Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Love Funerals

Years ago I saw a bumper sticker in a novelty shop that read "Put the fun back in funeral." I'm happy to report that teenaged Trevor wasn't even tempted to purchase it.   It seemed insensitive and off-putting.  Even as a young person who hadn't yet fully developed this thing called "tact" (some would argue I still lack it in large measure), I knew that others could potentially be offended by the presence of such a sticker if they saw it at the wrong time.  

I know people who hate funerals.  People who would not attend the funeral of someone they really loved because it's too sad or too weird.  I have friends who won't even enter a building where they know a dead body to be, casket or not.  I have also attended some really sad and depressing memorial services.  There are many people who would think me odd, but I love funerals.  Really, I love funerals.

I've been to many funerals in my day.  The first funeral I really have vivid memories of having attended was for a great mentor of mine who served as the president of the young mens organization in my local church.  He had moved away the previous year and had perished in an airplane crash near Malad, Idaho.  I had just turned 15 and was grief-stricken that this man who I had looked up to so much was taken in the prime of his life.  After having waited in a long line to greet his young widow I sobbed trying to tell her how much I'd loved her husband.  Later, slightly more composed I listened and learned more about one of my heroes in one hour than I had gathered in several years of interactions with him.  Bruce Keyes had been a gifted athlete who played football for BYU.  He had served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was a wonderful example for the many people he served with.  I learned of special ways he had served and loved and cared for others.  Only a few brief sentences were spoken about his service with our young mens group and I realized everything he had done for us was a minute representation of the love and devotion he had given his entire life.  

As a fifteen year-old boy I experienced for the first time the joy of a funeral.  I did not leave forlorn and depressed.  I left that service inspired.  I decided that the best way to honor this mentor was for me to try my best to be as good a man as he was.  Later, as I served a mission to England, I tried to serve my companions in the way I had heard Bruce had served his companions.  Much later, when I had the opportunity to serve as a young mens president in my local church I tried to show that same love to the young men I served.

My maternal grandmother passed away when I was a senior in high school.  I attended her funeral the morning after our all-night high school graduation party.  I was tired and miserable as I walked into the church for the proceedings but managed to stay awake as I, once again, learned much more about my wonderful grandmother than I had ever known.  Norma Larsen was the mother of eight children and was widowed when my mom, the third youngest, was 10 years old.  She never remarried and finished raising my mom and her siblings on her own.  She was incredibly bright and was a meticulous journal writer and record keeper.  She was awarded the 'Utah Mother of the Year' award in 1980 and had kept her family close together as an inspired matriarch.  

My Grandma and Grandpa Larsen
I had known my grandma as she had aged and began to lose her memory.  She had lived with us for six months when she got to the point that she couldn't tell the difference between my brothers and I.  I had not fully appreciated the life of fortitude, devotion, love, service and sacrifice she had lived.  As I learned more about her inspiring, selfless life I determined that it was incumbent upon me as her grandson to try to follow her example and to live up to the Larsen side of my heritage.  

As the years have advanced I've had the opportunity to attend funerals for close friends and for some I did not know too well.  Almost without exception I have left the service feeling uplifted, feeling a desire to do better with the time allotted me on the earth.  I've learned that every person had struggles and trials that I had known nothing about.  They handled them with grace and courage, and I'm certain I would not have been able to do so.  I've been taught about life and about how I should live.  Even in the most heart-wrenching of circumstances when my soul felt sympathy pains that were hard to bear, I have learned, been inspired, been warned and instructed in how to live a better life.  I have been taught how to be a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better friend.  

Certainly, my religious beliefs have sustained me and allowed me to find joy in what would otherwise be completely tragic circumstances.  Knowing that death is not the end of ones existence but a step into another realm where we will one day meet again, helps to keep death in perspective.  Believing that Jesus Christ has made possible the reunion of our spirits and our bodies at some future point allows me to see death as a temporary goodbye.  This does not mean that I do not grieve for the loss of another, particularly one removed from this earth in the prime of life.  It is always difficult to lose someone who hasn't lived what I'd consider to be a full life, and it's heart-breaking to see a father or mother leave behind children who are not yet grown.  

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a high school cross country teammate.  We were on the team that had won the 1998 cross country national championship at Mountain View High School.  I was inspired to see our old team come together to honor one of our own.  We had friends who came from Texas, Colorado, Idaho, and from different corners of the state.  As I listened to the speakers talk about the life of Mark Schofield I teared up multiple times.  Here was a young father who left behind a wife and 5 children.  His youngest is only 3 months old, his oldest just barely 8.  As I learned more about his life I regretted that I had not spent more time with this great man.  I was inspired as I heard stories of the patience and love that he had shown to others.  Most of all, I left his funeral determined to be a more loyal friend, a better listener, and a harder worker- to try to emulate the best qualities of my friend.  
My Friend Mark Schofield

I hope that one day I have the opportunity to meet with the son of my mentor Bruce Keyes, or to run into the grown children of Mark Schofield.  I would love to take the time to let them know what amazing men there fathers were.  I want to be another witness to them of the great men that had gone before them.  I would want to inspire them to be better people because of the example their fathers were to me.  I do have the opportunity to teach my children about those who have gone before me and who have taught me so much from their lives example.  Sometimes we read stories from one of the books my Grandma Larsen authored about Heavenly Father's hand in our lives.  Other times I have shared stories about those who I have not met that inspired my parents who, in turn, inspired me.  

There you have it.  I love funerals because they give me an opportunity to learn about those who are no longer with us.  I love them because they leave me wanting to be a better person.  I love them because everyone is magnificent in some way and it's never too late to be inspired by a life of goodness.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Our Steampunk Chandelier

A few months back Nellie and I had dinner up at Grappa in Park City.  In the entryway of Grappa is a chandelier that I think is beautiful --it was love at first sight.  It looks like a rusty planter with two hoops at the bottom with light bulbs extending out horizontally.  As I didn't have the foresight to take a picture, I've borrowed a picture someone else took of it.  It wasn't long until we started to think about how we could reproduce elements of the Grappa chandelier into one that would fit the scale of our home.

We decided it would be best to start with a rusty wagon wheel.  We asked our favorite antique dealer (my mom) if she knew of any rusty wheels and it just so happened that she had a couple that she was kind enough to sell us at a great deal.
It made sense to use the smaller wheel for our dining area.  One day when Nellie was out of town I started to work on the fixture.  It was a challenge for me because I've never really done much with metal, nor have I ever wired a light etc.  

I began by drilling six 1/2" holes that we could at least run the wire through.  
Once the holes were drilled, I ran my brown lamp wire through the holes and attached the lamp sockets outside the wheel.  Instead of hanging the chandelier with chain we decided to mirror the Grappa chandelier and hang it by a bar.  This is a white painted steel bar that is sold for use in closets to hold hangers.  As you can see in the picture I used liberal zip-ties to hold everything in place for the rough draft.  
One of the biggest challenges was deciding how to hang the fixture itself.  It is fairly heavy and I wasn't sure how to harness it into the ceiling.  When we'd installed a ceiling fan a number of years back, I had installed a brace for the ceiling fan and decided to use the same support.  I drilled a hold through the top of the pipe, about 1/2" from the end and used a screw to hold it into the harness above.  
The rough draft was bright and kind of ugly, but it was a start.  One of the challenges was going to be figuring out how to get holes large enough for the lamps to fit inside of the rim.  Nellie and I didn't really like the drooping nature of the lamps as composed.  Also, the white pole needed to be replaced with a rusted one, as did the bright bolt holding the pole in at the bottom.  

After concluding the 1/2" holes would need to be 1 3/8" I set about trying to find solutions.  I first picked up a step bit that went up to 1 3/8", but that didn't end well.  After fishing for solutions on Facebook, I found one of my friends already had the ability and willingness to drill the holes larger for me.  He wouldn't accept any payment from me which was kind, but made me feel a little bad.  In no time at all, he had the holes looking perfect.

After re-wiring the lamps in again, the next step was to flash rust the pole.  After scraping and sanding the white paint off, I sprayed vinegar on the pole and watched it rush before my eyes.  
The next day it had enough of a rust look to it we were ready to hang it again.
I bought some bailing wire to wrap a few spots that I wanted to secure (I thought it would be more of a fit than the zip ties).  The final, most important step was the right light bulbs.  We really love the Edison style bulbs, but don't really love the price most local places charge.  We found a great source for our bulbs and ordered a good supply of them from  When they came Saturday, we were so excited to finish off our chandelier.  
I am well aware that rust and wagon wheel and old looking light bulbs are not everyones style.  I love it in our house.  I feel like our home is eclectic enough that it fits in great with everything else.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Family Pictures

I wasn't planning on having family pictures today.  While running out the door to go Thanksgiving dinner, I grabbed my camera on a whim, thinking I might want it.  My kids were all wearing clean clothes and had their hair fixed, which is an event even unto itself, so when we got to MammaGrandpa's house (as Birdie calls it), I thought I'd snap a few of the kids.  Becca came out to help me with the arm-waggling, funny sound making, attention-getting part (thank you Becca).  It went very well and super fast, so as an after thought, Trev and I jumped in the shot to see if we could get one of us all together.  Becca obliged, and snapped a bunch.  The whole process took maybe 10-15 minutes, and I was rather pleased with what we got.

I didn't coordinate or plan any of our outfits, I didn't hunt for weeks for the perfect accessory or shirt; it's just a picture of my family wearing what we happened to be wearing.  I love them.  I especially love how non-stressful a production it was in comparison to any other time we have tried to take family pictures.

Now, hold on CFA, (that's Control Freaks of America), don't kick me out of the club just yet.  I certainly still have my issues.  Had this been a real planned family picture, you can bet that nary a hair would be out of place (especially Trev's pesky ones...haha...kidding honey).  I'd have the perfect pops of colors strategically placed based on predetermined posing.  My eyes would reflect the crazy frantic desperation of a mom wanting each smile and tilt of the head to be on cue.  And of course my children would be far less cooperative, as is there job when they can sense that something is really important.  :) All I'm saying, dear CFA, of which I am a card-carrying member, it was nice for such a serendipitous occasion to present itself without the frazzled mom as a bi-product.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

You Can't Handle The Truth! NFL Version

One of my buddies from high school commented last night that the situation with Richie Incognito and Johnathan Martin (background story here) was beginning to seem like an NFL version of "A Few Good Men."  With some prompting he took the famous courtroom scene and adapted it to the Dolphins' situation.  I've posted it below for your enjoyment.  It's one of the funniest things I've read in a long time:

Coach Joe Philbin: Miami Dolphins' Head Coach
Ted Wells: Lawyer who is leading NFL probe into hazing
Roger Goodell: NFL commissioner 

Philbin: “Sometimes players take matters into their own hands.”

Wells: “No sir. You made it clear just a moment ago that your players never take matters into their own hands. Your players follow orders or Tannehill gets sacked. So Martin shouldn’t have been in any danger at all, should he have, Coach?

Philbin: “You little $%&*@$%.”

Cornell: “Commissioner, I have to ask for a recess to…”

Wells: “I’d like an answer to the question, Commissioner.”

Goodell: “The league will wait for an answer.”

Wells: “If Sherman Turner told his O-line that Martin wasn’t to be hazed, then why did he have to be traded?”


Sherman ordered the hazing, didn’t he? Because that’s what you told Sherman to do!”

Cornell: Object!

Goodell: Counsel!

Wells: And when it went bad, you cut Incognito loose!

Goodell: That’ll be all, Counsel!

Wells: You had Turner sign a phony trade order, you doctored the roster…

Philbin: You want answers?

Wells: I think I’m entitled to them.

Philbin: You want answers?!



Philibin: Son, we live in a league that has quarterbacks. And those quarterbacks have to be guarded by men with cojones. Whose gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Martin and you curse the Dolphins. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Martin’s departure, while tragic, probably saved quarterbacks. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves quarterbacks.

You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about in your Fantasy Football League, you want me on that sideline. You NEED me on that sideline. We use words like hut, hut, and hike. You use them as a punchline during your turkey bowl.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps mesmerized by the football I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I’d prefer you just cheered for us, ate your nachos, and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you put on some pads and hit the line of scrimmage. Either way, I don’t give a $%&* what you think you’re entitled to!

Wells: Did you haze Jonathan Martin?!

Philbin: I did the job Ross hired me to do.


Philbin: “YOU’RE %^&$*(& RIGHT I DID!!!

Author: Steve Olson, one of the best and brightest.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tubby Tuesday: Melanies Gourmet Culinary Kitchen

In honor of Guy Fawkes Day, for Tubby Tuesday we are going to go a little off the conventional path.  Today I'd like to introduce you to Melanie's Gourmet Culinary Kitchen.  As someone who loves the British people, I have certain cravings that are hard to meet in the USA.  Some items, like English chocolate and custard are relatively easy to find.  Other items, like baked goods are much harder to find.
For years, Melanie owned a little shop on Main Street in Pleasant Grove.  

It was not a large shop, but there were many delightful treats to be found.  Having a British import store half a mile from my home was heaven.  Alas, one day I drove by to see the shop was closed.
Happily, through a Facebook post from a friend, I learned that Melanie had opened up another shop that is cleverly disguised as an awning store at 587 W State St, Pleasant Grove.  When I went in, I found many of the items from her previous store that I had missed, but happily I found that she had expanded her fare to include baked goods like Cornish pasties, scones, and SAUSAGE ROLLS!  I love a good sausage roll, so I was pretty excited to find they are every bit as good as any sausage roll I have tried.
Melanie also has a cooking demonstration area upstairs in her store.  For my birthday Janelle took me to one of her cooking classes.  A chef named Scott Weber who was a lot of fun to learn from teaches the class.  For our date night we learned how to make a curry couscous salad, a pork curry, and curry funnel cakes.  It was one of the most fun date nights we have done in a long time! 
Melanie's Kitchen
Station Set Up
Nellie and I Getting Ready To Cook!
Curried Couscous Salad with Lemon Yoghurt Dressing

A Cutie Dishing Up Her Curry

The Finished Product

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween: Jessie, Ariel, The Football Player, Gru and the Pretty Mom

Halloween was a lot of fun.  I'm not certain that it isn't one of my favorite holidays.  It's not that I love decorating the house or carving pumpkins much, it's more that I love watching my children get excited about "spooky" things.  I loved looking at the witch that Birdie made for our decorations that she spent a whole afternoon diligently working on.  I love seeing the anticipation and planning that goes on as the family plans their costumes.  Also, I love the excuse to act like a little kid myself.  

Lulu dressed up as Jessie the cowgirl from the Toy Story trilogy.  She loves the movies at the moment and she was so darling.  Nellie made the main part of the costume as an apron which was pure genius.  It was easy to get on and off.  The hat came from the Dallas International Airport from a gift shop.  Oddly, it was cheaper than any hat at the Disney store, but was perfect for the costume.  The boots are the real deal Jessie boots and Lulu loves them.  Cutest cowgirl I've ever seen.
Birdie dressed as Ariel, which she has done at least once before, but she loves the princesses so much.  She was given the Ariel dress as a birthday present from Uncle Mike and Aunt Britt and was so excited to wear it for Halloween.  In lieu of a wig, we used red hairspray with varied results.  Like her momma, Birdie has some thick hair and we could probably have used 3 cans and not gotten full coverage.  
Tut dressed up as a football player.  Fairly generic costume, I know, but I was excited that he wanted to dress as a football player.  I feel like that means the work I have gone to in order to help him enjoy football must be bearing some fruit.  
I dressed as Gru from Despicable Me.  We all love the movie and think it's one of the funniest "kid shows" ever.  The biggest challenge to looking like Gru for a guy who already has a shaved head is his long, pointy nose.  Nellie and I visited shops looking for a witch nose or the like, but ultimately ended up with a foam cone which I shaved and shaped to look Gru-ish and then covered in masking tape and used duct tape to stick to my face.  
I got outfitted with some great evil super-villain accessories like a silly string "freeze ray" gun, a shrunken moon, some balloons that I made into balloon puppies and promptly popped, and a couple of minion mylar balloons from the grocery store.  The costume and requisite accent and oddness were enough to win second place in my company contest.  It was a lot of fun acting like Gru when our office opened up to the trick or treat portion of the day where are the employee's children come around for candy.  There were even some kids who insisted on getting a picture with me.  In the department of going completely over the top, Nellie was kind enough to make a fantastic replica of the book that Gru writes in the movie called "One Big Unicorn"
One Big Unicorn by: Gru
One big unicorn strong and free thought he was happy as he could be
Then three little kittens came around and turned his whole life upside down!
They made him laugh!  They made him cry.
He never should have said goodbye.
And now he knows he could never part, from those three little kittens that changed his heart.
The book was the hit of the day!  Most people who recognized it from the movie could not believe Nellie had made it.  Somewhat par for the course for Nellie who even made illustrations for the last page in the book which we only hear and don't see on the movie.  The past two nights I have read it as a bedtime story for our little girls and they love it also.  
It's a puppet book
Nellie declined to dress up as anything other than what she normally is: a beautiful mom.  She was great to haul the kids around and help out at school parties etc.  She is really superwoman in everyday life, maybe it's nice to not dress up.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tubby Tuesday: Milagros

Welcome to another edition of Tubby Tuesday!  It's been so much fun to share some places that we love to eat at--I take particular satisfaction when people actually have tried out the places we've recommended through ShareThePants.  So far, we have received only positive feedback on the recommended restaurants and I expect it to continue for this weeks visit to a place of miracles, an aptly named Mexican restaurant called Milagros.  

Located in the heart of Utah valley, Milagros is a Mexican restaurant with a nice twist to it.  It is located just above Winco on 800 North in Orem.  The establishment has been full or nearly full every time we have visited (during both lunch and dinner hours), yet we have only had to wait to be seated once--so briefly I washed my hands and we were ready to go to our table (miracle, no?).  

Milagros has one of the most interesting back stories I've ever heard.  The owner is surprisingly willing to share his journey in a pretty unvarnished manner which is kind of refreshing.  Once when we were at lunch, he visited our table and told us some of his experiences--he's a really nice guy.  The long and short of it is: they started Rosa's first, Bajio second, helped to build the Harley Davidson dealership (the beautiful building off of 1600 N in Orem), and then started Milagros.  

While I have enjoyed the other restaurants they've started, Milagros is a cut above.  It's pretty clear they learned from earlier experiences and this feels like a masterpiece.  On my first visit our waitress recommended the Queso Fundido as one of our appetizers.  It no sooner arrived at the table then no other queso dip would ever truly do it for me again.  Cheese + cream cheese + sour cream + chiles and spices + heaven (? my own recipe approximation)= queso fundido.  I have never failed to order it upon returning.  In fact, we have been known to make a run to Milagros solely for the queso fundido.  
The Best Ribs I've Ever Tasted 

Milagros also has the best ribs I have ever tasted!  I know what you're thinking: "ribs? at a mexican restaurant?" but they totally work with the menu and sides.  These ribs are AMAZING; they are marinated for 2 days in fruit juice, and then roasted for 8 hours.  Then when you order them they are sauced up and grilled.  They come in two varieties: honey bbq or spicy jalapeno bbq sauce (isn't it unnecessary to call a jalapeno sauce spicy?) and both are delicious.  The spicy jalapeno ribs are maybe a bit hot for anyone that is overly sensitive to spice.  

Another dish that I love is Barry's Pollo Fundido (anyone wanna take a wild stab as to why?).  It is basically a huge chicken burrito/chimichanga covered with ample amounts of queso fundido  (did you guess correctly?  If you did, give yourself a whole Tubby Tuesday point!).  The hardest part about eating at Milagros for me is deciding whether to get the ribs or the pollo fundido.

The sides are also great.  One of Nellie and I's favorite parts of Bajio was their sweet onion that you could have added to your order.  At Milagros they have taken the onion to a whole new level.  Instead of a few sections of onion, you can get a whole sweet onion deliciously caramelized and ready to dig into.  Knowing that onions don't float everyone's boat, I can't say you must try one, but be open to it, even if you don't like onions--otherwise you will never know for sure.  It would be a shame to not just try.  The borracho beans are also a great choice.  They are basically fancy baked beans.  I think they taste pretty good.  

While I already loved Milagros from my first visit, my respect grew when they sat us by the window to the kitchen.  Inside the kitchen is a cool old table where the elite diners get to sit (more on this later).  Above the stove, out of most customers' sight, runs a long shelf that contains some really great BYU memorabilia.  It always makes me happy to see things like that.  I love that it isn't really out for display in the restaurant, but something you have to look for.  On my last visit I found out that my favorite college football coach catches some meals at the VIP table on occasion.  I think Bronco has great taste!

Milagros is a Coke restaurant which is always a plus in Nellie and I's book.  Honestly my only complaint about Milagros is that they aren't open late enough.  I hear they may be open later, but last time I checked the closing time was about 9:00 pm, which is just a little early for us sometimes.  Overall I would implore you to visit Milagros, because Tubby Tuesday is all about making you happier one bite at a time.  Enjoy!
Milagros Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon
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