Happy Halloween!

Chris came back into town last night after 4 evenings away on a golf/gambling/alcohol/food binge to Las Vegas…but alas, no vasectomy. So he has the pleasure of escorting our daughters as they demand candy from our neighbors in our balmy 40 degree weather. I am taking the night off and plan to hand out candy with one hand while drinking red wine from the other. Because that’s what moms do: we multi-task. Happy Halloween everyone!

A is for Apple

Fall is upon us here in the great northern state of Minnesota.  Most of the trees are bare and even on sunny days, there is a crispness and a coolness that signals to us unlucky inhabitants of this state that winter is coming.  Winter in Minnesota.  Sigh.  It is truly a time that tries men’s (and women’s) souls.

So in preparation for the sad days to come, we try to maximize the autumn days we have left.  Trips to pumpkin patches, fall festivals, corn mazes.  And of course, the apple orchard.  Everyone has their favorite.  The Reicherts are particularly fond of Minnetonka Orchards.  It was the first orchard I visited when I was a childless and carefree (childless and carefree…now that’s redundant!) grad student back in 1997 and it always gives me one of those “circle of life” feelings to take our girls there.  Since my first trip, I’ve seen the orchard add more and more attractions to lure in visitors, but of course, the real draw is the apples.  Sarah and Katie love to pick their own, scouring the trees for just the perfect ones.  Taste testing is of utmost importance and it seems the girls eat as many as they pick.

Once we bring our bounty home, the girls always beg me to bake a pie.  Baking a pie is one of those skills I have yet to master.  That and parallel parking.  So instead, we settle for this delicious Cinnamon Apple Crisp.  It is a simple, almost full proof recipe and I feel like Betty Crocker (if she had been a real person and Korean) when the aroma of the cinnamon, baked apples, and sugary crust fill our home.

REICHERT RATING:  Three thumbs up from Chris, me, and Sarah.  Katie is of a less refined palate and declared, “I don’t like this thing.”  That’s ok…more for me!

THE “BUT I WANT TO HELP” QUOTIENT:  The girls loved making the crumbly crust of the crisp…maybe a little too much.  As Sarah and Katie were literally elbow deep mashing up the ingredients, I tried not to think of all the places their little fingers had been that day.  Up their nose was probably the cleanest of the possibilities.  Surely the heat from the oven kills any germs, right?

And the best part for the girls, licking off sugar, flour, and butter from their grubby little fingers, hands, and elbows.

I wanted to take a picture of the final product but we dug into too fast.  Here’s a picture of it half scooped out of the pan.

 And of course, you gotta eat it with ice cream:

The recipe is one that I modified from epicurious.  The beauty of this one is that you can make the recipe as is or use it as a starting point to change it however you wish.  Rolled oats in the topping or maybe throw in some cranberries?  Drizzle some caramel on top?  Add some nutmeg, cloves, or all spice?  Hard to go wrong with this one!

CINNAMON APPLE CRISP

1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like your desserts and the sweetness of your apples)

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

3-4 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (I cut mine into 8ths, any thinner and it gets too mushy for me)

1 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in large bowl. Add apples and toss to coat. Transfer apple mixture to prepared dish.

Combine flour, sugar and butter in medium bowl. Using pastry blender or fingertips, blend ingredients until coarse meal forms. Spread flour mixture evenly over apples.

Bake crisp 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake crisp until apples are tender and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Of Mice and Men

I wear many hats as a stay at home mom.  Most of them I anticipated when I took the job: cook, nurse, laundress, disciplinarian, entertainer.  But some other chores have fallen into my lap by virtue of the fact that I stay home all day and my husband does not.  For instance, I routinely patrol our large front and back yard, blue waste bags in hand, picking up our dog’s poops.  Not a job I relish but neither do I want my children to step in said poop while playing and have it fall to me to clean their shoes.  I mean really, cleaning poop off shoes?  Does it get any worse than that?  The answer, as most SAHMs know is yes, it can always get worse.  Read on.

Today, I was doing my usual recon work around the the backyard with Katie in tow when I looked down and saw a dead mouse.  A teeny, tiny dead brown mouse with its four little paws up in the air and bloody, empty sockets where its eyes had been.  Now, while I have no issues killing spiders or baiting worms on hooks or even eating a plate full of organ meat that most people wouldn’t feed their pets, I DO NOT DO RODENTS.  Let me say that again, I DO NOT DO RODENTS.  My immediate reaction was to scream like a little girl.  Like a scared, terrified, I-am-going-to-pee-in-my-pants little girl.  Katie, curious at this rapid turn of events, came to see what the fuss was about and also proceeded to scream like a little girl. Which is appropriate, because, you know, she is one. I, however, had no such excuse.

Our screams died down and I realized we had an audience.  Two of our lawn care workers were in the backyard for our scheduled lawn aeration.  I quickly gathered my wits and explained to them as calmly as I could that I had just seen a DEAD MOUSE!!  Ok, so my voice broke a little at the end but really, it was all I could do not to run away, lock up all the doors in our house, and dive under my covers.

I showed the lawn guys around the yard and then, had to do some serious soul searching.  What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks was I going to do about this mouse?  Chris was out of town and not due to be home for another 26 hours.  It figured he would be hundreds of miles away in a time of crisis!!!!  Should I do nothing and leave it for Chris to dispose of when he got back?  If I did, I risked our dog Ellie finding it and deciding it would make an excellent chew toy.  Or, the lawn guys running over it with their aeration machine, chopping it up into a million tiny pieces, and strewing dead mouse parts over our backyard.  Should I ask the lawn guys to help a girl out and get rid of it for me?  I may just be a stay at home mom picking up dog feces on my time off but really, even I have my pride.  None of the scenarios seemed appealing.

OR….

I could “put on my big girl panties” as my lovely mother-in-law is fond of saying and get rid of the mouse myself.  I don’t know if my words can adequately convey to you, dear reader, what a momentous decision this was for me.  It was time to show Katie that her mommy can handle whatever situation came our way.  I grabbed a shovel from our garage, marched with firmness of conviction to the backyard, and proceeded to scoop the little varmint into the shovel.  It was already stiff with rigor mortis and was surprisingly difficult to get it onto the shovel.  I might have let out some high-pitched little yelps during this phase of the operation (did I mention IT HAD NO EYES!!) but otherwise, I remained strong.  After several botched attempts, I got it onto the shovel, quickly walked it to the woods behind our back yard, and flung it out as far as I could.  Katie let out a triumphant, “HOORAY MOMMY!” and with my heart pounding in rapid staccato beats, I let out a big smile.  The lawn guys saw me go back into the garage with my empty shovel in hand and gave me a knowing nod of approval.  And while I was proud of myself for my small but significant victory, all I could think was, “I don’t get paid enough for this shit.”