Author Archives: kari

Traffic. Ugh traffic.

I took a bad spill yesterday when I was leaving the house – no ice or anything, I just fell over, and landed right on my tailbone. It hurts SO BAD. I drove to work but should have turned around: 20 min into the trip I was crying. Walking around is ok, but sitting is not ok.

And then I got this on my trip home:


TRAFFIC. I think there was one of those oversized houses-on trailers tipped over. Regardless, the day I brutally injured my sitting parts was not the day I wanted to be stick in traffic for 2 1/2 hours.

This morning I begged off of a 100 mile drive to my job site for meetings and used the extra time in the morning to do my nails.


Science project

Mister Nine has a science project due this week so we’ve been discussing hypotheses and experimentation procedure for a few days now. He has an exciting idea about electricity and what materials may or may not conduct it, and we are developing an experiment to prove his hypothesis to the entire fourth grade.

Turns out it can be pretty helpful to have a mad scientist for a dad and stepmom who writes up scientific methodology and results at her day job.

2013 Recipe 1: Beef Stew

A sweet friend suggested that she was going to try one new recipe every week this year. What a brilliant resolution! I have got an evernote account FULL of recipes I’ve snipped out over the years, and really would like to cook more at home. I’ll give it a go too.

So: Recipe 1: BEEF STEW.



I worked at home yesterday so had a chance to make this Beef Stew, from Real Simple. It goes in a slow cooker but it is not at all like the slow cooker stews I made when I was a kid – those involved chucking everything in and turning it on, this one requires browning and deglasing. It IS delicious. The boys loved it (though Thirteen carefully ate around all of the diced onions, and really seemed to enjoy most of all the latitude to put as much bread in his body as he could).

Note for the recipe – I wouldn’t recommend following the proportions. I used 1/2 the meat, and it was entirely satisfactory. Any more and it wouldn’t have fit in my 4-Qt slow-cooker. I don’t usually have baby carrots in the house but we did from our recent car trip to Ohio and back, and I was happy to chuck those monstrosities into dinner as well.

And here is my beef (oh geez, entirely unintentional!) with slow cookers – they are really no good if you work away from the home. I want something I can chuck food into and cook and when I come home it’s all set – but almost all recipes seem to say “6-8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.” I work an eight hour (at least!) day and it takes me another hour or so to get to and from work. I can’t just leave that cooking all day long. Therefore, slow cooker use is restricted to those times I’m at home and can start it up at my leisure, letting it work hard behind the scenes while I’m nearby and ready to shut it off before dinner time.

This is a necklace


My sweetheart made me this necklace for Christmas – mostly, I think, because the skull beads cracked him up. I showed it to a geologist at work and he thought I was rock-name-pop-quizzing him. I guess geologists get that a lot – people just hand them rocks all grubby and warm from pockets and say “I thought this was pretty, what is it?” Whereas I am all “Squee skulls!”

Also of note: upper portions of the vest I FINALLY finished after (not) knitting on it for about 2 years. I love it and wear it all the time.

Handwritten notes


I had a brilliant idea to slip personalized notes in to the invitations for the Cooper Union Founders Day Celebration. I am about 50 invites away from completion and my poor wrist is screaming. I’ve got a total of 169 to write. No big, right…?

Ohio 2013

We are on the way home from Ohio, where we spent New Years Eve ringing in 2013 with Mike’s Aunt Kate and family. This is the 3rd year we’ve gone out for their annual seafood feast and party and it’s so nice to get to know everyone. The boys are great with the long drive. We are toughening them up for epic adventures of our or their making in the future.

This year we spent a whole day with Kelly and Erik in Pittsburgh – sledding, chilling, and pizza partying with a few others. It was a perfect break in the highway monotony and when we resumed our trek west we stayed on secondary highways to western Ohio – it only added another 1 1/2 hours to our drive and it was so much better than the turnpike.

On our trip home hilarity ensued when a friend sent me a link to Get to know your Carhartt Boyfriend, and I turned to my sweet manly husband and snapped a picture before reading him the article as he drove us home.


There was snow at home while we were gone, so Mike and I are a tiny bit worried our steep-and-long driveway will be impassible… But did I ever mention that My Carhartt Boyfriend has a flame-thrower in the basement? So if you see steam and fire from our house tonight we are just trying to melt the driveway so we can park the car and get to bed. Promise.

left the cars at the bottom of the driveway last night.

left the cars at the bottom of the driveway last night.

We got our share of the winter storm yesterday. 4ish inches maybe? it took me 2 1/2 hours to drive home when it’s normally a 45 minute to an hour endeavor. I pulled into the driveway and veered off a little into the weeds, so put it in park and walked up the hill. I’m thankful I wore my winter boots to work yesterday preemptively.

Today Mike and I are working from home. The roads were still a mess when I would have normally left, and I have actually got stuff to do so didn’t want to waste another 2 1/2 hours getting in. I’ll shovel at lunch. I love shoveling (the first time of the year).


2012, you have been wonderful and horrible.

Last week I was in Washington DC for a conference, and someone mentioned: you haven’t been to these meetings in a while, have you? And then I realized that  I could summarize 2012 as the year all of my grandmothers died, I got married, and we had the kids all summer long. Which sounds kind of epic but in a very pathetic way, you know?

Maybe this will be better. I know it’s not done yet, but this is what happened:

I wrote a resolution that was adopted by the CUAA council in support of the mission statement of Cooper Union, which supports free tuition policy. I was the sole breadearner in our household this month. It was a little stressful. I had to pay more precise attention at work because I was suddenly concerned about being laid off. (Top Secret: this is not always the case.) Temporary cat was adorables. January was so warm, we went hiking several times.

I went to San Diego for a sustainable remediation conference and was inducted onto the board of said organization as the secretary. I was still the sole breadearner and stressed a little more about it. I hosted endless focus groups for Cooper Union and worked really hard to build community. We visited Peter Cooper’s grave! More hiking! Valentines day cookies!

More Cooper Union community volunteering. Mike got a JOB. YAY. we staycationed our normal anniversary weekend away, and then we opened a joint bank account. I signed up for a t-shirt quilting class and didn’t actually finish anything (but learned a lot). I could still ride the motorcycle to work! Temporary cat killed mice!

Mike started his job and I had to get used to not having an at-home sweetheart to do all the kids stuff and make all the dinners any more. Also he got paid, that was pretty nice. I had a birthday party that combined a dead tree chopping down and a chili party. and then I participated in authorship of an amazing document called The Way Forward, summarizing the community consensus based process and proposing a simple path forward for Cooper Union to reachieve solvency without charging tuition. And then – oh, then – my mother’s mom sickened, suddenly, and passed away. We had a community summit and I was a panelist and the next day I flew to Phoenix for the funeral.

More Cooper Union stuff! and then we decided to have a wedding, and then we decided NOT to have a wedding. But we really were going to get married, so I guess we were officially engaged? only it’s not different from any other time that we’d been in love and meant to spend our lives together so we don’t make a big deal of it. We went on another amazing motorcycle vacation with Rick and Janice. We had porch robins and the boys started baseball again.

My cousin Sara got married in SC, and we drove there and back with the little dudes. YAY I INTRODUCED THEM TO MY BIG FAMILY. Lots of work at my job, lots lots lots.  baseball and end of school. And a weekend away with my internet motorcycling friends – all nice ladies – and mike and janice.

we have the boys all this month, as their mom works out of town. and my job is so crazy. And then we decide to plan an elopement for real in august. and I ran a 5K and won a trophy!

Also of note: I really didn’t take many photos. What’s up with that?


the boys each go away to camp for a whole week, though, which makes things kind of quiet mid-month. got marriage license, wedding dress, and married, all in 2 weeks. went away to the beach for vacation. YAY. All this stuff makes it super easy to have the kids all month.

Rode the motorcycles to see Sarah and Ben for labor day weekend. Work was nuts and then? My gramma got sick. super sick. in the hospital. and I flew down and visited her and we had such a sweet time together and then left and the next day she died. Oh, gramma. I still miss you so badly. Mike and I went to her funeral the next weekend. My family is sweet and it’s nice to be with them.

Short week back after Gramma’s funeral with kids and Cooper Union meetings and then we were off to the UK for a long weekend and Rachel’s wedding. October was also the month that I made the boys do all their homework. Like, they were trying so hard not to do it, and no one was paying attention, and I made them do it all, and then everyone else paid attention and it stuck and now they are doing amazing in school. Rheinbeck sheep and wool! new project bike gifted to us! and OH ALSO Hurricane Sandy, and no power for 2 days. And we discovered a horrible leak in the bathroom and/or wall and got a new tub and I designed a new bathroom using pinterest and graph paper. Also mom and I planted lots of perennials.

Thirteen and I started to take tae kwon do! we love it! The kitchen is a disaster b/c we had to demo the wall and fix the leaking pipe, and we had Sarah and Ben over for non-thanksgiving and hunting (nothing was harmed except our thanksgiving ham). I had a pampered chef party. Work continued to be super hard and worky.

Again? no pictures. sigh.

Dinosaur Jr Concert! Holiday party at work then drive to holiday party in pgh. Oh, I’m so proud of Cooper Union students who occupy the foundation building. I go to Washington DC for the SURF conference. I can’t believe it’s my first one since february (I missed one in the middle), and then, THIS is where I realize that all I did this year was put my head down and get through it. So much work, so much kid time (which I love, but it is a lot of work), so much with my grammas dying, so much travel. Back to work where I keep putting my head down and digging in.

2012, I am going to get through you. No doubts here.

Whoa it was a big year. Two more weeks, friends, two more weeks.

there are a number of reasons why I married Mike.

This actually does fall into one of those categories. I’m not sure which one, but it’s so hilarious and endearing.

Two weekends of acquisition

As much as my last two weekends have been filled with torturing Thirteen as I try to help him help himself on big social studies reports, blistered palms resulting from digging holes for perennial planting in our extraordinarily rocky soil, and singlehandedly (well, I did use the washer/dryer) washing almost EVERY SINGLE piece of clothing in the house in one weekend — well. LOOK, just LOOK at what I’ve gotten over the last couple of weekends:

A new project bike! Nighthawk 450, gifted so generously from Rick and Janice to commemorate the happy occasion of our marriage. Considering that Mike already has a project bike I am so commandeering this.

The next day we hoped in our little car and trailered this lovely pedestal cast iron tub home from Tarrytown NY. For only $60!

it’s SO nice on the inside:

and once again may I say: I love our small car lifestyle!

The occasion for the tub is not so happy. Suffice it to say (for now!) that there is an awkward and annoying leak that is persistent and getting much worse and necessitates the renovation of our upstairs bathroom about 2 years before we were ready to pay someone else to do so. Family Tip Grundzilla will be performing this engaging and fruitful activity next weekend. Theoretically Fruitfully. Wish us luck.

And then this weekend I went to Rheinbeck for the NY Sheep and Wool Festival and got ALL THE THINGS:
rheinbeck party

OK, I didn’t get the sheep and the llama. But I wanted to. Badly. Think Nine and Thirteen can be swayed off of horses in 4H and onto the fiber-bearing animals?

Tortured by traffic

I’ve been having a terrible traffic week. This time of year always seems so dire as the day gets dramatically shorter – it’s been dark the last couple of days when I left the house. And the traffic! At least when it clears up I can enjoy lovely sunrises.


These days I really feel my 1.5-2 hr commute. It’s so clear as I sit in dark traffic all the things I could be doing if I wasn’t in the car – all the emails unresponded, all the knitting unknit, all the canning I’m behind on, all the running I don’t do! It is what it is, but dark and trafficy makes me restless.

Today I left at 6AM and rushed to central NJ for training. I took to the streets after my particular highway was jammed up and barely made it in time. I’m sitting here 105 miles from home learning all about my next big professional certification. Lunch is provided and the tea service seems to be ample. Learning hat on!


After a family dinner, a rainy day spent in V&A museum, and a quick sunny walk, @mikegrundy and I are heading home. Lovely 48 hrs in London! # Powered by Twitter Tools

Underground minimoon


Mike and I spent all day today in the Victoria and Albert museum. It was amazing, we totally geeked out. tomorrow we spend all of our remaining pounds on chocolate bars for the boys and head home. We didn’t have beers at a pub or fish and chips but our brief stay in London was amazing. Almost like a tiny honeymoon.

We can do that, right? Keep calling all our alone-and-away trips honeymoons? Like, forever?


Notes from London

No pictures of the wedding just yet, nor of anything we’ve been looking at.

  • rye is so neat. I could probably spend a good while there relaxing and walking around.
  • wedding = fabulous! It was beautiful. The bride and groom were beautiful.
  • I’m so envious of all the people on motorcycles. Mike and I have a secret plan to come back and spend a few days in London, a few days on motorcycles, and the Paris.
  • Tomorrow we are going to the Victoria and Albert museum, having cream tea, and possibly also eating at a pub in the evening.
  • Jet lag went ok – we powered through.
  • English breakfast! Poached eggs on toast with grilled tomato, mushroom, and bacon. And so much tea. Lovely.
  • We are visiting with peeps tonight before the bride and groom jet off on their honeymoon.

    Oh! And I finished a hat. It didn’t come out at ALL how I thought it was, but it’s cute none-the-less.


    On our way to London to see Ranger get married! # Powered by Twitter Tools



    I made a field visit to my big project job site this morning. I didn’t do a field walk today but took this picture a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to impress Thirteen with my awesome job. He was just moderately interested. My sweetheart, on the other hand, showed off the picture to his coworkers saying “hey! Look! It’s my wife!” apparently responses were split between “what does she do?” and “no, it’s half of your wife.”

    Homework Monster

    Lately I am the homework monster. Mike’s “new” job has a long commute and a lot of afternoon meetings, so frequently I am picking up the boys after work, bringing them to my house, making dinner and checking their homework. Then Mike rolls in at 7:30 and I give him a kiss on the cheek and serve him dinner. (for the record, then he cleans ALL THE KITCHEN after the boys are to bed and I climb under my own covers with a glass of wine and a good novel.)

    photo Nine is, well, NINE. he is not interested in doing homework. He gets it out at his sitters after school and does it to about 95% completion. I’ve been making a point this year to check his homework whenever he’s at our house, and make sure that his answers are correct and he’s done everything he’s supposed to do.



    photo Thirteen is, well, THIRTEEN. and he REALLY doesn’t want us to butt in to his schedule and so for now, we are letting him check his own work. If his grades change then that’ll change too. We bought him a new planner and showed him how we get notifications from his teachers if he misses a homework assignment. He knows the plan and hunkers down to work as soon as we get into the house.

    This week I spent nearly 2 hours with Nine going over homework. He’d left his homework packet at our house on Thursday morning, so he couldn’t hand in homework that was due on Thursday, Friday, or Monday. He didn’t tell his mom or his babysitter about it, and he passed it off to his teacher as a “dad’s house/mom’s house” issue. So he got a big talk. He had to finish all the homework he would have had to complete last week – a math worksheet, some reading, and a book report – and then we talked about all the homework he hadn’t gotten done the week before, how leaving homework at our house is NOT an excuse because hey: your mom and dad talk, kiddo, a lot, and how he needs to be more responsible for his own homework.

    (This is all really crazy for me because I never did homework when I was a little kid. Don’t tell Nine.)

    It turns out I’m the homework heavy. I’ve been talking to Mike all summer about Thirteen, and how to help him succeed at school. I totally laid down the law for Nine this week. Thankfully Mike backs me up, and the boys’ mom agrees too. But I just never thought I’d be the one enforcing this stuff for these little dudes, and I certainly didn’t expect it to take as much time as it does.  HOLY COW DOES IT TAKE A LOT OF TIME.


    I wrote in April about how much parenting I take on with the little dudes, and you know, I’ve been doing about the same level of engagement for a few years now. But no matter what happens I have a very little insecure stepmonster deep inside who manages to derail me frequently with whispers of “who ARE you, anyway, to force your value system on these children? They’re not even yours.” UGH. torturecakes. What a nasty little voice.

    And you know, it’s KIND OF true. They’re not biologically *my kids.* They are, however, the kids I’ve got and the kids I’m caring for. So I have to remind myself to shut UP that insecure stepmonster voice. Kids LOVE structure. Kids LOVE having reasonable expectations placed on them, because kids also LOVE success and accomplishment, and with reasonable expectations there are endless opportunities for success and accomplishment.

    Just by knowing me and seeing me as frequently as they do, the little dudes will pick up on my value system. If I chain-smoked and drank with breakfast and cussed all the time, they would notice that. If I went to church 5x a week and prayed before meals, they would notice that. I’m a reasonable person with very reasonable expectations: do your very best in school. No iPhones at the dinner table. We will all eat together for dinner. Eat vegetables every day. Read a book every now and then. Pretty easy stuff, right?

    Whoa. After waking up in TN at 4am, flying back and doing a full days work in NJ, then intensive homework time w Nine for the last 2 hours.. # Powered by Twitter Tools

    Thankful for my sweet family this weekend, and thankful for dear @mikegrundy, maker of trips and holder of hands. # Powered by Twitter Tools



    Originally uploaded by karinajean.

    My sweet gramma in 1999. She just passed away this week at 93. I love her dearly.