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  1. Tuesday, May 26

    Snapshots from Malawi: Teach a Man and Woman to Farm and They’ll Eat Forever

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    Over the last week, every time someone excitedly asks, “How was Africa?” I don’t know how to respond. There is no fast, small-talk response. “Amazing” pretty much covers it, but that word sounds trite and insincere. “Life changing” sounds clichéd, even though it’s completely true. On the other hand, “Malawi was wonderful and joyful and sad and informative and beautiful and heartbreaking and inspiring and frustrating and oh so much more” just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like “amazing” or “life changing” does. As a writer and extrovert, I rarely find myself at a loss for words. But my thoughts and feelings about my trip to Malawi have rendered me speechless.

    snapshots from malawi: heifer goats by @janemaynardThe Mtika Family’s Goat Pen

    While I struggle for a good response in daily conversation, there are a few things I always find myself mentioning in these far-too-short conversations. One of those things is that organizations like Heifer International are doing truly transformative work and it’s because of the way they do it that the work is making such a difference. You know that phrase, “Give a man to fish and he’ll eat for a day; Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat forever”? THAT is what Heifer (and many others) are doing. And it works. I’ve seen firsthand that it works. People are eating every day because of what they have been taught.

    snapshots from malawi: the mtika family by @janemaynardThe Mtika Family

    Our first stop on the trip was at the home of the Mtika family. They live in a small village in the northern part of Malawi and have been working with Heifer for 4 years. Mr. Mtika is a lead farmer, meaning he helps train others in his community with the skills he has acquired through Heifer. I learned so much from Mr. and Mrs. Mtika, both about life in Malawi and about how Heifer works. The thing that stood out most to me, however, was their gratitude for being able to feed their children. When asked how Heifer has changed their lives, they responded that their children no longer go to bed hungry.

    snapshots from malawi: mtika family by @janemaynard

    snapshots from malawi: mr. mtika by @janemaynard

    Here’s the thing about Malawi. Poverty is everywhere. Poverty is the rule, not the exception, and the scale is mindboggling. We learned that for a diet to be considered nutritionally balanced, the goal is to get 6 foods into the daily diet. Malawians on average get only 4.3 foods. FOUR foods make up their ENTIRE diet. Even my most basic recipes have more than 4 ingredients. And, for that matter, the targeted 6 is still meager. These numbers were sobering to say the least.

    snapshots from malawi: cooking oven by @janemaynardThis is Rosie Bamoye, one of Mr. Mtika’s neighbors. She is fake cooking for the camera because she’s a good sport like that. These handmade ovens have improved the ability of these families to cook, including requiring 1/3 of the wood they used to need to cook. Rosie told us that she is herself transitioning from poverty to prosperity because of her goats that were passed on to her by Mr. Mtika. She has since passed goats on to others.

    As a food writer I was excited to try Malawian food. I learned quickly on our arrival that there really isn’t much traditional Malawian food to try. When people would find out I was a food writer they would excitedly ask, “Have you had nsima?” Nsima is a porridge-like food made with corn and water. That’s it. Corn. Water. For the duration of the trip I made sure to eat nsima at every meal where it was served.

    snapshots from malawi: cooking nsima by @janemaynardDorothy Mtika (11) making nsima in the family’s improved kitchen space.

    Gin and tonics are especially popular in Malawi. But even that seemingly fun fact was in reality a sobering discovery – tonic water contains quinine, an antimalarial ingredient. Bottom line: food and drink are quite simply about survival for most people in Malawi.

    snapshots from malawi by @janemaynard

    While visiting the Mtika’s village, a little girl in a grey dress was walking alongside me for quite some time. She had a bright smile that was never ending. I finally stopped to ask if she wanted her picture taken, which she did. Funny enough she would never smile for the camera like she did in person, but she still loved looking at herself on the small camera screen. After the photo she asked me something that I could not understand. I grabbed one of our drivers, who was able to translate.

    “Do you have a water bottle I can have?” was her question.

    I did in fact have one and readily handed it over. The driver was curious as to why this is what she asked for, so he asked her why she wanted it.

    “We use it so we can have lunch at school. We put maize in the bottle and add a little water. By lunchtime the maize is softened and that is what I eat.”

    Oh, this sweet girl. My heart just about burst.

    The driver and I asked her if she would take one more photo, this time holding her bottle. After much prodding we were able to get this one, joyful, smiley shot.

    snapshots from malawi by @janemaynard

    During our time in Malawi we did have delicious food, including fried chambo (a fish from Lake Malawi) and tons of Nali Peri-Peri sauce. I actually came home with 6 bottles of Nali because, apparently, I am crazy for African hot sauce.

    snapshots from malawi: fried chambo by @janemaynard

    snapshots from malawi: nali peri-peri sauce

    Needless to say all that I observed and learned about food in Malawi has been constantly on my mind. It has certainly made me even more grateful than I already was for what I have. And I can honestly say that making my daughters’ lunches each morning has transformed from a chore to an honor.

    And, when I start to feel emotionally overwhelmed thinking about food in Malawi, I think of the Mtikas and the many other farmers we met. Given the right resources and know-how they have been able to turn their lives around. These parents are now able to feed their families thanks to their own skills and abilities. It is a beautiful thing and is the key to having food “forever.”

    I traveled to Malawi as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign (www.one.org) and Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We visited to see the economic progress—and the lives changed—made possible by U.S.-funded programs and Heifer International’s donor-supported programs.

    ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funding.

    Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

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  2. Sunday, May 24

    Week 435 Menu

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    I simply cannot believe I have been home from Malawi for a week already. Time flies! I prepared a few menus before I left on that trip, but those have all run out and it’s time to get planning again!

    week 435 weekly menu from @janemaynard including FREE printable meal plan and shopping list!

    MONDAY:
    – Happy Memorial Day! Cookout on the grill (hot dogs, hamburgers, the usual)

    TUESDAY:
    – Busy night, so leftovers/cereal/whatever we can scrounge up

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Asian Spinach Salad

    THURSDAY:
    Caprese Paninis

    FRIDAY:
    Chili

    SATURDAY:
    – Takeout night

    SUNDAY:
    – Leftovers

    Click here for the free printable of this week’s menu plus the shopping list!

    As always, THANK YOU for sharing your menus! Keep it coming!

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  3. Friday, May 22

    Friday Show and Tell

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    Happy Friday! Hope you had a good week. Mine was okay. It was actually kind of rough coming off of Malawi – I was pretty emotional all week. But whenever I looked at these photos of Allison (from Heifer International) and I jumping in Lake Malawi, it made me happy!

    jumping into lake malawi from @janemaynardPhoto credit: Karen Walrond

    Just two food links for you this week!

    On Babble:

    On Parade’s Community Table:

    You know the drill – share your stuff! And have a great weekend!

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  4. Thursday, May 21

    Rhubarb Simple Syrup

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    I’m back in the kitchen! Yay! Today I have a fun seasonal recipe for you – rhubarb simple syrup!

    rhubarb simple syrup from @janemaynard

    Whether or not you like rhubarb you’ll like this syrup. With all the sugar involved it is anything but tart, and it adds a nice, subtle flavor twist to lemonades, punches, cocktails and more. You could even just drizzle a bit over ice cream or plain yogurt!

    rhubarb for simple syrup by @janemaynardrhubarb for simple syrup by @janemaynard

    I will have a recipe on Babble soon for Raspberry Rhubarb Sangria (including a alcohol-free version) that I will for sure share a link to when it goes live, and next week I just might have a Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade recipe for you, too. (Okay, I do, but you have to wait!)

    rhubarb simple syrup by @janemaynard

    Rhubarb Simple Syrup
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Perfect for flavoring drinks of all kinds!
    Author:
    Serves: ~9 ounces
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup chopped fresh rhubarb, ½" pieces (about 2 stalks)
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)
    Instructions
    1. Combine sugar, water and rhubarb in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
    2. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer mixture for 25 minutes.
    3. Strain mixture though a fine mesh sieve.
    4. Store in the refrigerator. Makes a little more than 1 cup of syrup.

     

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  5. Tuesday, May 19

    Snapshots from Malawi: You Came and Held Our Hands to Bring Us Where We Are

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    I don’t even know where to begin in telling you about my trip to Malawi. The trip was educational and fun, inspiring and disheartening, energizing and exhausting – it was basically all of the emotions stuffed into one week and I’m still kind of reeling from it all. I am planning to do a series of posts called Snapshots from Malawi over the next several months because that is the only way I can even begin to do justice to the stories from the trip.

    snapshots of malawi: gomani village | by @janemayanrdThe village of Gomani

    One of the main focuses of our trip was visiting with farmers who work with Heifer International. Luiza Mzungu, a 47-year-old widow from the village of Gomani, was one of those farmers. I will share more of her story with you in a future post, but she shared a phrase that resonated with me on many levels and is, I believe, the perfect way to begin this series of blog posts.

    snapshots from malawi: farmer luiza mzungu | from @janemaynardLuiza Mzungu

    As Luiza was talking with us about her cows and her life she said, “You came and held our hands to bring us where we are.” At the conclusion of that sentence, Luiza and her neighbors began to cheer and yell with joy. 

    Luiza is right. Heifer did come to Malawi and held her hand, guiding her to greater economic independence and a better life for her family. But the hand holding is not a one-way action. The Malawians we met wholeheartedly welcomed our group to their villages and not only held our hands but grasped them firmly. These people held our hands, looked us in the eye and shared their sorrows and their joys, their challenges and their hopes. They held our hands and taught us things we could never have learned any other way. They held our hands and proved that the world is indeed small. They held our hands and brought us to where we are today.

    snapshots of malawi: welcome to gomani village | by @janemaynardThe Gomani Village Welcome Wagon. Much more interesting than a basket of blueberry muffins.

    Our first night in Malawi was near the capital of Lilongwe, on the outskirts of town. As I lie in bed that night, the quiet was striking. The silence gave me a chance to ponder and wonder about what was coming that week. As morning arrived, the sounds of birds and roosters began to fill the air and I was ready to go! Honestly, looking back on that night and morning, I had no idea what I was getting into or just how profound the week would be. Sure, in theory I knew it would be a “life-changing” trip. But I didn’t know I would hold so many hands. Those hands have led me to a new place and I look forward to grasping your hands to bring you on this journey, too.

    I traveled to Malawi as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign (www.one.org) and Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We visited to see the economic progress—and the lives changed—made possible by U.S.-funded programs and Heifer International’s donor-supported programs.

    ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funding.

    Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

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  6. Sunday, May 17

    Week 434 Menu

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    Happy Sunday! Today is the day I get home from Malawi, but knowing I will be a zombie (yay for jet lag!), I actually put this menu together two weeks ago. I think I’ll be very happy with myself tonight when I don’t have to think about menu planning and can just go to bed. I picked lots of easy meals to ease back into real life.

    week #434 weekly menu from @janemaynard including FREE printable meal plan and shopping list!

    MONDAY:
    Sausage, Pepper and Onion Subs
    – Fruit and chips

    TUESDAY:
    – Mac & Cheese (the yummy Trader Joe’s kind from the freezer section)
    – Salad

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Pancakes
    – Fruit salad

    THURSDAY:
    Chicken Caesar Wraps
    – Chips

    FRIDAY:
    – Eat out night

    SATURDAY:
    – Hamburgers on the grill
    – Fresh raw veggies

    SUNDAY:
    – Leftovers

    Click here for the free printable of this week’s menu plus the shopping list!

    Can’t wait to see what you’ve got cooking this week, please share!

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  7. Friday, May 15

    Friday Show and Tell: Farewell to Malawi

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    Hello Friends! Today is my last day in Malawi and I’m about to head off to the farewell dinner. As I expected the week has flown by and I have seen so many beautiful parts of this country, met so many of its wonderful people and learned so many things about the challenges Malawi faces. You better believe I’ll be writing a whole bunch of posts in the coming weeks.

    a visit to lake malawi by @janemaynard

    The Internet has been very spotty all week, so I didn’t end up doing blog posts like I had planned. But I did keep Instagram updated, so if you haven’t been following over there, please be sure to check out the videos and photos I’ve been posting. They are among some of my favorite images ever.

    See you in the U.S. on Sunday! Have a wonderful weekend!

    Oh, and, OF COURSE feel free to share stuff for Show and Tell!

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  8. Sunday, May 10

    Week 433 Menu

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    Hey, everybody! Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there!

    Right now I’m on a plane headed to Malawi with ONE and Heifer International…or maybe I’m actually in Malawi by now. I’m not totally sure because I wrote this menu post ahead of time! I have NO idea what I’m going to be eating this week, but I do know what Nate and the kids will be eating. I bought a ton of food ahead of time and tried to think of nice easy meals that Nate and my dad (who is helping out while I’m gone) can throw together.

    week #433 weekly menu from @janemaynard including FREE printable meal plan and shopping list!

    MONDAY:
    – Caprese Salad and crusty bread

    TUESDAY:
    – Chicken Verde Enchiladas (from Costco)
    – Chips and salsa

    WEDNESDAY:
    Pepperoni naan pizzas

    THURSDAY:
    – Spaghetti
    – Salad

    FRIDAY:
    – Eat out night

    SATURDAY:
    – Hot dogs
    – Chips and salsa

    SUNDAY:
    – Jack Daniel’s Pulled BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwiches (from Costco)
    – Coleslaw

    Click here for the free printable of this week’s menu plus the shopping list!

    Your turn! Share those marvelous menus of yours!

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  9. Friday, May 8

    Why I Am Going to Malawi

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    why I am going to malawi

    When I started college, I chose International Relations as a major, with a focus on developing countries and women’s studies. I stuck with that major right up until graduation and wrote my undergrad thesis about the challenges of creating and enforcing international women’s rights laws. I was very passionate about the issues that I studied and had visions of, well, I’m not entirely sure what my visions were, but I know they involved helping people. From the time I was a child, I was acutely aware of how fortunate I was to be born in the time and place that I was. And I was also always very concerned about those who were less fortunate.

    Surprising myself more than anyone I got married in college (what?!) and we ended up moving to San Diego, where (as a liberal arts major who could write) I started working in the communications department for a wireless company. My work pretty much had nothing to do with what I studied, but I was still interested in those issues and have remained so all these years. And, honestly, my life evolved in a beautiful and wonderful way, through graphic design and blogging and motherhood, bringing me to where I am today

    Three years ago I met Jeannine Harvey from ONE at the Mom 2.0 Summit. We instantly connected on about 500 different levels and have stayed in touch and worked together ever since. Talking with Jeannine about ONE’s goals reinvigorated my interest and concern for the developing world. It has been rewarding to work with ONE over the years, using my platform to inform others about the issues facing our world and specifically developing regions like Africa.

    I can’t even tell you how excited and fortunate I feel to be able to join ONE and Heifer International on this journey to Malawi. For the first time I will visit the continent that I have spent countless hours studying and writing about. I will get the chance to meet and connect with the people of Malawi, a country known as the “Warm Heart of Africa,” and see how foreign aid has and will continue to benefit their communities and families. And then I get to write about it, share what I learn with you, help spread the word to further garner support for programs that are helping people in meaningful ways.

    My dad asked me this week why I’m going to Malawi. “So, you’re going to change the world, huh?” he said. I laughed and said, “Of course!” Seriously, though, I am under no illusions that my visit is going to change the world. I am just one person, but I am one person who can tell other people what I see and learn, and together we can change the world. I really, truly believe we can.

    On my flight from San Diego to Washington, D.C. today I spent about 4 hours reading briefing materials for the trip. At one point while I was reading the information about Heifer International I was overwhelmed with emotion. I literally started crying, which I promptly tried to cover up so that the StitchFix stylist and her husband didn’t see the tears streaming down my face. Just when I thought I had it under control, the tears returned. While I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer vastness and complexity of the problems at hand, that wasn’t what brought the tears to my eyes. I was crying because I felt overwhelmed at the goodness of humans. Organizations like Heifer as well as governments like that of the U.S. are doing truly transformative work to help others who are less fortunate, others who could not improve their world without help. People devote their lives to these causes and do make a difference. It’s inspiring and beautiful.

    I think it’s easy to sometimes feel like the problems are too big, so, why bother? But the fact is we are all connected in this world, more so than we ever have been before, and it is our duty as humans to help one another. I cried on the plane because, despite so much that is wrong with our world, the desire to help one another burns in enough hearts to be a powerful force. People are living up to their duty of helping others and it is changing the world. I feel honored to be just one small part of that change.

    In preparation for my trip I stopped at RoadRunner Sports to get some socks. (They have great socks.) The man helping me asked where I was going to be traveling and when I told him Africa, his hand flew to his chest and he was physically overcome with happiness. He said, “Oh! Africa! It is my heart!” I learned that he was from Liberia and he was, quite simply, joyful about my trip. It was amazing to me how one small interaction communicated so much.

    I look forward to more small interactions with all kinds of wonderful people over the next week. I look forward to connecting with individuals, hearing their stories, and then sharing them with you. And I look forward to bringing home Africa in my heart.

    I’m traveling to Malawi as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign (www.one.org) and Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We are visiting to see the economic progress—and the lives changed—made possible by US funded programs and Heifer International’s donor-supported programs.

    ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funding.

    Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

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  10. Friday Show and Tell

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    Happy Friday, everyone! I have a lot to “show and tell” today and a lot to say about my trip to Africa (I’m getting on my first plane of the trip in 30 minutes!), so I decided to split the two up and I’ll be doing a separate Africa post later tonight from Washington, D.C. So, let’s show and tell, shall we?

    netflix chef's table from @janemaynard

    First, I just discovered a new original documentary series on Netflix that I’m loving called Chef’s Table. It tells the story of 6 of the world’s most renowned chefs and I love it. It’s beautifully constructed and the stories are wonderful. I highly recommend it!

    "a bone to pick" by mark bittman

    Mark Bittman has a new book A Bone to Pick. I’ve ordered my copy and can’t wait to dig in. I love that guy and the way he talks about our food system. I am really looking forward to reading his latest thoughts!

    albion fit's soulstice retreat

    Remember my friends Liz and Dave who started the activewear company Albion Fit? They just announced their retreat Soulstice and it looks AMAZING. It’s expensive, yes, but it really is a top notch, 5-star, every attendees gets a $1500 gift bag kind of experience. Albion is also offering a group discount if you are interested. Groups of 6+ can each register for $2399 (limited spaces available). Just click on the 6+ discount when you register and enter the code TWFD. And if you go you just might run into me in a yoga class!

    serrano salsa by @janemaynard

    Last thing, one food link for the week! I put together an awesome roundup of salsa recipes for Parade’s Community Table. You should definitely check it out!

    That’s all! (Ha! That was a ton of stuff!) Happy Friday! And don’t forget to share your own finds, links, blog posts, thoughts, whatever!

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