If the Koppelbergers wrote a Christmas Letter: 2015

Well 2015 was certainly a year of highs and lows for us.

In January of 2015 Field Local Schools chose to end their sponsorship agreement with the Falcon Academy of Creative Arts which caused the school to  close at the end of the school year which meant Katelyn lost her dream job. It was a rough battle and things got really ugly but in the end the school went out on a high note. All five…yes FIVE Destination Imagination teams Katelyn coached did really well at the regional tournament in March with 4 out of the 5 placing in the top 3 in their categories and one of her 8th graders taking home the prestigious DaVinci Award. In May Katelyn and her friend Laura teamed up again to direct the final FACA musical, Willy Wonka, Junior. The show was absolutely perfect with an amazing cast and crew of young people and an absurd amount of sets, props, and effects for a production done in a cafegymatorium….just the way Kate and Laura like it!

Katelyn was able to take a voluntary transfer within the Field Local School District so that she was able to stay employed but losing her dream job was a really rough blow and she has been struggling a lot ever since but some good things are on the horizon so we are hoping 2016 will see her career back where she wants it.

Both of us earned diplomas from the University of Akron in May of 2015. Katelyn finished her masters in Instructional Technology and Jordan earned his bachelors in computer engineering. Jordan graduated summa cum laude and earned the Outstanding Undergraduate Engineer Award, The Milton L. Kult Award, and the Trajectory Award. In June he started at Keithley Instruments full time as a software design engineer working with existing products…which he absolutely loves!

We said goodbye to the beloved Mini Cooper this year but Jordan bought a new Subaru Outback and now that we have the bigger car we aren’t sure how we ever lived without it. Katelyn insists on driving the VW until it dies…despite the face that it has a busted headlight cage, the radio doesn’t work and the windshield wipers are “spotty”.

2015 saw not one but TWO trips to Hocking Hills. The second trip was a Koppelberger/Macaulay/Bement/Biemborn Family Adventure…trails were hiked, caves were explored, and MANY pancakes were eaten! We made friends with a stray cat and weird looking duck. We are hoping to make some sort of small trip an annual event.

We welcomed two new family members this year….just not in the way we were expecting…in June an injured kitten showed up on our doorstep (literally on the step and he bled all over it). We took him to the vet the next morning and was told the prognosis was grim because he was underweight, in shock and fighting off infection. After 72 hours with us he had gained three pounds and his temperature was back to normal. A former student of Katelyn’s suggested we name him Spock because she has pointy ears and with our help he will “live long and prosper.” We walks with a limp and has a messed up eye but otherwise he is happy and healthy. About a month later Jordan’s side of the family found another stray kitten..Katelyn said no but one day she came home and there was the kitten…we named her Madame Purrie. She is on the small side from being a stray but she is the most beautiful color. The vet office is having a debate over what to call her color…we visit the vet a lot.

Schrodinger is still studying physics and has gotten some help for his anxiety and has been much easier to live with. Siggy’s #1 hobby is still eating. Lovie who we often refer to as our “Boston Terrible” has completed obedience school and level one agility. She is starting level 2 this week.

We house news we got the exterior painted and bought a new storm door so we are no longer the ugly house. We also got a lot of dead trees taken down but it still looks like Jurassic Park around here.

Katelyn got a legitimate medical diagnosis of “bad luck” and wishes she would have gotten that in writing…because those were the doctor’s exact works.  She volunteered at Camp Quality again this year and had a blast as usual.

We have had to cut back on trivia and karaoke this year but try to go when we can.

2016 will hopefully bring some good changes and we have a lot to look forward to.

Peace!

 

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Hey Look! I Cooked Something! My Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s no secret that I’m not a great cook so in 2009 when I started my first “real job” and was introduced to the concept of the “office potluck” I thought I was in hot water. What was I going to bring? Please understand these work potlucks were EPIC! It was a high stress job but we knew how to have fun! So I wanted to bring something that was worthy of these parties but also easy to make, easy to transport, and didn’t need refrigerated. Around this same time Jordan was trying to find a recipe for a lemon meringue pie a relative used to make. We called Jordan’s mom and asked her what she thought we could find the recipe. “I think it was just the recipe off the back of the box of corn starch.” She told us. At first that seemed like a disappointing thought, that the wonderful pie Jordan remembers from holidays at his grandparents’ house wasn’t some secret family recipe but instead the one off the box of corn starch but the more we thought about it….we realized it was a BRILLIANT way to find recipes! Who would be invested more in creating quality recipes for their products than the people who make the products?

With that in mind we decided to try the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House bag. I took these to the potluck and they were a HIT! I now make these for everything. At first I tell people they are the “Koppelberger Secret Family Recipe” but when they ask for the recipe I tell them where they can find them. However, I do modify them slightly. Here’s MY exact recipe for the “World Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies!”

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks of butter, softened (if you “soften” it too much in the microwave it will melt and the texture will be a little off but not bad.) Yes, it needs to be real better.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar. I firmly believe you HAVE to use the DARK brown sugar.The flavor is better.
1 tsp. vanilla extract. I use our homemade vanilla extract or store bought real stuff not the imitation stuff.
2 large eggs
1 12oz pkg of Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels (well…almost a whole package…I sneak a few.) I really think to be a classic chocolate chip cookie that it HAS to be semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Optional: 1 cup chopped nuts. The recipe on the bag calls for them but I NEVER use them. I’m just not big on nuts in cookies.

Directions:
PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a BIG mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add baking soda, salt, and one cup of flour and beat. Add remaining flour and beat some more. In the recipe it has you mix the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl the add them to the large mixture but I really don’t think that makes a difference. I’ve done it both ways and never had anyone say “Yummy this tastes like the dry ingredients were mixed first!” so save yourself a an extra dish to wash. Stir in chocolate chips (and nuts if you’re THAT sort of person I guess…) Scoop on to an ungreased baking sheet.   If you are like my sister and I and have this weird inability to eyeball cookie dough into a human sized round then you MUST get one of those little ice cream scoop things! I can’t make cookies without it….they come out HUGE! What can I say? We like BIG cookies but when you are making them to share at a party it’s better to have 5 dozen normal cookies instead of a dozen GIANT cookies. Anyway, scoop the reasonably sized dough onto the cookie sheets without eating all the delicious cookie dough. Bake 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for about a minute or two. Move to cooling rack with a Darth Vader spatula and repeat until all the dough has turned into warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies!

BOOKS!!!

Tonight I decided to organize my books which was no easy task…and these are just the ones I have at home (I don’t even want to think about organizing my classroom library!)

It made me realize what a magical life I lead. I have several first editions, I have books signed by authors, and books given to me by authors I know. I have picture books my parents read to me and ones given to me by my grandma with my name written out in her perfect handwriting. I have TWO copies of the book I used to check out monthly at the local library when I was a kid. I have books I shared with my sister and ones I now share with my students. I have books that belong to my husband that I’ve taken over as mine. I have books given to my by my college professors. I have books on teaching, Muppets, gardening, trolls, photography, chickens, juggling, and even one on toilet training your cat.I have books that can take you to far off places full of mystery and magic. I have books I keep meaning to read and ones I’ve read a hundred times.I love being surrounded by all these books and I am so fortunate that I have always had the opportunity to lead a life full of literature…I just wish I wasn’t trying to fit them all on two shelves in the guest bedroom!

If the Koppelbergers Wrote a Christmas Letter 2014

Well the letter is late being published again this year because once again we ended a year being sick. This made 2014 a banner year for Jordan because a New Years Eve trip to Urgent Care for a strep test was the first time he’d gone to the doctor in well over a decade.

In 2014 we got a decent amount of work done on the house but no where near as much as we hoped. Our plan seems to be to fix things up until we run out of money, wait until we have money again, and repeat. Our big plan for 2015 is to get the game room fixed up so we will have a place to display Katelyn’s troll collection and Jordan’s arcade machine.

Jordan continues classes at Akron U and working at Keithley. On our 2013 tax returns we discovered he made more money than Katelyn for working the same amount of days despite him being a co-op and her having years of experience in her field. Katelyn is still recovering from the shock. Jordan has started using the phrase “I work in order to support my wife’s teaching habit.”  He is currently working on his senior design project involving autonomous robotic something something something….  Jordan bought a suit to wear to job interviews  and it must have been lucky because Keithley offered him a full time job for when he graduates. Jordan started taking guitar lessons this summer which he is really enjoying.

Katelyn is still at FACA and still loves it. Last school year she directed The Wizard of Oz: Young Performers Edition and while she and Laura left out the live animal performer like in Annie Jr., they did try their hands at 4th-7th graders operating some low level pyrotechnics. It was an amazing show!  Last school year Katelyn coached 3 Destination Imagination teams that all did really well at the regional tournament and one of the teams went to the state tournament and had a blast!  She got Jordan involved as a technical challenge appraiser and how he is hooked on DI. This school year she is coaching 5 Destination Imagination teams because she is out of her damn mind!  The pranks around the school were getting a little out of hand this year but before you go blaming the kids you should know it is the FACA staff that are behaving badly.One of Katelyn’s colleagues let approximately half a dozen grasshoppers loose her car this year. She is now being more careful about where she leaves her keys. Katelyn took her last college class ever in 2014 and now just has to finish her portfolio this semester to be done with her masters degree. Yes, she still hates her program.

Katelyn spent a week at Camp Quality as part of the program team again this year and Jordan came up and did a Lego activity and brought our gang of animals. We’ve made a lot of great friends through Camp Quality, especially Balloon Jeff. People often ask if volunteering at a camp for kids with cancer is sad but camp is full of so many hilarious inside jokes and weird stuff happening behind the scenes that you are laughing so hard the whole week that you don’t have time to be sad.

We took a trip to Hocking Hills again this year with some of Jordan’s relatives. We stayed one night in the same cabin we did last year and another night in a gypsy wagon at Ravenwood Castle. Katelyn has decided that castle life is how she is meant to live.

We celebrating our fourth anniversary by having a Halloween party scavenger hunt at our house. We may need to make the scavenger hunt a tradition because it was so much fun….is that a flamingo or are you just glad to see me?

We’ve had some additions to our family in 2014 including two ferrets named Hobbes and Bandit. For Christmas 2014 Santa brought us a little baby Boston Terrier named Pavlov; she goes by Lovie. She is super cute but farts a lot. Schrodinger and Siggy continue to be awesome and are doing really great with the new animals. Schrodinger is still studying physics and hogging the bed and Siggy is still working on becoming the master of  sleeping in weird places and crying unless the food bowl is at least 75% full at all times.

The rumors are true: Littlefoot did disappear for nearly 2 weeks this summer but Jordan found him hiding in the front yard. We still have no idea how he got out. Sadly our sweet tegu Zeus passed away this year. The iguana is still alive despite being older than some of the adult guests at our monthly board game nights. We are convinced it is going to outlive us all.

Our niece Evelyn was born in January and our nephew Leif turned two which gives us more reasons to walk into Toys R’ Us and ask the salesmen for the most annoying toys they have. Hopefully we will be the next in the family to have kids; in which case family members have already promised to wrap all those annoying toys up and re-gift them back to us. We will see what the future holds.

Between both of us working, being students, fixing up the house, Destination Imagination, Camp Quality, etc…we keep pretty busy. We don’t hit up karaoke and bar trivia as much as we used to which is sad but we try to host board game nights and Jordan is hosting a monthly Pathfinder game so that we still have some sort of social life.

2015 will hopefully bring both of us graduating, more work getting done on the house, and a vacation that actually takes us out of the state of Ohio.

Peace!

Katelyn, Jordan, Schrodinger, Sigmund, Pavlov and the rest of the Koppelberger Kritters.

Hey Look! I Cooked Something! 2

Cheese Lasagna 

 

This week has been kind of crazy so I wanted to cook something that would give us leftover for lunches and dinners for more than a day: enter cheese lasagna. I forgot to snap a picture of it but I will share my recipe. Please note that I am from a Italian/Sicilian background on my mother’s side so I don’t believe in using cottage cheese in lasagna or melting Kraft singles on the top (you sickos know who you are.)Besides that, there are very few rules with this basic recipe. It would be easy to add meat or veggies to it. There is a lot of room for variation but the basic recipe I am putting here is pretty simple. The problem comes from the fact that it is a recipe I got from my mom and both of us (and even my little old Italian grandma) cook (and give any sort of directions) based on things like “You know..buy the big container and use most of it” Our recipes work great but good luck to anyone trying to follow it. 

1. Locate the  baking dish you own  big enough to hold lasagna noodles. If you kitchen is organized like mine, this may take time.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Boil water in the biggest pot you own (may also take time because you may have to hand wash it because it somehow managed to avoid its turn in the dishwasher after being used to make corn on the cob the night before.) 

4. When water is boiling add one 16oz package of lasagna noodles. DO NOT BREAK THEM IN HALF TO FIT IN THE POT! Give them a minute and they will cook down enough to fit. 

5. While the noodles are cooking mix together one large (little over 4 cups) container of ricotta cheese (no you cannot substitute with cottage cheese, it isn’t the same. Stop kidding yourself), two cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/4 of a cup of grated Parmesan/Romano cheese blend, two table spoons of dried parsley, and two eggs. You can adjust the filling as you like it. Some people like Italian seasoning blend instead of parsley, I think that blend is too strong. I’ve seen some people use four eggs instead of two but since all the eggs do is hold it together I feel like that is more calories for the same result. 

4. When noodles are done (just like any pasta…firm and not mushy) strain them and run cold water over them to keep noodles from sticking together.

5. Put a small amount of your pasta sauce on the bottom of the baking dish to keep noodles from sticking. No spray required. For sauce I use Prego or Ragu original depending on which one is cheaper/available.  I use a plain original pasta sauce because I think this recipe gets enough flavor from the cheese but if you like something else, use it. I recommend getting the extra large plastic jar size because you will need a lot of sauce.

6. Layer noodled horizontally down the dish.

THIS IS WHERE MEASURING ENDS!!  KITCHEN ANARCHY AHEAD!!! 

7. Spoon on several globs (it’s the technical term, I swear) of the cheese mixture and pour on some sauce. I like to spread them around with a plastic spatula to get it even. Don’t be shy about using a lot of sauce. I always ended up using less than I should because before it cooks the noodles look like they are swimming in sauce; trust me when it cooks it will work just fine. Cover with another layer of noodles.

Repeat this until you can’t fit any more in the pain. Use up all the cheese mixture before the top layer.

8. On top of the last layer of noodles pour the remaining sauce and any extra mozzarella and Parmesan/Romano cheese blend that you want. I put a lot of cheese on the top but I like cheese. 

9. Bake for 45 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the top is golden, which with my oven happened around a little before 45 minutes so keep an eye on it. We’ve lived here for almost a year now and I am still trying to get the hang of this oven. Three years of using the Polly Pocket sized oven that took forever has conditioned me to over cook things in the human sized oven we have now. 

 

Note: I think this lasagna is even better the next day. I packed some in my lunch the next day. We were able to get dinner for two people for two nights and lunch for two people for one day out of this recipe. 

 

 

Hey look! I cooked something! #1

For a variety of reasons including Jordan’s late school schedule I’ve made a “new school year” resolution to cook dinner more. This week was my first attempt. Anyone who knows me knows cooking is not something I enjoy or that I am very good at. It takes patience and a longer attention span than I am willing to give. My goal is to find easy, healthy, vegetarian recipes so that we don’t rely on fast food and take out during the week.

I want to share my successes and failures because everyone needs to new recipes! I’m taking pictures on my iphone with my kitchen and the food as is. I don’t know how cookbooks, food blogs, and pinterest make such photogenic food but I want to show what food actually looks like. I’m by no means a good photographer or cook. 

Here are my 1st attempts:

 

1. Veggie Enchiladas in Jalapeno Sour Cream Sauce. 

OMG! This was amazing! I used corn and black beans for the filling to add some protein but you can use any veggies you like. I cooked the beans, corn, pepper and onions up in my beloved electric skillet. The filling could use a little more flavor. I think next time I am going to but some smoked chipotle peppers in to give it a smokey flavor. The sauce is what really makes this dish! I used fat free sour cream and it was still super rich. It was a little time consuming and required a couple of pans but really wasn’t difficult and was totally worth it. 

enchiladas 

You can find the recipe here: http://www.amuse-your-bouche.com/veggie-enchiladas-jalapeno-sour-cream-sauce/

Is this recipe a keeper? YES!!!! 

 

2. Garden Crock-pot Pasta: 

I think crock-pot cooking will be really convenient with the late nights Jordan will be in class. I have a cookbook of vegetarian crock-pot recipes and tried this new one. I combined one box of uncooked pasta with a jar of Prego tomato-basil pasta sauce, a can of stewed tomatoes, and a bag of frozen broccoli. The recipe called for squash too but I’m not a squash person. I mixed it up the night before then when I got home from work I put it in the crock-pot on high for 2 1/2 hrs. I went to work out and by the time I got back and cleaned up food was ready! I topped it with chopped up basil and feta cheese. It was a little mushier than I like but was pretty good. 

garden pasta 

Keeper? Not sure. It was simple to make but didn’t knock my socks off. 

 

3. Potatoes and Green Beans: 

Making this recipe I learned two things. First, I need recipes with clear directions. Second, I have no idea how to roast anything. The roasted garlic turned into charcoal. I chopped up some more and boiled it in with the green beans instead. I roasted (I guess) red potatoes covered in olive oil in the oven and boiled fresh green beans. I combined them in a serving bowl with chopped cilantro, green onion, and olive oil. It was a little bland so Jordan thought to add the left over feta cheese from the night before and that really made it! 

potatoes 

Original recipe here: http://theforestfeast.com/post/31462775464/potato-greenbean-salad

Keeper? Yes with some modifications. This dish really didn’t stand on its own as a dinner but would make a really good side dish at a picnic. I actually enjoyed it more when I ate the left overs cold for lunch the following day. 

4. Southwest Style Stuffed Pepper Mixture: 

Neither Jordan nor I like the actual pepper part of stuffed peppers. My grandma always made what she called “stuffed pepper mixture” so with a little creativity I was able to take the southwest stuffed pepper recipe from my crock-pot cookbook and put a spin on it. I cooked up four cups of white rice in the rice cooker. I had a bowl of corn, beans, red pepper and onion left over from the enchiladas. I heated those up in my amazing electric skillet along with a cut up green bell pepper, another onion,  and a tablespoon of chili powder. When the rice was done I added it, the veggies, a jar of salsa and 2-3 cups of Mexican cheese blend into the crock-pot. I stirred them all together and let them get all melty in the crock-pot for a little while. I served with a dollop of fat-free sour cream on the top.

stuffed pepper rice  

Keeper: Yes! It was pretty tasty and a great way to use up leftover ingredients!

 

What I learned this week: One thing that helped meal planning was making some dishes with the same perishable ingredients.  We tend to let things like fresh herbs and veggies go bad because you have to by a bunch as opposed to the amount that you need. I knew I needed a little bit of cilantro for the enchiladas so I found another recipe that would use the rest. I knew the green onions would go bad so I threw the little bit I had left in with the potatoes. This kept things from being wasted since one of the goals of this experiment is to save some money. 

Bonus recipe: Goat cheese and apricot preserves on Italian bread makes a really tasty sandwich. You can put slices of pear on it too. 

 

 

 

 

Living Room Before and After.

I am ready to declare one room officially done! There will be a few minor changes but it sure has come a long way!

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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New furniture in “Game Night” configuration.

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No more giant hole in the wall!!!

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Family photos and if you look really hard the Green Goblin!

 

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I love this new chair and check out the old record player.

BONUS:

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Jordan installed the new dishwasher! It works so much better than the old one and gives us way more room in the kitchen. The only downside it that it makes me realize how old and faded the cabinets look.

 

Yes I know this house needs a lot of work but there is so much I love about it and I especially love making it our own. Check out these great reasons from Retro Renovation to love an older home!

 

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