've always enjoyed cooking simple, rustic meals...those that don't make many dishes, don't have complicated ingredient lists and where the flavor of the few ingredients you're cooking with are the main flavors of the dish...you know, the kind of food that would make Alice Waters proud. Having a small kitchen seems the perfect catalyst to change to a simpler way of cooking and eating, and I can't wait to see where it takes me. While I thoroughly enjoyed the shiny appliances and beautiful mahogany cupboards of our old place, our new kitchen is the type of kitchen that somehow just "fits" us a little better. We do have to be organized (very little counter space), dry our dishes (no where else to put them away), our drawers are filled with fewer gadgets (but who needs them anyway?) and we really have to work as a team. I can already imagine a jar of fresh yogurt culturing on the back of the counter and a colander of freshly washed greens in one side of the sink. There are kabocha squash seeds drying on a cookie sheet near the window right now.

And you know what? All the windows make it perfect for taking pictures - day or night. And right outside all those windows lighting up the living room? A perfect view of the steep, mist-covered slopes of the Ko'olau range. Maybe change doesn't have to be so hard after all.

Regardless of how easy or difficult the transition of moving may be (and no matter what, it's still stressful to do the move itself), arriving after work to your new home for the first time and finding a package with your name on it - and full of food, no less - is something magical.

I hadn't participated in Blogging by Mail (BBM) in a really long time, and when my friend Deb suggested I go check out the most recent announcement at Stephanie's great blog, Dispensing Happiness, I decided I needed to get back in the game. This round of BBM had a huge number of participants, but thanks to Stephanie's hard work, it was easy to follow and everything went smoothly. Thanks Stephanie! The theme was "10 items or less" and entailed choosing 10 small but favorite things from your home and sending them off to another blogger. My box came from far away - Stockholm, to be exact - and from the wonderfully sweet blogger, Angelica from Butter & Beans.

Angelica sent me such incredible goodies in my box! There were tons of chocolate snack foods (a woman after my own heart, obviously!) - Ballerina cookies (think: chocolate and vanilla shortbread with smooth, rich chocolate sandwiched between; I've already broken into these and nearly half of them are gone...), Dumle original, Marinanne chocolate filled mint candies (what could be better - chocolate AND mint?!), a large block of Karl Fazer special edition milk chocolate (LB has been drooling in anticipation of opening this one), Center milk choclate with toffee filling (also delicious, I might add), and several smaller little chewy candies.

She also included a handwritten note explaining some of the other items, which helped me navigate the rest of the things she included. My favorite so far is the slightly salty Kalles Kaviar spread, made from fish roe and it's wonderful on the traditional spelt crispbread she sent to go with it: Spelt-Dinkel. She also sent two types of jam, Hjortronsylt (cloudberry) and a jar of beautiful raw lingonberry jam that is the most amazing shade of purple! According to Angelica, the cloudberry jam is native to the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland and her favorite berry. We're having crepes this weekend and I'm going to try it on them, just as she suggests! To top it off, she also included a cookbook, "Served from the Swedish Kitchen: 50 classic recipes from Sweden." Angelica recommended the lingonberry jam with Swedish meatballs, and lo and behold, there is a recipe in the very book she sent, and many of the recipes look simple to prepare - perfect for my new kitchen. The best thing? She wrapped some of the goodies with a pink and white polka-dot ribbon, which made them seem even more special!

Thank you so much Angelica! You helped make my new home feel warm and comforting even as I was in the midst of boxes and chaos, and that means more to this blogger than you could possibly know. I'm so glad I decided to join in BBM because I now have the opportunity to get to know you through your blog!

22 comments from you:

genkitummy said...

Michelle- I was wondering where you went. I had not seen any recent posts for a while. I'm glad you're okay. Your new kitchen looks great!

angelica said...

I'm so happy you liked my little package! I was more than a little nervous...
(Quick note: the lingonberry jam goes with the meatballs, the hjortron kind is perfect slightly warmed on vanilla ice cream!)

I've had my fair share of moves over the years, and I know exactly how stressful it is, and how you, somehow, always have more stuff than you thought. I'm so happy I could be of some help in making the move a little more welcoming!

Ilva said...

Oh what a beautiful place Michelle! I eny you all that light! And you even got some Swedish recipes to work on!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Awesome! The move, the kitchen, the living room window - ahh, sigh, only thing that needs is a day with nothing to do and a good book! and the package - some days the world conspires to make it right! That's really fantastic.

Julie said...

Your new house looks comfortable and cottage-y (that's a word, isn't it?) and how wonderful to have all that light.

I hear you on wanting to live a simpler and more spare life. "Stuff" becomes burdensome and crowds out the rest of your life.

glutenfreeforgood said...

Hey Michelle,

What a great post! I wish you many blessings in your new home. Love that photo looking out the window. Very cool room! And the kitchen's cute too.

Oh, and great links to new bloggers (to me, anyway).

Yummy looking care package you received. Isn't life grand?!!


martha said...

hi michelle! new place looks adorable! will i see you monday at the coffe cupping?

Michelle said...

Genki, thanks! I know, sometimes I get busy and my poor blog gets the backburner...but I'm back now! BTW, congrats on the 24, 24, 24!

Angelica, thanks! I finally found your note stuffed into my bag (so that I could do the blog post) and then I couldn't find it! So I updated things a bit here to correct them!

Ilva, I'm so excited to try some Swedish recipes now! I'm glad you like the new place - aren't all those windows wonderful!

Tanna, you said it: a good book and a day of doing nothing sound just about right! Yes, the universe sure does sometimes, doesn't it!

Julie, yes it does, and yes I think cottage-y should be a word if it isn't already! That's kind of what I like about the place as I am somewhat of a cottage-y type of girl! I think growing up on a farm helped make me want to go back to that simpler way of life as I get older...maybe?

Melissa, thanks for the blessings! It really feels like home so much more than our old place did. Do go check out these wonderful women's blogs - they're both interesting and unique!

Martha, I hope so!! It was so nice to meet you and I'd love to have more time to chat!

Natashya said...

Moving is so stressful. But the ample light from the windows sounds great. It is already dark here in Ontario, dark in the morning and getting dark by late afternoon.
What a wonderful array of treats in you BBM, great book too!
We would love to have you participate in TFF, can't wait to hear from you!

cookiecrumb said...

How about those bonus little shelves above the sink in the kitchen? Useful and cute.
Gad, the place looks good.
Moving is hard. Welcome home.

Eugenia said...

I feel for you, Michelle. Our landlord did a reverse-situation immediately after our first year's lease was up in Eugene. She gave us 30-days notice that she was moving in on the first day of school! Needless to say, we were very shocked and very unhappy. There's a feeling of betrayal there that just doesn't go away. But we moved into our first house, and although we gave up our grand, recently renovated kitchen in the rental house, our little kitchen now fits us better, just like you said. Well, that is when we're not spilling out of the cupboards. :)

chou said...

We did kitchen minimizing, and now have an office/food storage space to make up for the lack of cupboard space. You're right, it feels like home!

Michelle said...

Natashya, yes - on both accounts. It gets dark earlier here in the winter too, often by the time we are getting out of work, but I don't envy you the cold. I've heard wonderful things about Ontario though too! I'm looking forward to TFF soon!

Cookie, glad you like my shelves (I do too!). Thanks for the welcome home wish - I'm glad to be here!

Eugenia, funny how life sometimes throws you a curve, huh? But then sometimes the best things come out of those curves too (and we find new ways to make do with out tiny cupboards, don't we?!).

Chou, thanks for stopping by! ha ha - nothing like creativity to make life a bit more livable, eh?

Debinhawaii said...

How cute is your new place! I love all the windows and light. Glad to have you almost back to normal. :-) Hope you do join TFF--he has two thin new books at Costco--perfect for a small space.

Lets catch up soon,


Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Wow! What a beautiful place. The old kitchen sounded far too posh what with the words shiny, mahogany and granite, your new kitchen sounds much better. Look forward to seeing some of these great new dishes you're going to be cooking. xx

Michelle said...

Deb, me too! I'll see if maybe Mike can't pick me up those two tiny little books next time he goes to Costco, and until then, start browsing the internet!

Amanda, thanks! Yes, while the old kitchen was certainly nice, I do like this one better in many ways!

Zoomie said...

Welcome to your new home - it looks lovely from the pictures! You're in my brother's home town, now, Kailua. MB and I are coming for Thanksgiving so maybe I'll bump into you at the local farmer's market!

Michelle said...

Zoomie, Thanks! That's great you'll be here for Thanksgiving! How long will you be here? I'm always at the Market, every Thursday...maybe I'll wear a name tag or something next week... ;)

Zoomie said...

We arrive on Thanksgiving Day and will be there for 10 days or so. I'll have to ask my bro where the market is! It's new since I was there, I think, and I plan to cook a couple of meals for the family while I'm there, so it would be fun to say hi and maybe have a cup of coffee together.

Michelle said...

Zoomie, would love to meet for coffee and meet you! Or even just browse the market with you if that works best for your schedule. Only if you have time though, I know how busy family visits can be too ;)

The Market is in the Macy's/Pier 1/Longs Parking lot off of the main downtown strip - it's in a big parking garage behind there (don't know the name of the street!). Drop me a line: phillipslayden AT gmail DOT com

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

Michelle, I loved reading this post. Things for us are up in the air right now (the economy being what it is, Dan's initial job hunt isn't going so hotly), and I'm trying to remind myself to be willing to be open to change. What you wrote brought me back to the heart of the matter, which is (as I've been telling myself, but not believing too much) good things can come from bad surprises. They tend to be what we make them.

Michelle said...

Thanks so much Sally. It's good to *see* you since I've been off in my own little world lately. Do remind yourself of that - you have such great things ahead of you, I'm confident that your heart will keep leading you in the right direction and fate will lead you to where you need to be. It'll work out one way or another, I'm sure. *hug*