Friday, December 10, 2010

December 2010 Activity -- Book Binding

Our finished books!
Introduction to Book Binding                                                        
The Soundry
Sunday, December 12th, 1:00pm-4:00pm
$35/person (class & supply fee)
Need to bring two 12"x12" decorative paper sheets to cover our album

The Dilettantes are going to learn how to make their very own books! The Soundry will teach us the ancient saddle stitch bookbinding technique, how to make books on our own, and will send us home with our very first handmade book. (Perfect, since Dilettante Amy just got a Kindle!)

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 2010 Activity -- Civil War Thanksgiving Reenactment

Saturday, November 27, 2010
Cost: $2/person suggested donation
Cherry Hill Farmhouse
Falls Church, VA

Prior to going to this reenactment, we met for lunch and drinks at the Mad Fox in Falls Church. Thankfully, we had fortified ourselves with a few Orange Whip beers (and yes, we did order them by saying to our waiter, "Who wants an orange whip? Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips) and an order of frickles (we love frickles) before walking into the farmhouse and seeing this portrait.

Holy Mother of God, why would anyone want to go back to a time where they not only didn't lock child demons like that in a basement, but also painted portraits of them so that they could attempt to steal your souls more than a hundred years later?

When we walked into the dining room, the reenactors were just finishing dessert at the table, in what was supposed to be 1863. One gentleman greeted us and gave us some information about the house and the participants. Another gentleman asked us how we had arrived that day, and of course, we had no idea whether to answer as ourselves or to give the Civil War-era answer. Dilettante Amanda handled this by responding, "in a hybrid carriage."

After touring the house, we asked if we could try on some of the bonnets on the hat rack (which we assumed were props, but were actually hats that the reenactors had worn there that day).

We are a bunch of rubes.

On our way through the kitchen, we asked the young girl sitting there a few questions about what she was doing and her response led us to believe that she had been dragged there against her (corseted) will. To wit:

Dilettante Amy: What do you have there?
Unhappy, Uninterested Girl: (Picks up basket full of knitting, lifts yarn to reveal random pieces of colored wood, and says in a completely flat voice). Toys.
Dilettante Amy: Oh, how nice!
UUG: >crickets<


Dilettante Kathleen (looking at giant mound of crystallized something): Is that salt or sugar?
UUG (staring at floor, NOT at said pile): errrr... I dunno.

We headed back to the hybrid carriage, which then headed back to the Mad Fox for another round of orange whips. (And caused the hostess to say, "When I told you to come back soon...I didn't necessarily mean in an hour.")

We actually did learn something...and that is that the house was owned by the Blaisdells who voted with the Union, and therefore were in a bit of a pickle (frickle?) when it came to maintaining the safety of their persons and property. Mr. Blaisdell noted that someone even had to stay at home while the rest of the family went to church to guard the possessions.

(Note to self: I have a new excuse if my mother-in-law asks me to go to church on Christmas Eve. Thanks, Reenactors!)

Monday, November 01, 2010

October 2010 Activity -- Rallying to Restore Sanity

October 30, 2010
National Mall
10:30am-3:00pm - ish

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

September 2010 Activity -- Fly Fishing

Sunday, September 19th
Lake Audubon
2070 Twin Branches
Reston, VA  20191
$20/person (half price through Groupon)

Here’s a little free advice: If you ever go camping with a Dilettante, have a Plan B when it comes to dinner if Plan A is “we’ll eat what we catch.”

After two hours of fly fishing, none of the Dilettantes (or Guest Dilettante Chris) had caught anything. Other than twigs. And probably poison sumac.

This was no reflection on our instructor - a character (in the best possible sense) named Rob Snowhite. (Who upon his first cast into the water, promptly landed a large-mouth bass.)

We had no idea what to make of this guy at first…a young guy who likened himself to Brad Pitt (though we all thought more Luke Wilson) who told us that he had been a biology teacher, worked for a big consulting firm and was now fly fishing as a full time job. And that his wife was a spy. And that he lived in his car at one point in South Park, Colorado, where he was almost eaten by a mountain lion. And in order to remember important things, he simply rolled up a pant leg and jotted notes on his skin with a Sharpie. Added to this were the fact that he liked good beer and the fact that he used the term "Nantucket Sleighride." (Which sounded like an Urban Dictionary entry to us. He used it to mean catching a fish so large that it can actually pull your boat, though to our credit...there are some alternate and more amusing definitions in Urban Dictionary.)

We began our two-hour fly fishing instruction by learning the equipment. He showed us a 10-foot rod (snicker) and its butt (snicker). Rob also showed us and explained the many different types of flies and the types of fishing for which they are used. Some of these he had made, and some he had bought (meaning, they were made by Sri Lankan children).

After our tutorial, we all spaced out along the shoreline (literally and figuratively) and began casting. Guest Dilettante Chris came close to landing a fish (though she and our instructor had different opinions of how large the fish actually was). Dilettante Amanda succeeded in catching her sweatshirt (which will be delightful mounted above her fireplace).

Dilettante Amy succeeded in getting bored at the 50-minute mark (her trademark), though she stuck it out to the bitter end.

It was a gorgeous day and we really enjoyed ourselves even though nothing was biting (yes...that's it. Nothing was biting). There was a lot less nonsense than usual since we had to stand so far apart. (I guess our elementary school teachers knew what they were doing when they separated the troublemakers.)

Lunch at Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food in the Reston Town Center followed, where we were met by Dilettante Nicole and her baby, Lucas.

August 2010 Activity -- Beading

Joy of Beading
Tuesday, August 10th
5903 Lee Highway, Arlington
Cost: $30.
Materials are provided for in class instruction. If you want to make something you can take with you, you should arrive a little earlier to select and pay for materials.

Dilettante Amanda's younger sister, Megan who was visiting from Colorado, joined us as a guest Dilettante on this activity. (Aside: Megan's middle name is Alexis. This is because Amanda was five when Megan was born and her parents gave their rather precocious child some input into naming her sister. Which she loved --promptly naming her after her favorite movie character at the time -- Alexis in the timeless classic "Ice Castles.")  (Megan is so thankful that Alexis is a pretty name. Megan Robby Benson would have been a little harder to deal with...)

[For what it's worth...this post has been written in draft format for a couple of weeks while I've tried to weave together some puns including: pearls of wisdom, beads of perspiration, stringing us along,
pendant-ic and many other gems (heh). Good news? I still have the day job.]


Beading, it turns out, involves basic math, listening skills and an ability to follow simple instruction. All areas in which Dilettante Kathleen promptly received an "F". We learned how to knot and close bracelets and necklaces, the different types of clasps, materials used for clasps and stringing, which tools were used in the process, and how to measure the appropriate length of string or wire for our projects. Our instructor, Aga, was charming and patient (and very talented -- she was recently featured in a beading periodical for an original necklace design).

The hour and a half long class was all hands-on and we actually felt like we had somewhat developed a skill when we left.

Our de-brief took place at the restaurant next door...which was once a pizza hut, then the Tap and Vine and now an Asian place. The service was a little spotty. Amanda asked for a water, and they forgot it...she asked again and they came back with a straw for her sister and still no water for her. Amy and Megan ordered crab rangoon appetizers. They were delivered at the end of the meal and we were charged for three. I'm just realizing as I write this that I never got my jasmine tea. Sheesh. With an attention span and listening skills like that, our waitress should think about taking a beading class.

Friday, June 25, 2010

July 2010 Activity -- Bartending

Saturday, July 24, 2010
"Cocktail Creations": A Hands-On Amateur Bartending Class
Bartender of America Bartending School
9651 Baltimore Avenue
Suite 202
College Park, MD  20740

The Bartender of America Bartending School is on Baltimore Avenue. A fact that was drilled into my brain as I was driving there with Dilettante Amy and we had the following Rain Man/Who's on First discussion:

Amy: What is the address of the place?

Me: Baltimore Avenue

Amy: Right, but what is the street address?

Me: Baltimore Avenue

Amy: (to her credit, very patiently) The street address.

Me: (emphatically) Baltimore Avenue!

Amy: (resignedly) Is there a building number on Baltimore Avenue?

Me: (sheepishly) Oh...9651

Dilettante Amanda was smart and just met us there. She came from a baby shower that had been held at a home with no air conditioning. On a day that the temperature reached almost 115 degrees. Holy boob sweat, Batman.

The Dilettantes made up the majority of this one hour class that focused on how to properly mix and serve different types of martinis. Our classroom was set up to look like a commercial bar with glassware, cocktail shakers, garnishes and even a soda gun at each station. And although the alcohol bottles lined up on the shelves behind us were real, they were all filled with colored water.

Party poopers.

For the most part, we used the correct bottles of alcohol for whatever cocktail we were mixing (for a dash of realism), though, occasionally, we amused ourselves by putting together the grossest combination of booze we could think of (Dilettante Amanda's jagermeister and creme de menthe creation with a cocktail onion and cherry garnish comes to mind).

We went through exercises of counting out the proper pour and then measuring our results to see how accurate we were (a two-count is about half an ounce), practiced using a shaker, a strainer and making cocktails straight up or on the rocks, and then adding the proper garnish and setting the finished cocktail on the bar in front of us. As with anything, the pros make this look so much easier than it is. We had early visions of coming away being able to do Tom Cruise's "Cocktail" moves and realized quickly that we'd be lucky to count the pour without moving our lips.

We then spent the rest of the class focused on the valuable bartending skill of interpreting slur.

I wish.

At the end of the hour, our almost impossibly good looking and very fun instructor, Mia, gave us a copy of the cocktail recipes we had practiced and tried to sell us a bunch of barware.

We followed up with lunch at the Hard Times Cafe in College Park. Unadventurously, drinking only beer.

By the way, during the entire class, we were being photographed and videotaped for the Bartender of America web site. Let us know if you see us there.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

June 2010 Activity -- Flamenco Dancing

Flamenco Dancing (with castanets!)
Born 2 Dance Studio
Vienna, VA
Monday, June 14, 2010
Time: 7:30-8:30pm
Cost: $20/person

I'll be honest with you -- the studio name was almost a deal breaker for me, being no fan of text message-ese. (Truly, seeing someone write "R U" in lieu of "are you" causes me physical pain.)

Getting past that, I was very excited to try flamenco and get back to my Spanish roots. (You know, since my husband's grandfather came straight from the Old Country I am now Spanish-by-association and am launching a campaign to get the tilde back in our last name. Let's all say it together: Can-YAY-doh.)

Walking into the Andalusia ballroom (that the man who checked me in pronounced as "An-da-loo-SEE-ah" -- god, I love that accent) in the Born 2 Dance Studio, we saw about 10 other women of all ages ready to flamenco. We found out that most had just begun taking lessons, yet most already had their own castanets and special dance shoes. With our castanets borrowed from the teacher, we began a series of warm up exercises that included a lot of wrist movement and hand positioning. Then, we spent a lot of time on castanets...putting them on and clacking out different beat patterns. Castanets rock.

We learned that flamenco music styles are called palos and songs are classified into palos based on a rhythmic pattern. (Our instructor, in her ever-cheerful way, explained that the palos we'd be dancing to had a 12-beat and that we'd be counting by fives on the 12-beat. We quickly realized that 12 is not evenly divisible by five and therefore, were immediately overwhelmed by counting, castanet-ing and stomping all at once.)

She further complicated this by introducing a compas (the rhythmic cycle of a palo) and at first having us stomp on the beat, and then on the contra beat. (It was enough to make our heads feel like they were gonna 'splode, Loo-see.)

Other than a little stomping, we didn't do any actual was more about the upper body posture and arm position and castanets. Have I mentioned that castanets rock?

After class, we walked over to Amphora for some food and cervezas. Muy bien!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

May 2010 Activity -- Drag Bingo

Tuesday, May 11th
900 U Street
Washington, DC

Where to even begin? With Eleanor, the lesbian from Dallas? With the woman from Georgia who did not grasp the concept of BINGO and ran up on stage after getting five in-no-way-connected spots on her score card filled? With the huge table full of employees from the Red Robin in Waldorf who seemed to be regulars? (And who lost an over-imbibing member of their group to the restroom for a good portion of the night?) With the vast array of food and beverage that was available in "bucket 'o" quantities?

Or should we begin with the prize table -- which was quite obviously a table of rejected gifts from Christmases past. It included: a leopard print snuggie, an electronic dartboard, a dirt devil vacuum, a Paula Deen hot chocolate maker, a crock pot, a chia pet, a basketball, a waffle maker and some other completely random stuff. (Seeing the chia pet prompted Dilettante Kathleen to exclaim, "Oh my GOD! I have always wanted a chia pet!" A dream sadly unrealized due to the hefty $7.99 price tag, apparently.)

Actually, let's begin with how the two stunning drag hostesses (Shi-Queeta and I-don't-remember-the-other-woman's-name-so-let's-call-her-Mary-Katherine-because-it's-funny) set the tone of the evening by picking on every single person in the (completely full) bar. The banter was totally lewd and uproariously funny. They were absolutely equal-opportunity offenders and made everyone feel like they were part of the party. (If you prepared to discuss your sexual orientation and whether or not you are a "top" or a "bottom"). And be prepared to be challenged on your answers based on some of your bodily features. Whether you are gay/straight/black/white/male/female or anything in between -- you are going to be stereotyped with an unflattering comparison. (In our crowd, there was a "Sumo Wrestler," a "Shrimp Fried Rice," and a "Velma" from Scooby Doo. Frankly, we got off pretty easy, as we were dubbed simply, "The Real Housewives of New Jersey.") A theme our hostesses returned to again and again by saying things like:

"Y'all white women better win this waffle maker!"

"Y'all New Jersey housewives better win this here crock pot!"

"Damn Jersey housewives ain't winnin' shit tonight!"

In addition to the bingo, the ladies mixed things up with a lot of crowd participation and contests. Taking a cue from RuPaul's Drag Race, they did a "lip sync for your life" contest. A really cute gentleman that participated did not perform successfully, so Shi-Queeta said to him, "Go sit down, Bottom, you don't even win nuthin'" Later, she said to another rowdy participant, "I'm a drag queen...I will whup yo ass."

Dilettante Amy was chosen for a dance-off with five other people...and easily won the first round elimination. She tapped out in the second round, however, when her opponent began grinding her butt in a stranger's lap. Amy is nothing if not aware of her personal boundaries...she would simply not go there. Literally or figuratively.

Later in the evening, Dilettante Kathleen was selected for a chug-off with five other people. Having no personal boundaries of which she is aware, she easily downed the beer and won the contest -- and an awesome calendar featuring Shi-Queeta herself.

One bawdy, fun, ridiculous night. Quite a perfect swan song for Nicole...who is now on hiatus from the club until she realizes that a few hours away from her newborn every month will be something she looks forward to and comes back into the fold.

The only down side of the evening was that none of us won bingo. Ever. Also, we ate dinner at Nellie's prior to bingo. The food was good...but the service was awful. We found out later it was our waiter's first night, which probably explained most of that...but jeez. Perhaps we should ask Mary Katherine to whup his ass?

Dilettante Changes and Summer Fun !

Dear Faithful Followers, it is with a heavy heart that we are saying goodbye to one of our original members, Dilettante Nicole. She is having her first baby in June and will be taking some time off to focus on her family
(ha ha ha -- a Dilettante "focusing" -- I kill myself...) We have a ton of great and ridiculous memories and wish her all the best in molding her Dilettante offspring.

We have not yet decided how to fill the void that Nicole will leave. We may have a guest Dilettante every month, we may audition potential new permanent members...we're not sure. What we are sure of is that the Dilettante Club works best with four people and that the fun will continue every month. We have a great lineup of activities planned, starting in May and going through the rest of the year. These include:

      • Drag Bingo
      • Trapeze
      • Bartending
      • Tubing
      • Spelling Buzz at the Rock and Roll Hotel
      • Polo
      • Kayaking
      • DC Scavenger Hunt
      • Cupcake Tasting
      • Sunset horseback trail ride
                                                           Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

April 2010 Activity -- Spy Mission

Spy in the City Mission
The Spy Museum
Washington, DC
Saturday, April 17th
9:00 - 10:30pm
Cost: $14/person

How could your four Mata Hari wannabes Dilettantes not want to participate in an activity described thusly:

Time is ticking… terrorist operation is unfolding in DC…sleeper agents are ready to activate a device that will bring the city to its knees. Can you find the hidden password to deactivate it before the terrorists launch their attack? In the ultimate intelligence game, you will piece together clues and decipher messages that reveal a world of ruthless terrorists and deadly choices. As a Special Security Division (SSD) agent armed with a Geo-COBRA, the latest high tech device issued to counterintelligence field agents, you prowl the streets of DC uncovering secret messages, tracing hidden signals, scanning for fingerprints, and breaking codes. Can you foil the plot? Only your wits and time will tell…

Being good spies, the Dilettantes did their best to blend in...and by that, I mean that Dilettante Kathleen used her pink ear buds and Dilettante Amanda wore a bright red beret.

Our first order of business was to choose spy names. Nicole went with Pilar, Amanda went with Natasha, Amy went with "The Umbrella Maker" and Kathleen went with Brutalism. We received our briefing on how to use our COBRA devices and off we went into the gorgeously sunny DC day, receiving audio and video messages from our contact and also from special agent "catbird." (Our GPS devices also issued each of us a "special code name" when we first logged in. We found out later that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US was "Tango 009". Not only is that completely not secure and probably what caused us to have an unsuccessful spy also kinda makes me regret the "Tango 009' tattoo I got.)

The mission was a lot of fun. With the exception of Nicole's GPS device not working after the first five minutes of the activity. That required a call back to HQ to try and get things sorted out, but it was not to be. (Though they did refund her money at the end.) All in all, a fun way to spend an hour an a half on a beautiful sunny day in the city.

Lunch at Teaism followed (after a failed attempt to go to Gordon Biersch -- shocking that so few other people want beer before 11:00am).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

March 2010 Activity -- Mosaics

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
6:30 – 8:30pm
155 Gibbs Street, Suite 300
Rockville, MD 20850
Cost: $55/person
Includes instruction and materials to complete a mosaic lamp, vase or tray

First of all, "mosaics" might be one of my favorite words to say, so this activity had that going for it right off the bat.

Secondly, due to Washington metro area traffic and rainy weather, each of the four Dilettantes was late to this class and Eileen (the instructor) could not have been more welcoming or empathetic as we made our way into the room. She patiently went over anything she had already discussed, emphasized that whatever approach we wanted to take (more planned out or more free-form) to our mosaic piece was great, and really made us feel welcome and excited to learn about this art form. (She also tried to hunt down a bottle of wine for us, so basically, she is our favorite instructor, ever.)

The class was just the four Dilettantes and one other woman, so we all got a lot of individual instruction and suggestions. Eileen had many containers filled with different types and colors of glass pieces and glass beads from which we could select what we wanted to use for our design. We all got our supplies together and began laying out our designs -- Dilettantes Nicole, Amanda and Kathleen on trays and Dilettante Amy on a picture frame.

After outfitting us with safety goggles and "Mr. Snippies" (glass cutters), Eileen let us create, while a mix of great music played in the studio. She was truly a perfect balance of creative, talented artist and patient, encouraging instructor. As we worked, we all forgot about traffic and stress and just really got into what we were doing.

It took almost an hour and a half to lay out and glue down our designs. Eileen told us how the grouting procedure worked, but we did not do this part ourselves -- this and the firing she was going to do after we left and then we'd pick them up some other time.

We followed up with some excellent food (and a few pisco sours) at the Peruvian restaurant next door.

(Dilettante Nicole will be picking up the completed mosaics pieces in the next few weeks...she'll be in Rockville anyway for a trip to Buy, Buy baby...) [No pressure, Nicole, but "Mosaic" would make a very nice baby name.]


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February 2010 -- Lebanese Cooking Class

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lebanese Taverna Market
4400 Old Dominion Drive Arlington, VA
Time: 6:45-9:30pm
Cost: $60/person

Description from Lebanese Taverna web site:

Class starts with wine and appetizers while you introduce yourselves and get to know your classmates. Then we get to work with the preparation of the menu. Our Chef is a master of his art and he truly enjoys sharing his knowledge and skills. The classes are "full participation" and use the hands-on approach as the best way to teach and get you involved in the cooking process. This one-on-one opportunity to work with the Chef gives the feel for what it is like to prepare the recipes so you can more easily repeat them at home. Class size is controlled so everyone has a chance to participate.

The menu for our cooking class included the following:
                     Arugula Salad: arugula, scallions & olives tossed in a vinaigrette salad
                     Sayadieh: broiled grouper over a spiced rice pilaf with grilled vegetables
                     Lubieh BelZeit: green beans simmered in tomatoes, garlic cloves & spices
                     Um Ali: bread pudding made with phyllo, pistachios, pine nuts and raisins

Well, this class was not as "hands-on" as we had hoped. The chef who ran the class did most of the food prep up front while we (and about 15 other students) watched. Lebanese Taverna did provide us all with copies of the recipes so that we could make any of the dishes we learned about at home, although the fact that the recipe for the entree began with cooking a whole fish scared us off a little bit. (And did make us wonder what is wrong with fish stock, which would cut about two hours and the entire "yecch" factor out of the recipe.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 2010 Activity -- Knitting

Saturday, January 16, 2010
11:30am - 1:00pm
Dilettante Amy's House, Arlington, VA
Cost:  $105 for 1 1/2 hours instruction and all materials                    
(Dilettante Amanda scored a deal on this by betting on the tutorial at a silent auction)

You know how you reach a certain point in your life where you begin to assess where you are and where you've been and wonder what other things you want to try or achieve in this all-too-short time we have on earth?

And then you realize that knitting falls nowhere on that spectrum?

Knitting is one of those things that we know lots of other nice people do, but have never had any interest in doing ourselves. (Kind of like going to church. Or threesomes.) Yet... and this is a big YET...this was a really, really fun activity.

As we've all discussed before, the instructor can totally make or break an activity, and Emmy not only made this one fun, but we also learned enough about knitting that the slightly OCD faction of the Dilettante Club (cough, cough Amanda) is now intent upon knitting until the entire skein of yarn is gone.

Emmy provided each of us a set of new knitting needles and a skein of yarn. (The needles were the training-wheel version of actual knitting needles, which is kind of the next best thing to us wearing helmets while doing an activity.) We learned how to "cast on" to begin knitting a row of stitches, how to "take it from behind" (heh), and how to count stitches, do a purl stitch and take the knitting off the needles when we were finished. Emmy was patient and laid-back and had a way of explaining what was actually some pretty complicated stuff that made it understandable.

Overachiever Amy continued to add stitches throughout the activity...somehow ending up with 26, even though only 12 were requested. (cough, cough teacher's pet)

And get this...Emmy also gave us each a scarf that her mom had knitted. How much do you love that? (And how much enjoyment did we each get out of going home and telling the Dilettante spouses that we knitted those scarves ourselves?)

We followed up the activity with lunch and beer ('cept for Nicole, of beer now that a little Dilettante is on its way) at Dogfish Head.