Monday, December 16, 2013

December 2013 Activity -- Ornament and Wine Glass Painting

Sunday, December 15, 2013
LivingSocial HQ
918 F Street, NW
Washington, DC
$39/person included two ornaments and two wine glasses to paint, paint, brushes, and half a bottle of wine or champagne.

At the last moment, Dilettante Amy and her entire family came down with some kind of kreeping krud, so she had to krap out of the December activity.

This was our second time at the Living Social building -- and our second time at a painting activity. Although last time, we were painting counterfeit Van Goghs...this time we were left to create original art -- which even though Dilettante Kathleen is something of a renowned Peeps artist, the talent simply did not translate to another medium. To wit:
Dilettante Kathleen's Santa Claus Crunk Chalice.
We got into the class a little late so we took spots at a table where a family group was already sitting and painting. They had made an event of this and hired a limo to take them here and do this activity. They were very fun, particularly when they made us vote for which project we liked best of everything they created. And then several of them tried to bribe us.

The family at our table was full of amazing artists. They all submitted
their best work and has us vote. We were empowered knowing
that we ruined Christmas for the losers.
Dilettante Amanda tried a technique of

Your two representative Dilettantes. Showing off
the champagne. And someone else's ornament.
We ended the evening with pizza and beer at Pi Pizzeria next door. And with our friend, Dan, and his daughter, Gabby, joining us.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 2013 Activity -- Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Tasting

Ah Love Olive Oil & Vinegar
Mosaic District, Merrifield, VA
October 27, 2013, 6:30-7:00pm
Cost: Tasting - Free; Obligatory Purchases - $40

Once I got past the sign on the front door (literally and figuratively), I met Dilettante Amy inside this lovely shop for our private tasting. (The shop hours ended about 15 minutes after we arrived, so the proprietor gave us a lot of individual attention. It was awesome.) Dilettante Amanda was not getting her kicks on Route 66 -- she was stuck in some awful traffic, so we proceeded without her.

The shop owner loves olive oils and vinegars, infuses them, inspires her staff to come up with recipes using these lovely ingredients (which is how our host conceived of and made dark chocolate bark with pumpkin seeds and sea salt -- using balsamic vinegar and oil in place of butter) and it seems from our sample size of one employee, that they are all fairly passionate about this stuff. We dipped bits of bread in all kinds of oils and vinegars and they were all delightful. (I loved the Rosemary oil and cucumber melon vinegar. Amy was a fan of the fig balsamic.) We both ended up purchasing some bottles because the lovely gentleman kept the shop open for us longer than he had to and was so informative.

Dilettante Amanda and her Mondrian-inspired shirt made it off 66 in time to meet us over at Blackfinn Ameripub for some Amerigrub.

Monday, August 12, 2013

September 2013 Activity -- Hula Dancing

Saturday, September 28, 2013
Workhouse Arts Center
Lorton, Virginia
Cost: Free

We figured there was nothing more "Dilettante" than a hula class on the grounds of a former prison/now art center. The part that was not so "Dilettante" was agreeing to do this at 8:00am with a minimum 35-minute drive for all of us. Oy.

The class description claimed that there was no prior experience or pre-registration necessary -- we were just to show up dressed for whatever the weather, as this would be held outside. I opted to wear my jammies (although marketed as "lounge wear," it was really just clothes I sleep in). 

Aside: I also wore my jammies to an Oktoberfest party later the same day. I'm thinking a more peaceful civilization will result if we opt out of those silver jumpsuits with inverted triangles on the front that all sci-fi movies believe we'll be wearing and go with jammies -- I was in an excellent mood the entire day as a result. Granted, the brats and pumpkin beer may have also had something to do with that. But I digress. 

When I first arrived at the Workhouse Arts Center, I ran into Dilettante Amy so together, we tried to find the class. On the way, I had to find a restroom, which we found in Building #11 (appropriately titled the "movement" building). Not even kidding.

We found the stage and there were two other people there in addition to the instructor and we began the class at 8:00am sharp. Dilettante Amanda joined us a couple of minutes later for what was to be the quietest Dilettante Activity in history. 

The instructor let us know that she was not the usual instructor and then meekly and timidly led us through several steps with no explanation of how hula tells a story or the history of the dance or anything. We basically just cobbled together a bunch of steps and ended up with some semblance of a hula dance, that had something to do with picking flowers being a metaphor for a mother's love. Which was not all bad. What was all bad was the random old guy wandering around the arts center who sat down behind our class (facing our butts) and watched us for about 20 awkward minutes. Nobody talked during the whole class, and it just a very quiet, very uncomfortable class. And we didn't feel like we learned much more about hula than we knew going in. Oh, well -- guess you get what you pay for.

From class, we drove to Matchbox in the Mosaic District of Northern Virginia for some bloody marys and food. And a discussion about how much money with could make with a flaming-bag-of-poop delivery business. (Our financial planner Dilettante Amy's estimate: $5.) I blame Congress.

August 2013 Activity -- Rifles, Skeets, Traps and Clay Pigeons 101: An Introduction to the Sport of Riflery and Shooting Ranges

Sunday, August 18, 2013
Trap and Skeet Center
10400 Good Luck Road
Glen Dale, MD
Cost: $68/person

I'm not sure about the other Dilettantes, but I'm slightly apprehensive about going to a gun lesson on "Good Luck Road."

This place is operated by the Maryland and National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission and the course provides a comprehensive lesson on basic rifle operation. including balance, precision, aiming and rifle safety while we participate in both skeet and traps and clay shooting. 

With a promise of specialized trips into the "field" to look for standing and mobile targets resulting in a day of fun, exhilaration, new skills and new friends -- how could we not do this activity?

July 2013 Activity -- Introductory Essential Oils Course

Online course, completed Wednesday, July 17, 2013.
(Scroll down to bottom where it reads "Medicinhe Cabinet Makeover" and click on this video.)
Cost: Free, plus free samples of essential oils upon completion of the first class. 

After more than seven years as a Dilettante, I still think responding to an anonymous Craigslist ad under "classes" is a swell idea. 

I'm adorable. Particularly since just this brand of naivete and trustworthiness found us pole dancing in a private basement in Potomac and DJing in a dungeon in Baltimore. Instead of just cutting our losses and realizing this is not the brightest idea, I keep trolling Craigsilst for activities we have not tried. Which means that one of these months the activity will be us getting chopped up into pieces and placed into someone's freezer. 

I replied to the ad and the gentleman who replied asked if I was interested in a basic essential oils class or a more advanced class. When I said, "basic" he let me know that "due to everyone's busy schedules, we have decided to use an online format for our classes."

And that, dear readers, is a win-win. A first for the Dilettantes in that we've never done anything online before. And we get to live another day to repeat bad decision-making.

The instructor, Kalli Wilson, taught us how to replace many over-the-counter medications with essential oils. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 Activity -- Firehouse Tour and Firefighter Drill

Vienna Volunteer Fire Department (VVFD) is well-trained in handling crises.
I know this personally as the last time I had a speaking engagement and decided that the perfectly functional podium at the venue where I was speaking would simply not do, my husband called several places in the community and ended the search when VVFD came through with the best podium, ever.

Lifesavers, indeed.

Also, my very good friend volunteers there so when he learned that I was planning to attend the VVFD-sponsored Taste of Vienna with the Dilettantes and my 7-year-old daughter, he offered a personal tour of the fire station, ambulance and engines and the opportunity to participate in a drill where we would try on firefighter (turnout) gear.

We began our tour by meeting Deputy Chief/Firefighter Snow and many other Vienna firefighters and EMTs -- including one woman who was totally in the bag. (Keep your shirts on – I don’t mean she was drunk -- I mean she was delivered into the station in an equipment bag and popped out to surprise us. That is someone who knows how to make an entrance.)

It is obvious this group works well together. They were each knowledgeable, friendly and patient in answering the eight thousand questions we asked about how everything worked. We learned about the canteen that travels to fires that take many hours to extinguish to provide sustenance to the firefighters. We learned about career and volunteer team members and what kind of training is required. (And even saw the career staff run some calls while we were there.) We learned how this station works with others in the area when there are major disasters. And we learned that it takes a special kind of person to put him or herself in harm’s way on every shift.

In fact, the only thing we did not learn is what type of illness we’d have to fake to get a prescription for the good stuff. (And that was not for lack of asking. Why so stingy with the information, buzzkills?)

The group ran a drill to show us how they get dressed in their gear – something they must be able to do in less than two minutes. Deputy Chief/Firefighter Snow and firefighters and EMTs Hanna Mitchell, Stephen Baldassari, Zack Smith and a couple of others ran the drill first – with us and several others in the audience watching. We cheered on the participants and may have also placed a few bets. (The smart money was on Hanna.)

Then it was our turn. My friend told us that we didn’t have to be timed during the drill, and I let him know that we are nothing if not freakishly competitive with each other, and to bring it on. (For the record, the gear weighed about 60 pounds, and we each carried 10-12 pound tools). (I've never felt more like John Holmes.) The firefighters and EMTs let us start with the advantage of taking our shoes off, and also provided us personal coaches to help us before and during the drill. Wanting to throw off my competitors with a psychological game, I exclaimed loudly, “I know you said we could take off our shoes, but was it necessary for Dilettante Amanda to take off her underpants?” Dilettante Amanda parried back, “Funny. But I’m not wearing any.” (Please see “competitive” above.)

As this was a friendly competition and the real reason for our visit was to learn about all the VVFD does for our community every single day, it’s really not even worth mentioning who won the turnout gear competition. Let’s just say that next time I will delay my showboating until I am absolutely positive I have secured my belt and put on my gloves. (Insert sad trombone sound effect here.)

When we were done, Dilettante Amy handed back the hood and helmet and a firefighter joked, "Well, now you've got lice." Dilettante Amy responded with a straight face, while handing back the fire pants, "Well, now you've got herpes."

Immediately after the competition, which was held in the Sam Savia Apparatus Bay, we met VVFD Chief John Morrison. My daughter handled this honor by burrowing into my side and refusing to look at him. Awesome.

We finished our visit by enjoying the food, music and drinks at Taste of Vienna behind the fire house that along with the spectacular weather, made for a pretty amazing day.

Coincidentally, on Monday morning after I dropped my daughter off at her school in Vienna, I saw flashing red lights in front of someone’s house near the school. As I came closer, I realized it was from 402 (the VVFD). All fun aside, I am so extremely grateful that these fearless firefighters and EMTs are there for our community.

By the way, Taste of Vienna is not the only awesome fundraising event sponsored by VVFD. They are also sponsoring an Auction (July 12, 2013 at 6:00pm) where you can bid on a date with a firefighter to a formal ball which will be held July 20, 2013 at 7:00pm. (And you can attend the ball even if you don’t buy a firefighter.) If the hour we spent with them is any indication, these events will be a blast. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 2013 Activity -- DC Environmental Film Festival Screening & Discussion

DC Environmental Film Festival

Carnegie Institution for Science
Elihu Root Auditorium
1530 P St., NW
Cost: Free
We look pretty happy for people who just learned that
every single product they use is rife with aluminum.
Let's just say that March's activity was interesting before it even began. We initially planned to attend a pickling class at the Living Social building. (Opening lines for the post about Pickling: Prior to tonight's activity, if someone had asked if we liked pickling, we would have answered (with coquettish laughs), "We don't know, you naughty boy...we've never pickled.")

However, after deciding on a date and buying tickets, Dilettante Amy had to cancel as she had a retirement party to attend the same night that she had forgotten about. Then, Dilettante Amanda received a notice that the pickling class had been cancelled, although Dilettante Kathleen did not. After approximately 87,436 e-mails and calls to Living Social, Dilettante Kathleen finally talked to a human being who confirmed that, in fact, the pickling class had been cancelled. (Though, not yet refunded. Living Social customer service is awful.)

Anyway, in a rush to find a replacement activity on a Wednesday night, we actually came up with several, and settled on the DC Environmental Film Festival, because this movie sounded really interesting:

LA SOURCE (USA, 2012, 71 min.)
Presented in celebration of World Water Day
Each day, the villagers of a small, rural community called La Source in Haiti must choose between enduring a long, treacherous walk to retrieve clean water or drinking contaminated water from a nearby river. Since he was a teenager, Josue Lajeunesse, along with his brother Chrismedonne, have dreamed of remedying this problem for their people. In 1989, Josue moved to New Jersey where he found employment as a custodian at Princeton University and as a taxi driver, allowing him to send money home to La Source so that he and Chrismedonne, a bricklayer in La Source, could properly channel the water from the mountain into their village. The film follows
the Lajeunesse brothers as they work together to rally the support of a group of Princeton students, a Los Angeles-based charity called Generosity Water and the people of La Source to fulfill their dream of improving the conditions of their impoverished village. The film captures the story of one man, empowered by a vision, who was able to ignite the passion of people thousands of miles away to change lives in La Source forever. In Creole and English. Directed by Patrick Shen. Produced by Patrick Shen, Brandon Vedder and Jordan Wagner.

Discussion with filmmaker Patrick Shen and Raymond Joseph, Former Haitian Ambassador to the United States and Founder, A Dollar A Tree For Haiti.

And yet, when we walked into that theater at the appointed time and sat (and gagged over what the woman behind us brough to eat during the movie), this movie began playing:

THE AGE OF ALUMINUM (Austria/Germany, 2013, 90 min.)

World Premiere Aluminum is a fascinating metal: light, stainless and easy to process. One hundred years ago, it was still so exotic that it was presented at world expositions. The metal has become an essential part of our daily lives. We drink from aluminum cans, use aluminum-containing deodorants and sunscreens and it increases the effectiveness of vaccines. But, currently, critical voices are being heard about this metal. Large amounts of resources and energy are needed for the production of aluminum. The extraction can lead to environmental disasters of considerable dimension, as happened in Hungary almost one year ago. Furthermore, scientists suspect that the toxic effect of aluminum could be having an influence on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and allergies. Directed by Bert Ehgartner. Produced by Kurt Langbein.
Panel discussion, moderated by Claire Dwoskin, child health advocate and Founder, Children's Medical Safety Research Institute, with filmmaker Bert Ehgartner; Dr. Jim Olds, Director and Chief Academic Unit Officer, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study and Krasnow University Professor of Molecular Neuroscience; Katharine Redford, Esq., Co-Founder and Director, EarthRights International (ERI) and Dr. Christopher Shaw, Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

February 2013 Activity -- Gin Distillery Tour and Tasting

Ready to make martinis. And sloe gin fizzes (sloes gin fizz?)
Gin Distillery Tour & Tasting
New Columbia Distillery
1832 Fenwick Street, NE (da hood)
Washington, DC 20002
COST: Zero for tasting/tour
$36 per bottle of gin

In the car on the way to this activity, the following conversation took place:

Dilettante Amanda: "So this is a gin activity. Is it gin rummy?"

Wannabe Dilettante Tim: "I think it has to do with a cotton gin."

Dilettante Kathleen: "And here I was thinking it was a tutorial on bathtub gin. I'm pretty sure I've been making it wrong. Also (and probably unrelated) my daughter seems kind of listless after her baths..."

Turns out, it was none of the above -- it was a tour and tasting. We met Dilettante Amy (and another Dilettante wannabe, Pete) at New Columbia distillery in the section of NE near all the dance clubs that we planned to patronize after getting all goofed up on craft gin.

This was initially going to be a tour and tasting in conjunction with the alumni group from Dilettante Amanda's alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. However, it turns out that the JHU web site continues to accept reservations even after events are fully booked, so we discovered about a week ago that we could not participate in this as part of the alumni function. (At least that's the story Amanda gave us. I'm willing to bet it had something to do with the state schools on our resumes...) Anyway, the distillery suggested that we just come earlier and do an independent tour and tasting. So we and every-single-hipster-in-DC did exactly that. (Craft distilleries are obviously big with the skinny jean set.)

We began by getting a small tasting of the gin. Straight. And it was really deliciously spicy. Gin is not everyone's "thing" but we certainly all appreciated how complex the layers of flavor were, how you could pretty much taste the artisanal process in each sip, and how badass this was gonna taste with some juice in a crunk chalice.

Our tour guide (and only New Columbia employee) Sol gave us a ton of great information about the distilling process, the history of the company, and informed us that New Columbia was the first distillery to open and operate in DC in 103 years. (And Marion Barry calls himself a former Mayor. Sheesh.)

The gin is already served in some local restaurants and they are working on getting it into MD and VA, and may also begin distilling seasonal gins and other types of spirits.

It was a very interesting tour and a great product -- they already cannot keep up with demand and they do no traditional advertising. (Thanks to social media...and hipster word of mouth.)

Dilettante Amanda bought one bottle of gin. Dilettante Amy bought two. And Dilettante Kathleen bought a fedora and looked disinterested.

Dinner at Ethiopic on H Street followed.

Some of the ingredients.

January 2013 Activity --