Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 2011 Activity -- Holiday Peeps Diorama

The traditional airing of grievances, feats of strength and the Festivus pole.
The easily explainable event that we are calling a Festivus miracle is that
we actually pulled this together in one evening.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Amy's House, Arlington, VA
6:00 - 9:30pm
Cost: A few dollars in materials, dinner delivered from Lost Dog and some seasonal beer

Dilettante Kathleen is not a Peeps neophyte. However, the other Dilettantes are, and this is the first time Dilettante Kathleen ever attempted a winter-holiday-themed diorama, so we were all new to at least the genre.

Knowing what goes into constructing one of these (as Dilettante Kathleen and her partner, Hillary, came in SECOND in the Chicago Tribune Peeps diorama contest this past spring), Dilettante Kathleen did a lot of prep work in advance. While this saved a lot of time, it did not necessarily leave a lot of room for creative input from the other Dilettantes. (As Dilettante Amanda stated, "I might have an idea, but I'm scared to say it.")

Well, put a glue gun in my hand and call me Martha...I didn't mean to come across as a tyrant.

It actually was a creative team effort -- and it came together really quickly.

The "learning" portion of this activity entailed researching Festivus on Wikipedia, and Dilettante Amy finding out just how hot modeling clay can get when dabbed with hot glue (ouch!)

After completing our diorama, we submitted it to the "Deck the Peeps" diorama contest -- you can view our diorama and vote (once a day!) for us here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

November 2011 Activity -- Power Stilts

Sunday, November 27, 2011
Cost: $65/person

Price includes a one-hour private lesson for our group with personalized instruction, stilt rental, protective gear (they must have read about our Segway activity), and refreshing drinks. The lesson will consist of structured learning: a mix of demonstrations, fun exercises, goals and challenges and continual interactive feedback (oh, goody.)

And comes with this guarantee: By the end of a one-hour lesson, you will be as balanced and confident atop spring stilts as when you are walking normally. You will have mastered some key skills and most likely be jumping. We'll also get you started towards learning some impressive tricks. (And one would show these impressive tricks off where, exactly? Parties? Networking events? )

Amanda and Kathleen decided that a great idea prior to this event would be to go for a six-mile run. Because, hey, when you are expected to balance steadily on stilts and walk around on a hard surface, you may as well make sure those muscles are good and fatigued, right?

Amy met us there at 6:00 and our instructor met us there shortly thereafter. We assumed that we'd be starting at 6:00 and had budgeted the one hour our attention spans will allow, but the instructor began setting up at 6:00. After setting up a bench, getting out all of the equipment, having us fill out release forms and was already 6:30. Which means that the activity would go until 7:30...not a good start.

(Also, when scheduling this activity, we tried to schedule it during the day -- something we were specifically told by DC PowerStilts when we first looked into this last year was a requirement. Turns out, it is no longer a requirement (safe?) and we were fortunate that the basketball courts in the park where we were had lights.) Amanda kiddingly said, "Just watch -- the lights will turn off mid-activity -- let's make sure our instructor knows where the switch is to turn them back on so we don't have to try and make our way over there on stilts."

The instructor did a brief demo where he ran, jumped and boing-ed so high, it looked like he was jumping on a trampoline. Then it was our turn. We strapped on the stilts and took turns standing, walking and then jumping, while holding on to the instructor's hand...and then some of us (Amanda) on our own.

And then this happened:

Dilettantes Amy and Kathleen were a little terrified of getting back up on the stilts, considering ourselves lucky that we had not been injured, but with a little coaxing and the promise of an obstacle course, we did. However, we never got as comfortable as Dilettante Amanda. (Then again, we also did not fall off the bench onto our knees at the end of the activity...)

Dinner and some great beer followed at Mad Fox Brewery in Falls Church.

UPDATE: Dave (Owner of DC Power Stilts mentioned us on his web site. Cool.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sweet Jesus, where does the time go?

So, there haven't been any offical Dilettante activities for the past two months.

Why? You ask...

Well, nothing major...just the usual:

One Dilettante gave birth to her second (adorable) child:
Was I lying?

Two Dilettantes traveled to Indonesia and China for three weeks

One Dilettante, who is President of the DC Net Impact chapter, just accepted the "Professional Chapter of the Year" award in Portland, Oregon

So excuse us for taking a couple of months "off". We are coming back strong in November with lots of exciting new activities for the coming months...

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 2011 Activity -- Twelve Mile Run

Too bad this photo is not scratch 'n sniff.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
W&OD Trail at East Falls
Church Metro Station
Arlington to Vienna, VA (and back)

The time and consistent training that is required for a half marathon pretty much goes against all that being a Dilettante is. However, the impulsivity of training for a half marathon after not running more than a few miles in three years (Dilettante Kathleen) is pretty much the foundation of the club.

This is all Dilettante Amanda's fault. She got into the best running shape of her life this year by giving up beer (I know, it's like we don't even know her any more) for a few months and getting very serious about running. We have all promised an intervention if she goes one more step toward "crazy runner" status. (She already claims to "enjoy" running and has even recently done a run in Chile where she was chased by a wild dog. This has not deterred her.) Her enjoyment of running prompted me to get back into it -- knowing that the only way I would do it is if I had a race to prepare for.

Dilettante Amy was excused from this activity as she is 9 3/4 months pregnant, and we really did not want her to give birth on the trail. (Although midwifery is one of the few activities we have not done in the five years this club has existed...)

Dilettantes Amanda and Kathleen met at the trail at 8:15 and headed off shortly after. There was lots of running, a couple of GU and Chomps breaks, and more running. We finished in a little over two hours and then immediately headed to a 7-11 to disgust all the other customers with our stench get a cold beverage.

While not "fun" (for Kathleen anyway -- superfreak Amanda probably found it delightful), we felt like (hot, tired) rock stars after.

Friday, July 08, 2011

July 2011 Activity -- DJing

The fake guitar, Minotaur heads and machine gun are all relevant to the activity.
No, they're not.
Saturday, July 9th 12:00pm-1:30pm
2524 Guilford Avenue
Baltimore, MD  21208
Cost: $39/person

The Dilettantes and Guest Dilettante Amy headed north to work on turntables (e.g., "Kick it old school") with instructor Aran.

While arranging logistics to travel to Baltimore, Guest Dilettante Amy sent us the following e-mail:

"I’ve been practicing my mash-up skills and wearing my pants backwards (it’s what all the kool kids are doing), albeit a little hard to walk around but I think I’ll manage tomorrow and look totally fly doing it. I’m just sorry Ke$ha took the only usable symbol from the keyboard, @my, doesn’t really do it huh? So I think I’m going to go with “Duchess” as my moniker as it really should have been me and not Kate, remember how great I looked at the Princess Party? In any case I think I’ll plan to meet you all in Baltimore tomorrow, too many in my entourage. It’s the way I roll!"
Dilettante Amanda scored the DJing lesson on Zozi - a site similar to Groupon. It differed in that as soon as she purchased the DJ lesson, her credit card was used to charge up a whole mess o' stuff all over tarnation. Discover took care of the charges and she notified Zozi, thinking they may want to be aware of this. It was certainly a less than auspicious beginning to the activity...

Dilettantes Amanda and Kathleen drove to Baltimore together, arriving first in the gentrifying neighborhood where the activity was going to be held. As we walked up to the porch, a gentleman in a hoveround with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth drove by. Walking up the front steps, we noticed that there was a a huge heavy-metal-looking throne on the front porch of the row house. We knocked once on the door -- no answer. We rang each of the two available doorbells -- no answer. Just then, Guest Dilettante Amy joined us and Dilettante Amanda called Aran. He answered with a "Hey, what's up?" and she said, "We are waiting for you on the front porch." He said, "Ok, I'll be right there." And he was -- about five minutes later. Aran did not look anything at all like what we were expecting a hip-hop DJ to look like. (We hate to stereotype, but it does save time.) He totally looked like Richie Cunningham...with a rat tail...

He invited us inside and mentioned that he was still not fully set up for the lesson (it now being about 1:10 when the lesson was to begin at 1:00). So he worked on moving equipment to the basement while we looked around the house at decor that included (in addition to the rock throne that he mentioned was from a recent rock opera): a Darth Vader Mr. Potato head, a fake machine gun, a fake guitar, two giant minotaur heads, one red Lady Gaga-looking costume (which was not from a recent rock opera but "from life" he clarified),  and a bunch of other random paintings and stuff. It was awesome. Dilettante Kathleen was not shy about picking up every single thing and asking questions about it while taking photos.

It was also at this point that we met Hubert. And the moment that I was about to wet my pants (from laughing), so I asked to use the restroom. The restroom was at the top of the death stairs to the basement. The bathroom also had a square hole in the wall above the toilet which led to the stairwell, so the other Dilettantes heard my goings-on as they made their way down the steep stairs that looked as though they led to a serial killer's hangout.

Dilettante Amy had still not made it to the activity, so I texted her with a "if you see a rock throne on the porch you're at the right place -- no one will answer the door". So she came in a few minutes later, and as she made her way down the death stairs, she assumed that my message was some kind of code and that we had all been killed.

We hadn't. We had just started learning some DJ stuff (such as Aran having an album collection that included everything from Redd Foxx's comedy classic You Gotta Wash Your Ass (I could not make this up), Sesame Street singalong, En Vogue, and some albums that were designated as "scratching" albums or had one tone per track. Dilettante Kathleen noted, "Can you imagine winning a Grammy for the one-note album?" and Dilettante Amanda shot back, "Can you imaging LOSING a Grammy to the one-note album?"

We learned to count beats, "drop in", adjust knobs for different tempos and to drop out and increase bass, and how to the hold the ear phones to our ears like real DJs.

(Here's Duchess below, kickin' it old school and scratchin':)

We spent about an hour taking turns learning how to do this stuff and then thanked Aran, took a group photo with some of his props and headed to lunch at Dogwood (or something...)

Then, a couple of days ago, Dilettante Amanda got the following email from Aran:

Hi, Lois,

Just writing to let you know I have the final payment for the wedding. I will be depositing it today. The bill for DJing the August 13th wedding is now paid in full.

Thank you very much!

Aran K.
A perfect end to one delightfully random activity -- and a perfect one for Guest Dilettante Amy to join.

Dilettante Amanda on the throne.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 2011 Activity -- Sailing

Sailing Teacher (and LLPOF) Amy
and Dilettante Kathleen
Annapolis Sailing School
Severn River
Saturday, May 28th
Annapolis, MD
$79/person - half price through Groupon

There are worse ways to spend a few hours on a gorgeous holiday weekend than sailing the Chesapeake Bay. (Trying to get to Arlington on Route 66 to meet people for a run on Sunday morning would be one of those ways.)

Dressed in our nautical and maternity best, we met our sailing coach, Amy, on the dock of the sailing school and went aboard.

We spent the next two hours learning a little about how to sail and a lot about how much we enjoy being on a boat that someone else is steering while we sailed by the U.S. Naval Academy, a beautiful schooner and an osprey named Rupert. We did learn about different types of sailboats, types of sails (jib, mainsail, spinnaker), sailing terms (come about and tack), boat parts (tiller, rudder, cleat) and of course, the one part that made us laugh every time Teacher Amy mentioned it -- the winch. Because of the context in which it was stated, "Now, wrap the rope around the winch" the Dilettantes would (obviously) try and wrap it around the Dilettante seated nearest to them.

God, we are juvenile.
Dilettante Amanda getting ready to wrap the line around the winch.
Teacher Amy also taught us about the Poop Deck after Dilettante Amanda brought it up (see "juvenile" above). The teacher swore to us that the poop deck really was the vessel's bathroom, even though I said, "are you sure? I always thought it was just a name that meant something else on the boat." She assured us it was the bathroom, so at a cookout later that evening I happened to mention this and someone did a quick Google search on their iPhone and revealed that it, in fact, is a deck that forms the roof of a cabin built in the aft (rear) part of a ship, and the name comes from the French word for stern, la poupe (ha ha ha ha ha snort).

(Our teacher was probably telling the story to people at a cookout she attended that night, explaining how gullible newbie sailors were...)

My future partners in sailboat ownership.
Lunch followed at Pusser's in downtown Annapolis with a table overlooking Ego Alley. Summer rocks.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

April 2011 Activity -- Shooting

Our poor target. Please note the one shot perfectly placed
between the guy's thumbs (if you know what I mean).
Amanda totally showed him who's boss.
Thursday, April 21
Silver Eagle Group
44620 Guilford Drive
Ste 100
Ashburn, VA, 20147
Cost: $70 for three people (almost 60% off regular cost through Living Social)

I ask you...what could be better than a night of shootin'? Why a night of shootin' and swingin', of course. (Class was held in Ashburn, so I am forced to make my obligatory swinger joke.)

All of the Dilettantes have some experience shooting, except Dilettante Amy. Which is unusual because she is from Kentucky and I thought that is how they hunted the squirrels for their supper. (Indulge me...I believe that is the very first Kentucky joke I've ever made...and I've known Amy and her brother/husband for more than ten years now.) Dilettante Amanda once shot an M-16 in Vietnam (true story) and Dilettante Kathleen has shot handguns, shotguns, rifles and a fully automatic machine gun on a range in Indiana (she worked for the ORGANIZATION THAT DOES NOT HATE FREEDOM for a while and it just comes with the territory). So, although we normally select activities that none of us has tried before, it had been such a long time since we've shot that we figured this counted. (Besides, if you disagree, remember that we now know how to handle firearms.)

Before class began, the Dilettantes filled out extensive release forms while sitting in a lounge area outside the range. It was outfitted with couches, coffee tables and a television set. It really felt like someone's living room, with the exception of the booming AR-16 in the next room. (That made it feel like someone's living room in Kentucky.) (I can't stop myself.)

At the gun range, you must go through a metal detector to use the restroom.
This may be my favorite picture I have ever taken.
Dilettante Kathleen used some of the waiting time to explain to the others how she had once owned a Smith & Wesson .38 Special. And that when she began dating Tim he said to her gently at one point, "you drink a lot and you're kind of moody...I think it would be best if you sold the gun." (ed. I did. You really can't argue with that.)

The class was an hour long and included an introductory lesson by an NRA-certified instructor, handgun rental, protective equipment, one target, and one box of ammo for the three of us. Our instructor, Seth, was very excited to teach our class...the noticeably pregnant Amy, the noticeably wearing-a-dress-and-high-heels Kathleen and the noticeably terrified Amanda. If ever there was a group of people that looked ready to bust a cap, it was definitely ours. (As Dilettante Amy set her purse down, I noted, "I bet they don't see a lot of Kate Spade bags around here.") Aside from two women who worked there, there was one other woman at the range. And about twenty men.

Seth was really very good and patient with us and the three men in our class while he went over safety, the parts of a gun, how to load and unload and the proper grips and stances. (No one uses the "Weaver" anymore. Duh.)  And he played along when we made comments like "okay, so loading the magazine is a lot like loading a Pez dispenser?" (It is!)

After our classroom instruction, we selected the gun we wanted to shoot (we went with a Glock .9mm - go big or go home, right?), our target, and our ear and eye protection and proceeded the range.

You'd be scared to death if you met these two in
a dark alley, huh?
We got our target up and got ready to shoot, while simultaneously flinching every single time the AR-16 a few lanes down was shot. It sounded like a cannon and was a little unsettling. Amy went first -- loading the magazine and gun and then firing a perfect bulls eye with her first shot. But the fire and the recoil and the several brass casings flying down her shirt took away a bit of the fun in short order.

(Aside: Seth mentioned that sometimes the hot casings might fly down our shirts after the gun was fired...and it happened in a disproportionate amount to our group. To our credit, we all stayed calm and kept the gun pointed down range whenever this occurred. That was not the case with the beginner men next to us, one of whom did some sort of ridiculous dance trying to get a casing out of his shirt and caused our instructor to calmly and quickly bolt over there and get the guy's gun pointing back in the correct direction.)

Amanda aiming low. (See target above.)
Amy's gangsta stance.
We all took turns shooting and loading and felt like we had all shot enough with about 35 of our 50 allotted rounds. However, our instructor good-naturedly pushed us and said that we needed to finish the box of ammo and even loaded the magazine for us the final time. So, we all took a few more shots and then Amy stepped up and popped off the last four rounds like she meant business: Blam. Blam. Blam. Blam. It kind of put an exclamation point on the activity.

Kathleen getting loaded.

We followed our night of shooting with dinner and drinks at Shenandoah American Grill.

And regrettably, no swinging.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

March 2011 -- Gargoyle Walking Tour

The Gargoyle Who Ate DC walking tour to learn about the carvings on the National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral, DC
Sunday March 6, 2011 3:00-4:30pm
Cost: $13.50/person (half price through Goldstar)

Beautiful Gothic Cathedral. Sixth largest cathedral in the WORLD.
We knew it would be an interesting activity when we figured that no one else would be insane enough to show up for this outside tour in the worst downpour we have seen in ages. Yet, when we arrived, we found 20 other crazies who had showed up in monsoon weather and Dilettante Amanda recognized the tour leader as one of the crazies from her bus. ( Amanda's world...everyone is "crazy"...)

The tour guide mentioned that in the three years he had been leading this tour, this was by far the worst weather he had ever dealt with. Score! (Upside: With the rain splashing the bottom of our pant legs, we totally looked like we were sporting Hombre jeans. We are ridiculously cool.)

(Interestingly, one of the men in our group was wearing a baseball cap that had "National Pneumonia Day" embroidered across the front. We were not sure which side of the issue he was on - for or against - but it seemed like an awfully good day to contract it, if that's what he was going for.)

We had TWO guest dilettantes for this outing. Returning-Guest-Dilettante-all-the-way-from-Indonesia Tanti ("Dilettanti") and new-guest-Dilettante-all-the-way-from-my-Oakton-cul-de-sac Lisa.

Highlights of the tour:
  • Whenever the tour guide said, "buttress" or "gablet" (I have found another unacceptable word here)
  • Tanti falling asleep in the Bethlehem chapel and Dilettante Amy thinking that she was so moved that she was experiencing a moment of quiet reflection and possibly, conversion
  • Dilettante Kathleen then forgetting the word "narcoleptic" to describe Dilettanti and claiming that she was a "necrophiliac"
  • Learning that there were "gargoyles" and "grotesques" on the outside of the Cathedral and that the only difference was that gargoyles had a lead pipe in their mouths and functioned as down spouts (this is true)
  • Stone carvers and craftsmen who worked on the Cathedral have a great sense of humor
  • When the tour guide explained that decorative elements on the ceiling are called "boss stones" Dilettantes Amanda, Kathleen and guest Dilettante Lisa all asked simultaneously, "The mighty, mighty, boss stones?"
  • Finding out that Helen Keller's ashes are buried at the Cathedral. (When asked what her relationship was and why she was buried there, the tour guide said that he did not know and then a Dilettante-who-shall-remain-nameless mentioned that Helen mistakenly thought it was her family's crypt...)
  • Dilettante Amanda trying to get our attention to point out Woodrow Wilson's crypt that we were tiptoeing by while a service was in session and we were trying to be extra quiet and saying in a loud whisper, "Woody....Woody...WOODY!!!"
  • The fact that there is (no kidding) a Darth Vader carved into one of the pinnacles. They had a contest toward the end of construction where school kids got to submit ideas for design -- and Darth Vader was one of the winning entries.
We did get a ton of great information from our tour guide and learned stories behind all of the different sculptors and carvers involved in creating this gorgeous cathedral (with an intense, almost stalker-like focus on Constantine some-last-name-that-sounds-like-syphilis). Construction on the Cathedral was begun in 1907, had to stop three times (World Wars I and II; the Great Depression) and was finished in 1990. There are still some finishing touches being done (stained glass, mosaic work) and it is truly breathtaking. 

Dinner at Two Amys pizzeria followed. Of the five of us, only Lisa and I were drinking, as we were not part of Club PMT (pregnant, Muslim, in Training...)

While researching libations, Lisa and I found the wine descriptions wine was described as "brawny and self-restrained." As it is tough to decide between that and the "jocular, approachable" varietal, she asked the waiter for a recommendation. He was slightly built and joked that he would go for the "brawny and self-restrained" wine as it was most like him. We laughed. We laughed again (through our tears) as we realized the "self-restrained" part was also not true. He had flatulence at least two times while visiting our table.

Fun and soggy night made all the more fun by our Guesties.

St. Peter? St. Paul? Someone...

Craftsmen with senses of humor. Igloos and husky dogs.

February 2011 Activity -- Victorian Valentine Making

Make your own Victorian Valentine
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Drop-in any time between 1:00-4:00pm
Cost: $5/person
Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden
614 Oronoco Street
Alexandria, VA  22314

The Dilettantes are nothing if not proper Victorian ladies, so this activity seemed like a perfect fit.

We met at the Lee-Fendall House at 2:00pm and were the only three people participating in the card making at that time. We got a bit of information from a woman who worked there on the Victorian style and which elements we might want to include in the cards to make them more authentic -- such as lace and flowers. And chamber pots.

Supposedly, different flowers meant different things in Victorian times, so your Valentine could include many different messages based on the floral element you chose to include:

Acacia = secret love
Bachelor Button = celibacy
Baby's Breath = everlasting love
Candytuft = indifference
Yellow Carnation = rejection
Grass = submission

There was also a flower whose meaning translated into "spleen." Which is pretty great, really, as that is a message we've all wanted to send to someone on Valentine's at some point, but were never really sure how to work that in.

Then, we had free reign of a huge amount of craft supplies -- glue, decorative paper, lace, googly eyes (WTF?), feathers, ribbon and stamps. From this, we each came up with a unique Valentine.

Dilettante Amy created a card with a not-quite-as-authentic googly eye, a heart and a letter "U" stamp. (Get it? Eye Love You). Cute. Except her googly eye was a little on the lazy side, so the sentiment just got weird.

Dilettante Amanda went with an over-the-top Victorian lace-fest. And stamped on an "L", a heart, and an "A". (Her husband's name is Leon, so it stood for oh my god you two are totally going to make me vomit Leon loves Amanda.) At one point, she was adding yet another layer of lace and claimed she was going to further "gaudify" her Valentine. (That should totally be a word.)

Dilettante Kathleen went with a "more is more" theme -- adding paper, a doily, ribbon, flowers, lace and a feather -- and almost knocking over the two small children of the activity leader in her quest to get at the good supplies first.

After we finished our cards (the activity took a total of about half an hour), we looked for a place to eat some lunch and saw what we thought was a restaurant in the distance called "La Moustache" that had a French flag outside. As we got closer, we realized it was not a restaurant at all, but a moustache grooming place. We kidded about needing our moustaches trimmed...but honestly, that's not as funny as it would be if we were a little younger.

We ended up at Bilbo Baggins, where Dilettante Kathleen was the only one of the three Dilettantes enjoying the great beer menu. (Dilettante Amy went and got herself knocked up again and Dilettante Amanda is in training for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler.)

Happy Valentine's Day from the Temperance Society!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

January 2011 Activity -- Viewing Party/Waiting for Superman

Arlington Cinema 'n Drafthouse
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Drinks after at P. Brennan's across the street