What’s wrong with purple teeth? Part 2 of our South African vacation




If all I took away from South Africa was a new found appreciation for amazing wine, then I would say it was a stellar trip!  We found vineyard after vineyard that we fell in love with.  We ran (literally every morning) through rows of vines weighted down with glorious grapes, through beautiful olive trees (yes, olive oil is another huge draw for the area) and the views were spectacular. Our favorite of all was Cape Lands Wine Estate.  It was a beautiful small vineyard with a wonderful restaurant (there isn’t a bad restaurant in South Africa – the food is stellar everywhere).  We visited twice and got to know the owners, a family from Italy.  This small Vineyard single handedly takes care of fifty families in the region…their care and production of wine and food is like no other, and I hope a distributor in the US will start importing here!

South Africa is a very special place and we visited just days after Nelson Mandela passed.  Our children will never truly understand the impact he had on the world, but hopefully in the short time there they got a better understanding of how special this ONE MAN was.

ImageA photo like this would have been impossible just a short time ago.  We were fortunate enough to visit a township and see what the demise of apartheid created.  And while in no way, perfect by OUR standards this is the way of life for many South Africans who go about their daily struggle to survive, to live.  The experience we all had in the township, will forever change us.





Our trip was filled with so many different experiences.  We spent a great amount of time in the CAR….driving on the wrong side of the road (and then driving on the wrong side of the right side of the road).  It’s always an adventure with Jeff (you can check out his pictures here).

Here are a few Cape Town photo highlights….



From the top of Table Mountain (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World)



Yes PENGUINS!!! At Boulder Beach



Chapman Bay Drive….stunning, one side of bay luxury the other side was the township



I love my BMC, and ironically, I can find it like a Bloodhound anywhere in the world…..tiny bike shop in Somerset West



If there’s a farmer’s market I will also sniff that out too!  Check out the spices! And the homemade juice, look expensive?  

Nope, 10 Rand = $1…yes, a fresh juice was $2.50!

On December 26th….we spent our last day in beautiful Cape Town…..next up, SAFARI!



Where’s Waldo? I mean Kat? Part 1


I last checked in on December 16, life was in a flux state, as I was dealing with what I consider the worst injury in all my years and preparing for a half way around the world trip of a life time with the family.

I received my epidural steroid injection (mental note…costly and ineffective, but I won’t go there right now) on the 17th, and left for London, England/Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th.

As Thursday approached, I was getting some relief, not from the shot; but from the multitude of drugs (bad choice) I was taking. I was actually really excited to fly Richard Branson’s airline, Virgin Atlantic.  Unfortunately, it started like this….



I have to say, in all my years of travel, I have never sat next to the toilet for 7 hours.  I never ever will again.  I have a wonderful family, who made sure, they had their earplugs and eye masks securely fastened so they didn’t have to hear and see me moan and groan about:  

  1. the neck, shoulder and arm pain
  2. the constant stream of visitors to said toilet

We arrived in London for a whirlwind 12 hour stop, to dine, do some tourist things and visit Will and Kate (but the doors were locked).



London is a beautiful albeit expensive city.  I am looking forward to going back and taking in all the sights over the course of a few days and not just twelve hours.  Jeff secured a day hotel for us to shower (get in pjs) and prepare for the 12+ hour flight to Cape Town. Back on VA, with a much better (more leg room) seat and far away from the rest room, we settled in for a long evening ahead.  I actually slept thanks to the medical advice from my nurse friends….how many painkillers and glasses of wine will knock you out, but won’t kill you required precise mathematical skills (or so they said).  All I know is I woke to the smell of coffee, which meant, breakfast was being served and we would be landing in a couple of hours.

Up next….Cape Town South Africa!


Exercise is really the best medicine


It really is the best medicine.

I’ve now been in pain for 10+ days, we are talking 10/10 scale at night; manageable pain 5/10 scale during the day.  Tomorrow, I will have my first ever cortisone shot.  I am scared to death it won’t work, and prevent me from our family Christmas vacation to Cape Town, South Africa and Krueger National Park for Safari.

I’ve been trying to find the silver lining in this dark cloud.  I was in such a good place with my training, especially my swimming.  I was seeing advancements in my stroke, pace and endurance; and for once was getting positive unsolicited compliments from people on deck and in the lane next to me.  But alas, when C5, 6, and 7 decided to rear their ugly boney process into my spinal column and onto a nerve, I was kicked straight out of the pool.

I have had NINE sleepless, restless nights.  I’ve gone from the bed, to the couch, to the chair, to the floor, and even attempted to sleep pressed up against the cold glass of the sliding glass door.  I’ve taken Vicodin (at night); only to get three hours of sleep with insanely vivid, weird, creepy dreams; and then wake at midnight, to then begin the long agonizing wait until 4am when I could “justify” eating breakfast.

But, ironically in all the madness of this pain, I can RIDE my bike. Now, I must preface, I need to ride a trainer.  If I attempted to ride outside, no doubt I would crash because I have lost a great deal of strength in my left arm due to the nerve impingement.  But on the trainer, I lock and load, get aero (and apparently take the pressure off the nerve) and I can ride.  I’m actually putting out wattage numbers I usually see when I am in peak form.  The rides are good, I feel strong and my mind gets out of the cave.  The positive juices flowing when I am riding, have to be helping in the long run, well at least mentally.  On Tuesday, I tried running off the bike even just for 10 minutes, and 10 led to 11 and 11 led to 12, and before I new it I had run 30 minutes. I was slow, but ok.  I concentrated on form, cadence, posture and foot strike.  And because I did this, for 30 minutes, I didn’t focus on the pain.

The MRI on Wednesday, confirmed I needed a cortisone shot.  Everything was so inflamed, but my doc (who is also an athlete) said continue with my exercise.  It’s what my body needs, and if it doesn’t hurt, then it will actually do me good.

Saturday I rode for 2 hours with a 4×15 minute segment that was stellar, HR under control, watts through the roof!  And then yesterday I ran 1:15 and felt really good.  I even said to Jeff maybe I don’t need the shot….but then at midnight, when I was tossing and turning, and walking and pacing around the house, I knew I did.

This morning I stumbled on an article, that Lisa Van Dore posted on Facebook and the timing was perfect.  Exercise is the best medicine.

So, tomorrow I will get my cortisone shot, and keep my fingers crossed that I am hopping on a jet plane on Thursday evening with the family.

What I want MY DAUGHTERS to know about life and living.


There are so many posts, blogs, facebook status’ and twitter musings about what society wants to teach/tell our daughters….so I thought I would throw in my two cents about the things I hope for my daughters as they both are getting ready to enter into the next phase of their lives.


1.  Not everyone will love you…and for that matter, not everyone will like you. BUT, Dad and I always will, unconditionally and without reservation.  We may not always like the choices you make or the things you do, but no matter what we will always LOVE you.Image

2.  If someone doesn’t like you, it’s honestly none of your business.  It’s taken me a ridiculous amount of time and wasted years to realize this.  Not everyone will mesh, not everyone will see eye to eye, and not everyone will be your friend.  The same holds true for you….you don’t “have” to like everyone, just try really hard not to pass judgement on them.  Until you have walked even just ten steps in their shoes, you have no idea what their life is like or has been.

3.  Don’t be afraid to be alone.  Solitude is a beautiful thing.  Having a boyfriend or a best friend is wonderful, but you are strong and can also do it on your own.

4.  You have all the tools to be successful.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you, you can’t do something, be something, go somewhere or experience something.  Image

5.  Be willing to think outside the box, go outside your comfort zone.  You both showed this to Dad and I this year, with your amazing solo travels to Washington, DC; Florida; California; and a remote island off the coast of Maine.  I don’t know many girls who would have been brave enough to do that at 20, let alone, 14 and 16.

6.  If you are going to exercise, ride horses, play lacrosse, snowboard, run, ride your bike, train, hike, surf, race…. do it for you, and for no one else.  And do it for the sheer love of it.

7.  Be honest, not only to those around you, but to yourself.

8.  Always trust your gut!  It’s saved me over and over again.  And when I didn’t listen to it, I’ve regretted what occurred.

9.  Don’t look back and say. “I wish I did….” you can’t have a do-over in life.  Be a chance taker, a risk taker….but always be safe.

10.  Don’t be afraid to be silly!  A chance at being silly, allows you to be you….if you let it pass by, you may have missed an opportunity of a lifetime (seriously….how hard did you laugh at the Underpants Run??)


11.  Always be yourself.  Be the you, you know you can be.  Never be afraid to show the world who you are.


12.  Love with all your heart.  And, know, there is always a place for you to come home to.  It’s funny, I am 45 years old, but you both heard me say over and over again, at Thanksgiving, “It’s good to be home.”  The people who love you unconditionally, will always have a home for you.  Whether its in Maine….Massachusetts….Florida….there is no geographical cure for a problem that arises, but know that geography will never dictate where your home is with Dad and I.


Defying Age



As a woman, and a woman in the latter half of her forties, I find my self trying very hard to defy age.  Is it human nature? Or is it my nature?  Today at lunch, Jeff asked me how I stay motivated…..I should probably rewind for a moment.

Today, I woke up at 4:10am, and rather than fluff my pillow and roll over for another hour, I stumbled quietly out of bed, grabbed my “daylight” machine and went into the kitchen to begin my morning routine.  By 6am, I was already on my bike mashing out the watts, dripping wet with sweat, and downing Scratch to Eric Church’s new album.  By 8:15, I was done with my 75 minute bike session and 6 mile run, and wondering which part of my schedule I would accomplish first.

By 11:30, I was ready for lunch, Jeff had called and we met up at our favorite lunch spot The Street.  Our lunch conversation turned to motivation and what propels us? Me?

My knee jerk response was, “what else am I going to do?”

But on the drive home I started to think about what drives me? What motivates me? Why do I do what I do for countless hours, many of which are lonely.  I was alway active after college, I never really fell into the mom only mode, I had to be doing something.  I owned every apparatus one could to stay active with the girls. I had the baby jogger, the Kelty back back, then the double baby jogger. There were hikes, runs (aka jogging – silent J) and power walks with the girls; but it wasn’t until Jeff signed up to do a duathlon in 2001 in Rye, NH, that I took the “chance” and signed up to do the 5K.

It’s funny when you are competitive by nature, and you are given the small taste of “glory” it can spark a lifetime of change.  I received a small medal that day in June 2001, and it prompted me to sign up for many more 5ks over the years…and in 2004 I did my first triathlon, at the Danskin All Women’s Tri.  Wow, have I transformed.

So back to defying age.  I look at the image I try to maintain. I eat healthy, take copious amounts of supplements, get the proper rest and recovery, and try to be a role model not only for my girls but for the many women in our community and beyond, who too, will take that “chance” and sign up for a 5k.  Am I defying age, absolutely.  But age is only a number on a calendar, it doesn’t reflect how we feel about ourselves and our environment.  There are days when I feel ridiculously old, when I have to hold the cell phone so far from my face to read the text message my daughter just sent me about staying after school. Then there are days when I feel like an absolute teenager, riding my bike down a crazy steep hill and doing it with confidence!  It also helps when two of your best friends are 28 years old.

But as I look at how I transformed my body since 2001, almost 14 years later, I know I have defied age. I’ve added years to my life by the choices I have made to be healthy and strong, both physically and mentally.  And while I don’t always agree with the face staring back at me in the mirror, I respect and treasure every line there is….each one holds a story.

So here you have my defying age moment from this past weekend….

*2001  38   2/10   F3034   24:45   7:58 KATHLEEN DONATELLO      32 F YORK            ME   
*2013  26   1/15   F4049   21:31   6:56 KAT DONATELLO           45 F ELIOT           ME

I love my butcher, and Winter Stew.


I met Dennis my butcher in 1995, we have an amazing relationship and I have not strayed from Carl’s Meat Market since the day we met.  From the crazy requests like “can you put those cute little caps on my crown roast of pork?” to “exactly what did they feed the organic cow that makes it Prime Organic vs Organic?” he’s always been patient, informative, funny and most of all honest.

Today, I wanted Chorizo Sausage.  Not any old Chorizo, but Spanish (not too spicy but enough kick to make you want more – you know that flavor, you have to try it one more time, it just keeps calling you back).  I also wanted the sausage without casing.  If you have had any of the dishes I prepare, you know I am disgusted by sausage casing.  It repulses me, and if I am forced to cook sausage with it casing, I will painstakingly remove the meat from the casing and toss it away.

Funny side note, today, when checking out at  Carl’s, a new young man waited on me (this was after a very long discussion on the various types of Chorizo Sausage Dennis and I had – a bystander would have thought we were in the process of solving the world debt crisis, when in fact we were simply discussing the different nuances this particular sausage has).  The young man held up my order and the conversation went like this.

Man:  “Is this all?  What else do you need?”

Me:  “Nope that’s it.”

Man:  “Really, that’s it?”

Me:  “Oh you’re new.”

Dennis:  “she’s a daily shopper, get used to her face.” (Hope that was a good – get used to her face)

And there it was.  I channel my old soul, my grandmother.  I shop every day. No matter what the season. No matter where we are. I shop every day.  I don’t pre-plan meals for the week.  I plan them every day.  Why?  Because on Sunday, I have no idea what the family will feel like on Wednesday.  What the dynamic will be.  What the weather will be.  I channel my grandmother because she was an amazing cook, and if you asked her in the morning what she was making for dinner (something that m kids drive me nuts over), she never knew, and rarely do I (exceptions are holidays and parties – and even then I switch it up a lot).  I think I love cooking so much because of the foundation my grandmother and her Italian heritage gave me; as well as my mother (who is as Irish as it gets) and her attempts to please my grandmother by cooking HER “gourmet” food.  These principals were ingrained in me.  I look to cook. I love to create.  I am not a baker, there’s a huge difference.  Some chefs like Leslie Myers (http://www.foodsensenow.com/) can do both.  That kind of creativity is beyond me, but I aspire to cook and bake like Leslie someday.

So back to the Chorizo Sausage and the amazing Winter Stew…..

Ingredients (all items used were organic and gluten free)

  • 2 parsnips – chopped fine
  • 4 carrots – chopped fine
  • 1 large white onion – chopped fine
  • 2 stalks of celery – chopped fine
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 pounds Spanish Chorizo Sausage (casing free)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 carton of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 can small white beans drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups purple kale (torn into small pieces)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano for topping


  1. In a large pot sautee the first 6 ingredients together for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until vegetables are tender
  2. Add the tomato paste and stir
  3. Once combined add tomatoes and vegetable broth
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes
  5. While stew is simmering, in a separate cast iron skillet brown the sausage (you do not need any oil if you are using a “seasoned” skillet)
  6. Once browned, add sausage (including oil from the cooked meat), cooked brown rice, beans and kale to stew
  7. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until kale is tender
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste
  9. Serve and top with Parmigiano-Reggiano