Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 2015 Activity -- DIY Caulking Workshop

Caulk It workshop provided by Moss Building and Design
Dominion Electric Supply Co., Lighting Showroom
14605 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy ChantillyVA 20151
Thursday, April 23, 2015: 5:30-7:30pm
Cost: Free
Honing our caulk handling skills.

This workshop was one in a series of women's workshops that Moss offers to teach women DIY home improvement skills. In addition to teaching proper caulking techniques and answering questions, Moss and Dominion provided hors d'oeuvres, wine, goody bags and raffles. And if we learned anything, it's that whenever we do home improvement projects in the future, we're going to insist upon having hors d'oeuvres, wine, goody bags and raffles. 

It's possible we missed the point. 

My friend from high school, Karen, joined me for this activity. Because when I think of someone who has handled her fair share of's Karen. 

After mingling and enjoying some great food (some of which actually made it into my mouth after spilling most on my shirt and the floor), we took our seats for the demonstration and Q&A. And there were a lot of Q&A. It's like some of these women had never seen caulk before. Though to be fair, even those of us who were familiar learned a few new things. To wit:

  • It's relatively simple once you know how to handle caulk properly
  • The more you handle caulk, the more comfortable you'll be
  • It is important that you have a good quality caulk
  • You can cut the tip off the caulk to make it wider if you need to fill bigger spaces
  • When caulking, you may have some all depends upon the size of your gap.
  • When working with caulk, work at a slow and consistent speed. This will make it smoother and make the job much easier
  • For most jobs, you do not want a caulk with a glossy finish

The Instructor shows us his caulk.

After the instruction, two women came up front to show off what they learned and compete in a little hands-on caulk competition. 
You're looking at about 70 new caulk experts.
No need for activity recap over food and drink as it was provided during the activity. (And besides, we could not wait to get home and show off our new caulk-handling skills.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

January 2015 Activity -- Furniture Painting Class

Friday, January 23, 2015
The Front Porch Furniture Rescue
817 West Broad Street, Falls Church, VA  22046
Cost: $50 

Assortment of items we could select to paint.
We found this activity on Craigslist -- an activity that promised we could listen to music, sip wine and paint a fun project. We could either choose among frames, vases, wood plates and bowls or bring a small piece of furniture from home. All supplies were included.

This would be awesome if it was yellow.
Like buttah.

In preparation, I found this table in our basement and thought it would be perfect to funkify (well it should be a word). However, after wrangling it into the car and dealing with the wintry mix conditions on the way over, the thought of re-wrangling it up a narrow staircase at the Front Porch didn't seem like a great idea. And after participating in this class, I realized there was no way I would have finished painting this in the two-hour time frame. So...this will be a project for another day. (Reality check: this will never happen).

Just like buttah.
We found out earlier in the day that the class was going to be just the three of us (me, my next-door neighbor, Liz, and her sister-in-law, Amy) being led by Front Porch owner, Joni.

It was actually a great sized class as we got to learn a lot about chalk paint and painting techniques to make our pieces look aged. All while enjoying wine, cheese and fruit. (And sparkling cider...for the DD.)

Amy liked the orange paint so much, she decided
to paint her phone, too. After asking WWJD? 
(In this case, What Would Jed Do?)

With our creations.
(And Amy's shirt does say, "I'm not bi-polar, I'm bi-WINNING!"
You read that right.)

Liz's vase at home on her kitchen table.

Friday, October 24, 2014

October 2014 Activity -- Turkish Cooking Class

Friday, October 24, 2014
Pinnacle Academy
Oakton, VA

I had initially planned to meet my friend for coffee at 4:00pm today when she texted and asked if I wanted to participate in a Turkish cooking class at her school instead. Of course I said yes and the Dilettante activity for October was set. (Which is good, as regular Dilettante Amanda is still roamin' the globe -- currently in Tanzania.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

September 2014 Activity -- Lady Parts Justice Adventure

September 27, 2014
Supreme Court/Planned Parenthood
Washington, DC

As we are a fan of Lizz Winstead and her Lady Parts Justice V to Shining V Initiative, we figured we'd show support by participating in the event in true Dilettante fashion -- by trying to haphazardly organize a party and then deciding to dismiss that for Plan B -- taking our party kit to some relevant locations in the Nation's capital which were all conveniently located along metro's orange line.

Dilettantes Amy and Kathleen participated this month. Dilettante Amanda is currently in Berlin celebrating Oktoberfest, cheering her father in the Berlin marathon, and travelling with less of a companion than at the beginning of the journey, as he had an emergency gallbladder removal in Germany. (Sometimes we think she just makes this stuff up to have the best holiday letter. It's not a competition, Dilettante Amanda.)

After meeting at Dilettante Amy's house in Arlington, the other Dilettantes made it onto the orange line and toward Capitol South station near the Supreme Court. Although, because they had not caught up in a while, their yammering prevented either of them from noticing when they went not one..... not two.... not three..... but FOUR stops past their station and it was not until Dilettante Amy realized that they were now above ground that they were nearing the Benning Road stop.


We hopped out at Benning Road and caught the train on the other side of the platform the four stops back to Capitol South. (Where, even though we were using a GPS, we went the wrong way and ended up doing the .7 mile loop around the block, rather than the .3 mile loop.) Listen, we had a LOT to catch up on and paying attention to directions was just not a priority.

Finally made it to the Supreme Court. Where we were not allowed
past the barriers to take a photo. 

Yes. Those are uteri (shut up, it's a word)  in front of the Supreme Court.

Near the Capital Hilton. Which, for the record, is NOT where Reagan
got shot. We were ON OUR GAME in terms of situational
awareness tonight.

As we wandered and tried to find the Lincoln-themed restaurant with pennies on the floor that Amy swears she was not making up, we happened by an interesting-looking Russian restaurant and lounge. The gentleman at the door told us we should come inside and so we did. And we immediately fell in love...with the decor, the charming hostess, the vodka drinks and particularly the joyful and awesome accordion player (I say that like there is any other kind.) Dilettante Kathleen enjoyed herself so much, it was mid-meal before she realized the tableau that Dilettante Amy had created on the table:

Eunice the Uterus all dolled up and enjoying a
refreshing cocktail at Mari Vanna.
A lovely evening for a (much longer) walk (than we expected) in many areas of the Nation's Capital.

P.S. Dilettante Amy is no Martha Stewart when it comes to cutting out fallopian tubes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 2014 Activity -- Reflexology

Health Plan Massage
Church Street, Vienna, VA
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Cost: $35 for one-hour foot massage/reflexology lesson

We were Sigma psyched for this Dilettante activity. (I say this because the two guest Dilettantes, Kira and Carrie were Tri-Sig sorority sisters of mine at JMU.) And because we would never actually say that.

(These two are also part of the gang that does girls' weekends. Like this year's trip to Austin, and prior trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City.)

Dilettante Kathleen was already familiar with this salon as a) the owner lets her pet turtles hang out on the patio outside her shop so it is a must-visit for her child every time they're on Church Street and b) Dilettante Kathleen's husband goes there regularly for massages and gets teased by the women who work there for his extraordinarily large feet.
Reflexology chart showing zones. This was
essentially all of the learning that took place.
Other than learning that I need to do this every week.
We were all seated next to each other in the front of the salon and our reflexology began with a neck, shoulder and back massage. It really helped work out the knots (and caused Kathleen and Carrie to ask for some mercy as it was a deep massage). This prompted Kira to dub us "wimps."

The women then went to work on our feet, so we all laid back and did not speak or move or open our eyes for the next 45 minutes -- we simply listened to the spa music and relaxed. And when it was over...we all kind of floated out of the salon. (Well, after showing the women a photo of my husband so they could confirm it was he of the gigantic feet and laugh heartily...)

One of the owner's turtles.
The other of the owner's turtles.
We ended the activity with an prolonged brunch up the street at Bazin's. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

June 2014 Activity - Author Event with Piper Kerman of "Orange is the New Black"

Image of Piper Kerman from
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Alden, McLean Community Center
1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean, VA
Cost: Free

This event was advertised thusly: "Meet Piper Kerman, author of the bestselling memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, which was adapted into the hit Netflix series of the same name. Books available for sale and signing."

And because I (to employ a cringe-worthy term) "binge-watched" (and enjoyed) the first season of this show, and then read Piper Kerman's book on which it was based, I was interested in hearing her speak. (Particularly because I did not like her at all after reading her memoir, as she seemed to take little responsibility for her crime. I know...unusual for a criminal.) 

My neighbor friend went with me as the guest Dilettante. She had never read the book or seen the show, but was intrigued after hearing about it in her alumni magazine. (She also graduated from Smith College, though probably a little after Piper Kerman.) 

The event itself was very interesting. Piper Kerman focused a lot more on prison reform and what she's doing about it and a lot less on the television show and glamorizing what she did in any way. She was a lot more contrite than she came across in her book. 

Fortunately, neither my guest Dilettante nor I was interested in getting a book signed, because an insanely long line was forming as we headed out. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

April 2014 Activity -- Yoga Brunch

Saturday, April 26th
La Tagliatella Restaurant
Arlington, VA
Cost: $35 includes one-hour yoga class, brunch and a mimosa

You  may have noticed that the Dilettantes look a lot different of late. That's because one of the original Dilettantes (cough, cough Amanda) is all, "oooohhh, I'm so cool, I'm working on a consulting project that is taking me to Iceland and Kenya for an entire month at a time and post photos from exotic destinations like Zanzibar while you're stuck in a boring old office..." (possibly a slight embellishment).

In her absence, I'm continuing to schedule monthly activities, inviting Dilettante Amy, and also inviting other friends in the hopes of continuing the fine Dilettante tradition of an activity a month.

This month, the volunteer was my friend, Carrie. We know each other from college -- we were in the same sorority and never spoke more than once or twice in spite of/because of that until we spent a semester in London together. We also met our boyfriends during that semester and the four of us hung out constantly for the next six years until we all broke up and married other people.

This month, we decided to try the new yoga brunch at La Tagliatella in Clarendon. And the deal is that for $35 you get brunch, a drink and an hour of yoga instruction.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 2014 -- Boutique Trunk Show and Launch

Thursday, March 27, 2014
Undeniable Boutique
Fair Lakes Shopping Center
Fairfax, VA
Cost: Free

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 2014 -- Country Line Dancing

Dilettante Amy taking the line dancing pret-ty seriously. Note mechanical
bull in background. And freakishly good dancer in front of her. 
Dilettante Kathleen's "authentic" western belt buckle.
By Betsey Johnson.
Fast Eddie's
14114 Lee Highway
Centreville, VA  20120
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Cost: Free

Interestingly, we all arrived separately and had the identical experience entering Fast Eddie's -- and that is being enthusiastically greeted by a friendly gentleman who looked at us expectantly as though he wanted identification or a cover charge. Independently, each of us had a few awkward moments of silence until we asked him if he worked there and he replied, "no" and led us into the establishment.

(You'll notice that Dilettante Amanda has changed. Actually, she is currently in Kenya working on a geothermal consulting project. Ergo, we put out the Dilettante invitation to others and our friend, Carrie, was able to join. You may be seeing some other faces at Dilettante activities this year...keeping it interesting, we are...)

At first, we were not sure the line dancing lessons, advertised to begin at 7:30, were actually happening. So we had a drink and visited and took in the atmosphere: a huge dance floor, a mechanical bull and a pretty diverse crowd of people. And then, a little after 8:00pm, the line dancing instructor called people to the floor and began the lesson.

The first dance we learned was one that she began teaching last week -- to Pitbull and Ke$ha's "Timber" -- and it was pretty complicated and we were already a week behind most of the people there, so it was pretty challenging to pick it up. The good news is that after we began with this dance, the second one we learned seemed a lot easier.

Gettin' into it. Yee-haw!
In between the dance lessons, they played music and the regulars got out on the floor and did a bunch of dances they already knew. Including one guy who was wearing jazz shoes and seemed to know every line dance in the universe. Showoff.

We all agreed we would do this again -- it was a lot of fun. And because of this new found love for country line dancing and a recent trip to Austin where everyone wore them, Dilettante Kathleen is now in the market for the perfect pair of cowboy boots.

Wonder if Betsey Johnson makes those?

January 2014 Activity -- Terrarium Making

Terrarium Making (with wine)    
Living Social Building
918 F Street Washington, DC

After spending 90 minutes with Kelly Rand, I'm not sure whether the focus of this class was instruction on how to create a terrarium or seeing how many times one could say "moist soil" before driving the entire class to a sanitarium.

For this Dilettante activity, Dilettante Kathleen invited neighbors Bonnie and Lisa (you may remember Lisa from her earlier work in Dilettante Gargoyle tour) to join her.

Living Social recently announced that it will no longer be holding activities in this building after April 2014.

Moist succulents

Kathleen's Terrarium

Lisa's Terrarium

Bonnie's Terrarium


Monday, December 16, 2013

December 2013 Activity -- Ornament and Wine Glass Painting

Sunday, December 15, 2013
LivingSocial HQ
918 F Street, NW
Washington, DC
$39/person included two ornaments and two wine glasses to paint, paint, brushes, and half a bottle of wine or champagne.

At the last moment, Dilettante Amy and her entire family came down with some kind of kreeping krud, so she had to krap out of the December activity.

This was our second time at the Living Social building -- and our second time at a painting activity. Although last time, we were painting counterfeit Van Goghs...this time we were left to create original art -- which even though Dilettante Kathleen is something of a renowned Peeps artist, the talent simply did not translate to another medium. To wit:
Dilettante Kathleen's Santa Claus Crunk Chalice.
We got into the class a little late so we took spots at a table where a family group was already sitting and painting. They had made an event of this and hired a limo to take them here and do this activity. They were very fun, particularly when they made us vote for which project we liked best of everything they created. And then several of them tried to bribe us.

The family at our table was full of amazing artists. They all submitted
their best work and has us vote. We were empowered knowing
that we ruined Christmas for the losers.
Dilettante Amanda tried a technique of

Your two representative Dilettantes. Showing off
the champagne. And someone else's ornament.
We ended the evening with pizza and beer at Pi Pizzeria next door. And with our friend, Dan, and his daughter, Gabby, joining us.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 2013 Activity -- Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Tasting

Ah Love Olive Oil & Vinegar
Mosaic District, Merrifield, VA
October 27, 2013, 6:30-7:00pm
Cost: Tasting - Free; Obligatory Purchases - $40

Once I got past the sign on the front door (literally and figuratively), I met Dilettante Amy inside this lovely shop for our private tasting. (The shop hours ended about 15 minutes after we arrived, so the proprietor gave us a lot of individual attention. It was awesome.) Dilettante Amanda was not getting her kicks on Route 66 -- she was stuck in some awful traffic, so we proceeded without her.

The shop owner loves olive oils and vinegars, infuses them, inspires her staff to come up with recipes using these lovely ingredients (which is how our host conceived of and made dark chocolate bark with pumpkin seeds and sea salt -- using balsamic vinegar and oil in place of butter) and it seems from our sample size of one employee, that they are all fairly passionate about this stuff. We dipped bits of bread in all kinds of oils and vinegars and they were all delightful. (I loved the Rosemary oil and cucumber melon vinegar. Amy was a fan of the fig balsamic.) We both ended up purchasing some bottles because the lovely gentleman kept the shop open for us longer than he had to and was so informative.

Dilettante Amanda and her Mondrian-inspired shirt made it off 66 in time to meet us over at Blackfinn Ameripub for some Amerigrub.

Monday, August 12, 2013

September 2013 Activity -- Hula Dancing

Saturday, September 28, 2013
Workhouse Arts Center
Lorton, Virginia
Cost: Free

We figured there was nothing more "Dilettante" than a hula class on the grounds of a former prison/now art center. The part that was not so "Dilettante" was agreeing to do this at 8:00am with a minimum 35-minute drive for all of us. Oy.

The class description claimed that there was no prior experience or pre-registration necessary -- we were just to show up dressed for whatever the weather, as this would be held outside. I opted to wear my jammies (although marketed as "lounge wear," it was really just clothes I sleep in). 

Aside: I also wore my jammies to an Oktoberfest party later the same day. I'm thinking a more peaceful civilization will result if we opt out of those silver jumpsuits with inverted triangles on the front that all sci-fi movies believe we'll be wearing and go with jammies -- I was in an excellent mood the entire day as a result. Granted, the brats and pumpkin beer may have also had something to do with that. But I digress. 

When I first arrived at the Workhouse Arts Center, I ran into Dilettante Amy so together, we tried to find the class. On the way, I had to find a restroom, which we found in Building #11 (appropriately titled the "movement" building). Not even kidding.

We found the stage and there were two other people there in addition to the instructor and we began the class at 8:00am sharp. Dilettante Amanda joined us a couple of minutes later for what was to be the quietest Dilettante Activity in history. 

The instructor let us know that she was not the usual instructor and then meekly and timidly led us through several steps with no explanation of how hula tells a story or the history of the dance or anything. We basically just cobbled together a bunch of steps and ended up with some semblance of a hula dance, that had something to do with picking flowers being a metaphor for a mother's love. Which was not all bad. What was all bad was the random old guy wandering around the arts center who sat down behind our class (facing our butts) and watched us for about 20 awkward minutes. Nobody talked during the whole class, and it just a very quiet, very uncomfortable class. And we didn't feel like we learned much more about hula than we knew going in. Oh, well -- guess you get what you pay for.

From class, we drove to Matchbox in the Mosaic District of Northern Virginia for some bloody marys and food. And a discussion about how much money with could make with a flaming-bag-of-poop delivery business. (Our financial planner Dilettante Amy's estimate: $5.) I blame Congress.

August 2013 Activity -- Rifles, Skeets, Traps and Clay Pigeons 101: An Introduction to the Sport of Riflery and Shooting Ranges

Sunday, August 18, 2013
Trap and Skeet Center
10400 Good Luck Road
Glen Dale, MD
Cost: $68/person

I'm not sure about the other Dilettantes, but I'm slightly apprehensive about going to a gun lesson on "Good Luck Road."

This place is operated by the Maryland and National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission and the course provides a comprehensive lesson on basic rifle operation. including balance, precision, aiming and rifle safety while we participate in both skeet and traps and clay shooting. 

With a promise of specialized trips into the "field" to look for standing and mobile targets resulting in a day of fun, exhilaration, new skills and new friends -- how could we not do this activity?

July 2013 Activity -- Introductory Essential Oils Course

Online course, completed Wednesday, July 17, 2013.
(Scroll down to bottom where it reads "Medicinhe Cabinet Makeover" and click on this video.)
Cost: Free, plus free samples of essential oils upon completion of the first class. 

After more than seven years as a Dilettante, I still think responding to an anonymous Craigslist ad under "classes" is a swell idea. 

I'm adorable. Particularly since just this brand of naivete and trustworthiness found us pole dancing in a private basement in Potomac and DJing in a dungeon in Baltimore. Instead of just cutting our losses and realizing this is not the brightest idea, I keep trolling Craigsilst for activities we have not tried. Which means that one of these months the activity will be us getting chopped up into pieces and placed into someone's freezer. 

I replied to the ad and the gentleman who replied asked if I was interested in a basic essential oils class or a more advanced class. When I said, "basic" he let me know that "due to everyone's busy schedules, we have decided to use an online format for our classes."

And that, dear readers, is a win-win. A first for the Dilettantes in that we've never done anything online before. And we get to live another day to repeat bad decision-making.

The instructor, Kalli Wilson, taught us how to replace many over-the-counter medications with essential oils. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 Activity -- Firehouse Tour and Firefighter Drill

Vienna Volunteer Fire Department (VVFD) is well-trained in handling crises.
I know this personally as the last time I had a speaking engagement and decided that the perfectly functional podium at the venue where I was speaking would simply not do, my husband called several places in the community and ended the search when VVFD came through with the best podium, ever.

Lifesavers, indeed.

Also, my very good friend volunteers there so when he learned that I was planning to attend the VVFD-sponsored Taste of Vienna with the Dilettantes and my 7-year-old daughter, he offered a personal tour of the fire station, ambulance and engines and the opportunity to participate in a drill where we would try on firefighter (turnout) gear.

We began our tour by meeting Deputy Chief/Firefighter Snow and many other Vienna firefighters and EMTs -- including one woman who was totally in the bag. (Keep your shirts on – I don’t mean she was drunk -- I mean she was delivered into the station in an equipment bag and popped out to surprise us. That is someone who knows how to make an entrance.)

It is obvious this group works well together. They were each knowledgeable, friendly and patient in answering the eight thousand questions we asked about how everything worked. We learned about the canteen that travels to fires that take many hours to extinguish to provide sustenance to the firefighters. We learned about career and volunteer team members and what kind of training is required. (And even saw the career staff run some calls while we were there.) We learned how this station works with others in the area when there are major disasters. And we learned that it takes a special kind of person to put him or herself in harm’s way on every shift.

In fact, the only thing we did not learn is what type of illness we’d have to fake to get a prescription for the good stuff. (And that was not for lack of asking. Why so stingy with the information, buzzkills?)

The group ran a drill to show us how they get dressed in their gear – something they must be able to do in less than two minutes. Deputy Chief/Firefighter Snow and firefighters and EMTs Hanna Mitchell, Stephen Baldassari, Zack Smith and a couple of others ran the drill first – with us and several others in the audience watching. We cheered on the participants and may have also placed a few bets. (The smart money was on Hanna.)

Then it was our turn. My friend told us that we didn’t have to be timed during the drill, and I let him know that we are nothing if not freakishly competitive with each other, and to bring it on. (For the record, the gear weighed about 60 pounds, and we each carried 10-12 pound tools). (I've never felt more like John Holmes.) The firefighters and EMTs let us start with the advantage of taking our shoes off, and also provided us personal coaches to help us before and during the drill. Wanting to throw off my competitors with a psychological game, I exclaimed loudly, “I know you said we could take off our shoes, but was it necessary for Dilettante Amanda to take off her underpants?” Dilettante Amanda parried back, “Funny. But I’m not wearing any.” (Please see “competitive” above.)

As this was a friendly competition and the real reason for our visit was to learn about all the VVFD does for our community every single day, it’s really not even worth mentioning who won the turnout gear competition. Let’s just say that next time I will delay my showboating until I am absolutely positive I have secured my belt and put on my gloves. (Insert sad trombone sound effect here.)

When we were done, Dilettante Amy handed back the hood and helmet and a firefighter joked, "Well, now you've got lice." Dilettante Amy responded with a straight face, while handing back the fire pants, "Well, now you've got herpes."

Immediately after the competition, which was held in the Sam Savia Apparatus Bay, we met VVFD Chief John Morrison. My daughter handled this honor by burrowing into my side and refusing to look at him. Awesome.

We finished our visit by enjoying the food, music and drinks at Taste of Vienna behind the fire house that along with the spectacular weather, made for a pretty amazing day.

Coincidentally, on Monday morning after I dropped my daughter off at her school in Vienna, I saw flashing red lights in front of someone’s house near the school. As I came closer, I realized it was from 402 (the VVFD). All fun aside, I am so extremely grateful that these fearless firefighters and EMTs are there for our community.

By the way, Taste of Vienna is not the only awesome fundraising event sponsored by VVFD. They are also sponsoring an Auction (July 12, 2013 at 6:00pm) where you can bid on a date with a firefighter to a formal ball which will be held July 20, 2013 at 7:00pm. (And you can attend the ball even if you don’t buy a firefighter.) If the hour we spent with them is any indication, these events will be a blast. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 2013 Activity -- DC Environmental Film Festival Screening & Discussion

DC Environmental Film Festival

Carnegie Institution for Science
Elihu Root Auditorium
1530 P St., NW
Cost: Free
We look pretty happy for people who just learned that
every single product they use is rife with aluminum.
Let's just say that March's activity was interesting before it even began. We initially planned to attend a pickling class at the Living Social building. (Opening lines for the post about Pickling: Prior to tonight's activity, if someone had asked if we liked pickling, we would have answered (with coquettish laughs), "We don't know, you naughty boy...we've never pickled.")

However, after deciding on a date and buying tickets, Dilettante Amy had to cancel as she had a retirement party to attend the same night that she had forgotten about. Then, Dilettante Amanda received a notice that the pickling class had been cancelled, although Dilettante Kathleen did not. After approximately 87,436 e-mails and calls to Living Social, Dilettante Kathleen finally talked to a human being who confirmed that, in fact, the pickling class had been cancelled. (Though, not yet refunded. Living Social customer service is awful.)

Anyway, in a rush to find a replacement activity on a Wednesday night, we actually came up with several, and settled on the DC Environmental Film Festival, because this movie sounded really interesting:

LA SOURCE (USA, 2012, 71 min.)
Presented in celebration of World Water Day
Each day, the villagers of a small, rural community called La Source in Haiti must choose between enduring a long, treacherous walk to retrieve clean water or drinking contaminated water from a nearby river. Since he was a teenager, Josue Lajeunesse, along with his brother Chrismedonne, have dreamed of remedying this problem for their people. In 1989, Josue moved to New Jersey where he found employment as a custodian at Princeton University and as a taxi driver, allowing him to send money home to La Source so that he and Chrismedonne, a bricklayer in La Source, could properly channel the water from the mountain into their village. The film follows
the Lajeunesse brothers as they work together to rally the support of a group of Princeton students, a Los Angeles-based charity called Generosity Water and the people of La Source to fulfill their dream of improving the conditions of their impoverished village. The film captures the story of one man, empowered by a vision, who was able to ignite the passion of people thousands of miles away to change lives in La Source forever. In Creole and English. Directed by Patrick Shen. Produced by Patrick Shen, Brandon Vedder and Jordan Wagner.

Discussion with filmmaker Patrick Shen and Raymond Joseph, Former Haitian Ambassador to the United States and Founder, A Dollar A Tree For Haiti.

And yet, when we walked into that theater at the appointed time and sat (and gagged over what the woman behind us brough to eat during the movie), this movie began playing:

THE AGE OF ALUMINUM (Austria/Germany, 2013, 90 min.)

World Premiere Aluminum is a fascinating metal: light, stainless and easy to process. One hundred years ago, it was still so exotic that it was presented at world expositions. The metal has become an essential part of our daily lives. We drink from aluminum cans, use aluminum-containing deodorants and sunscreens and it increases the effectiveness of vaccines. But, currently, critical voices are being heard about this metal. Large amounts of resources and energy are needed for the production of aluminum. The extraction can lead to environmental disasters of considerable dimension, as happened in Hungary almost one year ago. Furthermore, scientists suspect that the toxic effect of aluminum could be having an influence on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and allergies. Directed by Bert Ehgartner. Produced by Kurt Langbein.
Panel discussion, moderated by Claire Dwoskin, child health advocate and Founder, Children's Medical Safety Research Institute, with filmmaker Bert Ehgartner; Dr. Jim Olds, Director and Chief Academic Unit Officer, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study and Krasnow University Professor of Molecular Neuroscience; Katharine Redford, Esq., Co-Founder and Director, EarthRights International (ERI) and Dr. Christopher Shaw, Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

February 2013 Activity -- Gin Distillery Tour and Tasting

Ready to make martinis. And sloe gin fizzes (sloes gin fizz?)
Gin Distillery Tour & Tasting
New Columbia Distillery
1832 Fenwick Street, NE (da hood)
Washington, DC 20002
COST: Zero for tasting/tour
$36 per bottle of gin

In the car on the way to this activity, the following conversation took place:

Dilettante Amanda: "So this is a gin activity. Is it gin rummy?"

Wannabe Dilettante Tim: "I think it has to do with a cotton gin."

Dilettante Kathleen: "And here I was thinking it was a tutorial on bathtub gin. I'm pretty sure I've been making it wrong. Also (and probably unrelated) my daughter seems kind of listless after her baths..."

Turns out, it was none of the above -- it was a tour and tasting. We met Dilettante Amy (and another Dilettante wannabe, Pete) at New Columbia distillery in the section of NE near all the dance clubs that we planned to patronize after getting all goofed up on craft gin.

This was initially going to be a tour and tasting in conjunction with the alumni group from Dilettante Amanda's alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. However, it turns out that the JHU web site continues to accept reservations even after events are fully booked, so we discovered about a week ago that we could not participate in this as part of the alumni function. (At least that's the story Amanda gave us. I'm willing to bet it had something to do with the state schools on our resumes...) Anyway, the distillery suggested that we just come earlier and do an independent tour and tasting. So we and every-single-hipster-in-DC did exactly that. (Craft distilleries are obviously big with the skinny jean set.)

We began by getting a small tasting of the gin. Straight. And it was really deliciously spicy. Gin is not everyone's "thing" but we certainly all appreciated how complex the layers of flavor were, how you could pretty much taste the artisanal process in each sip, and how badass this was gonna taste with some juice in a crunk chalice.

Our tour guide (and only New Columbia employee) Sol gave us a ton of great information about the distilling process, the history of the company, and informed us that New Columbia was the first distillery to open and operate in DC in 103 years. (And Marion Barry calls himself a former Mayor. Sheesh.)

The gin is already served in some local restaurants and they are working on getting it into MD and VA, and may also begin distilling seasonal gins and other types of spirits.

It was a very interesting tour and a great product -- they already cannot keep up with demand and they do no traditional advertising. (Thanks to social media...and hipster word of mouth.)

Dilettante Amanda bought one bottle of gin. Dilettante Amy bought two. And Dilettante Kathleen bought a fedora and looked disinterested.

Dinner at Ethiopic on H Street followed.

Some of the ingredients.

January 2013 Activity --

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 2012 Activity -- Geocaching

We did this one in reverse - beginning with brunch and then ending with our activity.

Brunch was provided by Dilettante Amanda and her husband, Leon, at their house. After discussing many inane things and finishing each other's sentences over good food (pretty much the hallmark of any Dilettante activity) we segued (but did not Segway) into our annual Dilettante Christmas gift exchange.

As per tradition, Dilettante Amanda gave the other Dilettantes "D" ornaments. As per losing her mind, Dilettante Kathleen gave the other Dilettantes "Cards against Humanity" -- a game that Amy not only gave Amanda last year for Christmas, but which she also presented to Amanda right in front of Kathleen's fat face.

Dilettante Amy provided the others with their gifts -- Dilettante martini glasses. The same glasses that Dilettante Kathleen also purchased as Christmas gifts for them this year. And finally, Kathleen got a Yeti ornament, which was identical to the one she had just given her Yeti co-owner as a hostess gift.

Next year, we'll just donate more to charity.

After the exchange, we tried geocaching. Dilettante Amanda had the forethought to download a geocaching app that located caches near her house. As she lives in snooty-toot-ville and there was a cache at the National Cathedral which is approximately a two block walk from her house -- we decided to start there.
National Cathedral. Where Dilettante Amanda
worships. The almighty dollar.

Following hints about the approximate location from the geocaching app, we ended up in front of the Cathedral after passing a gentleman lying supine on a bench, who was eating a sandwich and wearing a t-shirt proudly announcing, "Body by Pastrami." We loved him immediately.

For the first cache, all we needed to do was enter names and dates on two corners of the Cathedral. Kind of anticlimactic. So, we followed up with another cache. This one at Saint Sophia's Greek Orthodox Church just another 1/3 mile away. There was a Christmas tree sale in the parking lot of Saint Sophia's, which added to the intrigue. (No, it didn't.) It just made us feel more like the asses we are as we wandered aimlessly around the parking lot for twenty minutes while people buying trees and wreaths looked at us suspiciously. At one point, we thought that maybe a dirty rag in a tree was our cache. It was not. But it also did not give us tetanus -- so kind of a bonus.

We finally discovered the cache in the base of a lamp post -- we had to lift the metal apron on the bottom of the post and there it was.! And we had to admit -- it gave us quite a feeling of accomplishment. We proudly signed the geocaching log, pimped the Dilettante Club blog, and put it all back in place for the next 'cachers.

When's the last time these ladies had this much success
in a parking lot? (Rhetorical.)

Look how seriously we're I'm taking this.

Apparently, when one really gets into this hobby, they come up with a "handle." I wonder if anyone else already has "Johnny Cache"?