And how different they were. A few weekends ago I decided, mostly for Anna's sake but also for my own, that I needed to make a real effort to get back into our normal, "old" life routine - more home time, more baking, more gardening (the weather has really been that nice!), more time with the animals, and maybe even a few blog postings here and there.
Of course this will all have to be packed into our weekend time, but we were off to a good start with a trip to the sugar shack and the bulb show at Smith College - two of our favorite harbingers of spring. Spring and the start of the growing season seem the right time to make that kind of resolution - moreso than the start of the new calendar year.
Anna took about a hundred photos of her favorite spring bulbs and other plants as we walked through the greenhouses. There was talk of our own gardens and thoughts of starting seeds.
Last weekend, I made good on my intentions and we really got down to the business of being home and focusing on the enjoyment of doing all our home work together. Oh, there were the usual problems with sheep breaking into the house, but the weather was great and we accomplished a lot.
And usually the sheep are good helpers, and not too naughty (except maybe Bunny).
The daffodils were starting to pop up and we noticed that many of them were under branches that had broken off during that devastating snowstorm in October, so we did a comprehensive cleanup of all the storm remnants and made a scary-big burn pile. We might be separating it into smaller piles for safety reasons.
We strolled around the yard and assessed the garden situation, planted some of our indoor bulbs for next year (the green parts of our spent tete-a-tetes looked tasty to Miss Fudge), found a little curled up wooly worm and put him under one of the butterfly bushes away from hooves, prepped all the containers on the porch for planting, looked through our saved seeds to determine what new seeds need to be purchased (not many) and planned this year's beds.
As you can see below, garden planning is a serious process involving analysis, organization and documentation, using not one, but two laptops. Anna has also set up an excellent, ongoing gardening journal (great homeschool project!) listing all our ornamental plants and fruit trees, information about their location, cultural requirements, how well they grow from year to year, and photographs of each one.
But a girl can only work so long without a break for baked goods. In anticipation of our annual hot cross bun baking extravaganza (every weekend throughout the Easter season - we were a little late starting this year - or maybe Easter is just a little early!), we made a huge supply of candied orange peel. I wish I had some photos of the peel cooling in the pot - it was the most beautiful, rich, glossy, deep orange color - but I was very busy trying to keep Michael and Anna from eating too much of it. It was an excellent batch - even better than last year's, I'm told.
Anna enjoyed making the hot cross buns - she put together the mixed spice with a lot of freshly grated nutmeg, and she is the best kneeder, only once distracted from her task by a squirrel trying to get into the squirrel-proof feeder at our kitchen window. Poor guy. We threw some black oil sunflower seeds on the porch floor for him for his effort.
We make our buns with a cross scored into the top before baking rather than an icing cross, but the buns do benefit from a sugar glaze when they are hot out of the oven.
They are irresistible, especially eaten in the sunshine on the porch with a cup of tea. Crashy was relaxing just inside the door, close to us but out of the sun. Such a handsome old man, isn't he?
Being in the cooking mode, we also made Michael a traditional Irish dinner for St. Patrick's Day. Potatoes featured prominently in each dish. And we weren't shy with the cabbage either!
By the end of the weekend, I was feeling great and thinking that splitting my time between two states could really work as long as I had this time at home on the weekends to focus on the important things.
And then there was this past weekend. I drove over 900 miles (seriously). It all started with a trip on Thursday to Children's Hospital in Boston for a follow-up for Little Miss Anna's ankle. She is in pretty good shape - one ligament is completely healed, the other is still a little frayed and damaged, but she is on the mend. She has been on pointe again for 4 weeks with no real problems other than a little soreness from not having used certain muscles for so long. We don't have to go back for 5 months - great news! And the weather was gorgeous and the cherry trees and magnolias were in bloom. In Boston. In March.
Friday we drove to Philadelphia for a ballet summer intensive audition. We didn't stop off at home as originally planned, but met Michael for a quick lunch in Noho and then headed straight to our B&B. It was a nice night to walk around the city but not for too long because Anna needed a good night sleep. We came across this garden built of broken china and glass - beautiful with the night lights shining off every surface.
And here she is the next morning, ready to walk to the Rock School for her audition.
We had already emailed the three required audition photos (taken during my lunch hour in the community center behind City Hall - all that physical therapy for her ankle did wonders for her legs too!), so the only thing left for Anna to do was to wow them with her beautiful dancing. It went very well - the director said they would "love" to have her this summer.
Unfortunately, our plans for walking around the old part of the city and seeing the Liberty Bell were ruined by the ever-increasing rainfall. I offered to drive Anna around so she could at least get the windshield tour, but her response was "Let's just go to Grandmom and Grandpop's. I got what I came for." She is all business when it comes to ballet - don't let that smile fool you!
We spent a great 24 hours with G.mom and G.pop, and then drove home. Michael made us dinner, Anna snuggled her Tiger, I gave Crashy puppy treats, and then, 2 hours after we arrived, we left for NH. So much for settling in at home last weekend, but I'm looking forward to a quiet, busy-at-home weekend with my girl beginning in 2 hours, after my drive home.