Monday, May 9, 2011

Whose Win is it Anyway?

Osama Bin Laden's death may be the most important event for the War on Terror since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. However, many war hawks have taken the opportunity to tout the success of using torture to advance our security objectives. A win for the War on Terror does NOT equal a win for torture!

Check out my article on PolicyMic, hot off the presses, and tell me what you think! 

PS. It was a HUGE honor to have my article re-tweeted by Anne Marie Slaughter today! (How did she find me? And did she even read it? All besides the point...)

"RT @SlaughterAM: Dick Cheney wrong. Torture didn't help us find Bin Laden, says @'s @  "

Photo credit: cnbc

Monday, April 18, 2011


It’s about time for a status update, now 2 months into my work here in DC. I’m going to keep it short and sweet, because I have just a minute to spare.

Workin’- Work. Is. Busy. Way busier than I had anticipated it would be. Working long hours and juggling many different projects. I have nothing but love for my office and the values of the Institute. I learn something new every day, quite literally, and my boss has got to be one of the smartest women I’ve ever met personally. However, I am certainly learning what I don’t want to do, long-term. This includes sitting at a computer and only getting out of my chair to go to the ladies’ room and microwave my lunch. It’s an unhealthy way to live, overall, and I’m looking for ways to find balance in the every day.

I’m working on an awesome Democracy & Human Rights Initiative, as well as weapons nonproliferation policy. I can’t tell you how many amazing and swanky people I’ve met in these past few weeks, making me feel simultaneously very inspired and very small.

DC Livin’- I LOVE DC as a city. So much free stuff to do! Last Saturday my friend Sean and I went to an Ella Fitzgerald Jazz festival at the National Portrait Gallery. Cheap wine and free seats = gorgeous way to spend a rainy afternoon, and this is just one example of the eclectic and free offerings in the city.

Making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. After only a few weeks, I’m realizing that this city is actually quite small and everyone knows everyone (especially in the human rights field).

The Cherry Blossom Festival just ended, and there are few things more lovely than the rosy sunset reflecting on the Potomac, framed by soft pink and white cherry blossoms.

It Keeps Me Runnin’- I’ve been training for some upcoming races, and exploring the city via my training. I keep getting lost, however. The other day I got lost in the Rock Creek Parkway and ended up having to scramble down an embankment, only to pop out of the woods into a parking lot, looking like a sweaty, crazed, red-headed, mountain woman. A group of policemen turned around (turned out to be the DC police force parking lot). I just smiled and scampered away.

Common Threadin’- I’ve been volunteering as a chef instructor for Common Threads, an organization that teaches underprivileged kids about international cuisine, cooking skills, and holistic nutrition. Common Threads was founded by Art Smith, Oprah’s former personal chef, and I met Ralph Nader at our big fundraising event last week. I’ve really grown to love my students, and I’m learning more and more about poverty, food insecurity, and the U.S. food system. Next week my students “graduate”, and I never thought I’d say this (because you know how I feel about kids), but I’m really really going to miss all their rowdy little souls. It just made my day to hear Ta’lexus tell me that she now thinks McDonalds’ food is “nasty”- their favorite adjective. Another example:

Joscelyn (4th grade, seeing me come into the school in my business suit): “Miss Cath, where do you work?”
Me: “Well…I sort of work in politics.”
Joscelyn: (pause) “That nasty.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Lentin’- Not gonna lie and say everything has been 100% rosy cherry blossoms all the time since I arrived. It’s been a difficult transition that I didn’t see coming. I’ve been trying to practice Lent again deliberately this year. However, this practice has just exposed some deeply ingrained negative habits and thought patterns in my life. I’ve wrestled with them over the past 2 months, not really knowing a constructive outlet. This just further underscores the fact that I am a work in progress. However…

Redemptin’- As you know, Easter is my favorite religious holiday of the year. I just love everything it stands for: the springtime renewal, gentle grace, and the drama of redemption. A slow sea change is coming, I know, but I’m still working on this 2011 New Years Resolution: balance. Be Cath.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The News

Today's news was so interesting! 
First: thumbs down for President Obama, as he issues an executive order to create indefinite detention for Guantanamo Bay prisoners, a blatant contrast to his very first executive order as president.

Thumbs up for former Commander in Chief of CENTCOM, General Anthony Zinni,who has obviously been following my articles on PolicyMic. He basically reiterated what I said about the dangers of cutting funding to human security programs- most notably the US Institute of Peace. Only he got to say it in the New York Times in about 1000 words. Ugh, whatever. Not bitter. 
Thumbs down for Obama. 

A Big thumbs up for Kellogg, which, in honor of National Breakfast Day (today!), has started an initiative to donate breakfasts to the 1 in 4 American kids who live in food-insecure homes. If you post a photo or description of your breakfast on their website, then they will donate a meal. You can even send the photo from your phone!
Peacebuilding through food!

Happy Tuesday reading, y'all!

Thumbs up for breakfast. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The February Mean Reds Cake


This February has signaled a sea change in a lot of areas of my life (see previous post), none the least being that my at-least-(yikes!)-10-year streak of heartwrenching, horrible, depressing Februaries has been broken.
I repeat: the curse has been broken.
Those who know me very well will understand just how profound this is. However, as a single, solitary day remains in this annual accursed month, I have somehow managed to escape the rhythm of terrible events, deaths, illnesses, breakups, exploding body parts, etc. Knock on wood.
I attribute this partially to me having outrun the month to a brand new city. Partially to a new, defiant, “I-can-do-this!” attitude. And mostly just to great grace.
And in honor of this total life shift, I’m presenting you, dear reader, with my very favorite recipe of the moment: French Lemon Yogurt Cake with Lemon-Saffron Buttercream Frosting. What I like to call: The Mean Reds Cake; AKA: edible sunshine.
I’ve brought this cake to 2 different dinner parties this February, and it has ended up being the belle of the ball, brightening up the dreariest of February days, and further demonstrating that Gluten-Free baked goods do not have to taste like sandy cardboard. Just substitued 1:1 GF Flour Mix and added a tsp of Xantham Gum. The photo is of the remains of last night’s dinner party: This cake I made with 2 layers, and a layer of toasted salted ground almonds in between, for a little crunch to the smooth weightlessness.
The recipe is adapted to be GF from Molly Wizenberg’s (genius) book, “A Homemade Life” (thanks again, Lynda!), which is adapted from her (genius!) blog . Highly highly recommended.
I skipped Molly's glaze, though, and instead for a buttercream, I used a simple recipe and sprinkled a little Moroccan saffron powder to get a sunnier yellow color and deeper flavor, instead of using yellow food coloring:
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
·       mix the butter, lemon zest and vanilla together, making sure all the lumps are gone.
·       add the milk, and quickly cream it into the butter mixture.
·       by the 1/2 cup, mix in the sugar.
·       once the sugar is all in the bowl, cream on "high" for two minutes. (I use this time to clean up)
·       mix in lemon juice.

The worst is over.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New City, New Life


So I've moved into a brand new neighborhood.

Into a brand new apartment...



With a brand new view out my window...


With brand new friends and neighbors...

There is incredible free art to be seen at countless museums...

and gluten-free cupcakes to be found around every corner!


...And best of all, new dreams to be built. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

National Security through the art of dinner parties

NYT Food Columnist (and food genius!) Mark Bittman makes the case for increased focus on the US food industry, for the safety of our bodies, and our nation. My next job post: part of the "Cooking Corps".
Read this veeeeery interesting article and tell me what you think!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

“The chief happiness for a man is to be what he is.” -Erasmus


2011: Be Gretchen.

Gretchen Rubin spent an entire year concentrating on increasing happiness by working on particular aspects in her life: her marriage in February, her work in March, her friendships in June, spirituality in August, etc. She writes about this year-long journey in The Happiness Project, which I’ve just finished reading. Through the course of this year, she comes up with “Twelve Commandments”; basically precepts that keep cropping up as she attempts to keep her monthly resolutions. Her very first commandment, “Be Gretchen”, is a concept that has been the theme of my life lately, and thus it is my 2011 New Year’s Resolution. (just in time! It’s legit to make resolutions anytime within the month of January, right?)

“I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am.” Gretchen writes. “Sometimes I pretend even to myself to enjoy activities that I don’t really enjoy, such as shopping, or to be interested in subjects that don’t much interest me, such as foreign policy.” 

I mean, I personally love foreign policy, but I see her point.
Too often I compare myself to others, or attempt to be interested in things, because I feel like I should. Like it will somehow make me a better person. But I’m sorry, I can’t cite very many hip new bands, I’ve never read Harry Potter, I’ll never look good in skinny jeans, and I just don’t care that much about economics. I really WANT to. But that’s just not Cath. 

I once asked a friend when was the last time he did something just because he wanted to, just because it gave him life; not because it looked good on his resume or prepared him for the next step. To my suprise, this charming, composed, ambitious young man responded by crying. 

And I could empathize. Life is too short, and we each need to invest in what gives us life.
And what better time to exercise “being Cath” than in a completely new setting? You may have noticed that I changed the layout of this blog recently (and still working on it!) My adventures will be less African-flavored, but no less adventuresome. I’m staring again at my beat-up red suitcases, packed and ready to head to Washington DC tomorrow morning. 

Being at my parents' has been a fabulous whirlwind of reunions, celebrating the holidays, reading, conversations, planning for the future, and travels within the US. But besides gaining a couple of pounds on all this gluten-free goodness, I’ve gotta get out because I’m itching to get my hands dirty again. I thrive on work, I realized, and you know me…just can’t sit still. Time to move on.  

So on the eve of the month which is always quite difficult for me, I’m starting anew. I’m hoping February won’t find me this year, if I move to a different city, or at least that it’ll be a little gracious. There are just so so many unknowns that I’m staring down. Daunting? More than a little. Exciting? That too. 

Author Tal Ben-Shahar describes the “arrival fallacy” in his book Happier. The arrival fallacy is the idea that, though you may anticipate great happiness in arriving somewhere or reaching a goal, arriving actually rarely makes you as happy as you had anticipated. If there is one thing that I have learned in my life of travels it is this: the journey is the destination, as cliché as that is. I am being mindful of all these new adventures, and trying not to fear the future, and especially trying not to stake my happiness on “success” in my new DC life. 

I’m not going to lie- I’ve had a few terrifying moments when I think over the bigness of what is ahead. New city, new job, new friends (inshahallah), new weather patterns (alhamdoulilah). However, I’ve come to serenity in the thought that I just need to “be Cath”, and enjoy the ride, no matter how dopey or unprepared I actually am.  

So, still figuring out what “being Cath” means as I move on to The Next Big Thing. This is my newest adventure. 

“As the Spanish proverb says, ‘He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.’”
-Samuel Johnson