Thursday, June 05, 2014

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

Sunday, June 8, 2014
Alden, McLean Community Center
1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean, VA
Cost: Free

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. 

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"?


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

November 2012 Activity -- Sign Language

Jazz hands. Universal sign of something. 

Dirty signs. What? You expected us to sign bible verses?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October 2012 Activity -- Re-blooming our orchids

Hillwood Museum
Washington, DC
Saturday, October 13th
(Dilettante Amanda's birthday - woot!)
Cost: $25

When Dilettante Amy proposed this activity for October, Dilettante Amanda and I had the same reservation: that it sounded like a cute name for an activity that would involve a bunch of women sitting in a circle holding hand mirrors. Which would be particularly awkward since her brother, Steve, was our guest Dilettante for this activity. And because Amy was diagnosed as having a "dry orchid"...

Fortunately, the class description was literal and the workshop did actually aim to help people bring orchids back to life. We were all supposed to show up with an orchid that needed to be resuscitated, but as we are Dilettantes who replace rather than revive orchids, Dilettante Amy stopped by Trader Joe's and purchased four brand spanking new orchids for this class. (For a brilliant blog post on orchids, read this.)

Beautiful orchids in the green house.
The instructor was surprisingly young and passionate, and he made this class very interesting for both the botanists and non-orchid fanatics among us (read: the Dilettantes). Pretty much everyone else that showed up for this class on a Saturday morning was pretty invested. Which became obvious when the instructor told us that many people move their orchids into the bathroom in the evening and leave the lights on all night to keep them thriving, and that if we wanted our orchids to be healthy, we had to fertilize them differently during growth and bloom phases. Apparently he did not realize that I sometimes forget to eat breakfast and recently left the (indoor) cat I adore outside for several hours before he meowed and scratched at the door to remind me he was out there. (Oops).

Other interesting things we learned: it helps to sterilize cutting tools with a blow torch to prevent infections from spreading among orchids; that ice orchids are a marketing gimmick; and that many orchids can grow on trees and rocks, fertilized only by rain and monkey poop. (Which is when Guest Dilettante Steve noted, "Oh great. Now I'll have to get a monkey.")

We learned the difference between monopodial and sympodial orchids, how to water and fertilize all types, and that the cat-to-orchid ratio of our classmates was probably pretty high.

The instructor also used the words "turgid", "moist", and "spagma" moss. And for those of us whose orchid is not dry and is fully in bloom (huffs on closed fist, rubs against chest), that kind of talk is simply unnecessary. The class ended with one man whispering, "I hate to mention it...but "mealy bugs." Which was frankly, pretty offensive. Not because of the mealy bug reference, but because it was not really a sentence and also because it was half an hour after the class was supposed to end.

We ended our day with a delightful brunch at Ardeo on Connecticut Avenue and a pear tart for our birthday tart:

Best photobomb, ever.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 2012 Activity -- Cotton Candy Making

Saturday, September 22, 2012
Dilettante Kathleen's House, Oakton, VA
Cost: Free

Hopefully you've missed us these past two months -- God knows we've missed each other. (Which is shameful considering we took a shooting class and learned how to aim properly.) "Keep coming up with those horrible puns. They kill us." Said no one, ever.

Dilettantus Interruptus was caused by many things: work travel, fun travel, time travel, births, funerals, commitments to do-gooder organizations, commitments to institutions, and general over-bookedness.

However, because we never miss what's hip and happening (Avett Brothers phenomenon aside), the Dilettantes are reuniting at my child's seventh birthday party. When the party is over, we plan to drink Avery beer (in honor of my spawn) and hijack the cotton candy machine we purchased for her county fair birthday party to work on our mad cotton candy makin' skillz.

We're easing back in. Which is what he said.

Cotton candy making was fun! Dilettante Kathleen demonstrated the technique, as she became something of an expert while twirling the floss (not a euphemism) for the kiddos at the party. The other Dilettantes made the rookie mistake of creating hard balls of cotton candy that were at first wound too tight, but then got into the rhythm and created the softer, fluffier (correct) consistency.

Time to realize our Collective Dream of becoming carnies. And not just dating them.......Amy.


Like McKayla, Amy is not impressed.

Friday, June 01, 2012

June 2012 Activity -- Laughter Yoga

Thursday, June 21st
Arlington Central Library Auditorium
1015 N. Quincy Street
Arlington, VA  22201
Cost: Free
Instructor: Diane Cohen


Dilettante Kathleen found this activity through the DC Web Women listserv to which she subscribes.

The description asked, "Stressed?  Need a laugh?" And we replied, "Yes. Always."  We signed up to learn the 5 key points of laughter yoga; the 3 reasons to practice; and the 4 steps. After e-mailing with Diane who told us to wear something comfortable and to come prepared to laugh, the Dilettantes and guest Dilettante Liz headed into Arlington.

Dilettantes Kathleen and Amy met at the Central Library to discover that at the last minute, the class had been moved from the Auditorium to a room in the children's section of the library. Tres appropriate.

We got started right at 7:00pm by going around the room and making introductions. Everyone would say, "Hi, I'm {state your name}" and then the rest of the people in the room would laugh. Then, we went around the room again, this time stating where we were from...and again, everyone in the room would laugh in response. This was as funny as it sounds, and got even funnier when stragglers (ahem, Guest Dilettante Liz) came in after the exercise and got to participate in it with no introductory context. Dilettante Amanda was even later (thanks, public transportation) and really walked t

Apparently, your brain registers laughter whether or not it is authentic, and your body begins to feel all the benefits of laughing for an hour after you do this.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 2012 Activity -- Dilettante Speaking Engagement

Thursday, May 10, 2012
Vale Schoolhouse, Oakton, Virginia
Cost: $10 donation per person

A few months ago, Dilettante Kathleen was approached by a local charitable group to speak at an evening event to raise money for the charity.

Never one to back down from doing something for which she has no experience (see "Dilettante: definition of"), she happily agreed. Which is how this came to be.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

April 2012 Activity -- Sippin' and Paintin' (and Counterfeitin')

Sure, the other Dilettantes had better paintings.
But I did mine left-handed.
Tuesday, April 10, 20127:00-9:00pm
LivingSocial HQ
918 F Street, NW
Washington, DC
$29/person included canvas, paint, brushes,
instruction and three wine tickets

This class made us feel like kids again. Well, except for the wine. That made us feel like kids when creepy uncle Joey visited and gave us cups of "don't tell mommy" juice.

Although this was not our first Living Social activity, it was our first time at the Living Social HQ, which is a very cool building. Dilettante Amanda had plenty of time to check it out and reserve some seats because Dilettantes Kathleen and Amy were running red lights late getting there.

We got situated at our easels, put on our aprons and began receiving instruction from local artist Emma Steinkraus, who gave us tips on mimicking the brush strokes, colors and movement of Van Gogh's "Starry Night". (We each had a color printout of the painting taped to our easels for reference.)  So, after a moment of silence for fellow artistic genius Thomas Kinkade who passed this week, we got right to work channeling Vincent.

(And Dilettantes Amy and Kathleen may have tried to convince Dilettante Amanda that she should fling herself into traffic to make her piece worth more. And that she should lop off her ear -- you know, to really walk in the artist's footsteps up Mt. Crackers.) (Totally stolen phrasing.) Dilettante Kathleen also focused on making the others crazy by singing Don McLean's "Starry, Starry Night" on a continuous loop.

There were about 25 other people in the class whose talents ranged from worse than us (ha! ha! I really had you going there for a minute, didn't I?) like Captain Retentive, who got to class early and sketched out a framework for the entire painting before the rest of the class even got there -- to awesome, like the woman who replaced the dark tree in the painting with the Seattle space needle, and another person whose inspiration took her somewhere very orange.

The two hours went by quickly, even though Dilettante Kathleen stood for the entire class in her sittin' shoes. (Had to get the "tortured" part of "Tortured Artist" in there.) Afterward, we met Dilettante Amy's lil sis from her sorority days at Pi (appropriately) right next door for some decent  food and beer and some oddly schizophrenic service.

Dilettantes with their (mostly finished) masterpieces.
You Gogh, Girls! (I'm so sorry....)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

March 2012 Activity -- Falconry

Saturday, March 10th, 1:00pm-2:30pm
Wild Bird Center of Bethesda
4611-c Sangamore Road
Bethesda, MD 20816
Cost: $40 (half price through Groupon)

Imagine our surprise when we learned that this class was going to take place inside a store housed in a strip mall, and not outside where birds of prey could actually, you know, fly.

We met for brunch in advance of class at a place called Praline, that was about five shops down from the Wild Bird Center in the strip mall. And somehow, because of gabbing over cappuccinos and some great food, we still managed to be late to the class.

We did get there just in time to hear Mike, the instructor, go on and on about how there was a documentary being created about him and shown at some kind of "Sundance-y film festival" and that he got to travel everywhere because of his falconry including the UAE (which, when no one responded, he then said slowly, "United. Arab. Emirates."). He was quite impressed with himself, though he tried to disguise it with some false self-deprecation.


We did get a little bit of information about birds of prey and how to train them, and even though these birds have a greater life expectancy in captivity, we were not all completely sold on the quality vs. quantity of their lives. We were also not completely sold on paying $40 for this lecture, which seems like it is something that should have been given away for free as a store promo. (Particularly since we were standing and/or sitting on bags of bird seed right in the center of the store for the entire thing.)

At the end of the lecture, we did get to have a bird perch on our arm while wearing a protective glove. The bird was on a leash and both birds that we got to see struggled to get away and there was a lot of upside-down flapping. It was a little scary.

Also scary? After I held the bird, I looked at the glove where she was perched and noticed fresh blood. I notified the instructor who didn't seem at all concerned. He said, "I think it is from the last time we went hunting." Which it was not, because it was fresh blood. Dilettante Amanda suggested that I lick it and then confirm, "It's fresh all right." (Her photo to the right is beginning to make a lot of sense now, huh?)

Anyway, not something we would recommend, but parts were interesting and this may be the first time in any of our activities that we drew blood. (Nevermind. I'm forgetting about the Segway debacle.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 2012 Activity -- Static Trapeze

Dilettante Kathleen and what may be her new LinkedIn
profile picture.
Trapeze School of New York
Sunday, February 19th
4th St & Tingey St SE
Washington, DC 20003

Cost: With the application fee, it came to $46.666666 per person.
Dilettante Amanda (who registered our group for the class) requested that we reimburse her with exact change.

Call us perceptive -- we assume that the Trapeze School has had a lot of people showing up for class and thinking they were going to participate in a completely different class:
Please Note:You have signed up for static trapeze. Please note that static trapeze is very different from flying trapeze. The trapeze bar doesn't move, and you don't swing toward a catcher. What you've seen on TV is flying trapeze. If you meant to sign up for flying trapeze, please call the office immediately at (410) 459-6839
>sigh< as much as we love any activity that involves "swinging" and "catchers," we decided that static was the smarter option for our first foray into the circus arts. (Well, for most of us it was the first foray, there was that drunken "summer o' Carnies" for Dilettante Amy when she was in college, but she really doesn't like to talk about that.)
Dilettante Amanda doing a very graceful "mermaid." Interestingly, after
she performed this, she saved a handsome prince from drowning and
then gave up her beautiful voice to become human. It was odd.
Walking into the tent was pretty cool. There were different areas for all of the different activities that are taught there -- static trapeze, flying trapeze and silks (long silk panels you use to perform acrobatic stunts like in Cirque du Soleil). Dilettantes Amy and Kathleen drove together and arrived first and got to sit an enjoy the stunts being performed by the flying trapeze class.

(Aside: What's the difference between a circus and a sorority? One is a cunning array of stunts... You're welcome.)
Dilettante Amy doing a very nice "Moscow Angel."
(As far as we know, that is not also the name of a cocktail. Though, it should be.)
This was by far, the most difficult stunt we did. It took Dilettantes Kathleen and Amanda
two tries. Only one for overachiever Amy.
Dilettante Amanda walked in a few minutes later and our instructor, Jess, got us busy right away doing a warm up on the mats and then jumping right into trapeze. Our first stunt involved us pulling ourselves up on the bar, kicking our legs through and then doing the splits upside-down. Yes, the first stunt. It only got more challenging from there. And more fun. The more complex the stunt, the more exciting it was and the more we felt like Superstars when we had done it.

(Highlight: we got to put talc on our hands before every stunt. It all felt so official.)

In the first half hour, we did a lot of activities that required us to pull ourselves up on the bar and then pull our legs through. For the second half of the class, Jess lowered the bar (literally, not figuratively) and had us perform stunts that had us starting from a seated position and then standing and doing some progressively more difficult positions. We all were able to do every stunt and got much better from the beginning to the end of class -- a class that was the perfect length of just one hour.
Jess was an amazingly patient instructor who instilled us with confidence and made every single stunt look ridiculously graceful and simple.

After a cool down, we headed out to dinner. And because Dilettante Amanda had spent the prior two days at a Belgian beer festival in Baltimore (because she loves alliteration) and Dilettante Kathleen had gone to a Belgian beer garden for brunch (it's addictive), all of the Dilettantes decided that Belga Cafe would be the best place to go for dinner and drinks after. Over some fantastic beer and mussels, we all decided this activity (and evening) was easily one of our favorites.

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 2012 Activity - DietBet Progress Report (Amy's version)

Dear Friends, Fans and Stalkers of the Dilettante Club—

Greetings from Amy… “the quiet one,” (ed. Ha ha "the quiet one") as I have never in my life submitted a blog post.  Hey!  That should count as my January activity, instead of this stupid Diet (dear DietBet, she is only saying that because she's hungry and cranky. DietBet is awesome.) I got roped into.
If you are following our blog, you know that the three of us are participating in a weight loss challenge through the DietBet website.  For someone with a firm 50-minute attention span, this four-week challenge has been extremely tough. With 2 1/2 weeks into this diet, I have made three important discoveries.

1.       Unlike my summer diets in college, eliminating beer from my diet no longer has an effect.  I am not sure whether to be happy or discouraged about this.  Over the years I’ve been on so many diets that I have slowly eliminated many of the “bad foods” from my daily meals.  Butter—long gone.  Cokes and diet cokes—not in years.  Rolls of raw cookie dough—nada.  Beer is my last diet vice—in that I am drinking my calories.  And I like real beer—not that watery Bud Light crap. (ed. the Dilettantes bond over a love of good beer.) So my original strategy was to cut out the beer for the four weeks, and watch the fat melt away.  Nope!  Two and half weeks in and I weigh the same as I did the day after Christmas—and the 24 beers of Christmas challenge (which was way more fun than this stupid diet).

2.      DietBet sends daily suggestions for losing weight during our challenge.  As I mentioned, I’ve tried them all—Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, marathon training, Cindy Crawford’s  workout video—and they all boil down to the same thing: eat less, exercise more, drink lots of water.  But yesterday I learned a new tip—the 3-day juice cleanse.  I wonder if a three day beer cleanse would work just as well? (ed. If it does, I've found my new weight management tool that I will be able to maintain for a lifetime.)

3.      Stephen Hawking will want to explore my third discovery.  After having a baby in late August, the remainder of 2011 raced by.  Visitors, holidays, parties, work—I wished I could slow down the days.  Well, I now know how to slow time—dieting.  I can’t believe it is only January 20th!  I have never before looked forward to the month of February.  But bring it on, extra day and all! (ed. February 1st will be the best day of our lives. with the exception of Oktoberfest 2007. That was a great party.)
So with 12 days to go, I am not confident I am going to successfully complete this Dilettante activity by losing 4% of my body weight.  Here is my final stretch strategy:  3 day beer cleanse, diuretics, and a new scale.  Wish me luck!

January 2012 Activity -- DietBet Progress Report (Amanda's version) -- Of course she had to go to Chile -- though perhaps Hungary would have been more appropriate...

Anyone who has seen me in person or is friends with me on Facebook is keenly aware of how pleasant I have been during this little weight loss “competition” between the Dilettantes and 4 other bloggers to lose 4% of our body weight in 4 weeks. 
Trying to maintain a 1,000 calorie daily deficit means lots of working out, and not very much eating. I’ve been doing pretty well, despite the temptations. As Kathleen noted in an e-mail to me and Amy recently—“everything looks like a turkey leg to me!” So true. I’m convinced the restaurant next door to my office has installed extra exhaust fans to make sure I am enveloped by the smell of burgers every time I walk out the door. We’ve had a birthday cake sitting in the office kitchen this week—its inch-thick frosting calling to me seductively every time I head in to refill my water bottle. It’s torture.
Maintaining self control is one thing surrounded by the comforts of home. On the road is a different story.  Yet, on the road (to Chile) is where I found myself last week.  Weeks like this usually throw my normally healthy habits way off. Lack of sleep, airplane food, and jet lag are a lethal combination. I should also add that Chile is home to one of my favorite beverages, the pisco sour, and the food is amazing. On those nights when I am able to have dinner with work colleagues, we typically over consume all of those.  Guess what this does to my motivation to wake up early and work out?

On this last trip, I knew I had to make a conscious effort to maintain my good habits.

It started with my layover in Miami. My flight was delayed 1 hour, so since I couldn’t drown my sorrows at the airport bar, I chose to walk the airport—logging about 3.5 miles in an hour (while dragging my suitcase). In addition to the strange looks I got as I passed gates 3, 4, and 5 times, I managed to get several all-pro blisters on my feet. Awesome.  The things I do to win.

The town where I was staying was on the beach, and the temperature stayed between 75-78 degrees the entire time. It’s pretty hard to come up with an excuse legitimate enough to avoid exercising in those conditions. I managed 2 runs while I was there, enjoying gorgeous sunsets and waves crashing on the beach:

taking in a little bit of the historic town:

and hanging out with the local wildlife:

It’s very glamorous.

In the middle of all this consistency, I had two overnight flights coming and going, about 2347234083 cookie breaks that I had to resist, and a road trip up to 14,000 feet, where I was barely able to walk 5 feet without collapsing. On balance, I think I broke even, but I’m glad to be back home to finish this misery competition.
I hadn’t mentioned it before, but the Dilettantes have some pretty stiff competition.  Foodie City Mom has already met her goal, as has Angie from Blessed Beyond Words.  Selfish Mom and Dusty Earth Mother aren’t far behind, and are well over halfway to their goal. The Dilettantes are bringing up the rear, although Kathleen is maintaining the mystery and not weighing in until the finale.  Applause to our competitors (I will be posting their addresses later so that you can send candy and cookies to congratulate them!). The Dilettantes have to kick it in gear—stay tuned!