Monday, November 19, 2007

December 2007 Activity -- Holiday Baking

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
L'Academie de Cuisine
5021 Wilson Lane Bethesda, MD

Description on Web site: Class provides on instruction on "holiday gifts to give from your kitchen to their table" -- including peppermint bark, ginger snaps, cranberry caramel sauce and pecan shortbread bars.

Well, because this was a school night, we all decided to meet prior to class for dinner and drinks, rather than going out after. Perhaps not the best idea in hindsight.

Dinner was at Black's in Bethesda. Cool place -- and good food. Amanda and Nicole brought us dilettante Christmas gifts (Amanda a Kiva gift certificate and "D" ornament and Nicole adult MadLibs). Much hilarity ensued -- mostly from us, but also due in large part to our waiter who pronounced the Dogfish Head Raison d'etre beer as "raison day etray". Interesting.

We got to L'Academie a few minutes after the class had officially begun (it was a bit of a hike from Black's) and should have known we were in trouble when every last one of us giggled over a sign outside the instruction room that said, "bring a stool in with you" -- and then one of us erased the "a" so it read simply, "bring stool in with you." (Gentle reader, it is true -- we really are all 8-year old boys.)

Most seats were already taken, so we asked other class participants if they would mind moving so the four of us could sit in the back row together. From there, it all went downhill so fast:
  • We found some "hello, my name is" stickers and filled in "poopy pants", "big nuts", and "firm dough" and wore them throughout the class
  • We flung some melted white chocolate (accidentally) onto the participant in front of us
  • We harassed the tweener assistant so much that at one point, he rolled his eyes and asked, "What middle school is it that you go to?"
  • We put on some rubber surgical gloves and proceeded to do untoward things with them
  • We did manage to avoid taking pictures down each other's shirts (and feeling each other up........Amy), although the same cannot be said for Amanda's butt
All this, and the assistants still felt it was a good idea to offer us all a glass of wine. Perhaps they were looking for the final straw that would allow them to give us das boot guilt-free.
Somewhere in there, we did get instruction on how to make some holiday treats and some of us actually did some baking. We also got to take a plate o' treats home. And then we promptly left -- about an hour earlier than the class ended. Not the best class, then again, we weren't the best students. And somehow, it all seemed an appropriate way to end the second successful year of the Dilettante Club.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

November 2007 Activity -- Italian Cooking Class with Chef Roberto Donna

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Bebo Trattoria
2250-b Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA
$110 (includes all food and drink throughout the evening)

This is not an unbiased assesesment of this activity, dear reader, as all of your dilettantes are now smitten not only with Roberto Donna's cooking, but also with the Master Chef himself. This is a man who seems to truly love what he does and as with any true expert in his field, makes it all look so effortless.
Arriving at Bebo Trattoria, we were seated at a table in the restaurant with the only other class participant, a delightful woman named Carol. (Normally, there are 14 people per class, but during the holidays attendance is much lower, so we had only 5 in the class -- which was ideal.)
Each seat had an apron and a recipe book next to it. We were also given some sparkling wine and a charcuterie plate to enjoy while we waited, then taken over to the cooking area -- also very close to the dining room.

The instruction part of the class was so much fun. We each had individual burners on which too prepare our food, and cutting boards, knives, and all of the other tools we needed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

October 2007 Activity -- Improv

Monday, October 29, 2007
Felix Lounge, Adams Morgan
Washington, DC
Cost: $30
Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Important things first: Amanda was rocking some seriously hot shoes: red patent rounded toe wedges -- but wait, there's more -- they had leopard print heels. What up, fashionista?

Once again, this was a Professionals in the City event, and once again (like our massage class), it was held at Felix in Adams Morgan. (Note: probably the one reason we all agreed to do this was the fact that the bar is open during the class at Felix -- nothing like a little liquid courage to help you try improv for the first time.)

Although we were all pretty apprehensive about this one, this may have been THE BEST activity we've done to date. The instructor was awesome -- he made us all lose all inhibitions within the first few minutes (even without the benefit of roofies...well, as far as we know) and taught us a lot. We did some standard improv exercises like "zip zap zop" and "emotional party" and all had to take turns participating in scenes. We also had to do an exercise where we stood in the middle of a circle of students and sang songs as loud as we could (solo).

We took a refreshing cocktail break about mid-way through the class -- just after a HUGE rat scurried across the floor. (Gotta love DC).

Monday, September 10, 2007

September 2007 Activity -- Wardrobing Tips

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Nordstrom, Tyson's Corner, VA

After sending in our sizes/coloring/styles/clothing needs to the Nordstrom personal shopper --she promised that she would have rooms full of clothing and accessories that met our needs/styles/lifestyles. Amy called to follow up with her and found out that she was "out sick" on the day of our dilettante activity! Surprising for Nordstrom...but in true customer service fashion, they sent over their top salesperson from the Pentagon City store, who did her best to find us some fashions that met our needs (though not our pocketbooks, we were soon to discover).

She kept giving Amy size large items (all way too big), picked out suits and skirts for me (even though I wear jeans to work) gave Nicole tons of impractical (though GORGEOUS!) stuff and brought Amanda some really matronly items (even though she's young and cool). Aside from that, it was very helpful (snarf!)
The experience itself was all very civilized, though. We had a suite of dressing rooms that opened onto a cental area with a pedestal and mirror. Perfect for showing off the stuff we liked and even more ideal for the ridiculous get-ups. Our personal shopper brought us cookies and water and kept going to the floor to find additional things for us to try on and exchange sizes (for the petite-not-large Amy). It was also a perfect place for Kathleen to begin changing into and out of things right in the center of the room -- and right in front of the doorway that led into the shoe deparment. ("Hi to my salesguy friends in the Nordstrom shoe department who now know what my underpants look like!")

We learned quickly that the third floor of Nordstrom is not a place for bargains...but it is definitely a place for quality and good fit. It was fun to try on a lot of the things we did. And, we each actually came away with some good purchases: Amanda -- a gorgeous tobacco-colored leather coat and brown knit dress; Amy -- a brown skirt with a great pattern that will look amazing with boots; Nicole -- an awesome runway-worthy grey dress and some cool green cords; Kathleen -- a black shirt and very practical leopard coat. And I do think we all got some pretty good ideas about what looked good and what we needed that we can take with us to H&M.

As our credit cards were cooling off, we headed to Gordon Biersch to have some dinner and sample the Oktoberfest keg that they tapped that day. All the waitresses were in dirndls -- nice touch.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Supplemental Activity -- Brew at the Zoo

August 23, 2007
National Zoo, Washington, DC

Okay -- not an official dilettante activity -- more of a supplemental dilettante activity -- with the boys. Well, for at least part of the evening, but not the part where we were all doing the "dilettante dip" down each other's cleavage, prompting the couple ahead of us to sneer and the guy with the messed-up grill behind us to keep screaming, "titties", and the crowd of men behind that to fan out to see what was going on. And not really for the part of the evening where I used the convenient pull cord on my shirt to get more generous pours from the sampling people at the beer tents. And also not really when we took turns taking pictures down each other's shirts...and then deciding as a group that the lighting was off on Nicole's pictures, and then re-taking it and all saying in unison, "ahh...much better."

And come to think of it...not really the part of the evening when Amy mentioned that her dad, Townsel, likes to "freeball" it, or when Amanda lovingly noted that my mom's boyfriend, Jack, is an "Assman".

But they were there with us for the best part -- you know, to drive us home.

Monday, August 06, 2007

August 2007 Activity -- Salsa Dancing

Monday, August 13, 2007
Clarendon Grill
Arlington, VA
Cost: $5 for beginner class and social dance at 9:00pm
Well, who knew that a salsa class in Arlington on a Monday night would be so well-attended? This was pretty cool -- there were about 40-50 people here -- all ages, all ethnicities, all (not "both" -- "all") sexes -- sometimes the DC area is surprising in its lack-of-stodginess.
The instructor was enthusiastic, if not a little bit corny. Whatever...he taught us to salsa. We all mastered the few basic steps that he taught us and were actually doing what resembled a dance in time to music within about 45 minutes, taking our leave only when it became apparent that there might be some partnering up with guys. (And thus prompting the dilettantes to state their credo of "not touching anyone they don't know.")
We ducked out to the Eleventh Street Lounge next door for dinner and drinks. Amy insisted that we all order a fancy cocktail to begin...even though we're normally a beer/wine crowd. A sidecar, lime rickey, pineapple-tini and raspberry beret later, we were hitting our stride. This was followed by a few rounds of beers and about a million stories and laughs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

July 2007 Activity -- Massage Techniques

Tuesday, July 17, 2007
7:30pm-9:30pm EST
Felix Lounge
2406 18th Street NW
Washington DC 20009
Cost: $25

Not since the pole dancing class in April 2006 have the Dilettante spouses been so excited about an activity.

We were somewhat hesitant to schedule this class as it was being brought to us by Professionals in the City, who you might know from their earlier work in "suck-ass hypnosis class." Alas, scheduling a monthly activity for four women is almost a dilettante activity in itself these days, so a Professionals in the City class it was!

The class was held at the Felix Lounge in Adams Morgan -- so, plenty of time for beer before the class began. Hooray! (Though, we were not instilled with confidence when the bartender told Amanda that sometimes the instructors for Pros in the City classes don't show up. Fortunately, this one did.)

"Introduction to Partner Massage" was led by Joesph Reo, licensed massage therapist and massage therapy instructor.

He had all of us introduce ourselves and talk about our experience with massages -- whether we had them often, for relaxation or injuries, and if we'd had good or bad experiences with them. Then, he came up with all the following sound bites:

"I have the table, the sheets and the cream"

"When I'm giving a massage, I take a moment to check in with myself -- to be present not just with Ken (participant), but also with Ken's shoulders"

"Once I put my hands on somebody, I tend to not like taking them off"

"Sometimes people want a poky massage"

"When I teach this class in the winter, there are too many is so much better"

"Apparently, she's one of the fingernail ones" (said about Nicole)

"You can use the cream or not, some people don't like to get all gooed up"

Instruction sheet had commands such as:
"Now change places" and "Now switch roles again" -- sheesh! You'd think we were at a swingers' club (yes -- it took me almost 19 months to work "swinging" into this blog -- talk about restraint!)

If there was ever a question about just how juvenile your dilettantes are -- that question was answered repeatedly during this activity. To wit:

a) During his discussion, Joseph mentioned that sometimes people get very relaxed and sometimes fall asleep during massages, which can be jarring when you wake up and realize it's over. To which we added, "yes, and you realize your kidneys are gone and it hurts in the no-no place."

b) One dilettante noted with hilarity that every time she moved on the vinyl couch, it sounded like she was passing wind, so she proceeded to do it about 15 times while saying "couch" every time just to make sure that no one thought that she was, indeed, REALLY passing wind.

c) All dilettantes coming up with the same third-grade joke about "what's this?" "a brain sucker" "what's it doing?" "starving" when we were demonstrating scalp massage on our partners.

Fun event. The instructor was very laid-back and didn't seem to mind when we went to get beers during class. Only slightly uncomfortable part of the evening was getting hit on (as a group) by two different guys at the end of the class. Even after mentioning that we were married during the introductions. Perhaps this was a swingers' massage class. (I broke the seal...two swinger references in one posting...I can't help myself.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

June 2007 Activity -- Hand Dancing

Monday, June 11, 2007
Lincoln Theatre
U Street, Washington, DC
6:30 or 8:30pm

Hand dancing sucks. That’s a baseless comment, because we know nothing of hand dancing. We all arrived at the Lincoln Theatre on U Street in DC only to find out that some kind of schmancy graduation ceremony was going on. Thusly, the hand dancing class was apparently cancelled for the evening – a fact not shared with the hand dancing web site…or on the voice mail of the woman I called whose phone number was listed on the hand dancing web site. Oh, hand dancing…why dost thou forsake us?

So, what do three women (Amy crapped out – apparently the memo about dilettante activities being optional only went out to Amy and Nicole) do with a suddenly-open hand dancing slot? Go shopping, of course! Have you seen the cute boutiques on U Street? Sadly, many of them close by 7pm. Happily, Pop stays open until 8pm --giving us plenty of time to try on almost every garment in the store. Kathleen and Nicole proceeded to make this the most expensive dilettante activity on record in a span of about an hour.

After learning how to shop efficiently, we learned how to eat and drink on the roof top deck of Local 16. And we learned that the server should be forced to set down the Chimay and back away slowly – he was that remedial in the pouring department. Food was pretty good/drinks were great, but orders for them were taken too slowly. However, it was a perfect night weather-wise and we were seated next to a smart ass. So it ended up being a pretty great night.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 2007 Activity -- Phyllo Dough Cooking Class

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Whole Foods Market
Tenleytown, Washington, DC

For the first time since the Dilettante Club began, we were down a member for the evening's activity. Nicole was sick and (sadly) could not make it.
The cooking demonstration at Whole Foods was very informational -- even those among us who don't own microplanes to grate nutmeg found a few useful tips on the 3-item menu that was presented (spanikopita, tahini salad and grilled pineapple). Plus, the woman who taught the course was cooking-show watchable. Not only did she know her stuff and give good tips and make it all seem easy...she was lovely and made it all very interesting. And at the end, we got to sample everything on the menu.
Whole Foods provided recipe cards, note pads, re-usuable shopping bags and bottled water for this class -- nice touch.
Evening ended at Guapo's for some Mexican food. Because we missed Nicole, we drew an extremely life-like rendering of her to pose as a stand-in. Our adorable Columbian waiter was fun enough to ask if she wanted to order anything.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

April 2007 Activity -- Decorating

April 22, 2007
10:30 - 11:30 am
Pottery Barn
Tyson's Corner Galleria
International Drive, McLean, VA 22102
(703) 821-8504
Cost: Free

Our decorating class began with a short presentation by the Benjamin Moore rep, who explained a bunch of decorative painting techniques for outdoor spaces (they have a partnership with Pottery Barn and are featured in all of the stores and catalog tableaus). That was informative and timely, as we are finally seeing some nice, warm weather here in the DC area and are all starting to think about our decks and patios.

The next part of the workshop entailed the Pottery Barn employee walking us around the store to point out all of their new merchandise. She didn't really provide too many decorating was more about how we could buy things from the store and put them together to create -- WOW! -- exactly the same thing that was available in the store displays. She also mentioned that every season, she completely rotates her furnishings and home decor -- puts away velvet pillow covers and replaces them with linen ones, rolls up wool rugs and replaces them with sisals...replaces photos in frames with family photos taken on the beach, etc. Great idea -- but seriously -- who has the time/energy/storage space for that?

In true dilettante fashion, as soon as we stood to move to another section of the store, Amy wandered off when some bedding caught her eye.

Shortly after, Amanda was staging a photo op from the "red clambake table setting" that involved a "big mr. vomit" and a "lil mr. vomit" bucket. As I was about to snap the picture, I was scolded by a Pottery Barn fembot who told me that it was corporate policy that no photos be allowed in the store. The store is set up to look exactly like the catalog, which looks exactly like the web site, which is available to like, the entire universe. I doubt anyone would be finding Pottery Barn corporate secrets from the staged photo taken by my disposable camera.

The outing ended with brunch at Cafe Deluxe across the street. Highlights: Amanda being surrounded by an assortment of crazies, my husband going to New Orleans and getting a rash down there (but not "down there"),

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Supplemental Activity -- Dilettante Prom

This started as an idea to celebrate a couple of milestone birthdays this year and quickly grew into Dilettante Prom 2007 -- complete with a theme, colors, costuming and a "killer" agenda:

Date: March 24, 2007
Theme: Forever Young (but of course)
Prom colors: Turquoise and hot pink
Prom Night Agenda:
-Girls get ready at Dilettante Amy's house
-Boys meet us and we take a limo ride around DC for two hours
-Limo drops us at Applebee's in Falls Church
-From dinner, we walk to the State Theatre and see The Legwarmers

During our limo ride (with Lonnie the limo driver) in the District, we stopped at The Tombs (where a bunch of Georgetown students were all over us) and an Irish bar (where Dilettante Amanda got to meet one of Leon's friends from the grand jury for the first time -- while dressed like a punk rocker). We also stopped for photo ops at the fountain in Dupont Circle where a passerby said, "I metaphorically hug each and every one of you." Dan, who was dressed like an 80s hair band member was accosted by a group of Japanese tourists who wanted their pictures with him.

From there, we headed to Applebee's. Either we'd had a few too many cocktails or the food at Applebee's has improved since we last ate there in 1990, because we all found it delcious. (And Dilettante Kathleen cracked herself up all night long by asking the Applebee's waiter how the chef recommended the steak be cooked.)

At the Legwarmers concert, we danced and sang and drank some kind of cocktail they were featuring that had a dirty name. And I took a picture with a guy who had a mohawk. (Awww....just like my own senior prom.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

March 2007 Activity -- Hypnosis

We been hyp-mo-tized!

Thursday, March 15, 2007
Johns Hopkins University
Washington Center
Washington, DC
Cost: $25

Amazingly, this was our first Professionals in the City event.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

February 2007 Activity -- Curling

Potomac Curling Club
The Ice Garden
Laurel, MD
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Cost: FREE

Be honest. If you're like the Dilettantes, there was probably some curling mockery somewhere in your past. You watched it during the Olympics and thought, "Really? You push a stone down the ice and then sweep? And that's an Olympic SPORT?"

Well, we had a bit of a change of heart after being instructed to strap teflon pads to our feet and trying to stay upright while pushing a huge granite stone down the rink.

Our instructor, F.L., taught us some curling terminology such as:
burn the rock
the hog line

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

January 2007 Activity -- Cake Decorating

Cake Decorating
Sur La Table
Pentagon Row, Arlington, VA
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Cost: $75 (no, that's not a typo)

What we thought would be an opportunity to exercise our creativity, create a lovely cake to take home, and most importantly, get a set of decorating tips turned into more of a over-priced death march through :
  • hygiene tips (don't eat the icing or it will be contaminated!),
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (don't get your knife contaminated with crumbs!),
  • a fraction lesson (if you want 1 cup of icing, use 1 T water, 2 cups would be 2T, 3 cups would be 3T, repeat ad nauseam) and,
  • passive aggressive behavior ("Oh, I see you decided to start decorating your cake already!).
And for $75, we didn't even get a set of tips! Instead, we got a gift certificate good for 15% off at Sur La Table for that day ONLY and a recipe for icing (because that's the hardest part - stirring sugar and water together).

Never fear - the dilettantes still managed to have fun - mostly by breaking all the rules! Amanda quickly put herself in food coma by eating all of her mistakes. Kathleen made a 3-foot high cake using the "if you make a mistake, cover it up with more icing" technique. This prompted a snide comment from our fastidious instructor: "Well, I suppose if you put 3 feet of icing on it, any cake will look good!" Hmph.

Amy had a tough time deciding what to put on her cake, scrapping the marine theme in favor of a shooting star, while Nicole made a very delicate cake with hearts on it (even if she used the softer green icing for her rosettes - apparently a big no-no). Kathleen ended up covering nearly every inch of her cake, while Amanda took the minimalist (some might say lazy) approach and quit after completing her hippy-dippy flower.

We took ourselves, our cakes, and our lighter wallets to the Irish Pub afterward to debrief and toast Kathleen's birthday!

Overall - the activity was fun, but way overpriced for what it was. Had we walked away with some decorating equipment and tips we couldn't have read in any Wilton book on cake decorating, it would have been better.