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Category: food for thought

  1. Wednesday, February 1, 2023

    Sixteen years of seasons

    Hello! It’s been a while. I succumbed to “December,” the month of birthdays, holidays, merriment and just not enough time. Then January came and with it an immediate business trip, trying to get back into a normal routine and so many sick days. Dinner has been ad hoc through these weeks, a mix of pantry cooking, Hello Fresh meals here and there, takeout and sometimes (if we’re lucky) actual meal planning. Now I am ready to post again, connect with you all, and cook some food, whether it’s planned ahead or not.

    Acacia tree | Copyright 2023 This Week for DinnerThis is my acacia tree, planted after I visited Malawi with ONE and Heifer International. While in Malawi the acacia trees were in bloom all over the country. I came home and planted one almost immediately. It is very happy in Carlsbad, growing like a monster and making a big old mess of the backyard. But every time it blooms, as it is doing now, it makes my heart so happy. Here is one of the blooms for you. Enjoy.

    Fun fact: today marks 16 years for this little corner of the Internet! I started This Week for Dinner simply as a way to share basic weekly dinner plans with my brother, who was in college at the time. Since then I have had the opportunity to connect with countless magical humans, both here in the comments and in person. It has been fulfilling in ways that were both predictable and not and I am grateful every day.

    At some point along the way a (truly wonderful, wow-am-I-lucky-!) literary agent reached out to me about writing a cookbook. Which turned into a book about the women who influenced my cooking and my life. Which turned into a book about how the food in our life at any given time so often reflects the different seasons we are going through. Andi-the-magical-agent is still waiting for my book proposal – the season of writing has yet to arrive. But I have been thinking about this theme of seasons all week as my blog hits yet another milestone.

    When I started the blog, our oldest Cate was two years old. A few months later I became pregnant with Anna (yes, my blog is older than two of my children!), at which time morning sickness arrived in a monstrous way and, for a few months, I posted fake menus to keep my brand new blog going. Two-year-old Cate is now 18 and starting to receive college acceptance letters. Anna is 15 and Owen is 11. The season of being an elementary school mom is almost over. The season of having part of my heart go out into the world to embark on independence is about to to begin. 

    My current short-term season is one where I find my work life once again in an uncertain place. I’ve been here before, many times. I am actually not as freaked out as I would have predicted in the face of this uncertainty, thanks to the combination of an incredibly supportive husband and professional network, as well as the gift of time to mentally prepare for potential change. During this season, cooking dinner has been a welcome activity. And it’s been interesting – normally a lack of weekly planning causes me stress. But lately that lack of planning has brought much needed flexibility of mind for me. I’ve been going with the flow culinarily and I am actually cooking more than in other past stressful times. 

    Which brings me back to theme of food and seasons of life. My blog has been a literal documentation for me of the various seasons we have gone through. I can see the food we ate through all these years and how it reflects where we were at different point in our lives. Sixteen years ago I was still finding my own footing as a cook. Then I grew more confident. Then I became quite good at cooking and writing recipes (Bragadocious alert! IYKYK), and there were years where I wrote on here 3-5 times a week as well as regularly for other publications(!!!!). Over the past few years, as I’ve gone back to full-time work in Corporate America, I find myself posting just once a week. I’m sure the blog, like my life, will continue to evolve, bringing new and unexpected opportunities and ways to connect.

    No matter how long you’ve been around This Week for Dinner, thank you for being here. I am so grateful that even with the advent of powerful social media networks pretty much killing blogging that I can keep this little-blog-that-could going. I refuse to let it die! I will post menus until the Internet blows up! And, believe it or not, I actually have a few recipes I owe you, all photographed and everything. See? I am still cooking.

    Happy Sweet Sixteen, This Week for Dinner

  2. Wednesday, June 28, 2017

    How Shopping at My Local Farmer’s Market Reinvigorated Life in the Kitchen…and Got Our Family Eating Healthier!

    This post is sponsored by the American Heart Association Healthy For Good movement. The views, opinions and positions expressed within this post belong to Jane Maynard of This Week for Dinner and do not necessarily represent those of The American Heart Association unless explicitly stated.

    Local Tomatoes from Cyclops Farms | Photo from @janemaynard

    My new year’s resolution for 2017 was to cook more. I know it might seem strange to have a food blogger make this her resolution, but the fact of the matter was I had let cooking take the back burner (pun intended!). So, as 2017 kicked off, I decided to really focus on cooking again. And that focus has worked and made me a much happier person as a result.

    2016 was a rough year for several reasons that I won’t get into, but it really is no surprise that making dinner wasn’t a top priority for a good portion of the year. We were eating out a ton, which always makes me uneasy because I know we’re consuming way more calories, fat and sodium than we should be eating. There were a lot of pancake and cereal nights, too. I’ve made peace with how dinner went down in 2016 and have told myself “everything in its season.” But I am also feeling so good about the fact that I’ve been in the kitchen more this year, even during times that get especially busy.

    Cyclops Farms in Oceanside, CA | image from @janemaynard

    One of the keys to the success of this year’s resolution has been shopping at our local farmer’s market each week. There is a farmer’s market every Wednesday (all year!) in my town and after 3 1/2 years into living here I had never visited. I KNOW. It’s just so weird because things like farmer’s markets and CSAs make me so happy! So, as part of the resolution to cook more, I started going to the market each week. We also discovered a small, organic farm smack dab in the middle of a nearby neighborhood that is perhaps the happiest place in San Diego, with devoted shoppers and restaurateurs carefully selecting their produce each week.

    I cannot tell you how AWESOME this change in my life has been. First off, it’s fun telling my friends that I am going “to the market.” They think like I sound like a European grandmother and never quite know what I’m talking about.

    Cyclops Farms in Oceanside, CA | image from @janemaynard

    Beyond sounding like a European grandmother, going to the market each week has kept me much more in touch with what food is in season at any given time and our meals have reflected that natural seasonality more and more. And I love buying local – most of the farmers represented are located in my town or neighboring communities. I love knowing that our family is having a positive environmental impact through buying so much more of our food close to home.

    There’s been another unexpected benefit of going to the farmer’s market each week: my cooking has gotten more fun and creative. As you know, I’m totally about planning a weekly menu. My shopping list is always built around that plan and I rarely stray from the list when I am at the store. Going to the farmer’s market has gotten me to have a little more fun with our meals and add a bit of flexibility to the planning. Yes, I go into the market with a list, but I also let the fruits and vegetables that happen to be there that week drive what we eat. It’s made cooking fun and creative. (If you’re looking for a little creative inspiration before your next shopping run, consider shopping and serving the rainbow!)

    And, of course, the biggest benefit has been that we are eating way more homemade food, which is just plain healthier than takeout and most restaurant foods. I have been meaning to write this post about my new farmer’s market habit and the American Heart Association finally gave me the kick I needed to get it done. I am so happy to share my experience as part of their Healthy For Good campaign (did you know it’s National Fruit + Vegetable Month?), which encourages us all to Eat Smart, Add Color, Move More and Be Well.

    Remember that rough year I had in 2016? It kind of got me down. I felt uninspired and the stress of everything definitely caused me to rely too heavily on eating out. This post from the AHA about unhealthy eating as related to stress really spoke to me, especially numbers 2 and 6! I am telling you that this new focus I have had on nourishing myself and my family through food has been transformative. Yes, I still feel stress. Yes, I am still getting over some of that 2016 nonsense. But taking the time to focus on food has been amazingly uplifting. Plus, getting outside and walking for my grocery shopping sure has made life happier, too!

    I’m sure you’re wondering if I get all of my food at the farmer’s market…and the answer is no! First I hit the farmer’s market then pop over to my local grocery store to get other staples that weren’t at the market. I’ve never really loved food shopping, but now I look forward to it each week!

    So, that’s the update on this year’s resolution to cook more. The farmer’s market is my new happy place and I love the effect it’s had on our eating and on my life in general. And it’s totally helping me keep my new year’s resolution.

    Happy cooking!

  3. Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    Vote for Clean Air and a Happy Earth This November!

    Hey, guys. I don’t get political here on the ol’ blog. I believe all sides of all issues have valid arguments and, well, this is a food blog and not really the place to hash out those issues and arguments. But you do know that I care deeply about the environment and write about environmental issues all the time. In addition to caring about the environment, I am a firm believer in the idea that every little bit helps and that all of our cumulative small actions lead to big change, hence a focus on my blog over the years on things like cutting paper towels, composting and eating less meat.

    Clean Air Moms Action - Pledge to Vote for the Environment!

    In case you weren’t aware, there is an election in two weeks. (Hahahahaha! I am so funny!) I am not publicly backing any candidates or telling you which way you should vote. But I am excited about voting and have gotten more involved on the local level this year than I ever have. I am really excited to turn in my ballot and have loved talking with my kids about the election. I was recently approached by the Clean Air Moms Action to see if I’d be willing to encourage the same excitement among my readers and I was like, YES! And, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I also want to encourage you to consider clean air, environmental factors and climate change when you vote.

    I am not a one-issue voter, but if I was, the environment would be that issue for me. I feel like this election season (and society at large) is like Game of Thrones. In Game of Thrones you have all these warring and competing political factors, all vying for power, all doing anything and everything to get that power. But while that squabbling is happening, “winter is coming,” i.e. literal winter but also those scary glassy-eyed White Walkers that the politicians don’t even believe exist. For me climate change is that proverbial winter. We are concerned with all these other issues while the environment, the one thing that is absolutely crucial to our survival, gets largely ignored. Rising waters are eating away at our coastline (interesting NY Times report here and Wharton podcast here). Drought will not go away. CRAZY WEATHER (no links necessary!). All of it is happening, and yet the presidential debates barely touched the issue, with 82 seconds in the first debate, one question from the audience for the second debate (go Ken Bone!), and two seconds in the third debate, despite the fact that “How will you address climate change?” was the fourth most popular question submitted to the Open Debate Coalition. What the WHAT.

    Okay, obviously I have a strong opinion about all of this, so I’m going to cut myself short and just ask you to think about the environment when you vote. I’m not asking you to make it your one issue (although I’d be cool with that! ;)), I just want you to give it some good consideration. The changing climate is impacting food production and so much more. Let’s get ahead of the problem and make some positive changes, starting with our elected representatives and ballot initiatives!

    There are tons of great voter guides online, partisan and non-partisan alike, where you can find out where candidates stand on this issue. If you’re a fan of the Sierra Club, you can view their endorsements on this page. Seek out good resources and learn all you can. Vote as if your child’s health depends on it…because it does!

    And if you are feeling as pumped up about this issue as I am, go to Clean Air Moms Action and pledge to vote!

    We live in an imperfect yet great country and I am grateful for my opportunity to participate in our democracy. Happy Voting! Happy Earth!

    This post was produced with support from Clean Air Moms Action.

  4. Wednesday, December 23, 2015

    Live the full catastrophe with open arms and soft heart

    The photos in this post were from an event hosted by Liz and Andy Laats in March 2015 to support The Clearity Foundation. I was honored to be the photographer that night. 

    liz and andy laats | the clearity foundation

    December is my stress month. I try not to make it that way, but every year, without fail, December catches up to me. Our family celebrates Christmas and I love this season dearly, but so help me December is a bear. A polar bear, of course. Actually, a pack of polar bears (is that even what you call a group of bears?) that wants to take me out, as slowly and painfully as possible.

    Okay, I’m exaggerating. (Kind of.)

    This year, in the midst of all the craziness, a badass woman I know passed away. Her name was Liz Laats. Liz was one of those people who made everyone she met feel like a close friend. Liz was one of those people who lived life with gusto. Liz was one of those people who was eloquent all of the time. Liz was one of those people who appreciated good cheese (she taught me how to taste cheese properly) and a good margarita (now known fondly as the Lizzie-rita). Liz was one of those people who was forced to battle cancer. Liz fought the beast that is ovarian cancer for 6 1/2 years with a humility and grace that was equally inspiring and heartbreaking.

    liz laats - the lizzie-rita

    Liz passed away nearly two weeks ago, leaving behind an incredible husband and three children, as well as an entire universe of people with richer lives because Liz was a part of them.

    liz laats

    As I’ve worked my way through this month, balancing career with family with the holidays and everything else, Liz has been constantly on my mind. Over the last 6 1/2 years, Liz kept friends and family updated on her “cancer stuff” with email updates that were equal parts funny, heartwarming, sad and beautiful. I’ve been re-reading her messages this month, trying to keep them on my mind and in my heart at all times. There are recurring themes in Liz’s updates that are each enlightening, but there is an overarching sense of gratitude and a need to embrace life that is palpable in all her words, no matter what the latest news was. Liz’s friend Petrea Marchand shared the following email exchange she had with Liz that I think sums Liz up beautifully:

    Petrea: Finally, I leave you with an unanswerable philosophical question. Why is life – such a gift, such a pleasure – so damn hard?

    Liz: I have no idea why life is hard, my friend, but I do know life is precious and short. We can live the full catastrophe with open arms and soft heart, or we can try to try to fight it. I recommend living the full catastrophe. To be clear, the full catastrophe is the full life – with family, husband, kids, jobs — all the things that we seek but then make us crazy. This is the life we wanted – rich with good people, bound by love to each other. Rise up to it, my friend. Grab it. Hug it! Work at it. Just don’t forget to breathe as you go through it.

    liz laats and friends

    Let’s live the full catastrophe, shall we? For Liz. For our loved ones. For ourselves.

  5. Thursday, July 9, 2015

    Light for Light + An Easy and Important Way YOU Can Help Right Now to Electrify Africa

    Today I am writing as part of a month-long blog relay for ONE called “Light for Light.” At the end of this post there is a SUPER EASY way for you to do some real good. You won’t even have to click off this site to do it, so lend your voice (and your typing fingers) and help out!

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    When I’m wearing my photographer’s hat, I crave outdoor light. It makes lighting photos easier, everything looks more natural, and the pictures are generally more beautiful and striking. And, for my work as a food photographer, natural light is essential. If I have to photograph something using indoor light, well, I am not a happy camper.

    This week, however, I have been trying to look at indoor light differently. I’ve been looking for the beauty in the “unnatural” light that I so often disdain. Because, truly, that light is beautiful. It is warm. It is inviting. And it gives our family opportunities beyond imagination.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    My children can eat breakfast in the warmth of their own well-lit kitchen, even before the sun rises.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    My children can read, even after the sun sets.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    The orchid in my kitchen glows under the 1 kitchen light we leave on during evening hours to light our way through the house. It is beautiful.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    Our family can enjoy holidays and birthdays and celebrations of all kinds under the lights hanging over our patio, those lights becoming a part of the fabric that is our collective family memory.

    I am truly grateful for this this light that provides so much life after sunset. Yeah, I still need that “perfect” daylight for my food photography, but I will no longer shy away from the “imperfect” light that the photographer in me so often avoids. I will embrace the challenge and be grateful for that light.

    When I traveled to Malawi in May and discovered a world where less than 10% of the people have electricity, I was stunned. To see with my own eyes what life is like for an entire country essentially without electricity, well, it was beyond what I had ever imagined.

    I heard many, many, MANY statistics on the Malawi trip, and they all affected me deeply. But there were a few that really stood out, including this: 8 out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa heat their home and cook food using open fires. Inhalation of smoke and fumes produced from burning traditional fuels results in more deaths per year among women and children than from HIV/AIDS and malaria COMBINED. Forget the issue of simply lighting your home, lack of electricity is literally killing people every day.

    The other thing that stood out to me while looking at the homes in the villages we visited were the schoolchildren. Once the sun goes down, studying and reading is out of the question. The fact that my girls can read for hours each night is a luxury. Their head lamps for reading in bed are a blessing.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    Here’s the cool thing – we can do something about it! ONE’s bill, the Electrify Africa Act, was reintroduced in the House this past month by Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).  The bill would help provide electricity to 50 million Africans for the first time, at no cost to US taxpayers

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynardLet’s help make everyone’s nighttime merry and bright!

    This same bill did not pass last year and we can’t let that happen again! We need to tell our leaders that we support this bill. Simply fill out the form below and click “sign petition” and you will have helped in a significant way. Thank you!

    I am participating in the #lightforlight blog relay with ONE. Each day this month a different blogger is writing about light and tomorrow Whit Honea will be sharing his thoughts at Dads 4 Change, so be sure to check it out! Here are the posts that have been published so far. They are all beautiful.

    For those of you who would like to read more on the subject, here are some great resources:

  6. Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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

    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 ( and Heifer International ( 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.

  7. Tuesday, May 19, 2015

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

    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 ( and Heifer International ( 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.

  8. Friday, May 15, 2015

    Friday Show and Tell: Farewell to Malawi

    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!

  9. Friday, May 8, 2015

    Why I Am Going to Malawi

    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 ( and Heifer International ( 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.

  10. Friday Show and Tell

    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!