Get In Shape And Protect Your Mental Health By Making Gardening Your New Hobby

If you’ve tried adding a workout, fitness video, or the gym to your daily routine and failed, don’t beat yourself up. There’s a reason for it. According to Naveed Sattar, an expert in metabolic medicine at Glasgow University, “The key thing [to a successful fitness routine] is sustainability. The way to keep exercising is to do something you love – such as gardening – or do something for a reason, such as walking or cycling to work.”

The idea is to create an added benefit or purpose to your exercise. This can mean walking or biking as a regular form of transportation or harvesting fresh tomatoes and beans from your backyard. Sattar recommends gardening: “Gardening is great – it gets you outside, it helps build muscle and it burns calories.”

All it takes is a backyard, front yard, small plot of soil, or access to a community garden to get started. And while potted plants on a balcony or entryway may yield positive benefits to your mental health (and maybe a few tomatoes), they aren’t big enough to give you the physical exertion needed for weight loss or physical fitness.

Boost Mood And Fight Depression

There are benefits to gardening that extend beyond the physical – and these can come from a large section of tilled soil or a collection of potted herbs. Apparently, growing plants can boost your mood and reduce the symptoms of depression. According to Psychology Today, gardening releases the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for a sense of relaxation. In addition, levels of cortisol, which are known to trigger stress, are reduced. Gardening can even be a therapeutic pastime for people in addiction recovery. It’s a hobby that involves exercise and sunshine, which both offer emotional benefits for those moving past substance abuse issues.

Gardening For Chronic Pain

Gardeners that aren’t restricted to containers may also find that the physical effort of weeding, digging, and planting helps to relieve chronic pain. As a low-impact exercise, gardening can provide an alternative to more vigorous physical activities while improving dexterity by strengthening the muscles and tendons in the hands, wrists, and fingers.

Gardening Can Improve Your Diet

An added benefit of growing fruits, veggies, and herbs is that you can choose not to spray them with harsh chemicals and pest repellents, giving you a beautiful backyard harvest of organic produce. By enjoying the “fruits” of your labor, you’ll improve your diet, which will support those fitness and weight loss benefits we talked about. Not only that, you’ll save money at the supermarket, where organic and non-GMO fare are increasingly expensive.

With all these benefits, both mental and physical, it’s no wonder that gardening as an American pastime is growing by leaps and bounds. As of 2016, 74% of US households were involved in gardening of some sort. That’s a whole lot of stress-reduction, physical fitness, and mental health protection. So whether you choose to add a vegetable bed, an herb garden or an island bed of flowers set apart from your current landscaping, consider taking advantage of all the benefits gardening has to offer.

The way people ask me questions…

I have a subreddit.

Yes, it’s true!

And I also have a YouTube channel..

What? Don’t you?

Well, the reddit thing is pretty recent and it was started as a way to let people see more of the behind the scenes of our lifestyle, home, kids, stuff like that. I even started a “ask me questions and I might consider answering them section”… I know. I know. I’m so hip with the times. Hee hee.

I’ve definitely received a pile of really good questions so far! It’s going better than I expected, truly. Though there is one thing that is driving me crazy about the questions… (And not just the reddit ones, but also the YouTube, my contact form, email, Facebook and sometimes even instant messaging… ) whenever a person includes within their question(s) the following:

Have you and/or J… discussed/considered/thought about/talked about/researched/given an inkling of mind space to… Insert topic here.

I know people mean well and are just trying to wrap their heads around our quirky lifestyle choices, but I really find this portion of the questions to be offensive and belittling.

It’s equivalent to pretending you are my parent and that you are under the delusion that I (a 37 year old educated woman, who is well traveled, articulate, inquisitive, does not accept the status quo of just do what you’re told, actively thinks for herself, who has birthed two children and they’re thriving) am a complete and utter moron who walks around blindly following the other sheeple without a care or thought to my life or the impact my decisions make on my family, who now  needs to explain that decision to you.

Now I am not saying that I am perfect by any stretch of the imagination.. Because I’m not.

As a matter of fact, I make really irrational and emotional decisions, that are no bueno, often.

Like several times a day often.

Even when I’m NOT pregnant!

But when there are decisions to be made about myself or my family that will have any major impact on my/our overall well-being, be that choosing the father of my children, having children in the first place, getting pregnant, moving to a foreign country, building a home, raising children, getting animals, land purchases, food choices, etc…

Planning, discussion and research, etc. happens FIRST.

So… Yes, I/we HAVE… discussed/considered/thought about/talked about/researched/given more than an inkling of mind space to…your question…. Waaay before you thought to ask it.

So please, from the bottom of my heart, when you ask me question, assume I am an intelligent, active life participating woman, who keeps my family’s safety and well being at the top of my list before even DECIDING to do anything. Then discussing with J, planning accordingly and executing said plan together, with lots of plan B, C and D’s when appropriate.


Nutty Cranberry Squares

I have been really craving cranberries lately… and cake. So much so that I have been shoveling the dried cranberries in to my mouth in heaping handfuls. It’s so hard being pregnant sometimes. 😂 Since we’ve been out of flour for over a week now, (I know it’s almost a sacrilege) I’ve had to make do without cake. It was rough I tell you, but somehow I survived. Today J went to the local grocery house on his really amazing kayak walking machine. I handed him a list and the reusable grocery bags/box, and he was off and elliptical jogging over the ocean. It’s really a very fun machine to use. Anyway upon returning home I rummaged through the bags and pulled out potatoes and started making fries and chips. After making a few batches I got the bag of flour open and whipped up this delicious masterpiece of cranberry, walnut, almond deliciousness.

You’re welcome.

Cranberry Almond Walnut Squares


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or melted butter cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries (think Craisins)
  • 1/2 cup hand crushed walnuts
  • 1/2 cup blanched almond slivers


  • Mixing bowl
  • 2 cup glass measuring cup or equivalent cup size for mixing wet ingredients
  • Whisk or fork
  • Rubber spatula
  • 8×8 pan
  • Oven


  1. Preheat oven 350° and lightly grease an 8″ pan.
  2. Thoroughly mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Whisk wet ingredients in a cup.
  4. Gently combine wet and dry ingredients together in bowl using rubber spatula.
  5. Add fruit and nuts until evenly distributed through thick batter.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan then put pan in to heated oven.
  7. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top and a knife or toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Let cool completely and frost or glaze as you wish.


Introducing Island Ducks!

12lbs of duck in a box!

Our newest addition to the bird family! Ducks!

I posted this on Facebook over a month ago when we first acquired our latest birds, but was hesitant to write a post about them until the initial “adjustment” period for our new four feathered friends. We’ve given them half of the clay floored first floor in the towered dome in progress for the past month. We were told by the lady who sold them to us to keep them penned in for a month to 5 weeks. So we provided them with all the things they could need for comfort and safety and counted the days until we could open the door for them to venture out into the wilderness again. The reason for the “captivity” period, for those unfamiliar with ducks, unlike chickens, ducks will just go back to where they were before… Especially when it’s basically across the street (mangroves in our case). We learned this the first time we left the door open on day 1 of having them here.

In order to ingratiate myself on the ducks, daily, I fed them fresh cracked oysters and mussels. Within a few days they started eating from my hand, mobbing me more like it, and quickly grew to know me as the food bringer. After about 4 weeks two adventurous birds decided to test out their ability to fly and got up to the open second floor, but just sat there, mildly perplexed it seemed. At that time we felt it would be okay to open the door of their captivity and see what they’d do. I continued feeding them as usual, several times a day and they seemed content to just stay put. Until today! Finally they climbed their wooden ramp to freedom and wandered around the island, staying close to the “nest.” Then two ran back into the safety of the first floor space when J walked by, the other two just scurried away a bit, but otherwise didn’t seem really bothered. A few moments after the girls and I came to feed them the same pair took to flight and soared out over the mangroves landing with a neat splash into canal right in front of the houseboat. They were like happy children let out to play after many days cooped up inside. It was a pure delight to watch them.

Shortly after they ventured into the mangroves and I was certain never to be heard from again, fearing they would not return. But as I called out food time a hour or so later (it was evening at this point) I saw them waddling back to the island wall, looking for a way to get back in. I continued calling and guiding them with my sounds.. And eventually both ducks successfully returned to the coop and the company of their less adventurous fellows. It was amazing and such a relief to me.

So it’s official! We’re now proud parents of a flock of ducks. Three hens/ducks and one drake! I would like you to meet…

Duckorama (J-Me’s drake, white with light grey covering head and back)

Glory – (AJM’s duck/hen, mostly black with shimmering purple and teal hue and some white underneath)

Duckstar (BAM’s duck/hen, white with medium gray covering head and back)

Calypso (My duck/hen, white with black (teal/purple hue))

How to Turn Your Favorite Pastime into a Profitable Business

Photo Credit:Unsplash

Have you ever dreamed about what it would be like to be your own boss? Or, how nice it would be to wake up and head to your home office, instead of embarking on a long, treacherous commute? Perhaps you’ve daydreamed about what it might actually feel like to be passionate about your job.

The notion of work hard and play harder is a stark reminder that we often disassociate our work with fun. But why can’t our work be fun? After all, when Walt Disney took his passion for drawing to his first job in 1919, who would have imagined he’d turn his love for art into a multi-billion dollar industry, and one of the most recognized brands in the world?

If you’re thinking about following in Walt’s footsteps, and turning your passion into a business, you might want to start by asking yourself a few questions.

Is your hobby marketable? In other words, if your favorite pastime is tennis or golf, you’re probably not going to be turning yourself pro any time soon. Your hobby has to be something that translates to a need in the marketplace.

Are you willing to change how you view your hobby? Turning your hobby into a business can take some of the joy out of it. If you’re passionate about graphic design, for example, are you willing to put your labor of love out there to be critiqued and valued? What you think is worth $500 dollars a potential customer may only value at $200.

Are you committed to this hobby? There’s a difference between what we’re called to do and something you take on to pass the time, consider this.

Can you sell not only your products but yourself? If you’ve got a great product for the world to see, you have to be willing and able to sell yourself.

If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, you’re ready for some tips to make a go at your new living.

Make a plan. The first step in monetizing your passion is drafting a business plan. This plan will serve as a roadmap to the future, by including what you plan to do and how you plan to do it.

Learn about starting a home-based business. If you’re going to be working from home, keep these things in mind.

  • Learn the home-based business laws in your area. Make sure zoning and licensing allow you to conduct your specific business from home.
  • Even though you’re working from home, you’ll want to make sure to set up your business as a legal entity. And always keep your personal and business finances separate.
  • Even if you’re working from your home in pajamas, your image in the marketplace needs to be professional. Take the time to have business cards, letterhead, and marketing materials that make you look accomplished.
  • Consider the logistics of working from home. For example, if you have children that require daily attention come summer time, how will you negotiate working free of interruption?

Make online presence a priority. In today’s computer-driven world, any business needs a strong online presence to generate business. You’ll need SEO, a website, and social media pages, for starters.

Network. Plan on attending industry meetings and joining local organizations that allow you to meet potential customers. Start an online blog. Ask your customers for referrals, and encourage them to spread the good word through positive testimonials. Networking can help you achieve things you couldn’t otherwise do alone.

Be Persistent. When the road to your business’s success gets bumpy, and it will, it can be easy to flood your mind with doubt. Instead, commit yourself to being persistent through all of the challenges your new venture will bring.

So maybe your new business won’t quite make you the next Walt Disney, but your unbridled passion can fuel a business worth building. With proper planning, and a fair amount of personal grit, you can create a profitable marketplace for your services. And, in the words of Walt himself, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” It’s time to make your dream a reality.

What do we eat?

Pork raised and butchered by a local indigenous family. They charged us $1.50/lb and weighed it on a scale they brought with them. We purchased 7 lbs (skin and fat still intact!) Picture above is after I cleaned the pieces up. Will use fat and skin later. Cooked some fordinner in the slow cooker, froze the rest inthe chest freezer.

I thought it was about time to answer this question, which gets asked quite often…

What do you and your family eat?

The short answer is, food!

Okay, okay… I know you want to know the long answer… so here it goes!

Those of you who really know us, know that our goal is to create a self sufficient and sustainable food operation for our family. We didn’t come here with much, if any, experience growing/raising food in this environment. A lot of our food growing attempts have been unsuccessful, but when we have the successful moment, man it’s cool!

Since it’s basically just J doing all the building and me occasionally planting something here and there, it’s not really getting us to our goal quickly. It doesn’t mean we aren’t growing ANYTHING. It just means we’re only growing a few things and those things are doing pretty well. J has been working on the garden behind the workshop dome, adding, the top soil from the island when he’s bulldozing, and setting a small fire in it to create ash and charcoal. The girls and I help by collecting and throwing our compost (any biological food waste we have that our flock of birds won’t eat) out into the mix of soil. Some of the plants seem to be doing ok along the wharf, while others don’t like it. Also our chickens keep jumping the short walk around the island and getting into the garden and eating the edible green. Eventually we’ll get that all sorted.

In the meantime I thought I’d share what we DO eat and where it comes from. So without further ado…

Plantains brought to us and by a local neighbor. There were 83 total, he asked for $12 for the entire bunch.

Locally Grown/Collected

(by ourselves or our neighbors/local vilages within 3-5 miles of the island)

Yuca Root (grown here)

Coconuts (grown on one of our other islands, 3/4 mile away)

Coco Plums (same island as coconuts & here on this island)

Eggs (a flock of 8 mature hens, will be 9 once our new pullet grows up)

Red Striped Amaranth (grown here)

Katuk (grown here)

Lemon Grass (grown here)

Jamaican Sorel (grown here)

Mint, Basil, Sage & Oregano (Mexican & Panamanian varieties) (grown here)

Taro Root (grown by the river, where I wash laundry by hand, I dig it up on the way back)

Culantro (locally foraged, by me and my kids)

Pork (local neighbor)

Ñame Root (local village)

Plantains (local neighbor)

Bananas (local neighbor)

Oranges (local village)

Grapefruit (local village)

Fish (we catch it, fish trap coming soon!)

Coconut Oil (a local indigenous woman makes it by the gallon, it is amazing!)

Sugar Cane (grown here and on our farm property 1 mile away)

Pineapple (grown on our island here and a local neighbor)

Red striped amaranth grown on our wharf. This entire sand patch is a garden of them! Very prolific plant. Provides the leafy greens we eat.

Local Grocery House

(3 miles away, we go there by solar boat)



Pasta (spaghetti & macaroni, back up for when I don’t have time to make it from scratch)

Dry Red Kidney Beans




Chicken Quarters (sometimes it is locally raised, other times not, we plan to raise our own soon)

Eggs (whenever our chickens are on strike or I go egg crazy and use them all up)

Shelf stabilized milk (for homemade yogurt and putting on homemade granola)

Quick Oats

Sugar (for homemade ginger bug fermented carbonated juice & tea)



Purchased from Town

(Bocastown, Almirante or Chiriquí Grande , all roughly 14-20 miles away. I generally make this trip once every 4-6 weeks. I share a ride with my neighbor in his panga.)

Meat (chicken breast, ground pork, beef and/or turkey, various cuts of beef & pork, fish)

Dry beans (black, pink, red kidney, lima, black eyed peas, pinto, navy, split green & yellow peas)

Canned meat (pork, beef, tuna & sardines)

Olive Oil (for homemade mayonnaise)

Ketchup (by the 5kg bag, then I refill the container)





Various Nuts

Whole Rolled Oats

Peanut Butter



Fresh fruit & vegetables as needed but include the following:

  • Watermelon
  • Pineapple
  • Apples
  • Lettuc
  • Cabbage
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomato
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocado
  • Limes

And last but not least various spices as needed.

I try whenever possible to buy, the few things we get, processed food items in bulk. This way I can just refill the containers and minimize trash that comes home. I take reusable net/nylon/recycled fiber shopping bags with me, bring several gallon size silicone reusable zip lock bags (for meat products and cheeses from the butcher), recycle containers and zip lock bags from the nuts we buy and the leave any excess packaging at the store for them to recycle.

Tips For Succeeding In Recovery: Embrace New Hobbies To Build Up Mental Health

When one is working to stay sober and put an alcohol or substance addiction behind them, creating a new lifestyle filled with healthy habits is critical. Oftentimes, one’s previous habits were closely linked to their substance use, so finding new outlets for activity is essential for success. Building a healthy, sober life post-rehabilitation can be challenging, but incorporating new hobbies can have a big impact.

Hobbies can help you rebuild a healthy life

A sober life does not have to be a boring one. Embracing new hobbies once you are sober, or reigniting your passion for previous hobbies, can make a big difference in building healthy habits and staying committed to your recovery. New, healthy hobbies can pave the way for new friendships and connections that will help you build your new life, and hobbies can reduce your stress levels and improve your mental health.

Avoiding isolation is key in maintaining your sobriety, and sometimes people in recovery need to rebuild their social skills. It can feel intimidating to make new friends as you work on your sobriety, but trying new hobbies can make the effort seem less overwhelming. When you are joining a group activity, you already have something in common with others and that can make it easy to start a conversation or make a connection.

You can join a card or game club, a community sports team, take some classes, or join a theater group, for example, and all of these hobbies help you connect to others who share similar, healthy interests with you. Everyone going through recovery knows that it is critical to keep a distance from old associates who are still using alcohol or drugs, and building up new hobbies that pave the way to interacting with others can help you move forward.

Challenge your brain and boost your mental health by trying new hobbies

Hobbies are great outlets for sparking creativity and building new skills, and these activities will challenge and boost your brain. When you tackle a new hobby that challenges you, you will often develop a sense of confidence and accomplishment, and those qualities will help you feel stronger as you move forward in your sobriety. Some hobbies that can be especially impactful in challenging your brain include learning how to play a musical instrument, learning a new language, art, reading, or throwing yourself into doing puzzles, Sudoku, brain teasers, or board games.

It can be especially helpful to focus on new hobbies that help to build both your physical and mental health, and Spirituality Health shares some valuable suggestions. You may want to try out Tai Chi or yoga, or reach out to do some volunteer work with a group that sparks a passion for you. Practical crafts can also be good hobbies to try for those working on recovery, such as knitting, woodworking, gardening, or cooking. You may also want to try out a hobby that connects you to animals, as time with dogs and other animals can reduce stress and boost your mental health. In addition, anything that gets you outdoors can be great for your mental and physical health too.

Boredom is a bad thing for people working to put an alcohol or drug addiction behind them, so finding healthy ways to fill up the hours of the day is essential. While your new sober life will include plenty of commitments to maintaining your sobriety, developing new hobbies can be critical to your success. Whether you go back to a healthy hobby you used to love or branch out and try something new, you will see your mental health strengthen and your stress levels decrease, and the socialization aspect will be a big benefit as you rebuild your life.


Thai Carrot Salad

Photography by: Sonia Lyons

After tinkering around with a recipe sent to me by a friend, I came up with the recipe for Thai Carrot Kale Salad below.  Now that summer is here, I make this recipe every week or so.  It’s crunchy and delicious, does not require heating up my kitchen with the oven.

Thai Carrot Salad Recipe

  • 1 lb shredded carrot (I use rainbow colored carrots)
  • 1/4 large thinly sliced red onion
  • Large bunch of kale destemmed and chopped
  • 2 C sriracha peanuts
  • Thumb sized grated ginger root
  • 1/4 C soy sauce
  • 1/4 C lime juice
  • 2 t sesame oil
  • 1/4 C maple syrup
  • 2 T chili garlic sauce


Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix it up!

Can be made it bulk, and stays fresh for two weeks in the fridge.







Orange Lilies, Vincas and Baby Zucchini 

My friend E, who lives in The States, recently mailed me some lily bulbs and Vinca seeds! My sister SAL mailed us some black beauty zucchini seeds as well! Since both items arrived with our neighbor, who recently returned from The States, on Monday, I thought I’d get them all into the ground together.  Here is a picture of the spot in which I planted them.

I’m excited to see a few days later some green shoots are popping up from the lilies.

 Can’t wait to see the other plants pop up too!
Here are some of the other plants along the wharf:

The banana forest, herb and salad garden and flower garden area.

Our banana forest is producing another bunch of bananas 🍌! 

Here are some of the plants from the salad & herb garden:


Sweet Marjoram

Red striped amaranth (an edible salad leaf, eaten raw or cooked)

Seedlings of Red above 

Katuk (edible salad, raw or cooked)

Mexican Oregano 

Rosemary 🌹 

Acorn Squash

Lemon Guava 


Yay gardening!