Sunday, May 11, 2014

There are only three days left until the semester ends! It has been such an incredible experience and one which I will always cherish. Here are some final tips before the program finishes.

I concluded my internship last week and was lucky enough to have my parents visit me on the weekend. Although I’m taking a quick trip home in a week, it was wonderful to see them and take them on a tour of the White House before I left. In my last few weeks I was able to take on more responsibility and form closer relationships with some of my supervisors and the principals; I’m very glad my parents were able to meet some of the people for whom I’d developed such admiration.

West Wing tour with my family

In all honesty, I was extremely sad to end my internship. I have had such an amazing time there and built so many wonderful relationships, so the idea of no longer having the same access to that environment is upsetting. It is also very hard to leave a place where you can run into the Vice President in the hallway on one day and Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the next!

I know that I speak for many of my fellow classmates when I say that in your short time here, you quickly begin to gain confidence in your work, form bonds that you would like to develop and build a life that you could foresee transforming into a permanent state. Thus, it is extremely important to maintain the connections you have made and further those relationships you found meaningful after you leave. The first tip I have for the conclusion of your internship is to stay in touch! Don’t bother your supervisors within the first week after leaving, but certainly reach out after a month. It is also always good to convey a purpose for contacting them – whether it be about  an application on which you’d like them to advise you or a news article regarding the fruition of program you contributed to while with the organization.

Although we are in DC and working full-time, this is still an academic program and we have final exams and papers. Having said that, here are some recommendations for managing the academic obligations at the end of the program.

First, both Sarah and I highly advise putting a sufficient amount of effort into your literature review. This work will make up almost half of your final research paper and will be a critical foundation for your research and conclusions. Not only does it guide your research, but it also can significantly lighten your workload if done well.

 Second, you should not leave your paper until the last couple of weeks. I know how busy and stressed you will be throughout the semester and this pressure will only increase as you get closer to the end. I was fortunate in that I had a few days in between the conclusion of my internship and the submission of my paper to devote to revising and editing, but many of my classmates were not so lucky.

Third, work with your classmates during the studying process and manage your time so you aren’t cramming the day before an exam. This is a general tip, applicable to any college course; however, it is especially important in this setting where you work full-time and likely won’t have the benefit of living next door to a classmate.

With that, I will leave you with some photos from my last weeks in the program. In addition to being one of my best college experiences, it truly has been one of the most memorable times of my life. I encourage you to make the most of your time here and take advantage of all the amazing opportunities this place has to offer – and don’t forget to document all your great experiences!

Volunteering at the Corcoran Ball

Going to hear oral argument at the Supreme Court (where I'll be working this summer)

Cherry blossoms

The White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn

The National Cathedral

Early Mother's Day brunch with my family at Blue Duck Tavern

Coming home from a wonderful dinner at Dr. Spalding's house

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lucas Brooks Last Post

Hello all,

This final blog is dedicated to my boys, Henry, Dane, and Aman. Never would've made it through the winter without em.

Now is a good time I feel to discuss my reflections from this semester and all the things I've learned here in Washington. One of the things I've learned to not take for granted over these past couple of months is the way my parents raised me and the importance of pulling my own weight and taking care of and cleaning up after myself. Though I may have griped about it at the time, every time I tried to leave stuff hanging around the house, or tried to wait until my mom gave in and did the dishes, and she called me on it and made me clean up after myself or do the dishes, I was slowly building up the capacity I needed to make it through this semester. Doing chores with my roommates is very similar.

A valuable lesson we learned too late this semester (as in like 20 minutes ago) is that life is a whole lot easier when you simply don't make a mess (if you use something, clean up and put it away when you're done with it) instead of everybody leaving their stuff all over the apartment and relying on nose goes or some schedule that nobody's ever really kept to decide who has to clean everything up alone. For our last three weeks here together, everyone is dedicated to keeping our amazing apartment clean by trusting each other to take care of our own messes, and by giving Henry broad powers of enforcement. Teamwork makes the dream work.

I'll leave you with these highlights from the last month.
 Ben and Alana when we visited Great Falls

 Aman practicing his new manners on Annie

 Good Friday march through DuPont circle down Connecticut avenue (view from my office)

 Central Park, New York (visiting my family over Easter)
 View from our balcony during the last snowstorm of the year
 Wild deer at the National Zoo with Alana

 Aman made guac
 Dane tried to make cinnamon toast but confused it with french toast
 Luke going for a run on the first nice day in DC

See you soon Claremont
-Lucas Brooks '16

Monday, April 21, 2014

One Month Left Until The End

Hi! It's my last blog post before the end of the semester, meaning that there are only 3-4 weeks left. It's hard to believe that the semester is already almost over- it went by so quickly... :(

Since the weather warmed up, I've been exploring DC and almost am through with my bucket list.

Here are some pics:

Cherry blossom trees
WWII Memorial - beautiful day out 
Cherry Blossoms in peak
More cherry blossoms because they're beautiful

My best friend from home, Justine, came to visit this weekend! She arrived Friday night and left Sunday morning, so we really only had one full day. But, we got through a ton of monuments and memorials, plus a nice tapas dinner at La Tasca. 

Korean War memorial - a little creepy at night...
Mr. Abe
Reflecting Pool 
yummy yummy tapas at La Tasca
CMC's Alumni Chapter invited the Washington Program to a Nationals Game on Saturday, and it was great. Sarah, Sarenna, my best friend from home, and I went to brunch at Busboys and Poets on U Street before the game - definitely recommend it. When we got to the game, everybody was so happy: the weather was awesome (a bit hot, but not scorching hot), beers, and baseball. Unfortunately, the Nationals lost to the Cardinals by one point, but it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Nationals vs. Cardinals


Excited pt. 2 


I have been dog/housesitting for a friend, and she let me invite a few friends over for an Easter dinner. Unfortunately, half the program had plans, but the ones that could make it got to enjoy some BBQ ribs, shrimp, sangria, and fun!

Easter BBQ Dinner with ribs and sangria
Lucas came over to help me dogsit Koda last weekend
To conclude, the Washington Program has been an amazing experience and taught me so much. I've definitely learned to appreciate good weather, and the precious time that I have. It gave me a real-world experience-- how to find an apartment and figure out the leasing contract, how to navigate my way around a new city, a 9-6 job, etc. I don't think I have done anything more mentally exhausting than I did this semester, especially because I just wanted to sleep after my job, but sometimes had to spend time doing homework or going to class. However, it is very rewarding, knowing that I can do it.

After the Washington Program ends, I will fly home for a couple weeks to finally see my friends and family. Then, I'll return to DC for a summer internship somewhere, but will have a different apartment and internship (and no classes!). After the summer ends, I'm off to study abroad in Spain!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014

There are only four weeks left in the semester! Luckily, the weather is improving and the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom this weekend. With the warmer weather and later sunsets, I have been walking to and from work for the past week. The city is very easy to navigate and almost everything is within walking distance. Both my roommate and I knew the internships we were seriously contemplating at the time we were looking for a place to live and we took this into consideration when looking at different housing options. If possible, I recommend you do the same. It is always nice to walk to work on a sunny day instead of taking the metro or the bus. It doesn’t hurt to save money either.

Nice weather is also the perfect opportunity to take a trip to the grocery store. The entire district has been abuzz since a new Trader Joe’s opened in the U Street corridor -- I’m not kidding! There is only one other store in the area, so this is a big deal for the chain’s fans. Although the store is only two stops away on the metro, carrying tons of bags is unwieldy and cumbersome. I joined the ranks of shoppers and the elderly who use grocery carts by buying one online. It may look dorky, but it’s been amazingly convenient and all my intern coworkers have been asking where I found it!

With the convenience of my cart, I easily stocked up on fresh produce and new ingredients to make some great dishes this past month!

I love breakfast and brunch, but it’s often hard to justify going out and spending $20 first thing in the morning on something you can do at home. It can also be hard to justify that stack of pancakes sometimes! My solution – I made corn bread and peanut butter pancakes that are gluten-free. Not only did I save money, but I saved my cholesterol level too.


 These weekend cravings are the reason I keep all purpose gluten-free flour and cornmeal in the house. It has definitely come in handy when I need a pastry fix!

I forgot, however, to reduce the recipe size and ended up with leftover batter for days. I was eating pancakes for two weeks, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy them -- especially when topped with black currant preserves.

For dinner last week I made a multi-layer gratin with all the great items I picked up at Trader Joe’s. Unlike in California, the grocery stores here don’t usually carry produce that’s out of season, so I haven’t had very good luck finding certain fresh vegetables until now. I took advantage of the stocked shelves at Trader Joe’s to stock my fridge in kind.

I put some of my favorite vegetables in this dish, including zucchini and kale. I’ve also learned from past cooking endeavors that putting a layer of thinly sliced potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold) on the bottom and top of the dish help give the gratin structure and prevent it from falling apart.

I sautéed the kale and a chopped red onion until they were soft so they more easily fit into the glass baking dish.

Beneath the sautéed vegetables is a layer of potato slices and sliced zucchini. After sprinkling a heavy dose of shredded mozzarella cheese on the mix, I poured about ¾ a cup of cream evenly over the layers to give the dish some additional moisture while baking.


 Once I added another layer of sliced zucchini and potatoes, I scattered some Parmesan cheese over the top level in order to give the potatoes a nice crispiness.

Although I like to experiment with my dishes and cook to my taste, it always helps to follow a good recipe. My dad sent me a wonderful clipping from the food section of The Los Angeles Times for cremini and shitake mushroom bisque. Unfortunately I don’t have a blender here and, after a brief and failed attempt to blend some mushrooms with a hand mixer, I decided to make the bisque chunky.


I sliced the baby bella cremini and shitake mushrooms and lightly pan-fried them with a diced onion before adding three cups of vegetable broth.



The recipe is for vegan bisque, but I had a lot of difficulty finding cashew cream and I ended up using a smaller amount of table cream instead.

After letting the soup simmer, I garnished it with freshly chopped chives and a little black truffle olive oil. 

I had plenty bisque left over and easily took it to work in a Tupperware container to reheat at lunch. This was by far my favorite dish! I guess the LA Times food columnists know what they are talking about.