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  • June 14, 2009

    Kitchen remodel – update 5 : Backsplash!

    It’s been a busy week here for the kitchen renovation. Fortunately it wasn’t too noisy, since we didn’t want to bother this enormous-eared baby deer who now lives in our back yard. Little guy is like Dumbo.

    The kitchen reno (that’s what we call it in the biz – a “reno,” because we’re far to busy to type “renovation” — and that sounds like “renno,” not “reeno,” the the most awesomest city in the world) completely stopped for two weeks while we waited for a 6-inch piece of stainless steel trim that goes on the top of the hood vent. Because we didn’t have the trim, the hood vent couldn’t go in, which meant the tile backsplash couldn’t go in, either. Well, that finally changed on Tuesday. We had a hood!

    And it was even properly vented out through the roof, unlike our previous “vent,” which, it turned out, didn’t even penetrate the ceiling. (Somehow our house inspector didn’t catch that.) It was just a fan that blew dust back down onto our food as we cooked.

    Once the hood was in, the installers put up the steel backsplash and warming shelf. It wasn’t perfectly straight, though, so we had them completely remove and rehang it from scratch. The whole process — hanging the hood and backsplash — took about four hours. But, we’ve gone from cooking with this…

    …to this, a range that looks and cooks like a giant steel beast.

    Six burners ranging from the gentlest simmer up to 18000 BTU. A blue enameled (on the inside) true European reverse-air convection oven with full extension racks on smooth-gliding ball bearings.

    Then there are the completely ridiculous (but therefore super fun) extras like over-the-knob LED accent lighting.

    And then there’s the hood with the (also over-the-top) warming shelf. Want to warm your plates before serving dinner? Done. Want to keep the first batch of pancakes warm while you cook the second? Done. Or, just want to make the range look like it’s really pissed off? Done.

    Sometimes we turn on the heat lamp just to punish the maneki neko who lives on the shelf. “Please, Mr. Mackey. Please stop burning me.” It’s really very sad, but maybe next time he’ll know to bring us more luck.

    With the range finally installed, the tile backsplash could go in. Our tile installer, who we used for our fireplace redesign, delivered and prepared the backsplash yesterday afternoon. The kitchen, as you’ve seen, is extremely stark, entirely in white and steel on top of very dark floors, so AEJ wanted to go a glam with the backsplash. We picked out this custom glass mosaic, completely hand made. You give the company the exact measurements, and they custom cut and prepare the backsplash to fit. AEJ picked this combination of white milk glass, a sort of blueish swirly stained glass, and rippled mirror, all in long strips of random lengths and widths. That’s right. The kitchen backsplash has rippled mirror in it. It arrives in all of these interlocking sheets, numbered for installation.

    Here, Dennis, our installer, puts up the first two sheets.

    Pictures really don’t do this thing justice. With the rippled mirror, the whole thing bounces light and color like crazy.

    We didn’t want to break up the backsplash with a ton of outlets, so we found these concealed under-the-cabinet angled outlets. They’re completely hidden by the light rail at the front of the cabinets (that also hides the undercabinet lights).

    All of the appliances are finally installed — and they’re literally installed. Absolutely nothing lives on the countertop. In the old kitchen, the coffee maker and toaster lived there…

    … but in the new kitchen, they’re replaced by the built-in coffee and espresso machine, and the Monogram Advantium convection oven/warming drawer/microwave/toaster.

    Without any outlets or appliances to break up the backsplash, you get these long runs of disco.

    We’ve also hung the last of the lighting. Bling!

    In the old kitchen, this is what it looked like when you stood at the sink.

    Here’s the same shot in the new kitchen. Doing dishes never looked so badass.

    The kitchen just looks sweet, day or, especially, night.

    Loki seems to like it, too, but somebody needs to tell him that the new faucet is not his mother.

    We still aren’t 100% finished. The cabinet panel that will go on the dishwasher won’t be in for 2 more weeks, and our contractor needs to come back to install the reeded-glass door between the kitchen and the laundry room — but that’s it. So who wants to come over for homemade mac & cheese?

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    Heading to Disney Hall

    I’m leaving bright and early tomorrow morning to fly to Tempe, Arizona, for a recording session at Arizona State University.  The Wind Symphony there, conducted by Gary Hill, is recording my Soprano Sax Concerto, with the absolutely phenomenal Timothy McAllister playing the solo part.  I’m sure it’s going to be a great session.  The combination of Gary’s band at ASU — most definitely among the best in the world — and Tim — whom many consider to be the best soprano sax player in the US — would be tough to top.  I’m really excited that they’re recording the concerto.

    That, alone, would make for a big week, but it doesn’t stop there. On Tuesday, I travel with the band to Los Angeles, because on Wednesday night at 7pm, the group (again with Tim McAllister) is performing my Soprano Sax Concerto at Disney Hall. Disney Friggin’ Hall! (I think that’s what they were originally going to call it.) I’ve had a few performances at Disney Hall in the past, but it never worked out for me to attend them. So, this will be the first time that I’ll hear my own music in Disney. Wow.

    While I’m in LA, I’m having dinner at perhaps my favorite restaurant in the world, Jinpachi (which I’ve blogged about before). There is no better sushi anywhere east of Tokyo.

    On the kitchen front, the tile installer is sponging off the grout as I type, so I think I have some kitchen photos coming up…

    2 Comments

    June 6, 2009

    Quick NYC trip – and trombone master class

    AEJ and I were in New York a few weeks ago for a quick work trip, courtesy of Distinguished Concert Artists New York. Their International Honors Wind Symphony, an ensemble of high school and college students around the country, performed “Kingfishers Catch Fire” at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center that Friday night. I don’t think I’ve had my name on a poster at Lincoln Center before. As the poster says, there was music by me, Ticheli, Shostakovich, and “Others.” That Others dude sucked.

    The rehearsals and the concert were great. Abel Ramirez conducted Kingfishers, and it went really, really well. All of the players we fantastic, but I think the highlight for me was the guy playing principal clarinet, David Malek, a Los Angeles-based clarinetist. I’ve heard Kingfishers a bunch of times now, and I thought David’s playing on the solo in the first movement was the best I’ve heard. Often that solo can sound kind of cold, but David gave it beautiful line and just enough dynamic shape. And wow, what a tone. It was one of those “now that is what a clarinet should sound like” moments.

    Speaking of Lincoln Center, they’ve made Juilliard look like a crazy starship. It was definitely not this cool looking when I went there. (When I went to school there, I lived in that tall white building on the left — that’s the Juilliard dorm. It’s still as boxy as it ever was.)

    We had some time for some fun stuff, too, like a visit to MoMA, getting a replacement iPhone at 11:30 at night (gotta love the NY Apple Store, open 24 hours a day — oh, and a piece of advice: don’t drop your iPhone onto a concrete slab floor. It will break.), some shopping at H&M (can we please get an H&M in Austin? Please?), and of course, food. We had brunch at our favorite breakfast place in NY, Sarabeth’s.

    We had dinner with the NewSchlachtMans at what is becoming our NY visit tradition, Artisanal. Hooray for cheese fondue!

    And not-greasy fish and chips!

    And chicken cooked under a brick! (Seriously, that’s what it’s called.) Is there anything better than a French wine sauce? I’m gonna go with “no.”

    You can’t very well go to Artisanal and not end the meal with chocolate fondue, with all of the tasty dippings.

    The morning that we left, I was on a panel with Abel Ramirez and Jim Keane (who had both conducted on the concert the night before), and also Joe Alessi, principal trombonist for the New York Philharmonic. My next big piece is a concerto for Joe. (How excited am I about that? Excited.) I had met Joe briefly back when I worked for the New York Phil right after college, but this was the first time we had a chance to chat in person since he asked for a trombone concerto. After the panel, Joe, AEJ and I had lunch in the Juilliard cafeteria and talked about what his piece might do. His trombone was on the table next to him, and he kept looking at it, clearly wanting to show me some of the cool tricks he could do, but he had to head to another appointment. Plus, we were in a cafeteria. With only about 5 minutes left before he had to leave, he couldn’t take it anymore, and he took us outside, looking for a place where he could play his horn. The best place he could find? The alley next to Juilliard.

    “Where’s the sweet spot of your range” I asked. He played a long-lined excerpt that hovered around high Db, and his sound was amazing. Keep in mind that this was the first time he’d played his horn that day, and he’d just finished lunch moments before. Then he showed me some of his pedal notes, jumping from that high Db down to a low pedal E nearly 4 octaves lower. “Fast articulations can be kind of difficult,” he said — as he proceeded to play tremendous leaps, staccato, at incredible speed, all perfectly. I love having somebody tell you how hard something is as they make it look like a piece of cake.

    “What else is fun?” I asked him, and he showed me things I’d never heard like an “against-the-grain gliss,” where he took his embouchure higher while pulling the slide out. “Gliss hits are fun,” he said, and he popped out these huge trombone hits with immediate slides downward or upward. It was incredible — five minutes that I’ll never forget. Here I was getting a personal master class on trombone technique from arguably the best trombone player in the world, and it was happening in a construction zone next to Juilliard.

    It was a great trip. We even made new friends who live right here in Austin — and we met them at the post-concert reception in New York. (Things like that only happen in New York.) The performance at DCINY really was fantastic. I’d highly encourage young players to consider playing with one of their groups in the future.

    And now we’re home — and enjoying our newly-functional kitchen. We have working appliances now, but we’re still waiting on some trim pieces that are holding everything else up. Hopefully we’ll get those installed on Monday, then get our backsplash installed a day or two after that. The backsplash is crazy-awesome. It would make Elvis proud. Stay tuned…

    10 Comments