Thursday, July 30, 2009

Before and After - A Dog Tale

Okay, everyone that knows me well, knows I am a huge dog person. However many don't know WHY I am so crazy about dogs. Of course there are the usual reasons - dogs provide unconditional love (which is really more like 'unconditional worship' if you ask me), they are workout partners, they keep you warm on cold nights, they are endlessly entertaining, and well, the list goes on and on. But for me, the reason I am classified by pet food marketers as 'proud parent' or 'crazy dog lady' by my neighbor kids or 'fellow dog advocate' by my kismet 'dog friends', can be summed up in one simple word. ATHENA.

I have always had a soft spot for animals. Especially dogs. And most especially dogs needing homes. But the day Athena came into my life was the day that my love for 'all things dog' went into overdrive. Why Athena? Well...Athena is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She is one of the breeds that make up what the media lumps into one breed - a Pit Bull Terrier. I'm not going to rehash how maligned these dogs are, you already now (if you don't, email me, we'll chat!).

Being a 'proud parent' to Athena meant that I had to be THE most educated, THE most diligent, THE most informed, THE biggest advocate I could be as a dog owner. It is my belief that until you know and love a pit bull type dog, you can not claim to be a real dog person. I have learned more about dog behavior, dog health, government, stigmatism, stereotypes, injustice, endurance, compassion, and love than I ever thought possible.

Not only am I a better dog owner, but I am a better person because of Athena. Funny how adopting a dog can do that, isn't it? I'm not alone in thoughts on this. Because of Athena I have so many wonderful friends that are 'crazy dog people' just like me thanks to the special wiggle butts that have come into their much the same way as Athena came into mine.

Before Athena found her forever home with me - I was a different person and she, a different dog. I look back on these photos and wonder what would have become of Athena if I hadn't adopted her? The answer comes quickly and I force it out of my mind as fast as I can remove it. Because of her breed, she wouldn't have been given a chance. Before me (and her saviour, Michelle, my sister), Athena was covered in motor oil, eyes swollen shut, very ill. She was a mess. Now, she is healthy, happy, spoiled and lacking every trait that gives her 'kind' a bad name.

I took a gamble on a dog that was called 'dangerous' and was very ill...and she took a gamble on me, as all dogs do when the find themselves a new home. As you can see by these pictures, 'after' for her is a much better place. If only I could visibly show just how much better I am 'after' owning Athena.

I sincerely hope that everyone would take a gamble like I did...I promise you, you'll be a much better person 'after' than you were 'before'.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Remembering July 4, 1776

Re-posting an email (news)letter I received from Glen Beck...No matter what you feel about him, this message is spot on. Hope you'll take it to heart. Happy Independence Day and God Bless one and all!

July 3, 2009

Hello America,

Here it is, another Fourth of July. Traditionally, this is a day to gather with friends, maybe fire up the barbeque and play with kids until the sun sets and the fireworks start. But in thinking back on the meaning behind this day, we must never forget that our nation was baptized in the blaze of a very different kind of "fireworks." Yes, this is a day of rest and relaxation, as well it should be, but this year…I'd like to ask you a favor. At some point during the day, I hope you'll take time to think and reflect on what it is we're truly celebrating on the 4th of July -- our Independence Day. Of course the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776 but it's so much more than that. On this day, 233 short years ago, a small group of men dedicated themselves to a higher purpose, an ideal they believed in so greatly, they signed their name to its expression and in doing so put their very lives at risk.

Never has a simple act of signing one's name carried such weight, such a profound commitment. By signing the Declaration of Independence, 56 men stood in direct defiance of the British government. They became marked men, and willingly so. As I was doing some research on the significance of July 4th, I came across some interesting facts about these men. Today as we all enjoy the freedom our forefathers guaranteed us, join me in honoring the extraordinary sacrifice of 56 extraordinary Americans.

Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence:

Five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes burned to the ground. Two lost sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, and two more had sons captured. Nine fought and died in the Revolutionary War.

If you ever feel like your lone voice can never be heard, that the political system isn't set up for "regular" Americans to change the course of history, remember: The signers were flesh and blood, mortal men with a divinely-inspired aim.

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants, and nine were farmers and large plantation owners. They were well educated, smart enough to know that by signing the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their own death warrants. They did it anyway, and God bless them for it.

As we enjoy our liberty on this 4th of July, or any day of any month, we must never take that liberty for granted. Too many have given too much. In the words of the Signers themselves, "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

Their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor -- I think that's a price paid worth a few minutes of reflection, don't you? But let's not be solemn in that reflection. I say rejoice and share this information with your friends and family, especially your kids. The Signers asked for nothing in return for their pledge, but I say that we show our thanks with a pledge of our own: To remember, to be grateful, and to carry on in their spirit. America is the greatest country this world has ever and will ever know, and it will stay that way so long as "we the people" remember that just like in 1776.

It's US that surrounds them, and we'll never back down.

Happy Independence Day, and God bless America.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Birthday and Happy Birthday!

Today is a big's my niece & nephew's birthday! At one year apart, Kate turns 3 today and William turns 2. I am happy to report that they get to celebrate this bday without a new brother or sister (and instead of laboring in the hospital, Michelle was able to put on an awesome bday party)! While they don't have another sibling to share their bday, I have to wonder...what year will be the year that 'sharing' their bday will be a huge drag? So far, they seem to enjoy sharing the spotlight, but knowing Kate as I do, I think those years are in the not too distant future.

Happy Birthday my little muchkins. Your auntie so wishes she could be with you! I promise to be there next year to celebrate with you! My bday wish for you is that you don't grow up too quickly...especially since your auntie can't be with you as much as she'd like.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Missing NorCal

Spent a great weekend in Northern California, the place my heart calls home. Haven't been in 3 years!!! How on earth did I let that happen??? I guess it's an example of 'life getting away from you'. I don't know how it's possible, but I'd totally forgotten how incredible it is there - the air, the mountains, the landscapes, the weather, the flowers/trees/plants allowed to grow all year round, all those familiar places that consumed my life for over 20 years...oh how I miss it! Maybe I didn't get home as some sort of self-preservation, maybe I knew if I went home I'd 'leave my heart in San Francisco' only to return to KC heartbroken. Well, now that I'm back in KC, I realize that I HAVE left part of my heart in that city by the bay and I miss it terribly. And let me tell you...once I got off the plane in KC and my lungs were suppressed by the humid air, my brain confirmed what my heart has been feeling for sometime's time to go 'home'. Or time to try anyway...

Mark had a great time in NorCal and I think he was loving the area that I call home. As we drove through twisty Canyon Road over the Oakland hills, lined with conifers and ferns, I could almost hear his mind wishing he was traveling this road on his bike rather than in a car. When we drove the short distance from my father's house to my brother's house down the main 2-lane road (with ample bike lane space I might add) and passed literally 20 cyclists each time we took this short, jaunty car ride, I could feel his urge to join them. And on more than one occasion, I caught him standing on my brother's deck looking out at the views of Mt. Diablo and it's sister mountains, wondering about all the trails he could explore on them.

Soon we were having dreamy conversations about 'downsizing' and not having to mow a ginormous yard. About renting and not owning. About living on the fringe of town where it would be more affordable (sure! we'd take a shack in Napa! why not?!?). The trade-offs where flying...and I'm still not sure it's out of our system. NorCal will do that to you. It has so much to offer that people 'find a way'.

Perhaps it's time we 'find our way'...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Back from Italy. Had a GREAT trip (as usual)! Will update more later as I am off again to TX until tomorrow night. For trip recap and some photos, check my Twitter account (krislars). We weren't able to get on blogs but we were able to 'tweet' our way through the entire trip.

For those of you following us on Twitter, not sure you caught my non-descript tweet while in Siena, but Mark and I are engaged! Mark proposed in the piazza in Siena (Il Campo). Very romantic and sweet. We're both very happy. ;-)

More on the trip later as I'm off to pack again...Ciao Ciao!

Monday, May 18, 2009


It seems like it's been months in planning, but it's here! Bella Vita Vacations is off on it's 'primo vacanza'. Stay tuned to our blogs, including Bella Vita Blog, for the latest stories and photos!


Monday, May 11, 2009

Things I've Learned From A Little White Dog

I am eternally grateful for 'the little white dog' coming into my life. It is through my Little Louise that I have learned some valuable life lessons:

* Being soft and cuddly in appearance and attitude will help you make friends.
* It helps to tilt your head as you listen intently to the person talking to you, that way they KNOW you understand.
* Lying on your back while stretching our your arms and legs out to expose your belly is actually a very comfortable way to sleep.
* Always be on the look out for things to chase goals, squirrels, it's all the same.
* Be assertive...if you have to assert yourself, a good clean well-timed 'snap' is all it takes to show your standing in the 'pack'.
* Most of the time a gentle growl gets the point across, but sometimes you may have to give it all you got with one loud bark to make people really hear you.
* Enjoy the sun, but don't sit in it too long our your pink skin will burn.
* You're never too old to make new friends and learn new things.
* Always be available to 'warm up' a friend in need.
* Treats should be part of your diet, just watch your waistline.
* On a cold day, snuggling up is a great way to spend the day.
* Adore the people who care about you - relentlessly.
* Even if you don't feel well, put on a smiley will make you look and feel better.
* A good groom is essential to feeling good about yourself.
* Bring a little unconditional love to everyone you meet.
* If someone is sad, all you need to do is sit with them...words aren't necessary, but your closeness is.
* Don't be afraid to have fun and get dirty...there is always a product to get 'sparkly white' clean again.
* To feel really free, stick your face to the wind and let it blow your hair back.
* Open your heart and you'll find your forever family.
* Love and Be Loved.

Yes, I've learned all that from a West Highland White Terrier...and so much more. While I miss LouLou so deeply it hurts, I feel so lucky to have learned so much from her. Rest in Peace my little white angel. You will always have a special place in my heart - Forever. Thank you for bringing 'love' into my life...I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Big Bunny Meets Big Dog - An Easter Tale

This is one of my absolute favorite pictures in the world - nevermind that it's of one of my favorite people in the world, Kate. I adore this photo for so many reasons. It shows a connection - you can really see Kate and this dog bonding. It shows that Kate is fearless and that large 'bully' dogs aren't so mean. It shows the love between a little girl and dogs, and the love between dogs and kids. It tells a story. I imagine it goes something like this: Kate says, "hello friendly dog, you're the biggest dog I've ever seen!", Mastiff replies "why hello cute bunny, you're the biggest bunny I've ever seen!". They both excitedly shout, "LET'S BE FRIENDS!"

Here's to meeting new 'Springtime friends' and celebrating Easter with big cute bunnies and big friendly dogs.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

White Dog Workout

The lil' white westie is getting up in age. Poor Louise. She doesn't go on walks anymore so her excercise regimen is slightly non-existent. Aside from running up stairs, she's pretty much sedentary.

Knowing how treat obsessed she is, we decided to try to entice her with some kibble placed one end of the house to the next. What do you know? She turns into a galloping machine! It's so funny to see her run her little heart out just to get a tiny piece of kibble! And the little smile on her face is just too cute!

Run, Lou, Run!!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

She Wore an Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Onesie...

Awwww...Isn't she cute??? This is Jocelyn Elizabeth Larsen modeling her new yellow polka dot dress from her Auntie Kristine. Just like me, she is the 'first baby girl Larsen'. We're generational soul mates. She's just about 3 months old (Born Feb 2nd) and is just a doll. This past weekend I got to see her for a second time via the wonders of the internet on iChat. I know it's not like seeing her in person but it is so wonderful to see her 'in action'.

Can't wait to meet her in person! Soon Joss, soon...Auntie K sends lots of love!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pictures + Words = MAGIC!

I love children's books. They are like little accessible works of art. Originally I am drawn to the illustrations. Some graphic with crisp lines and bold colors, others hand illustrated with soft lines and flowy watercolor. The art is always so endearing to me. Then the title and story line captivate me. Children's stories always take you to a safe happy place. As a child you read and imagine you're part of the story, you're a character, or you're empowered to be whatever you want to be. As an adult you read and are transported back to childhood. Such a magical place.

It is such a craft to write and/or illustrate children's books. I'm not sure most people appreciate it like I do. True, the 'Mona Lisa', is quintessentially what people think of as 'real' art and classic works like 'Pride and Prejudice' may be on the forefront of peoples' minds when they think of 'literature', but I hold children's books in high regard. There is just something awe-inspiring about a little bound book with fanciful images and perfectly timed stories that can capture (and keep!) the attention of young little minds.

Today Google honors one of the all-time greats, Eric Carle. It is the 40th anniversary of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'. It has sold more than 29 million copies, is published in 47 languages and sells somewhere in the world every 30 seconds. I ask you - who doesn't know the story of the Hungry Caterpillar? Not only do I remember the story - a little caterpillar that ate and ate, turned into a beautiful butterfly and spread it's wings to fly - but I remember being mesmerized by the illustration. The depth of patterns, the vibrant yet soft colors, and the layered textures had me touching the pages trying to feel the artwork as my mother read the story. Oh, and let's not forget the holes in the pages! That caterpillar was REALLY eating that book!

Now, I'm sure that prints of 'Mona Lisa' and copies of 'Pride and Prejudice' have equally impressive selling statistics, but there is something about capturing the imagination of a child, that lasts into adulthood, that is impressive beyond comprehension.

Brilliant art is all around, sometimes it just takes the magic of childhood to discover it...and appreciate it. I encourage everyone to have their own collection of children's picture books stashed away on the shelf. Novels are a great escape, as are trips to the museum of fine art, but there is no greater escape than turning the pages of a picture book. What else can so simply put a smile on your face, give you hope and bring back childhood memories???

Happy anniversary Hungry Caterpillar...and many more...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Daylight Savings!

It's here! DST! I love Daylight Savings Time. Granted, losing an hour is sort of a drag but I'll gladly cash in an hour of sleep to have longer evenings. For me, DST is not just about 'time', it's about Spring - warm weather, more outside time, more dinners on the deck, dogs snoring in the sunlight, reading a book in the crisp clean air and basically not having to come and go under the cover of darkness (nothing worse than going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark!).

This morning, the day before actual DST, I woke up at 6am. Not many Saturdays am I up at 6am! Sleeping in has become such a luxury in my mind that at first I just wanted to go back to sleep. Since I have to take Athena to swim therapy, I decided to just get going on my day. And...I have to's actually kind of nice to be up and around early. Something about a calm, quiet, warm morning that is very energizing. I know I'll be tired later today, but I'm just getting a head start on the DST transition. ;-)

I decided to look into the origins of Daylight Savings Time on Wiki...figures it was a golfer who first conceptualized the formal DST we know today. The prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett conceived DST in 1905 during a pre-breakfast ride, when he observed with dismay how many Londoners slept through a large part of a summer day. An avid golfer, he also disliked cutting short his round at dusk. Growing up with a father who was on the course swinging by 7am every weekend, it makes perfect sense!

Getting up early has it's advantages. I feel like I've gotten a lot more out of my day and feel more productive. Now with the evenings longer, I can sleep in and not feel guilty! Yeah DST!

Here's to socializing with neighbors in the street after work, long evening walks, dinners on the grill and longer days to enjoy the good things in life! Hope you find lots of fun ways to use your extra daylight hours!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

How totally sweet are these two? Wishing you a sweet Vday with your loved ones.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Welcome Jocelyn!

My new baby niece is here! More pictures to come, but she's beautiful - of course!

Jocelyn Elizabeth Larsen
Born February 2nd, 8pm, San Francisco, CA
8 lbs, 1 oz, 20 inches

Craig, Kirsten and Baby Joss are doing just fine. Leaving the hospital
to go home today. Can't wait to go see her!!! I hope it's sooner rather
than later. Hugs and kisses Baby!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Vintage Mark

Great old photos of Mark! Cycling is clearly a lifelong passion for him. I could have posted some really embarrassing photos of him, but feared that he would retaliate on his blog with some scary pic of me from the 80s or something!

I have MUCH more where this came from (including some classic mullet shots), so if you'd like blackmail material, just shot me an email and name your price!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Bedhead...A Whole New Meaning!

Is this THE best bedhead 'do you've ever seen or what?!? Seriously think it breaks world records. Funny thing is, this isn't just 'morning, fresh-out-of-bed hair' for Kate, this could be any time of day! I fully expect to see Kate on some 'control static fly away hair' infomercial...that is IF there is a product out there that can contain her wild hair.

Actually, I love her hair. Suits her...she is a bit of a wild a good way. Nothing stops Kate. No fear, full of determination. Although very girly, she's got a good dose of tomboy in her. I guess one could say messed up hair is a sign of living life to the fullest. I mean, honestly, perfectly coifed hair means no wind in the hair, no rolling around on the ground with dogs, no torrid sibling fights, etc. - and how boring would that be? Kate sure is livin' large for a two year old!

Keep it crazy Kate!