Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cool Things I've Done this Summer

In the midst of all the summer's mayhem, I often fail to mention the very cool things I have been able to do/see as part of the TFAS summer program, so I've decided to list them now.

  • Listen to a lecture by Russ Roberts
  • Sit on the House floor
  • Watch the Capitol Fourth concert on the lawn of the Capitol (ok, I actually didn't get to see the concert because of torrential thunderstorms, but I was there, waiting....
  • Hear Donald Rumsfeld speak
  • Speak with lots of great professionals in the nonprofit field including Bill Hanbury, Executive Director of the United Way of the National Capital Area and Les Lenkowsky, former CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Be briefed about international issues at the State Department
  • Hear Robert Egger speak
  • Visit the World Bank

Monday, July 18, 2011


Three cupcake locales in three days!

1. Lauren and I visited Crumbs located near Metro Center on Friday. Known for their large cupcakes-many of which contain some sort of icing filling-Crumbs is relatively new to DC. Renee raved about the cupcakes last summer before they had yet to arrive, so I was eager to try them this summer. I ordered a Cookie Dough flavor and Lauren chose the Blackbottom Cheesecake. The cupcakes were tasty. We both used forks to eat the cupcakes, a tactic which I am not particularly fond of with the smaller breed, but these cupcakes seemed to require it. We especially loved their size and selection, but the composition was nothing too breathtaking.

2. On Saturday, Lauren and I sampled two new locales. First up was Alexandria Cupcake in Alexandria, VA. The store was the most gourmet of the bunch, featuring a small selection of delicate flavors like Rosewater (my choice) and Lemon (Lauren's). The price and size of the cupcakes were comparable to the other's we'd visited, but the atmosphere seems that of a small bakery.

3. The second shop that day was a lesser known store also in Old Town Alexandria called Lavender Moon Cupcake. The shop was much larger than Alexandria Cupcake allowing customers to actually linger in the store and enjoy their treats at tables. The decor is hippy-esque, much more undone than Hello Cupcake! for example, with a relaxed atmosphere to match. The flavors were some of the most inventive that we had seen. Lots of fruit flavors including blood orange, raspberry peach and lemon blueberry. Unfortunately, Lauren and I chose to save our cupcakes until we arrived back at the apartment which I think sacrificed some of their integrity, but we were impressed none the less. We especially loved the icing!

As we eat our way through the summer, we add mementos from the shops to our cupcake wall. I must admit, our wall looks rather weak. Our busy schedules the past three weeks have made us rather lazy, but with only two weeks left, we are hoping to step-up our game and decide once and for all where the best cupcakes lie. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

I attended my first National's game last Friday night and would like to take a minute to commend the National's on their marketing!

As you may know, the National's baseball team is not the best in the MLB, a reality which has likely posed challenges to their marketing reps.

But, rather than throw their hands up in dismay, they took it as a challenge from which to gain an edge. Consider the following...

1. The National's stadium is gorgeous. Carefully constructed so not as to obstruct the beautiful DC skyline, the stadium boasts a neat, multi-level layout.

2. The games appeal to all age groups: families, retirees, twenty-somethings. Everyone comes to the games; if not for the game itself, then for the company, the beer, the chili dogs. Fact remains, it doesn't really matter why they come, so long as they purchase tickets.

2.5. To confirm, we aren't just talking about any chili dogs. We are talking about the Ben's Chili Bowl half-smokes. I vouch for their deliciousness.

3. Free things. A hat when I arrived at the stadium and t-shirts tossed during the game.

4. Racing presidents. Believe me, you wanna check this out:

5. Coordinating the Metro system to accommodate for the game traffic. Bravo! You've outdone yourselves, really.

In conclusion, the team may not be very good, but I had a hearty ball game experience nonetheless.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

No Better Place

I enjoyed my second Independence Day here in DC with Michael this past weekend. We were sure to jam-pack it full of barbeque, fireworks and fun in the sun.

After an early office closure on Friday, we headed to the Spy Museum (along with a hundred other tourists). I had heard mixed reviews about the place, but as an admitted nerd, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Reminiscent of Disney World, there was close attention to detail in order to create a kind of "experience" for visitors.

On Saturday, we explored Alexandria, VA via the King Street Metro stop on the Blue line. The town is very accessible with a free trolley for easy shuttling up and down King Street. First, we enjoyed brunch at O'Connell's Irish pub. Then we made quick work of the rest of the street thanks to the debriefing Dana had provided as to the best sites including the Gap Outlet and Candy's Candies. We departed Alexandria via the water taxi which docks at the Georgetown waterfront. I vow to make a return trip with Lauren and Sarah to Alexandria Cupcake as we continue on our cupcake tour.

The boat trip gave me a whole new perspective of the city; I managed to snap some great shots of the monuments and other DC sights. On our return to Georgetown, we rested for a bit and then ventured just down to Wisconsin to eat at Los Cuates, a Mexican restaurant that I had been dying to try. The place was packed and for good reason. The food was delicious! Luckily, I didn't finish my plate and was able to enjoy it a second time for lunch yesterday.

The next morning, we trekked across the Key Bridge to Roosevelt Island, a 91 acre wilderness preserve that commemorates President Theodore Roosevelt. The Island is snaked by a 2 1/2 mile trail and features a 17 foot bronze statue of the President. Again, this adventure offered a new perspective of the city because through the trees, we caught glimpses of the Georgetown skyline.

After our morning hike, we returned to the apartment to prepare for that night's Capitol Fourth Concert dress rehearsal. Consider this one of the foremost insider tips: the Capitol Fourth Concert holds a full dress rehearsal the evening before the actual concert. Before venturing to the Capitol lawn to settle in for the performance, we had lunch at Old Glory on M street. It just wouldn't have been the 4th of July without some finger-licking BBQ. I opted for the foot long hotdog topped with chili and cheese and couldn't have made a better decision.

Amazingly, we left the restaurant unscathed by BBQ sauce or other condiment stains and made our way to the Capitol lawn. We made it through the security line, carved ourselves a spot and were just beginning to get comfortable when an announcement came over the loud speaker asking everyone to leave the lawn in preparation for foul weather.

We headed to Union Station, the closest thing near the Capitol that could offer shelter to such a large crowd. The sky became ominous with frightening rapidity leaving us drenched with only 500 ft. left in our journey to the front doors. On the bright side, Michael had never explored Union Station, so although many of the shops were closed, we were able to enjoy the beautiful architecture while we waited out the storm. Much to our dismay, even after the weather cleared, the dress rehearsal was cancelled for public viewing so we returned to Georgetown without having witnessed the performance.

Nonetheless, we capped the weekend off well. Kristen invited us to watch the fireworks from her new place near U street. We joined the rest of the neighborhood on the large hill outside, crowding the streets and preventing any traffic from crawling through. The view wasn't great, but the atmosphere was inspiring. The crowd was representative of the diverse neighborhood, but despite our differences, there we stood united as Americans.

There truly is no better place to celebrate our country's birthday than in Washington, DC!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Alumni Weekend

It is hard to believe that we are beginning week four of the program! Of course, it always seems further ahead to me as I have begun preparing the week five schedule in the office.

This past weekend was Alumni Weekend. We welcomed alumni from across the world back to Washington on Friday with a Rooftop Reception atop the National Association of Realtors building. The view was awesome with both the Capitol and the Washington monument visible.

On Saturday, we held a BBQ for current students, alumni, faculty, staff and mentors. The BBQ featured two IPVS fundraisers, a raffle and cornhole tournament. Together the groups raised over $800!! We are so proud of all of their efforts. They were clever, creative, diligent and organized. For example, the cornhole committee boosted their proceeds by hosting a guessing contest to determine how many popcorn kernels were present in a tower of tupperware.

The proceeds will be combined with the profits of the other five fundraisers held throughout the summer to benefit the IPVS grant. Awarded each year to a nonprofit focused on youth and education, the IPVS grant typically totals near $2000. The grantmaking process is an integral part of the students' summer experience in the IPVS program because it allows them to learn and practice many skills needed in the nonprofit sector as well as directly impact the DC area. The students are broken into seven committees, each assigned a different fundraiser to plan and host. In addition, they form an eighth committee that reviews the grant applications and presents the finalists to the rest of the class. Together, the class votes to determine the organization that will receive the grant.

To top the great weekend off, Michael joined me for the BBQ. We even entered the cornhole tournament together only to be ousted in the first round. Oh well, you can't win them all

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekend Whirlwind

Since we last spoke...

I survived a very busy weekend complete with Jazz in the Garden on Friday, Service Saturday and Mt. Vernon and Movie Night on Sunday.

Jazz in the Garden was a wonderfully relaxing start to the weekend. We gathered in the Sculpture Garden around 5pm with hundreds of other Washingtonians and our picnic blankets. We secured a grassy spot near the stacked chair sculpture and enjoyed some jazz guitar until showers spoiled our evening. We fled to the safety of an Austin Grill, a tex-mex chain that offers hearty food at friendly prices.

After dinner, another round in the cupcake showdown ensued with a stop at Red Velvet Cupcakery in Chinatown. I was pleased with my Cookies and Cream flavor choice. In fact, we all enjoyed our choices (a downright miracle). Our rankings are a little different, but generally, Red Velvet placed somewhere in the top three.

I successfully led a group of 11 students in their Service Saturday project at the Capital Area Food Bank. We set out at 7:45am for a 9:00am start sorting food donations into appropriate category bins for further sorting. There was a visceral irony in sifting through these cast-off products, Trader Joe's chocolate bars and seasoned quinoa. Just weeks ago, these items sat on shelves, hallmarks of our successful American economy; now they lay discarded like trash because despite the fact that we produce more than we could ever consume, we cannot get these products into the hands of those in need. I appreciated the staff's dedication to reducing waste. We received very thorough directions to look past the dents and dings in packaging and remember that what mattered was the sustenance inside.

Summer months and a struggling economy meant fewer donations which equated to a shorter work day. This put my group first in line for pizza. {{Papa John's, of which I have eaten more times in the past week than in my whole life}} I especially enjoy the garlic dipping sauce which accompanies the pizza.

I finished Saturday afternoon by thoroughly exhausting myself with cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping.

Sunday brought my second trip to Mt. Vernon, George Washington's estate which overlooks the majestic Potomac River. Because I couldn't be home with Toby, visiting the homestead of the father of our country seemed an appropriate alternative activity for Father's Day. I feel some obligation to educate myself about George Washington considering my position as a Washington College student. In fact, school was forefront in my mind for most of the day for many reasons including some of the reasons below.

In the museum portion of the estate, I spotted Washington College on a map of schools with the name Washington in it. I also noted the same bust of Washington that appears outside of Hodson, spied the Code of Civility (which can be found posted across campus) and noted Washington's official signature penned on just about everything.

Finally the weekend came to a close with Movie Night, the first IPVS fundraiser of the summer. We showed National Treasure and the committee raised about $300 in concession sales and donations.

P.S.-The movie is even cooler when you recognize the locations of the filming. ;)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Power is not the means by which to change the world"

It is hard to believe that we are nearly midway through our second week of the program. Time is flying by!

Tonight we hosted an All-Institute guest lecture with Russ Roberts, Professor of Economics at George Mason University. In true TFAS spirit, he spoke on the advantages of small government. Having spent a year in the TFAS program already, I was familiar with the topic and took to his ideas rather quickly, but I am sure that not everyone took the same liking to the ideas which he presented. I appreciated the manner in which Roberts presented his viewpoints; namely, accessible, non-threatening and open for further discussion. I especially loved his quotation (which I have used to title this entry), one which he gave when he was asked by a student, how a single individual might make a positive impact.

This week also brings the mentor breakfasts (four total), our first IPVS site briefing and a hectic schedule change for the students (and staff).

Amidst the chaos, here is a list of recent accomplishments:
  • Learned 86 students names and faces
  • Mastered the mail merge
  • Received my first big-girl paycheck
  • Confirmed a service project all by myself
  • Only hung up on one person while working the front desk (sorry!)
  • Made a Ben & Jerry's pint last through three sittings