A very … fuzzy … panda. Experience 22.

Sip n paint, Sippin’ and Paintin’, Painting with Wine, whatever the moniker, seems like for the past year or so pairing a couple of glasses of wine with novice painters has been taking the Groupons and Living Socials of the world by storm. And believe you me, I’ve wanted to get on that bandwagon from the beginning.

Act I – “I’m Not Even a Little Bit Artistic”

My efforts to find a partner-in-crime were repeatedly rebuffed with the polite but firm, “I’m not artistic, not my thing.” Turns out, plenty of people just want to drink wine without throwing paint and brushes into the mix. What’s that about?

Act II – The Co-Worker Frenemy

Enter the co-worker who kept saying she would go without ever actually committing to a date. Over and over and over again. Multiple cycles of nonsense did not endear her to me. I may or may not have responded to her (consequently) last faux invitation with a strong dose of the stink eye.

Her unsuitability as a partner-in-crime was cemented, however, following an unfortunate water club incident. Note to those unfamiliar with the inner workings of government agencies where water coolers are not provided for free (that pesky matter of using government funds to purchase water equating to misappropriation of taxpayer dollars): employees band together and form water “clubs” and some unfortunate soul is responsible for badgering people for “dues” then coordinating water delivery and payment. Suffice it to say that, if you are a) already a recipient of my stink eye, but b) trying to get me to take over the undesirable role of water club coordinator, then c) an email summarily stating, “so you have to take over the water club” is not the way to go. You don’t know from stink eye.

Act III – Alas, Another Scheduling Snafu

At last! I found not one, but two! prospective partners-in-crime who were not dissuaded by a potential lack of artistic ability and/or are sufficiently motivated by wine-related activities in nearly any form. Unfortunately, we did not manage to connect about dates before everything sold out.

Act IV – The Universe Smiles, a Testament to the Power of the New Experience Project

As I once again grappled with the harsh reality that sip n paint was not to be, partner-in-crime Anne sent an impeccably timed invitation, “I don’t suppose you’d be interested in doing sip n’ paint with me?” (little did she know, eh?)

She thought of me because I’d randomly run into her at happy hour a couple of weeks earlier (love happy hour; love the random run-in) and discussed the new experience project with her and her husband. They immediately embraced the concept and suggested another fantabulous future new experience, now slated for June.

I’ve been loving how many people are embracing my new experience journey, by the way. I’ve encountered so much enthusiasm and support, willing partners-in-crime at every turn, and a steady stream of new experience suggestions, invitations, etc. In sum, I am blessed.  What’s the opposite of the stink eye?  I’m totally sending that out to you all right now.

Also, sip n paint finally on the books, bam! Thank you, universe. Thank you, Anne.

Act V – And the Universe Laughed. As it Does.

We arrived at the sip n paint site with giddy with anticipation. Anne ‘s prior experience there had been fabulous, due in large part to an amazing artist in residence who had led her class. He was apparently of the cool, laid back, “art is beautiful, art is everywhere, everyone is an artist” school. Anne had hoped to book our class with him, but all of his dates were already full.

Early on, we sensed that the artist-in-residence teaching our class was, shall we say, less enthusiastic. Our first hint came just before class when Anne and I introduced ourselves with eager smiles and she responded with a stricken and pained expression. (I know!  I don’t get it either.)

Her teaching method consisted of directing lengthy recitations of instructions to her canvas rather to us, all beginning with, “mix a little bit of this color with that color then…” I never caught the rest because by the time I got a color mixed I had missed everything else. Before you blame it on the wine (I may or may not be known for my pathetic tolerance), I wasn’t the only one. Most people coped by alternating walking up to the instructor’s canvas to see what she had done with asking questions like “What? What did she say? What are we doing?” Collectively we were usually able to piece enough together to move along. The instructor also wandered about as we worked. I found that she generally ignored me unless I specifically asked her whether I was doing something correctly (I was not), at which point she would direct her pained expression to my canvas, sigh, then just paint something for me and quickly move on. Anne may or may not have frequently uttered “the other instructor was so much better, cooler, happier to be here,” etc. (hm, maybe that’s why she didn’t like us?).

Okay, okay, maybe I’m being a little hard on our instructor. She did give us a pretty expansive out, telling us not to expect too much of ourselves because the paint brushes they provided were crap.

But also, we had to paint a freakin’ baby panda. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some baby pandas. The National Zoo’s baby panda cam was genius. But who wants to paint a baby panda? No one in our class, that’s for sure. To a person, the reaction upon seeing pictures of the panda taped to our easels was, “oh, we’re painting that?” Hey, do you think the instructor picked out what we were painting? The overwhelming underwhelming response to the panda at the outset could certainly explain her persistent pained expression. In any event, it didn’t help that paintings from previous classes were displayed around the room. Vibrant, colorful, wall-worthy paintings of koi and funky pigs and colorful landscapes. Anne and I briefly discussed going rogue (she really wanted to paint the koi; I, the pig) but we didn’t think we had the right paint colors. I now know differently. Next time…

Yes, there will be a next time. Lackluster instructor and sub-par subject matter aside, Anne and I had a blast. Anne was the greatest of PICs, ready to giggle and snark and judge with the best of ‘em.

Speaking of judgment, I think a woman in the class described my panda best when she said, “Oh. Your panda is so …. fuzzy.”

Maybe my panda is a bit evocative of my family’s sweet dog, Scruffy, may he rest in peace, but if you stand back and squint, I think you can at least tell it’s a panda vs., say, a baboon, like one guy’s.

What does one do with a grudgingly painted mediocre panda? Display it in my office of course. After someone stole a lamp I’d brought in, I’m no longer decorating my office with anything that I would be sad to lose. So, my … fuzzy … panda is perfect.

But I still have my eye on that pig.


A long time ago . . . we used to be friends. Experience 20.

Oh dear. This is so untimely. I really need to add “write a blog post in a timely manner” to my list of 100 things.  I hope to get more caught up within the week.

Now that it is decidedly out of theatres, I am pleased to share my views on the Veronica Mars movie, Rob Thomas’ Kickstarter success story. LOVED IT. Seriously, go see it, n…oops. Watch it On Demand now! (Is it still On Demand? I hope so.)

A quick aside, because undoubtedly it’s my 100 experience rules that keep bringing you, my loyal two handfuls of followers, back: movies won’t usually qualify as new experiences because my typical movie fare of YA book series turned blockbuster legacies, although awesome, doesn’t quite take me off my beaten path. If I make it to a documentary film festival or something foreign and sub-titled, then maybe. Or, obviously, Veronica Mars. Documentary, foreign sub-titled, Veronica Mars…makes perfect sense.

Why the Veronica Mars movie? It’s the only movie I’ve ever seen that was Kickstarter-funded, for starters. (See what I did there?)

Is Kickstarter working as a rule? Does anyone know?

Five minutes of consulting the Google tells me that it has not only “revolutionalized the marketplace,” but it has actually worked even in non-Veronica Mars contexts. Like most things dubbed revolutionary, it also has a dark side. The darkest. I speak of course of the rift between James Franco and Zach Braff.

Kickstarter “celebrity” vs. “underdog” debate aside, I am pro-anything that brings Veronica Mars back to me.

The VM excursion was also more of an event because my partner-in-crime was Sister Pussykat, who, along with a friend, drove to the outskirts of DC for a Veronica Mars opening weekend day-trip bonanza. The movie was showing at a highway-adjacent shopping center that offered easy day-trip access. There was a morning show time that wasn’t too early, but early enough to allow for post-movie lunch before Sister Pussykat and pal had to return home. Also, the morning show time would allow us to get into what can be a bustling retail area ahead of most of the weekend traffic chaos. It was like the universe wanted, no, insisted, that we go see Veronica Mars.

It would have been nice of the universe to tell us that opening day morning coincided with a freakin’ St. Paddy’s Day PARADE. Smack dab in the center of the retail center. I fortunately arrived early (hoping to duck into a shop or two, obviously), so I had time to circle a parking lot and every level of a parking garage before beating a small army of minivans — each filled to the gills with little green-covered people and their parents — to one of the last remaining parking spots. Fortunately, my sister arrived shortly thereafter and was also able to find parking in plenty of time to make the movie.

The movie. Was. Deliiiightful! Sassy, smart, strong, smart-aleck Veronica Mars never gets old and it was great to see Kristen Bell reprise the role (I also quite enjoyed husband Dax Shepard’s cameo as a dancing night club weirdo). The plot was classic Veronica Mars, 10 years removed: the movie opens with former PI wunderkind Veronica in NY, post-law school, ready to jump into big law firm life, when ex-boyfriend and perpetual bad boy Logan Echolls is accused of murdering a high school classmate, drawing her back to Neptune, CA. Conveniently just before their 10-year reunion.

The movie had the snappy clever dialogue that made the series a favorite of mine. It was also great to see that virtually all of the series regulars made it back: Enrico Colantoni (as savvy, zinger-ready dad, Keith Mars), Jason Dohring (Logan), Percy Daggs III and Tina Majorino (Veronica’s besties and sidekicks, Wallace and Mac), not to mention Krysten Ritter, Francis Capra, Ryan Hansen, and Max Greenfield (delivering one of my favorite scenes), among others. And Chris Lowell as Piz. Aw, poor Piz. And that’s all I can say about that.

It was two pure hours of love. Okay, and murder and intrigue and a shocking car accident. But love, I tell you. Everyone in the cast was clearly so happy to be there. Reunited and it feels so good.

Or, maybe I was just so happy to see them reunited. Fair enough. Either way, thank you, Rob Thomas, for leaving the door open, plot wise, for a potential Veronica Mars movie two. Please, universe, please, make it happen.

I’ll even throw the parade next time around.

While I’m recounting old new experiences, I’ll also briefly mention experience 21, opening night happy hour at Tyler Bierhaus Bethesda. It’s the latest venture in a somewhat awkwardly located, apparently fatal, location. If its previous incarnation, a sports bar a) staffed by referee-costumed waitresses who were, allegedly, so scantily-clad that they made Hooters waitresses seem prim and overdressed; and b) named The Box, couldn’t make it, what will, I ask you? But the Bierhaus is giving the Belgian theme a go. So what if they didn’t have Chimay in stock, which might seem like a Belgian bar fail. They did have that classic Belgian dish, hummus. So what if our waiter had no idea what hummus was and asked us what kind of dip we wanted with it (choices: blue cheese or ranch; apparently still learning the ins and outs of the ordering system as well – wings were just above hummus on the menu). The Bierhaus did, however, have tasty soft pretzels and we enjoyed our non-Chimay beer selections. One of which was served in an elephant glass. One of the things I love most about Belgium, the elephants . . . So that’s a win right there.

Note: I decided to consult the Google before posting just to make sure there wasn’t some widely-known connection between elephants and Belgium that I was missing. The only thing I found was some Wiki entry about a beer called Delirium Tremens and rumors of pink elephant hallucinations. I’ll confess that I didn’t take it seriously enough to click on the excerpted Google entry. Then I asked a friend to send her picture of the elephant glass, and wouldn’t you know:


How about that?

The ice cream cleanse. Happy free cone day!

This is just a quick update to share that I tried one of Ben & Jerry’s new “Core” varieties of ice cream (seriously, check them out). Even though the Core line is new and I’ve never tried any before I’m not counting it as an official new experience because I’m not convinced that it falls within the true spirit of my new experience project. However, I’m otherwise working through a small bout of writer’s block and, even though it wasn’t my means of trying the new flavor, today IS “free cone day” at Ben & Jerry’s.  (Sorry for the late announcement.  Maybe next year, eh?)

After some deliberation I settled on Salted Caramel – a Blondie-bit speckled, sweet cream outside, with a salted caramel core. Continue reading

Unicorntastic – Girls on the Run. Experience 19.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m volunteering as a coach for Girls on the Run, or GOTR. It’s a ten-week 5K training program for third through sixth grade girls that combines running with a focus on overall health and self-esteem. We’re about three weeks into the program now.

Some observations:

Teachers do God’s work, y’all. Not that there was ever any doubt, but there is knowing and there is capital K Knowing. Now, I Know. On a given day I am responsible for wrangling the giddy chattery energy of 20+ girls, along with another coach or two, for just over an hour. Then we send them off to their teachers for the rest of the day, where boys are added to the mix. God’s.work.

You can tell 20+ girls to keep their eyes closed while doing a visualization exercise. You can remind them multiple times to keep their eyes closed. 90% of the time, 90% of them will not have their eyes closed. There aren’t stink eyes enough to make it happen.

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Another One Bites the Dust. Experience 17.

One of my most highly anticipated new experiences (blog post coming) is being a volunteer coach for the Girls on the Run program. It’s a 5K training program for elementary school girls that also focuses on building confidence, health, physical and mental strength, and self-esteem. In the ten weeks leading up to the 5K, coaches meet with their groups for twice-weekly sessions that include lessons, exercises, and running practice. Running has long been a mix of fitness, therapy, and religion for me so I was instantly drawn to GOTR and have been giddy with anticipation since they accepted my application.

CPR and First Aid certification is a prerequisite for coaching, so on a recent Saturday I found myself in a training class. The closest I ever came to CPR training before was an elementary school CPR segment, of which I remember little, aside from my pathetic attempts to blow air into the practice dummy’s air bag “lungs.” Being the little pipsqueak that I was, I remember gathering every ounce of breath I could and blowing into the dummy’s mouth as forcefully as possible and the bag going, “ph.” Eric Johnson on the other hand, a burly raspy windbag of a boy, nearly burst the dummy’s “lungs,” with a big old “PHHHPHHHPHHHHPHHHH.” After which he cackled with glee.
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Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden – Experience 16.

I’ve lived in the DC area for 15 years, including 12 in DC-proper, and before last week I’d never gone ice skating at the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art. I know! I can’t believe it either. Especially since I’m finishing up my second winter working across the street from the Sculpture Garden.

Naturally, it didn’t occur to me as a prospective new experience until the last weeks of the season, right around the time another polar vortex brought the latest bout of sub-zero temps and nearly a foot of snow. That’s the tricky thing about outdoor ice rinks – it needs to be cold but not too cold. And dry. As last week drew to a close, with the promise of warmer, but not too warm, days, I kept an eye on the forecast and my fingers crossed.

Friday dawned with the promised warmth, but also with clouds and a forecasted 30% chance of rain. Yet, I was hopeful. One of my co-workers – let’s just call her the Naysayer Continue reading

Skyrobics (and Kegels). Experience 12.


And so began new experience number 12 – taking a trampoline fitness class at Skyzone trampoline park in Columbia, MD.

My partner-in-crime for this one was supposed to be Rebecca, but she came down with a virus the night before. “I want to see a lady with vomiting and diarrhea jump on a trampoline!” Said no one ever.

So I flew (heh. See what I did there?) solo for this one.

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