Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 5 -plans take form

Stevenson Kitchen 2.0 (2-15-2018).jpg

Getting the electrical wiring in our house updated from the cloth insulated knob-and-tube to modern insulated and grounded wires provides a big peace-of-mind but it really isn’t a flashy a new thing to oogle over. Still, getting that stuff taken care of now gives us the freedom to make this kitchen exactly what we want and need it to be.

Above is a rough plan for the new layout. The big thing is opening up the wall between the dining room and kitchen. All in all, we’re not adding cabinet space (the upper cabinets we lose by opening up part of the wall between the dining room and kitchen are added back to the left of the sink) but we will add a bit of counter-top to the left of the sink.



Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 4 – electrical and plumbing


After the walls of the kitchen were taken down to the studs, here’s the just some of the mess we found!  The entire 1st floor of the house was fed by this knob-and-tube wiring, much of spliced with new wiring that looked like this, none of it up to code.  Thankfully, we were able to eliminate all the knob-and-tube wiring in the house.   There was also a small amount of plumbing to move aside, to open up the new kitchen space. You can see the new plumbing and support beam in the last picture. IMG_0410.jpgIMG_0432.jpg

John Williams at the Indy Symphony

Here, good reader, is my review of John Williams’ concert in Indianapolis. I’m only a month late in writing it! [For reference, here’s a review I wrote of a concert in 2005 in Chicago.]


John Williams returned to the helm of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on Sunday night, February 11, 2018. (This was news to me; apparently, he gave a concert here in 1983, which was pre-Circle Theatre days for the ISO!) This concert was a gift to the ISO from Maestro Williams and featured a good balance of his blockbuster hits, lesser performed pieces and even a few pieces composed within the last two years!

The concert opened with  “Flight from Neverland” from Hook, which is lovely piece, easy to overlook in against the whole body of Williams’ work.  I also think this piece makes for a great opening number – it has such a palpable sense of magical adventure with the opening ostinato in the high strings and high winds before the brass launch into their fanfare.  A magical adventure is, of course, what we embark on anytime we take our seats at a concert of a great symphony orchestra.

The second piece was “Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which earned Williams an Oscar nomination for Best Score in 1977. Ultimately, Williams lost to himself with Star Wars. I’ve heard this piece performed live several times now; it’s atonality is an interesting contrast to the neo-romanticism of Williams’ better known work.

Next up were three pieces from the Indiana Jones movies. Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra is a fun piece of action music from The Last Crusade when Sean Connery and Harrison Ford are being chased by Nazis on motorcycles. The piece features several of the primary motifs from The Last Crusade and makes for a good overview of the score.  Williams said he named the piece for “Orchestra and Motorcycle” after seeing the film in the theater and being a bit disappointed that the sound of the motorcycles largely drowned out the music. The second piece from the Indiana Jones films was Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost ArkThis selection brings me to my only quibble. While Marion’s Theme is a very lovely piece, an extensive part of it is also played in the concert arrangement of The Raiders March, which was the next piece played. At a concert like this, I was hoping to maximize the amount of unique music heard. What I’m saying is, I would have traded Marion’s Theme for something else from Raidersthe Map Room sequence or the lovely music from when the Nazis’ faces melt off.

Next was “The New Beginning” from Minority Report, which might be the last Tom Cruise movie I enjoyed. This is an infrequently performed score, overshadowed not so much because of the quality of the music itself, but by the lack of blockbuster status of the film, so I was glad to hear it.

The first half the concert ended with “Adventures on Earth” from E.T. which I’ve heard at other concerts, and would never get tired of. It’s an enthralling piece. 

At intermission, Alison and I had our picture taken with Darth Vader and some of the storm troopers form  to show to our daughter who has become enamored with “Dark Vader” despite never seeing the Star Wars movies.

The second half of the concert began with “Harry’s Wondrous World” which is a concert piece featuring several of the themes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Harry Potter movies, like Star Wars, have an astonishing number of fantastic little themes and leitmotifs. While Williams only composed the scores for the first three films (and to be clear, the Prisoner of Azkaban score is definitely the best; see here, here, here, and here) several of Williams’ themes have been carried over by the other composers who finished the series.  While we’re talking about it, you really should be listening to the podcast The Art of Score; they do a fantastic job of breaking down scores, examining musical influences. Their episode on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is especially good – start with it!

Out to Sea & the Shark Cage Fugue from Jaws [start this video about 3:00 mark] I’ve heard these before in concert, and they are always delightful and probably not what most people expect from Jaws.

Concertmaster Zach dePue played the Theme from Schindler’s List perfectly. Williams related the story about watching the un-scored Schindler’s List with Steven Spielberg as part of planning the score, and Williams flatly telling Spielberg that the director would need a better composer than him for this film. Spielberg responded “I know, but they’re all dead.”

Next was a piece from 2016’s BFG, which I believe marks the 1 millionth collaboration between Williams and Steven Spielberg. Williams took a moment to praise the ISO’s principal flute who was featured prominently in the piece. This was the only piece of the night from a movie I haven’t seen.

The concert ended, as it should, with music from Star Wars. The first piece was Throne Room and End Credits from A New Hope. This piece of music, like my first crush, will always be lovely. Next were two pieces from the new Star Wars films – Rey’s Theme (which Williams endearingly referred to as “Daisy’s Theme”) and The Rebellion is Reborn from The Last Jedi.

There were two encores – both from Star Wars oeuvre  – the first being “Han Solo and the Princess”, which Williams introduced by mentioning that when he first got word that there would be a Star Wars #2 (which wasn’t a given while Episode IV was in production) he immediately began thinking about a love theme for Luke and Leia – but that had to change after he saw the script for The Empire Strikes Back. This concert piece was re-worked very recently by Williams, and I was glad to hear this new version.

The final piece of the night, played without comment from the conductor but to hearty cheers from the audience, was “The Imperial March”, a piece that seems mandatory for John Williams concert. This is not a complaint – I hum this piece softly to myself whenever I walk down a long hallway. It’s an indelible part of the mental soundtrack of my life.

I am really glad this concert happened for this city and this symphony. The enthusiasm of the crowd was tremendous; the conductor and orchestra were given a long standing ovation at the end. I was also very happy to see many families with children in attendance. Growing up, the music of John Williams was so formative. Because of his scores, I discovered the music of Ravel, Dvorak, Holst, Tchaikovsky, Korngold, and many more. I’m sure others in the audience have a similar stories.

I’ve now seen him live in concert 4 times, but I’ve never met John Williams. But if I did meet him, as cheesy as it sounds, I’d really just want to say “Thank you.”

Unexpected kitchen remodel: part 3 – Wallpaper!

If Original Hardwood Flooring is the Holy Grail of old house remodels, then Original Orginal wallpaperWallpaper must be a sort of lesser relic – like John the Baptist’s thigh bone or something. Well, devout pilgrims readers, behold!  The Baptist’s thigh bone!

How did we unearth such treasure? Part of the kitchen remodel involves the removal and relocation of a built-in corner cabinet. I wasn’t sure if this cabinet was original to the house; it was clearly old – solid wood and such. So I removed the doors, pried off the frame, levered a crow bar between the walls and cabinet until I heard the pleasant pop of nails coming loose and lookey there! Wallpaper straight out of 1935! This is what my dining room looked like when Franklin Roosevelt was President.  Here are some close-ups of the lovely details.













This wallpaper wasn’t the only wonderful discovery I made when removing the cabinet. Here’s picture of the back panel:


The house was built in 1935, so this cabinet was installed 3 years later making it, in my mind, close-enough to call ‘original to the house’ – a keeper for sure!

The remodel has been slowly moving forward until this point; from here on out **fingers crossed** the pace of rebuilding should quicken. Stay tuned for more updates!

Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 2 – floor archaeology

Some cool archaeology took place while the water mitigation folks tore up the kitchen floor. Like layers of rock sediment collecting over eons, the previous owners have just layered flooring on top of flooring for a total 5 layers of flooring in the kitchen! Let’s look at them.

First up – the 2000s layer. This is what I’ve been walking on for 10 years.


Below the top layer was this gem from the ’80s. I think my parents first house had this same linoleum floor.IMG_1290

Below the ’80s linoleum, my personal favorite – the Brady Bunch layer! Also, this vinyl flooring contained asbestos and as such had to be mitigated and the whole house tested for air quality (it’s all good.)IMG_1292

Below the Brady Bunch layer, this striped grey vinyl with super strength adhesive (which is more apparent on the next picture.)IMG_1294

Finally, the Holy Grail of older homes – The Original Hardwood floor! Completely coated in the adhesive of the vinyl layer above. IMG_1293

I’m sure I’m being a Bad Millennial by not restoring these hardwood floors. However, the rest of the first floor still has its original hardwood, so the wife and I are a-ok with flooring that is easier to clean and maintain in the high traffic/high mess area of the kitchen. Still, it was fun peeling back each layer and imagining what the kitchen looked like in different decades.

Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 1 – the mosaics

A week ago, the family and I came home from church to find it raining in our kitchen (and in the hallway, and in Zoey’s room). Alison took kids to stay with their grandparents, while I stayed behind to shut off the water and call our insurance company. A frozen pipe in the attic had thawed and, needless to say, made a big mess.

I spent a good part of last Sunday watching our kitchen be torn up and dried out. It was a bit sad to watch – our kitchen is small and not as functional as we’d like – but still, it has real character and a few things that I bet are genuinely unique. Sometime in the 1970s or 80s, the son-in-law of the original owners installed these tremendous tile mosaics (pictured through-out) – on every wall in the kitchen! Similar mosaics are also in one of the bathrooms and in the brickwork on our front porch. The time, skill, and artistic vision needed to create these are beyond me.

This clock is wired to a battery box in one of the upper cabinets. 

I want to publicly document these mosaics; they are beautiful and deserve to be seen by more than those who visit my kitchen.  Though the family that created them is long gone, these tiles serve as a very colorful reminder of their imprint on our life in this house. There’s a phrase we say at Mass during the Prayers of the People that I always end up ruminating over: “Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours.” It includes my family and friends, most obviously, but also the families who used to live in this space, whose children’s hand-prints are imprinted in the cement of the basement floor, who those used their artistic gifts to beautify this space I’m raising my family in, those who planted a dozen trees that now tower over neighborhood and shade us in the summer.

Anyway, I write all this to deliver some sad news: unfortunately, these kitchen mosaics will have to come down. We may be able to save some of the individual tiles and reuse them in some sort of artsy way, but the renovated kitchen likely won’t have any of the mosaics.


Alison and I are planning how to re-make this space. Stay tuned for more; for a brief few weeks, this blog will be a small insight into updating an old bungalow kitchen for better use by a family of five.

John Williams Concert review

Note: This is a lightly edited post that I wrote 12 years ago and posted to my old blog, which, mercifully, is no more. Since John Williams will be conducting the Indianapolis Symphony this coming February, I thought it’d be fun to re-post this now and then write up some thoughts after the Indianapolis concert.  I’ve seen John Williams conduct live three times – all with the Chicago Symphony – with the last concert of his I attended probably 10 years ago, so I’m looking forward to February 11th!

[Original post from November 30, 2005]

As my 4 faithful readers know, I traveled to Chicago to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in concert last weekend. Seeing the CSO live is truly a memorable event. Their musicianship is unmatched; the atmosphere inside Symphony Hall is unlike any orchestral venue I’ve visited.

Of course, the other highlight of seeing the Chicago Symphony last week was the guest conductor, John Williams. This may come as a bit of surprise to my loyal readers, but I’m a small fan of Mr. Williams’ music. As I’ve mentioned before, it was the score for Star Wars that sparked my interest in orchestral music. The musical world I’ve discovered since (and am still discovering) has enriched my life in ways that I can’t articulate on my small blog and with my limited writing talents.

The Concert

The evening started with the Overture from The Cowboys, a 1972 John Wayne movie. I can’t comment on the movie; I’ve never seen it. But the music has a certain American West feel, akin to some of Copland’s work.

The next piece performed was a suite from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. From what I’ve read, this is Mr. Williams’ favorite personal composition. It’s a dark piece until the five note alien theme is heard and the piece pushes to grand conclusion.

Having featured music from a movie about friendly aliens visiting Earth, we were treated next to a suite from a movie about hostile aliens coming to Earth. “Escape from the City” and ‘Epilogue” from the recent War of the Worlds were both quite modern in their rhythmic and tonal qualities.

Mr. Williams also took time honor three film composers who passed on last year. Jerry Goldsmith’s Main Theme from Star Trek was played brilliantly. David Raskin’s love theme from Laura was stirring. The tribute ended with Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven played faster and more energetic than on any recording I’ve heard.

The first half the concert ended with Alfred Newman’s The Captain of Castile.

The second half began with this piece, and it was an absolute delight to hear live. The audience cheered during some themes (Star Wars, E.T.) and laughed during others (Pink Panther, Jaws).

For the next selection, Williams departed from the printed program (which called for Eric Korngold’s The Sea Hawk) and inserted his own “jazzy little piece” from a movie that “not many people saw” – Spielberg’s 1941. The movie is a comedy about WWII starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, I think. Williams’ march is fitting, almost a satirical look at military marches with some swing mixed in to remind us we’re in the jazz age.

Next up were two selections from Jaws. Neither featured the famous two-note motif but, for me, that made them more enjoyable. It was nice to hear selections from Williams’ second Oscar winning score not normally performed. The “Shark Cage Fugue” was especially enjoyable; the way he worked several motifs into a macabre fugue that underscores a shark attack was thrilling.

While I came to know and love the music of John Williams because of the Star Wars scores, many people younger than I were first introduced to the maestro though his scores for the Harry Potter movies (the most recent one excepted). Williams and the CSO played three selections from Potter series starting with “Hedwig’s Theme” which features the magical sounding celeste. “Aunt Marge’s Waltz” is a fun piece from the third Potter film. “Harry’s Wonderous World” is a collection of several themes from the movies, a kind of suite on its own.

Mr. Williams didn’t bother to introduce the final three pieces as he had for all the earlier works. He didn’t need to, though. The Star Wars suite began with the wickedly fun and completely terrorizing “Imperial March.” Next up was “Anakin’s Theme” a surprising choice, considering that this theme is not nearly as well known as others from the saga. It was a good choice musically to follow Vader’s theme, though, because Williams wrote Anakin’s Theme as a deconstruction of the Imperial March. The militaristic brass of the “Imperial March” are replaced by soft woodwinds and strings in “Anakin’s Theme”, The final piece of the night was, appropriately, “Throne Room and End Credits” from the original 1977 film.

Williams and the CSO were quickly given a standing ovation; they rewarded the audience with three encores. Continuing with the Star Wars themes, the orchestra played “Luke and Leia” from Return of the Jedi. Next, Williams announced a piece that is rarely heard in its full form unless “there’s a slow news day” – The Mission Theme from NBC Nightly News. (I think the Maesto writes his own jokes, by the way.) To cap off the evening, we were treated to a spirited version of “The Raiders March” from Indiana Jones. For a moment it appeared there might be a fourth encore, which I was loudly yelling for, but alas, it was not to be.

The concert was spectacular, well played, well programed, and well conducted. After the concert, totally by chance, I ran into a fellow IU alum and Marching Hundred member. We exchanged stories about John Williams pieces we played while in the Hundred, band geeks all the way.

A year in books 2017

This is not a comprehensive list of what I’ve read in 2017 but it’s close I think. Here are some further thoughts on what I’ve been reading.

Book you pushed the most people to read?

I still really like The Expanse series from S.A. Corey, which is now on its 7th novel plus that many more short stories and novellas exploring all the wonder and horror of the human colonization of the Solar System.

Also, Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren Much of life is dull, repetitive – washing dishes, brushing teeth, feeding the kids, cleaning the house, etc. Nevertheless, God meets us in this – our ordinary life – and Warren write beautifully about that.

Book that didn’t quite live up to the hype?

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey – Really fun premise – MAN EATING HIPPOS OF LOUISIANA! – but didn’t deliver like I wanted it to. It was a quick read, and fairly entertaining, but each chapter felt like so much more could have been said about the world-building, the villains, the backstories of our team of heroes, etc. Just a lot left unwritten, which is unfortunate because MAN EATING HIPPOS!!!

Best series you started in 2017?

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – can’t wait to finish this series in 2018.

Book that had the most impact on you?

Silence by Shusaku Endo. Read this with a friend, which is the best way to read, well, anything, but especially books that provoke so much thought around religious freedom, syncretism, missionary work, Catholic & Protestant ecclesiology, devotion and more.

Best World-building/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Probably, again the Expanse series but honorable mention also to
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden which takes place in a medieval Russia so cold, you need blanket just to pick up this book.