Peak Performance: A realistic approach to nutrition.

Kathy LaBella RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT      860-339-5493

PART 4 – How to Survive and Eat Well Without A Kitchen! The Final Move to One Year Later with Renovations.

PART 4 – The Final Move and One Year Later: The last relaxing cottage days included good friends, followed by the move. The filth, the nightmares, and the ugliest house in the world ready to undergo a transformation. How to survive and eat well without a kitchen including a bad well full of bacteria. The end of 2018 through 2019!

Cottage cooking – swordfish & veggies.

September 29, 2018, With farm-fresh produce grilling at the cottage, I was still having fun, but it was about to end!

Kathy G. and Kathy L. One day off for friends to visit.

October 7 – It was nearing my last weeks in the cottage rental with much needed to be done before closing on my new home. In addition to the normal address changes, and the phone calls for both home and business set up, I was also connecting with contractors because the home I was purchasing was a bank-owned house in desperate need of repair before moving in. Every day was fast-paced, but I managed to take a last-minute break with one day off to spend with my long-time friend Kathy who came up from Florida with her fiancé Rich and her family to spend some time with me in Old Saybrook.

Near the last day of the beach running before the final move.

Following this day, it was back to contractors, purchasing appliances, picking out paint, and flooring all before closing on the house. I was about to purchase a Viking kitchen, then found a sale on Thermador I purchased! My soon to be dream kitchen. 

While I was shopping, I had business updates going on with a marketing consultant for website changes, along with multiple work projects.

I’ll brief the end of 2018 here with a series of events, and fast forward through 2019, including eating on the run without a kitchen, the nightmares, and the transformation photos!

The closing day was October 31, 2018, giving me eight days before my move to have the contractors finish my office and gym area for in-house clients. Meanwhile, I cleaned the house every day after work to be ready. Immediately following the closing, it was off to look at new kitchen cabinets, marble counter, and flooring!

This was only the beginning of running around, little sleep and some sleepless nights! It meant many yogurts, fruit and kefir on the run, veggie and cheese sandwiches, and few days of grabbing peanut butter and wild blueberry preserve to take in the car. 

In the days to come, the kitchen was vacant but filthy. The cabinets were dirty and slimy, the stove was disgusting with caked-on grease, and the pantry closets had layers of dirt. The kitchen floor was washed three times with bleach. The windowsills had a build-up of one-half to one inch of dirt in them, and the bedroom and bathroom doors had a film of mildew on them taking over one-hour each to clean! 

You may ask why I purchased this house. After purchasing a total of six houses over many years prior to this house, including one townhouse, a cottage income property, and two homes I built where I was the acting general contractor, I saw the space in this house, the area, and immediately knew the potential. After one look and one walkthrough, I had a vision of how I could change both the interior and exterior with my limited budget. 

November 2, the alarm system was in place, plans were made for new propane service lines to install for cooking and a fireplace insert, and most of the other services were in place.

By November 3, the cabinets and marble counters for the new kitchen were ordered, the business phone was installed, contractors were working away on my office and gym walls and floor, and I was still eating well at the cottage while packing up once again!

On November 4, being determined, I spent seven hours cleaning the master tub and shower. The second bath waited for another day.

The next day I discovered the toilet in the half-bathroom was leaking, I shut it off for a quick fix only to realize I needed a new subfloor too. Then the outdoor faucet broke with water gushing out at full force! I had to shut the water off to the house, then find a hose to purchase when garden hoses were out of stock everywhere! After a few phone calls, I was in luck, Ace Hardware had one hose and nozzle left for $87, a bargain when in need. I quickly returned home, hooked it up and was able to turn the water back on until my plumber came within a few days to replace the faucet. 

Tuesday, November 6 was a 13-hour workday out of town, but I managed to vote at 7:00 AM after a quick workout and making a few meals take on the road that always consisted of salad with fish, beans, or cheese, along with plenty of fruit, yogurt, nuts, veggie sandwich, and plenty of water with lemon to get me through the day.

November 7, after work, I removed the old carpeting in the bedrooms. This took me over seven hours late at night after a long day, I then made a quick smoothie and grabbed a couple of hours sleep to be back at the house the next day for the movers. 

Ah, furniture moving day, and it came fast! November 8– I had to be at the house early in the morning to paint one wall in the half-bathroom before the washer and dryer were delivered prior to the movers arriving with the furniture. It was a necessity as the walls were hot pink. I did mention I bought the ugliest house in the world, right?

Survival food on moving day!

The movers knew in advance they would not be able to get up my driveway with a large truck due to a steep curved slope, therefore it took 10 hours with three movers using a small box truck making extra trips from storage one town away. Meanwhile, the contractors were not finished on my ground level which meant total chaos with the movers having to place my office and gym equipment into a back-storage room with everyone bumping into one another. I was surviving the day with NuGo Slim bars, Think Thin bars, Bolthouse Farms protein drinks, nuts, dried cranberries, plain yogurt, fruit, and dying for greens! I, fortunately, had the cottage available another couple of days, therefore after the movers left, I proceeded back to grab a spinach salad, and continued moving my other boxes and containers at the cottage. This meant many carloads alone with my SUV.

On November 9, I had the new refrigerator installed, as the house did not come with one. The new refrigerator did not work, a Bosch (the only non-Thermador appliance purchased) – and I thought they were supposed to be great, not this one. Taking a deep breath, it was okay, I had a cooler to place on the front porch with purchased ice for one week until the next new refrigerator arrived. I could do nothing but laugh as I would have to go out on the front porch in the cold every morning for one week to get my milk for coffee, and breakfast food.

One last look before leaving the cottage.

Saturday, November 10, 2018, Saying Goodbye to the Cottage and Officially Moving into My New Home. I was getting my workouts in with running up and down my front slope with boxes from the car to my house. This is the slope where I later built a stone staircase seen below, but at the time it was a mud run full of overgrowth and unruly bushes with thorns.

Near the end of the afternoon, I proceeded back to my cottage rental to clean up and gather up the last of my belongings. Following my last trip and unloading the final box from my SUV, I was exhausted and ready to call Uber to take me back to the cottage one last time to pick up my little convertible and call it a day. Only, right at that moment, the computer mechanicals to my SUV back door latch quit! My vehicle’s horn was sounding uncontrollable, my back door would not fully close, and the battery died. I called my Mercedes mechanic who is 50 minutes away, and he was able to diagnose the problem. I then called triple-A for a jump because Mercede’s free service only takes you to the dealer. Meanwhile, the horn continued sounding off five beeps every 10 minutes for an hour in my new neighborhood until triple-A arrived. I let the car charge for an hour while unpacking before heading out.

Once the car was charged, I made a cup of tea for the road with a “Think Thin” peanut butter 220 calorie bar with 20 grams of protein to have for a meal replacement while driving to my mechanics via backroads with the bell to back hatch dinging all the way from Old Saybrook to Salem, CT. From Salem, I contacted Uber to return to my other car 60 minutes away that was still at the cottage. It was now around 11:00 PM, and I was ravenous! So it was off to a local pizza shop to get an eggplant grinder and salad to go, at this point I figured I was burning calories moving all over the place, it did not a matter what I ate so long as I had some decent nutrients in me. 

I managed to get four hours of sleep that evening on the sofa in the living room of my new house. My bed was not set up yet, and the sofa is where I slept for one week because the third floor where the bedrooms are located was still too dirty to go into.

As for my SUV, it turned out it needed both a battery and a new computer part to the back door, it was ready one week later with an unexpected $1,100 expense, though I could not complain because I have the best private Mercedes mechanic known to many in the auto industry as a “genius” who is much less than dealerships. And this was only pennies compared to the unexpected exciting year to follow.

On November 11, I Thought the Worst Was Over, nope, not even close. I received a phone call from the foreclosure agency saying they were not aware I had closed on the house and they never replaced the well-tank or completed sanitary measures for my drinking water! I had a bad well tank full of bacteria! Fortunately, I was only drinking bottled water, the ice maker was not hooked up since the refrigerator did not work, and the water well company took care of the issue right away.  

At this point, I kept my sanity by listening to Baroque music, NPR news, and regular meditation before work. And my morning workouts continued since I fortunately never went without some type of home gym equipment. 

Moving forward, November 14, I had my first sports nutrition client in the new office location!

On November 18, I developed laryngitis and sinusitis, I was completely non-verbal, not even a whisper! It was all related to removing the old carpeting and using multiple cleaning products, and in part, it was due to lack of sleep. Ah, but little laryngitis, fortunately, does not interfere with eating, staying nourished and working out. With all the chaos surrounding me, I kept up with mediation, stretching, weightlifting, and eating well despite the challenges! This saved me. 

By November 19, the kitchen was gutted, and I was using the old bathroom sink to do what little dishes I had. Mystic Market in Old Saybrook became my go-to place for take-out food, and it was not bad. Later that week I set up a temporary makeshift kitchen in my dining room where I had a blender, coffee maker, and microwave, and left out a few dishes. This is how you survive a gutted kitchen with the help of take-out salads, soup, fish and vegetables. Candlelit dinners help too!

The cabinets started to get installed by November 28, and there were many contractors everywhere! There was only one mishap, my marble countertops were cut wrong, this meant rearranging every contractor from the electrician, plumber, and carpenter, to the propane installation. 

I mentioned earlier and in the former blog “Part 3” I use baroque classical music for calming; it became baroque every single evening! Calming for me is taking it down a notch with music, switching out the rock for classical, or bossa nova, and this went on for a few months. 

Moving forward into early 2019. There was a suspected flying squirrel in the attic when I first moved in, and it was later confirmed by another inspection company after I found one dead mouse late winter. I found the mouse while putting up quarter-round and sheetrock for an energy audit, that was a 36-hour non-stop day for me. You read that right – 36 hours straight hanging ceiling sheetrock, doors, and cutting quarter-round trim all needed to prep for an energy audit. I kept nourished by making a large batch of homemade vegetable and bean soup in advance. Back to the squirrel. The good news is the company who finally took care of my squirrels in the spring, and questionable mice in the attic were also able to eliminate the abundance of carpenter ants and carpenter bees found in and around my deck. I was able to repair the decks myself, that are now painted. The attic insulation will be professionally cleaned out and replaced due to the old squirrel and mice droppings. 

It Was Finally Spring 2019, thinking not much else could go wrong, only soon the gutters were packed with leaves and clogged with water runoff everywhere, and the roof was leaking into my master bathroom, and the driveway was a disaster with an accident waiting to happen! I first had a temporary roof fix, and a leaf filtration system with a lifetime warranty was installed. Only the roof leak came back in the fall, and finally, an entire back dormer roof was replaced with a new roof and waterproof barrier. The front roof can wait. To date, the bathroom ceiling is now leaking again onto a new marble counter. It is believed to be from an opening in a ventilation pipe, this too will be fixed. During this time a driveway repair company came in to replace a large area torn up.

The only two new items in the master bath to date is the countertop sink and a beautiful chandelier that is like a conversation piece while being surrounded by the ugliest bathroom in the world with torn up walls, holes, ripped vinyl flooring, and no baseboard – at least I swapped out the pathetic rusted red painted radiator with a white radiator being thrown out during the kitchen renovation. The radiator will get sanded and painted.

Fast Forward, December 7, 2019, a new well-pump had to be installed, not expected, only another surprise. But needless to say, more than one year later, The new kitchen is installed, I installed the backsplash and floor myself, painted, and updated the half bath, installed the vanity sink myself, did some sheetrock work, cut quarter-round for the entire third floor, built a stone staircase to the office, and built a front patio, landscaped the entranceway, painted the front porch, doors, replaced hardware, and had professional painters paint the other decks, updated and painted the fireplaces, one has a gas insert, the other an electric insert. Most of the yard is now cleaned up that took several long weekend days from sunrise to sunset and a few evenings working by outside lights, and I took down several small trees surrounding the house and driveway. The gutter system and the new back roof is now in place, along with the new well-pump. I continue to work on six other rooms including three-bedrooms that presently only have sub-floor, two full bathrooms to update, living room, dining room, and two staircases to refinish, along with the rest of the landscaping. There will be a meditation room next to the gym that is already sheetrocked, and there is one raised patio with pavers I will build in the early spring next to the back deck with other stone pathways around the property.

This is a work in progress every weekend. From September to December 2019, I crammed in my “real work” with private nutrition clients, and nutrition rehab contracts out of town five days a week while packing up a few meals to take with me – always a salad, beans, lots of fruit, nuts, plain Greek yogurt, and plenty of water with lemon. I had an intern, Liam, three nights a week in my home office who helped with my business, it left me time for private clients four nights per week during the same time Liam was here. This meant quick fix meals late at night while packing food for the next day, and once again, little time to sleep. Only 4-5 hours sleep per night as I was getting up at 3:00 AM to work-out, shower, and off to work, often working until 9 PM and sometimes to 11 PM between contracts and private practice. This added up to 70 to 80-hour workweeks with driving, plus 15-20 hours of landscaping and renovations on the weekends totaling 85-100 hours per week. I had no choice but to take on extra work to pay for unexpected expenses. Much of this changed the end of December by eliminating one contract leaving more time for private practice during the day, and less work in the evening. It was a matter of health due to sleep deprivation, and I needed to take care of my everyday business operations during the day to help others. The weekends continue to be dedicated to renovations. It is a rewarding escape from my weekly work and one I enjoy!

One year later, the difference is on the weekends in the evening, there is now jazz, progressive rock, blues, or upbeat indie folk music heard playing throughout the house. The candles are lit, the fireplaces are on, and the aroma is beautiful while food is often baking in the oven. There is no more chaos, only a sense of calm, and fun excitement while I’m planning the next room to renovate. I make time for runs along the shore. And sleep, yes sleep is important, working toward a goal of 7-hours per night.

Would I do it all again? Yes, once I finish this project. This is the seventh house I have purchased over many years, and I learn something new with every home built or renovated. I will keep you posted as I have my eye on another home. 

I would love to hear from you! Please connect with me on Facebook or @KathyLaBella_RD Twitter or follow me on Instagram for nutrition & fitness for lifestyle, nutrition for musicians, sports nutrition and travel.

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PART 3 Journey. On the Run! Great Food and Fun in the Hamptons, Montauk, and Old Saybrook!

Old Saybrook, CT – five houses from cottage rental

The first move was done, and it felt incredible! It was exciting to be back in Old Saybrook. The cottage rental turned out to be a comfortable pleasure only five houses from the water. The atmosphere was relaxing, dinners were delightful, and it was fun reconnecting with the farm stands I once frequented. I was running into old acquaintances everywhere I went. Though I could not get settled in too much knowing I had to move out for a few days, but being there was like a long overdue vacation, and the vacation was about to be extended.

Most of what I owned was moved to inaccessible closed storage, therefore it was only a matter of moving around 20 bins of office supplies and equipment, clothes, and exercise gear including dumbbells into a shed. The week of September 10th was a short week, only two days of outside consulting since my in-house private practice was temporarily closed, leaving me with few clients via phone or telehealth.

I knew in advance I needed a second rental from September 14-17, and although my face was still healing from the topical chemotherapy, I thought if I had to be put out by moving around it may as well be a getaway on the beach in Montauk, NY. I took a chance and called my friend Debbie who is married with a family, but surprisingly said she could break away to go. I booked the ferry and made a reservation at my favorite waterfront suite. We packed up the night before at the cottage on the 13th to allow others to move in, and off we went at 7:00 AM the next morning following a smoothie to catch our ferry from New London, CT to Orient Point, NY. The 80-minute ferry ride allowed us to grab a coffee and yogurt while relaxing on the upper deck.

Before heading into Montauk, we took time to make a few stops along the way including lunch at Claudio’s in Greenport on the harbor before taking the North Ferry to Shelter Island, then the South Ferry to Sag Harbor where we shopped around before heading to East Hampton and Montauk.

Montauk, NY

Debbie graciously put up with my many habits from NPR news she finds depressing to joining me in morning meditation she discovered she liked. And she put up with my music. I have a habit of playing certain music or artists depending on my activity such as baroque, particularly Vivaldi for stress reduction, jazz for relaxing evenings, or rock and blues other times. As for road trips, I listen to Richie Kotzen while driving because he is diverse and not too hard or soft. I shuffled over 100 of his songs, old and new, rock, funk, blues rock, and jazz, including many with relationship-break-up lyrics, Debbie had to listen to for two hours in the car when she finally made a comment about Kotzen’s lyrics being dispiriting and deep. I laughed and switched up the playlist. She likes pop music, but overall, she enjoyed the scenic ride and had fun! 

Arrived in Montauk – Debbie soaking up fresh air as she looks out over the water

From the moment we arrived the activity was abundant! It was Debbie’s first time in Montauk, she was amazed at the vast size of the waves. We took a walk on the beach and walked around town before checking into our room. It was a fun-filled four days away with beach running, hiking on the bluffs, swimming, yoga, shopping, great food to eat, and evening fires in the sand while listening to the waves crashing and watching the moon shine down glistening on the water.

Gig Shack – salad with almonds and beets, and crab cake

The food in Montauk– The first night we went to a restaurant I’ve been to a few times – the Gig Shack with healthy inexpensive food and good entertainment. There are too many restaurants to talk about, instead, I will leave you with many photos and names of the restaurants from delicious breakfast and lunch shops to fine dining on the water. With the exception, of one huge dessert we shared, most of what we ate was fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood. I also packed a cooler full of food for us that included cheese, yogurt, fruit, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, ready-made protein shakes for early morning, along with water, extra coffee, herb tea, wine, nice glasses, and of course cocktail napkins and plates. This way we did not have rush out first thing in the morning for breakfast, and we could also relax with appetizers before dinner, or grab a snack between meals.

Debbie and Kathy relaxing on the deck before dinner

There are many excellent restaurants I’ve been to in Montauk, but here are the main ones chosen from this trip, not including our stops along the way in and out of town.

Gig Shack above – offers plenty of seafood with local bands nightly.

View from the Inlet Seafood Restaurant

Inlet Seafood Restaurant – Owned by fishermen.

Harvest on Fort Pond – Tuscan-style Italian serving family-style.

Harvest on Fort Pond – Family style dessert we shared!

Naturally Good Foods and Café – Offers groceries and nice salads.

Peaceful evening with a fire on the beach

Joni’s Kitchen – My favorite for breakfast and lunch.

Joni’s Kitchen – Cali style breakfast egg-white veggie wrap
Looking out from our deck in Montauk the morning we were leaving.
Montauk Lighthouse

On our return trip, we took an extended route through East Hampton and Southampton and made a quick stop the radio station in Water Mill where I was promoting my Nutrition for Musicians video series and eBook. The final stop before heading back to the ferry was at Kontokosta Winery in Greenport wrapping up a fun-filled four-day weekend! Next, it was moving back into the cottage in Old Saybrook where I could unpack my 20 bins stored in the shed and settle in until November 8th

Back to business only to find my website went down, and it was my biggest day of advertising! I knew my business would be slow working remotely, what I did not realize until no emails were coming in, is my website went down, my site not only went down, it was not until days later I realized my old business number was not redirecting my calls to my cell phone. During this time, it happened to be the weekend of September 22, with the most advertising promoting both my business and my Nutrition for Musicians video series and eBook. I turned on the radio hearing WEHM Long Island Broadcasting personalities Anthony and Joann who were broadcasting live at Farm Aid in Hartford, CT talking about me and my nutrition business during commercial breaks. The entire time unknown to me, not one person listening could get onto my website, email me, or call me! This mess was eventually cleared up in days with a lot of time, phone calls, and hiring someone.

The weeks at the cottage overall remained a much-needed break. I consulted two days a week out of the area, continued phone consultations and saw a few clients at the cottage while rebuilding a new business. The upside was the ability to go for frequent beach runs, and I was able to work-out in the mornings before work without having to join a gym because I brought stackable dumbbells and a weight bench with me. 

Workout area at the cottage

The end was near, and finally, I found a house; my offer was accepted on October 3, and the closing was scheduled for October 31. 

NEXT UPPART 4, The Final Move: The last relaxing cottage days included cooking, and good friends, followed by the move. The filth, the nightmares, and the ugliest house in the world ready to undergo a transformation. How to survive and eat well without a kitchen.

Part Two: Six-Month Journey of Multiple Moves, Food, Activity, Lifestyle, & Renovations!

PART 2 – On the Move! How to eat well, stay calm, fit, and healthy while packing and putting your life belongings in storage! 

View from Kontokosta Winery

In the middle of this craziness having to find a new home, I had a couple of little breaks when I was working with Long Island Broadcasting radio stations WBAZ and WEHM in Water Mill, NY for advertising, consulting, and some live broadcasts. Although I was still red from the topical chemotherapy, I took the Cross Sound Ferry over from New London, CT to Long Island Orient Point, NY. An area I know well from Greenport to Shelter Island, and Sag Harbor through East Hampton to Southampton. The area has beautiful scenic views, and many great little food stores, shops, and restaurants to stop at while driving through! It felt great to break away for a day to be live on the BAZ show hosted by their broadcaster Jo. On-Air Joann Blog working with Kathy. The last stop recommended by Jo after the show before getting back onto the ferry was Kontokosta Winery in Greenport which is worth the trip alone for the gorgeous views! This was my first time at this winery, it was a fabulous way to end the day before the ferry trip back. More on the Hamptons, a long weekend in Montauk, and Kontakosta later. For now, it’s time to get back to the moving.

Kontokosta Winery
Patio of Kontostosta Winery

On August 25 I officially backed out of purchasing the house in Essex, Connecticut due to the bad inspection. The closing was supposed to be August 31 with my intentions to move the first week of September. My rental was being sold, but I was told at the time I could extend my lease until the end of September. Meanwhile, while searching for other homes to purchase thinking I had more time, I stopped packing and rescheduled my movers to a later date while I searched on for both short-term rental and a house to purchase. I was getting back to eating normal food and cooking and was able to place all emphasis on working with my clients for one month while giving notice to them about my relocation or agreeing to work virtually as needed. This suddenly changed three days later August 28 when my landlord asked me to move out on September seventh, three weeks earlier than anticipated, leaving 10 days to pack and move while working a full week! I quickly called my movers, they were booked the seventh, but able to accommodate me on the eighth of September and the date was agreed by my landlord. 

Pre-move indoor grilling swordfish and farm fresh vegetables

Now for the first move, the food, the eating out, where to live, and “how to stay fit and calm” starts, and what about business, and when to find time to work and pack in one week? For one, no more groceries except my staples that included milk, yogurt, fruit and a few items for salads. With no time for real cooking or grilling, I decided the old Cuisinart Griddler I once loved had seen its day and went to the recycle center. It was time for quick healthy fixes on the run! I kept my home gym intact since most of this would be carried off with the movers. Both meditation and working out early in the morning kept me calm and at ease. It is amazing what food and activity can do for the mind. I went for one last early morning beach run on September first, the rest of the days were simple workouts, work, and packing.

Quick fix pizza with tomato, Kalamata olives, spinach, and basil

I needed no mess easy clean up foods that included making mini veggie pizzas with store-bought whole grain pizza crust, organic pizza sauce, cut up broccoli, spinach, tomato, olives, onions, and whatever other veggies I had to use up along with shredded cheese mixed with 1% fat cottage cheese as toppings, and olive oil sprayed on top using my “Misto” spray pump. I then baked the pizza on foil for around 15-20 minutes and had it as a quick meal after work and in-between packing. Other fast meals were ready-made lobster cakes, ready cooked shrimp cocktail, and veggie burgers that were microwaved in 80 seconds. My breakfast and lunches were about the same as always as it is easy to make oatmeal, salads, wraps, and sandwiches. Most of my sandwiches are veggies that include spinach, tomato, Kalamata olives, red onion, cucumber, bell peppers, and cheese on whole grain bread, or when pressed for time I chose natural peanut butter with blueberry preserve with a glass of milk or organic soy milk, or kefir – all this works. As the last few days in my rental with most of the kitchen now packed, I only left out the minimal essentials to cook with, or I should say kitchens because of the second kitchen in my office. I purposely did not pack my blender to make my morning smoothies and left out one small frying pan for scrambled eggs I enjoy on the weekends and used foil for baking all other items. Everything else was packed except for my coffee maker, my favorite knives to take with me, and a few favorite dishes, glasses, and one cutting board. For anyone who likes to cook, a good knife is essential! 

Last beach run in Niantic before move
Last beach run in Niantic before move
Relaxing a moment on my last run before the move

I had a few sleepless nights while packing after work, but I knew this was temporary. Meanwhile, in-between work and packing I found two other homes, one in Essex that did not work out, the other one in Old Saybrook, Connecticut that needed a great deal of work and it was going to take 60 days to close on, but I was out of options within my budget so I made an offer. Now with less than one week to move, I continued searching everywhere for rentals from academic to bed and breakfast suites to Airbnb, and after a few applications explaining I only needed two months to rent, I found a beautifully furnished comfortable cottage in Old Saybrook, CT. The cottage was only five houses from the water, and I would be able to work out of it too! Only one glitch, I was told I could move in for the first five days, then I would have to move out for three or four days before returning as it was rented to someone else. Once returned I could stay until November eighth. I agreed to provide I could have a place to leave my large container plants and find a place to store over 20 bins filled with business machines, files, supplies, and personal belongings including clothes I would need in the cooler months to come. Fortunately for me, the woman who owned the cottage was delightful and accommodated me with an empty clean storage shed that was a former summer cottage for me to store all my belongings in. What a relief! From here, every day was a new adventure of the unknown, it was fast-paced, exhausting, and exciting at the same time! 


While finishing my final days with clients who came until three days before I moved, I could not start packing the office until the end as I wanted to continue a comfortable atmosphere for them and managed to pack up everything in the office in two days. 

My food choices came down to take out sandwiches, purchased store-bought smoothies, and NuGo Slim protein bars to get me through the final 48 hours including multiple carloads on moving day.

Less than 16 hours to go before the mover’s show, time was running out to pack! I never would have managed without the help of my friend Debbie who came to my rescue by driving ninety minutes the night before to help me to box up the final items for the movers arriving the next day! It was pizza delivery that last night and was great seeing Debbie who only recently relocated back to Connecticut with her husband from South Carolina a few weeks earlier. She too was exhausted and left late in the evening. As for me, I stayed up the night to make sure all was packed for the movers and finished loading my two cars with my bins and boxes. Come the morning of the eighth I grabbed one last smoothie before packing up my blender and made it just on time for the movers! I was moving less than 30 minutes away, but it took several car trips, and this time my realtor Deb, came to my rescue by helping me with the last loads of multiple large plants, and she drove me back to pick up my second car. I was now awake for a couple of days, it was already evening, it was dark out, and I was exhausted and hungry. My last stop was an eggplant sub, then to the cottage to unpack.

Cottage living in Old Saybrook, CT, five houses from Long Island Sound

Stay tuned for PART 3 On the run! Fun times in the Hamptons, Montauk, Old Saybrook, and lots of great dining and food!

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Six-Month Journey of Multiple Moves, Food, Activity, Lifestyle, & Renovations!

PART 1 – Pre-Move – Staying Positive in Business, Health & Fitness During Unexpected Times.

The last run before treatment

It was the end of July 2018, what should have been a beautiful summer while living in a waterfront home on a private road with panoramic views of the Niantic River off Long Island Sound in Connecticut. A time not to be forgotten as I was finishing up topical chemotherapy treatment for pre-skin cancer on my face and hands, and one cancer spot on my foot. My face looked like a cooked lobster, only swollen, excoriated, my eyes were half shut, it was painfully excruciating, feeling like poison ivy on top of sunburn with no relief. I was unrecognizable to most people due to the red, raw skin.

Treatment was only twice a day for two weeks, then post-treatment for one week consisting of four treatments per day. During post-treatment, my skin became tight and cracked in areas, and every morning I awoke with blood spots over my entire face, but I had no complaints. I had no time for complaining, and my thoughts were this is temporary, many people have it much worse going through regular chemotherapy with a life-threatening diagnosis. Instead, I was too busy thinking about work to be on top of my game for clients, and I was thinking of food to heal myself. It’s my nature being a registered dietitian nutritionist and exercise specialist, I think about staying nourished, healthy and fit, therefore, I kept a positive attitude as I had to continue my life including not missing one day from work.

The last day outside included many berries, cherries, kefir smoothies, and plain yogurt!

The treatment meant, no make-up, I usually like wearing at least a little lipstick and mascara, and the treatment prevented me from wearing my hair down, therefore, it was tied back for six weeks, while wearing large rim-hats when going outside. I wore long sleeve fleece shirts and gloves during 90-degree weather with a huge sunscreen hat that looked hysterical when I mowed the yard at sunrise or sundown as I was not supposed to be outside during the day because sunscreen could not be worn with treatment, and fleece was the only material that did not hurt my hands. My appearance also made me laugh, though I tried hard not to because laughing made my face hurt!

A beautiful pre-sunrise run!

I had to remind myself what I tell my clients, one is there is always a solution to every problem, two is to look at the positives in your life. For me, it was a summer without kayaking mostly related to risking an infection, but I continued to maintain my lifestyle of health and fitness by managing some beach runs at 4:00 AM before the sun came up while wearing fluorescent green to be seen in the dark. A good walk or run is always uplifting especially along the shore, and four in the morning is not unusual for me, it is my normal time to work-out, and I continued my usual weekday weight training sessions in my home gym, along with daily meditation before work. On the weekends, I was able to relax on the patio overlooking the water and boats after sunset, therefore it was not all that bad. And, it was also a summer without the top down on my convertible until late summer when I would venture out for a night ride! 

Fortunately, I have very high pain tolerance, and toward the end of three weeks, I took a couple of Aleve to ease the pain due to the tightness and wounds. Eating was tough but manageable. As the treatment continued, I had to hold back further from smiling or laughing because the corners of my mouth were cracking open and I feared to open another wound and scarring. My main thought was healing, eating frequently with the necessary nutrients, and this meant days of a liquid diet consisting of smoothies loaded with fruit, veggies, and protein powder because I could no longer open my mouth to bite into anything. At this point I did not care what anything tasted like, my only concern was my caloric and dietary needs for healing to get back to normal eating, cooking, and shopping! Stop & Shop Peapod delivery for groceries came in very handy rather than expose me to sunlight from driving to the store. 

The food part – What to eat when you hurt too much to eat or open your mouth!

My go too food was my favorite unflavored whey protein isolate powder “Now Sports” mixed with fresh blueberries, raspberries, cherries, baby spinach, banana, cacao nibs, lactose-free non-fat milk, flax and chia seeds, or blended plain Greek yogurt and fruit all adding vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals into my diet – the recipe is at the end here. Other times were not so flavorful when I would blend up carrots, celery, peppers, and broccoli for added nutrients and fiber, and spices including turmeric and pepper for an extra little anti-inflammatory then added ice and whey protein. I also drank plain kefir or blended plain yogurt into drinks for the probiotics and protein, and added avocado for fat, and consumed organic unflavored unsweetened soy milk almost daily for additional nutrients including magnesium. It was too hot for soup; therefore, the cold smoothies were more comforting. I also chose tart cherry juice for vitamins A and C, and anti-inflammatory effects, along with beetroot juice that is naturally rich in nitrates improving aerobic capacity making it a great quick fix pre-run carb. And at times I opted for Bolthouse Farms high protein shakes, usually coffee flavor or chocolate on days I was away consulting until I was able to eat normally again.

Blended foods for smoothies

While this temporary way of living due to the topical chemotherapy was going on, little did I know at the time what was about to follow!

The great little waterfront home I was living in was a rental for a few years between home ownership that included an in-law apartment with a separate entrance I used for my office. It was a home I had the option to purchase, only it did not meet my personal needs, nor was the town of Waterford where I intended to settle down. I desired to move back to where I call home, that is either Essex or Old Saybrook, Connecticut where I previously owned houses. While actively looking for a home with my realtor, the house I was renting had a few open houses and multiple showings as soon as I was starting to heal, this meant once again quick food fixes and no messes in the kitchen, but at least I was able to eat solid food again. At his point, I opted for the indoor Cuisinart Griddler that I eventually wore out! What I loved about the grill is I could cook an entire meal of fish, veggies, sweet potato, or grilled sandwich, or any food in five to ten minutes including all the added fresh herbs, pepper, and lemon for flavor and seasoning. The best part was the easy clean-up since the grill plates could be removed to wash or put into the dishwasher. 

Indoor grilling with salmon, farm fresh vegetables, and garden herbs.

As for myself finding a house, I knew time was running out, therefore I soon made an offer on a home in Essex, and the offer was accepted! The same day I gave notice to my landlord he told me he sold the house I was renting, I thought great, a win-win situation. After agreeing on a date for me to move, the house I intended to purchase did not pass inspection, and now nowhere to go! A bit of a difficult situation because I had to move both my home and office, only with no place to go, no place to see clients, no business phone, and no time to find a home to close on a mortgage in time. But the good news was I was feeling well, still a bit red, but healing as it was now mid to late August. Here is where the journey begins! 

Stay tuned for – PART 2 on how to eat well and stay calm, fit, and healthy while packing and putting your life belongings in storage! Fun, food, activity and adventure in the Hamptons, NY and Old Saybrook, CT. 

Meanwhile, here is my recipe to my High Power Smoothie many of my clients know all too well because it can go anywhere you have access to a blender and refrigerator, and it can be reduced or increased in portions to adjust to your caloric and protein needs. For me, I break it up in half for a pre and post-workout. 

Making a smoothie for a 4:00 AM workout.

My Morning High Power Smoothie – Split in half for a for pre-and post-workout 

539 Calories, 46g Protein, 74g Carb

2 Cups (16 ounces)        Fat-free milk (I use lactose free)

1 scoop                           Whey protein isolate powder – unsweetened, unflavored preferred

2 tsp                               Cocoa nibs (unsweetened chocolate)

1-2 tsp                            Flaxseeds or mixed chia seeds

1 medium                      Banana

½ Cup                            Blueberries (or ¼ cup blueberries, ¼ cup cherries or berries)

½ Cup                            Baby Spinach 

Blend all ingredients above together

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Winter Grilled Swordfish and Fresh Veggies

 Winter Grilled Swordfish and Fresh Veggies with Squash and Carrots

Photo by Kathy LaBella


Whether you are grilling indoors or outdoors, enjoying swordfish and fresh cut veggies are quick, easy, and nutritious!


Recipe for Two


Swordfish 10 ounces

Zucchini – 1 medium – slice, julienne or cut into chunks

Yellow Squash – 1 medium – slice julienne or cut into chunks

Carrots – 2 – julienne

Olive Oil – 1.5 Tablespoons or place into a spray bottle and spray to flavor

Fresh Lemon to flavor

Photo by Kathy LaBella


Pepper and Fresh herbs to flavor – marjoram, basil, or rosemary can be used


Heat grill

Cut all vegetables, and season with pepper and herbs

Season swordfish with pepper, lemon, and herbs to flavor

Use olive oil on grill and lightly spray on vegetables for non-stick and flavor

Grill swordfish and vegetables for around 10 minutes, every grill is different, therefore watch the food carefully.


The recipe makes 2 servings. Nutrition Data Per Serving.

Calories: 410, Carbohydrate: 17g, Protein: 36g, Fat 23g, Sodium 340mg, Potassium 1105mg

Recipe by Kathy LaBella

Winter Vegetable Soup

4 Servings

Print with Nutrition Facts

2  –  Garlic Cloves, chopped

1  –  Onion, white, chopped

6 Cups  –  Water

2 tsp  –  Olive Oil

½ tsp  –  Pepper, fresh, ground

2  –  Carrots, sliced

1  –  Zucchini, medium, diced medium

1.5 Cups  –  Broccoli florets, fresh, chopped

1  –  Tomato, large, chopped

1.75 Cup  –  Kidney beans, dark red, canned (or 1 can, rinsed and drained)

1 Cup  –  Spinach, baby, loosely chopped

1 Tbls  –  Parsley, fresh, chopped


Chop garlic and onion. Chop and cut all vegetables.

Place garlic and onion into a large pot with olive oil to sauté for around 3-5 minutes.             Add water (5-6 cups, more after if needed) and all vegetables except for beans, spinach and parsley. Add pepper and bring to a broil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes.
Drain and rinse canned beans.
Add parsley, beans, and spinach, cook for another 5 minutes.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

Calories 190, Carbohydrate 30g, Fiber 10g, Protein 10g, Fat 3.5g,

Excellent source of vitamins A and C. Good source of Calcium and Iron


Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD,


Healthy Winter Habits To Transform Your Life

 Jennifer Scott, guest blogger


Many people make New Year’s resolutions, aiming to make their lives better and improve their well-being over the next year. Sadly, most people give up on those goals within the first few weeks of the year. There’s no reason to wait until January 1st to start working towards your goals. In fact, winter provides ample opportunities to stick to your typical healthy routines while also developing new, healthy habits that will have you entering the New Year a healthier you.


Meditation is a growing trend among people from all walks of life, from busy professionals to self-development gurus, and everyday people like us. When you examine the benefits of a few minutes of meditation each day, it’s easy to see why. Just 15 to 30 minutes of meditation each day can change the way you approach life, give you more balance, and actually cultivate the development of new, positive connections and neural pathways in the brain while breaking down existing and less-beneficial connections.

Commit to a daily meditation practice, and you’ll develop greater empathy, be better able to manage your emotional response to situations outside your control, have less anxiety, and overall become more centered and less easily influenced by other people and events.

Personal Development

Meditation is sometimes viewed as a subset of personal development. While meditation alone can be helpful, there are other aspects of personal development that are equally beneficial for furthering your goals. If winter for you means more downtime, more time spent curled up in a blanket to stay warm, more time spent in idle traffic during snowstorms, or less opportunity to enjoy your favorite outdoor summer pastimes, then there’s no better time to kick your personal development efforts up a notch.

Listen to a podcast in the car or on the train on your way to and from work each day. Choose a few personal development books to enjoy in front of the fireplace in addition to your favorite fiction novels this winter. Sign up to take an online course to further your career or explore something new.

Healthy Eating

Those comfy, bulky sweaters many people wear in the cooler months certainly help to keep you warm, but they also help to hide an extra inch or two around the waistline. If you’re normally a healthy eater, don’t sacrifice your usual habits just because it’s winter.

Think ahead to the goals you’ve set for the spring or summer. Planning on taking a cruise this spring? Heading to Jamaica in early summer? Keep these goals in mind through the winter, but don’t deny yourself the occasional indulgence.

If your diet hasn’t been quite up to par, use your downtime this winter to make some positive changes, develop some clean eating habits, and experiment with cooking some healthy alternatives to your usual not-so-healthy fare.


There’s truly no better time than to spend some time or resources giving back to your community or to a worthy cause than over the holiday season. When you’re taking time to think about the many things you’re thankful for, think about ways to help out those less fortunate.

From donating and wrapping gifts for children in need to raising funds, assembling care packages for military personnel serving overseas over the holidays, helping to prepare holiday meals for the homeless, donating ready-to-cook meals to families in need, and much more, there’s no shortage of possible ways you can contribute to the greater good this winter. Plus, you’ll get to experience the good vibes and positive energy that come from performing selfless acts.


Winter makes it easy to skimp on your workouts. Shorter days mean less sunlight, thus less Vitamin D, and subsequently less energy (for many people). Plus, snow storms can put a bit of a damper on your plans to hit the gym.

You only need a few items to equip a home gym of your own and eliminate excuses that get in the way of reaching your goals. Buy a few dumbbells or kettlebells, resistance bands, a yoga mat, and perhaps a balance trainer and pull-up bar, and you have everything you need for a total body workout in the comfort of your home. There are even workouts that rely entirely on body-weight resistance, no equipment needed.

If you’ve been thinking of making some changes in your life, your season of renewal can begin today. There’s no need to wait for the New Year or for spring to start making a difference in your own life and in the lives of others. Start developing healthy habits that you’ll stick with all year long.

Image via Pixabay by langll

Jennifer Scott is an advocate of mental and overall health who has used her experience to inspire others that they too can maintain a healthy body and mind. More about Jennifer and her blog can be seen at Spirit Finder 

Summertime Tomato Bruschetta

As we near the end of summer, I’m still serving up my favorite summertime tomato bruschetta known to many of my friends for over twenty years. Simple, delicious, nutritious, and attractive with plenty of tomatoes, garlic, red onion, and fresh basil.

Tomato Bruschetta with fresh Russian pumpernickel bread.
Tomato Bruschetta with fresh Russian pumpernickel bread.

While many love the flavor and color, I like the fact one serving adds up to more than 10 percent of vitamin A, and 25 percent of vitamin C for the day. Vitamin A is essential for our vision, skin, bone formation, and immune function. Vitamin C is an antioxidant to protect body cells from damage, it is also involved with our collagen formation, nervous system, and it helps to enhance iron absorption into our bloodstream. In addition, this recipe contains eight percent of our iron needs, and the allyl sulfur compounds from the garlic and onion may help to protect against stomach and colon cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, and lycopene. Potassium is necessary for muscle contraction, and helps to reduce blood pressure. Lycopene, a carotenoid, is a phytochemical (natural plant chemical) that is known to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene is better absorbed when tomatoes are cooked, and this recipe can either be made with raw or cooked tomatoes depending on how you like your bruschetta to be served up. Either way, it’s always a perfect dish to have at your summer gathering, or to bring to your next party.

Tomato Bruschetta Recipe     Number of Servings: 10

6 Plum tomatoes, cut small

4 Medium vine ripe tomatoes or garden fresh, cut small

½ Cup red onion, chopped

2 Garlic cloves

½ Cup fresh basil, chopped

2 Ounces balsamic vinegar

1-1/2 Tsp olive oil

¼ Tsp fresh ground black garlic pepper (or regular pepper)

15 Slices of 100% whole grain bread or homemade grain bread

Chop tomatoes. Finely chop onion, garlic, and basil. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and pepper – add more for flavor.

Toast bread on one side under broiler, then cut the bread in half. Serve cold bruschetta on top. Serve on a platter or individual plates.


  1. Spray bread with a light coating of olive oil, rub with garlic, and broil tomato mixture with mozzarella cheese on top. Note this adds calories to the stated amount below.
  2. Use tortilla chips in place of bread, and use bruschetta topping as a dip in place of salsa.

Calories: 150-170 depending on the size of bread. Average Carbs: 28g, Protein 7g, Fat 4g, Fiber 7g

Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 25%, Iron 8% based on percent of daily values for a 2,000 calorie diet.



Improving Your Performance With Beetroot Juice

2016-07-10 17.02.10
Photo by Kathy LaBella

Beetroot juice is no fad, and I’ve been drinking it myself for couple of years on and off while reading the research studies that prompted me to start recommending it to many of my clients. Why beetroot juice? In addition to being a good source of vitamin A, C, iron, fiber and carotenoids; carotenoids
can be converted into vitamin A, they are an antioxidant with many health benefits, and carotenoids provide the pigment of the plant, but the main reason why I recommend beetroot juice is for the nitrates. Nitrates naturally occur in vegetables, and are abundant in beets, spinach and other leafy greens. There are two reasons why I recommend nitrates, and especially those found in beetroot juice; one is the increased amount of nitrates found in beetroot juice lowers blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and two it increases athletic performance and energy because it helps with the blood flow by opening up the arteries, and it may improve the blood flow to working muscles. Beetroot juice is also really easy to consume without any preparation.

The scientific name for beets is Beta vulgaris, and to date there are several studies on the benefits of beets, beetroot juice, and nitrates.

Considering beetroot juice is positively documented to help with athletic performance, and I too have noticed the benefits in my beach runs, I do recommend it to active performers, and it may be most beneficial to musicians and vocalists who are frequently on stage or touring. This is because nitrates are converted to nitrites and later nitric oxide in our body that helps to regulate blood flow, and in turn help maximum oxygen uptake or consumption known as VO2 max for short; V meaning volume, O2 for oxygen and max for maximum. So what is this and why is it important? VO2 max is how much oxygen can be consumed when we are running at our maximum rate or speed usually measured as aerobic capacity on a treadmill. We can increase our VO2 max with aerobic training, and with nitrates such as those abundant in beetroot juice. As for the importance while performing, active musicians can often use a bit more oxygen intake, a little more stamina. I often think of a drummer who gets fatigued, hitting the wall like a runner (for more information on drummer’s fatigue please read my blog or vocalists and opera singers who have to put out a lot of energy in every performance, often several times per week. A higher VO2 max improving your respiratory system increases your vocal or playing abilities on stage means less fatigue and higher output in your performance. This also comes in handy when you have to perform at higher altitudes over 1,500 meters that is just under a mile above sea level or equivalent to a mountain around 5,000 feet high.

As for studies with musicians, I don’t know of any to date, all of the information here is based on my findings and expertise as a sports dietitian who works with musicians to improve health and performance through diet, fitness, and nutrition. And if by chance you don’t find much of a physical difference with beetroot juice, know that your arteritis and heart will know a difference, not only from the nitrates, but from the many other heart healthy antioxidants including quercetin and resveratrol.

As for taste, well, you may not exactly like it unless you really like beets, and I do like beets, but not necessarily straight beetroot juice. I recommend chilling it, and you may want to try diluting it, or camouflaging it by mixing it into a smoothie. As for the amount, some studies used high volumes up to 500mL equivalent to 16.7 ounces, that’s a lot of beetroot juice! I usually recommend 4 ounces prior to performance, and if you really want to increase your VO2 max aim for at least 4 ounces per day. An actual serving size is 8 ounces (240mL) for 110 calories, 3g protein, and 24g carbohydrate. Along with the beetroot juice, consider regular aerobic activity such as running or cycling, and push yourself to the limit by singing while exercising, all will continue to improve your VO2 max and performance!

Stay tuned to Kathy LaBella for news and programs about nutrition and health for musicians. And as always, individual counseling sessions are available and covered by many insurance plans, please visit where you can also connect onto social media.

Appetizer Night – Fun With Food For Wellbeing!

IMG_5522Clients’ who work with me know there is not one food or one day of eating that can make it or break it. That is, if you are eating well most days of the week, and you are consistent with a healthy lifestyle five to six days a week, then there is no reason why you can’t have fun with food and enjoy a little extra pleasure; it’s the same as you do with taking a break from your exercise routine. Breaks are important from the mundane, especially if you are focusing on losing weight because you also have to realistic. Allowing yourself a bit of pleasure food is important to prevent you from “dieting” or becoming too strict where you eventually crash, give up, and then overindulge. Eating well and living life is not about becoming a fanatic who is too focused on trying to be perfect with everything you put into your mouth, or exercise to a point where you forget how to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life that is essential for overall wellbeing.

One of my favorite things to do almost weekly is to have an appetizer night, wIMG_5501whether I’m out with friends in a restaurant, or dining at home alone. Appetizer night is way of having some of your favorite foods along with incorporating higher nutrient rich foods that include fruits,vegetables, and protein for the benefits of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Small plates or tapas are often less time consuming to make, yet more enjoyable to eat. If you work weekdays, opt for a Friday or Saturday evening for an appetizer night to help you wind down from the week while granting yourself the time to taste your food.

Some simple quick fixes can include a salad with shrimp cocktail, oysters, fruit, cheese and crackers, or a slice of bakery multi-grain bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Purchasing some pre roasted meats or fish can help as well with less cooking, or explore by making homemade mini pizza’s with fresh grated cheese and sliced veggies. Whatever it is you choose for appetizers, have fun with food for wellbeing by making the moment memorable and relaxing to rejuvenate.