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!

Friday, January 06, 2012

January 2012 Activity -- DietBet

[Guest Post by Dilettante Amanda, though we all plan to chime in throughout the month.]

If this post ends abruptly, it’s likely because I passed out from hunger and exhaustion as a result of Day 1 of the DietBet competition I and my fellow Dilettantes were conned into happy to join for the month of January. Kathleen described the key details on Brutalism, but the basic idea is that each of us has to lose 4% of our body weight in 28 days. For me, this means losing 7 lbs, or almost 2 lbs per week. If we are successful, we win a share of a $5,000 pot for charity. The Dilettantes are playing for a very worthy charity, DC Central Kitchen.

This would have been a great competition for me last year, when I was looking to lose 20 lbs. This year, 20 lbs lighter, this is going to be a challenge. After running the numbers this morning (Captain Spreadsheet has nothing on me), I realized that in order to “win”, I will need to burn about 1,000 calories more than I take in each day. Translation: work out like a fiend and eat celery. I’m not happy. Nor is anyone who’s had the misfortune of having to interact with me in the last 24 hours…it’s going to be a long 28 days.

While I’m being Princess Whinypants right now, in truth, I’m happy for a contest like this. The Dilettantes have previously bemoaned the fact that all of the weight loss shows out there focus on people who need to lose a ton (har!) of weight. Makes sense—more dramatic transformations and what not. We’ve entertained the idea of fattening ourselves up to “earn” the opportunity to rub elbows with Bob Harper. I even tried to call in a favor with a friend of mine who knows the Biggest Loser trainer to pitch a “Medium Loser” (Not Quite the Biggest Loser? Not Much Left to Lose? –it’s a work in progress) competition for those of us with just a few pounds to lose. DietBet actually provides this—short, 4 week competitions designed to help you lose those last few pounds, or jump start a bigger weight loss program. As Dilettantes, it fits well with our attention spans and ability to commit (although it would be great if we could do it in under an hour and then go for beers).

That brings us back to what it will take to sabotage the other competitors successfully lose 7 lbs. My current plan:

• Track my food every day (stay within 1200-1500 calories)

• No drinking (yet another reason I am super pleasant these days)

• Burn 500-1000 calories per day through exercise (mostly running)

• Strength train (assuming I have any strength left)

This grand plan will be put to the test when I head to Chile for work next week. Wish me luck (and steer clear of South America if you don’t want me to bite your head off)!