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!