Fall Fave-Pumpkin Spice Bread

Happy Friday! Hope you all had a fantastic week! It’s supposed to get cold here in Dallas this weekend…again…cue the drama. Maybe the brisk weather would be a perfect time to make this yumminess. Fall=pumpkin. And I absolutely LOVE fall AND pumpkin. In college, one of my best friends used to make this delicious pumpkin bread. It came from a pre-packaged mix, but it was so damn good. She made it like twice a week. I would be there to indulge. So.damn.good.

It’s funny that I even have this addiction to pumpkin bread because it’s not a very popular fruit amongst African-Americans. Growing up, I never even had pumpkin. We only had sweet potato, which is also yummy and similar in color, NOT similar in taste. I was very leary to even try the pumpkin bread when my friend made it because of this fact. Boy, am I happy that I didn’t allow this past experience or family tradition to change my opinion.

Considering that this same packaged pumpkin bread mixture made me slightly ill last year, I decided to make one that I could eat this year. Perusing on my favorite, Food Gawker Ap, I ran across a recipe by Erica over at Cannella Vita. This sweet girl is a high school student and amazing cook. Her passion for cooking reminds me of myself at that age, only I didn’t have a blog and cooking/eating wasn’t the “cool” thing to do.

Anywho, I made this recipe on Sunday night, discovered that it literally made 3 LOAVES of bread and then shared it with friends, family and carefully chosen co-workers. Remember, I have a new job. Can’t be trying out new recipes on people I just met, especially considering the fact that one of my colleagues owns her own catering company and makes DELICIOUS items!!

I digress. This recipe is fantastic. If you could wrap all the wonderful scents of fall into one item, this would be it. Each spice warms your insides. What is it about ginger that is so dang good? Love. It. The original recipe is actually lactose-free (no butter), but I just had to change it up a little bit because well…butter makes everything butter! Either way, you have to make this bread…like yesterday!

PUMPKIN SPICE BREAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup of butter (1 stick)
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 7X3 inch loaf pans (funny that I completely missed that three part lol)
  2. Mix together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, butter, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together everything else—flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients until the wet ingredients until well blended.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when stuck into the center!

Feel free to share these loaves with your friends….or keep it all for yourself. I don’t judge. 🙂

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I came. I ran. It rained. I conquered.

I hope you all are having  a great week! How sad that’s it taken me so long to write about my half marathon. It’s really ironic that I am working on this post about my half marathon experience because one of my best friends is trying to convince me to a FULL marathon next year. That’s 26.2 miles. DISGUSTING!

I’m not saying “disgusting” because my half marathon training was bad. It was one of the best experiences of life. I’m saying “disgusting” because it was a commitment.

Hal Higdon is the GREATEST resource for any runner today, especially the novice ones who refuse group training. Every detail of every day is outlined according to distance or work out, rest, a race, etc. Leave it to me though to customize it a little bit.

The first suggested race is a 5K or 3.2 miles. Oh, that’s too easy. I needed a challenge. I was already running a 3 miles a day and longer distances on the weekend, I could do more than that, which is why, when my friends suggested we run the Tour de Fleurs, I was all for it.

Tour de Fleurs is a race in Dallas that raises money for the Dallas Aboretum, a beautiful botanical garden in an “old” part of Dallas. The garden is near White Rock Lake, which is also a very historical part of the city as well. Runners have the option of either a 10K or 20K. My friends and I chose the 10K.

Please don’t make fun of the fact that my hat is too small. LOL it was on sale.

It was the first race that I ever participated in. I didn’t really struggle on anything. I kept a good pace and crossed the finish line with pride, as The Boy waited, cheering me on.

NOLA woke up early in the AM to go with me! He’s amazing! Please ignore the sweat stains. Disgusting.

After TDF, I was pumped up for the rest of my training. I ran another race, The Vineyard Run, in Grapevine with some other friends of mine a few weeks later.

Same too small hat. LOL…should have stretched more for those hills.

Free wine after running. Enjoying the lovely grapes.

Before I knew it, it was time for the BIG RACE.

December came pretty quickly. As recommended by good ol Hal, I ran my longest distance, 10 miles (or was it 11) the weekend before my race. I ran around White Rock Lake, plus an additional mile.  I knew I was ready to go. Spaghetti dinner was my dinner the Friday before my race at my brother’s birthday party. That’s when it started, the rumors of nasty weather that was forecasted on that Sunday.

Local meteorologist talked about the weather and kind of discouraged people from running. You see, White Rock Marathon is a HUGE race in Dallas that raises money for Scottish Rite Hospital. The whole city would be featured on 13.1 or 26.2 miles of beautiful, scenic route. It’s broadcasted LIVE on a local news station because several elite runners qualify for Boston and New York through this race. BIG. DEAL.

My alarms went off. I woke up, put on my race gear that was already laid out and headed outside. It was drizzling…cold and drizzling. The drive didn’t make it any better. It started raining harder. Oh lord. We arrived at Fair Park, parked and headed to the waiting/prep area.

Thousands of runners and family members were there, putting on their bibs and socks, taping up their chins, ankles and hamstrings, programming their iPods and music players for the long day ahead.

Such more gear. So little time.

Ready for a cold, wet mess ahead.

Some racers adorned Olympic gear. Whoa. I was a part of an elite group of people. MetroPCS was handing out panchos and gloves. I was sure to grab them.

We headed to the race start line, all 20,000 of us, and waited in the rain. The one downfall with the race of that magnitude is that it takes literally 30 minutes for the “average” runners to actually begin. So annoying. Super duper annoying.

As they wait…

He braved the rain, cold and wind for 7 hours. Super duper trooper!!

AND THEY’RE OFF. (CUE THE RAIN.)

I started running. It started raining. I ran faster. It rained harder.

Mile 2. Still raining.

Runners around me start to run slower.

Mile 3. Torrential down pour. Water stop.

Mile 4…until the end. It rained, rained and rained. On McKinney Avenue around Sfuzzi, I threw off the gloves, as they were drenched.

Mile 6ish was Turtle Creek all the way up through Highland Park. That was the moment I learned Turtle Creek was up hill. I ran hills before. The Vineyard Run had killer hills. But these hills, on top of the rain beating down on my already soaked poncho, were just, well, bad.

Fellow half-marathoners around me started to slow down. Some even started walking. You could just sense the air of defeat in the atmosphere. No, Victoria. Don’t give up. Just keep going. You’re more than half way done.

At some mile marker on Greenville Avenue, the race splits. Marathoners go left and halfers go right. I paused for a second and just thought what would it be like it I turned left. Oh, another time.

I would love the say the rain let up. It didn’t. Around mile 10, I called The Boy from this trusty MetroPCS phone station, and told him where I was. It was nice to hear his voice.

Back to the street I went. Feet to pavement. I remember around this point, one of the race attendees, saying “you only have a 5K left…just 3 miles or to the end.” He was right. I had been running 3 miles just for exercise. I would be a piece of cake.

And then it rained the hardest of the entire race. From mile 11 to around 13, I could barely see in front of me. My legs were numb. One lady started crying next to me. “C’mon Victoria,” I kept saying to myself. “Just keep running. You can do it.”

Around the same time that I was motivating myself, the marathoners joined us in the route. They were, of course, wearing nothing compared to my completely covered, multi-layered body. Sprinting around the corner, these amazing men and women had already run 24 miles. They were experiencing a whole different level of pain. Their skin, versus my dry fit pants, was dripping with water and sweat. Some of them had red legs. Some of them looked like they were going to pass out. Bottom line is that they were STILL running faster than me!

If they can do it, so can I.

I gathered up all the strength I had left and literally sprinted the last 2 miles. It ran the fastest I could. It rained the hardest I had that day.

I saw the finish line in the distance and immediately started shedding clothes. I refused to wear my poncho in my “finished” photo.

Almost there!!

Pushing through the pain, motivated by the cheers of my boo and family standing on the sideline, I fist pumped as I crossed the finish line.

DONE.

I DID IT.

DONE. FINISHED. COMPLETE. EXHAUSTED.

The race volunteers gave me one of those aluminum foil cover things as soon as I finished. What is the purpose of those again because I was still cold? Following the crowd, I slowly walked to the hall where they took pictures and gave us our medal.

Finally, I get my medal. I didn’t linger in their long for I wanted to see everyone who came out to support me, especially my amazing boyfriend who waited in the pouring rain and cold for nearly 7 hours for me to finish. LOVE.

Mom and Bubba

My cheerleader and Me

A few tears gathered in my eyes as I thought about what I had just accomplished. I remembered every mile, every moment as I walked back to the car. Wow, I really can’t believe I just did that.

My fam, NOLA and I met up at Maple & Motor after the race for some delicious hamburgers. Everyone was so proud of me. I honestly think no one really thought I could finish it. Hehe! They would never admit that though.

My Daddy admiring my medal…

Fellow runners were also there with their families celebrating their fantastic feat. Congratulations buzzed in the air as each new half or full marathoner walked in. I was a part of an elite group of individuals. We ran. It rained. We conquered.

Training and running a half marathon was already an amazing journey. Running it in those conditions was a test of not only my physical training, but my mental training. I could have not shown up. I could have just forfeited the $100 like a lot of other runners did. I could have walked 10 miles instead of running.

Nope, I didn’t do any of that. In the end, it was honestly my mental training that carried me to the finish line. I have never been so motivated to complete something in my entire life, even my MBA. That accomplishment deserved every 1,614 words of this post.

An entire year has elapsed since my race. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I honestly just got over my hatred of rain like 4 months ago. Now that I’ve finished, soaked in Epsom salt and iced my entire body down for hours, I really feel like I can do anything now. Nothing is out of reach. Anything is attainable with hard work and perseverance. No matter what is thrown my way, I can beat it.

BOOM.

Next stop? Full marathon? 26.2 miles? Maybe….

DUH! Running Lessons, Moments & Epiphanies

Running is no joke. This is probably why people just don’t hop on a treadmill and decide to start running. They know better. I should have known better, but I didn’t.

One thing I knew for sure about my half-marathon training- I did NOT want to use the group training/running classes such as Luke’s or RunOn. Yes, I know it is a great program. Yes, I know it’s better to run in a group because there are people to keep you motivated. I was fully aware of all of that. Simply put, I hate exercising with people. Going to the gym with strangers is one thing. Going to the gym with a friend is completely different. I am extremely competitive, and I end up pushing myself too far. I don’t want to increase my injury rate any higher than it already is. It’s just better for me to do things alone.

So, I did what everyone does when they need advice, I Binged it.  (#thingsnoeversays). I did Google it and stumbled upon Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Novice Training. It seemed perfect. I calculated 12 weeks back from my ultimate race in December and determined September would be the official start to my training season. In the meantime, I needed to be able to run 3 miles at least 3 times a week without wanting to pass out. Luckily, I was already able to do, three wouldn’t be that bad right?

When am I ever going to learn?

I carefully pushed myself slowly but surely to the 3-mile mark. I worked out nearly everyday. I ran 4 times a week just to keep my body warm. I changed my eating habits a lot and started drinking more water because I quickly realized when I’m hydrated, I run better. Duh, Victoria.

That faithful day in September was quickly approaching. Hmmm, I thought to myself. The race is going to be outside. Perhaps, I should try running outside a few times to see how I feel. So, I headed to the famous Dallas landmark, Katy Trail. What a difference it is?! There is no belt pushing you to move faster or you’ll get flung off the machine. Nope, there is only your feet and the pavement.

After the first 1/4 mile, I AGAIN realized, there had to be a rhythm to my breathing, my pace, everything I did or I wasn’t going to make it 1 mile, much less 13.1. I felt defeated for another 1/4 mile, and then I changed my thinking.  Best decision ever.

Well, hello there epiphany. Running is an equal combination of training your body and your mind. Once I figured out what I needed to do physically, I had to get my mind right to make it all 13.1 miles. Little did I know how important that epiphany would be for not only my training, but also my BIG race!

That One Time I Decided to Start Running….Far

Thank you so much to those who read and commented on my recent bout with unemployment! Looks like many people have had several experiences and learned from them just as I did. I think we should all pat ourselves on the back for getting through it. It’s truly a blessing to have been offered another position only weeks after being laid off. I am really enjoying this new experience so far, especially my .8 of a mile commute to work. Yep, I literally live less than ONE MILE from my office. Best.commute.ever. Betsey doesn’t even know what to do with herself. hehe!

I am also proud of myself for FINALLY catching up on my blog post! In February, I talked about how I needed to do better! I mentioned several topics that I wanted to discuss. Here they are again just in case you forgot:

Call me butter (lactose free of course), cuz I’m on a roll. 🙂 I wanted to talk to you about The Boot & The Alternative, but I have to back up to White Rock first to explain. Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start.

Shortly after I finished my MBA, of course, I got bored. What else is new? I’ve never been the kind of person that can just sit still for long periods of time. I am always moving and going somewhere. (Let me just say that being unemployed for three weeks broke me of that. It’s no longer a problem.) Anywho, I felt like I was on top of the world after I completed my graduate degree at the age of 25.  Sorry if that sounds conceited, but go and get an MBA, and then let me know how you feel after you walk across the stage. Anywho…I decided to that I wanted to accomplish another feat in my 1/4 century year mark in life. So, I decided to challenge myself in a way that I never had before-Athleticism.

You see, I was not that person in high school or college. I was the girl who did everything BESIDES play a sport. I have ALWAYS struggled somewhat with weight loss and finding the best eating habits. Being lactose intolerant fixed the latter problem. Pushing myself academically has never been an issue. I love to learn. I love to be in school. My MBA changed my opinion on that as well. LOL

So, June 2011, I decided to run a half marathon. For those of you who don’t know that’s 13.1 MILES. Seems like a close distance, but it’s really not. Next time you are driving, clock 13.1 miles on your odometer and let me know if you say “dang, that’s far!” My best friend Kacy ran several races and she sort of inspired me to give it a whirl. Then, several of my other friends ran halfs and one even ran a FULL. She’s beastly. If I can get an MBA through full-time school while working FULL TIME, I could do anything.

After weeks of research, I knew I was going to run the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon on December 4, 2011. Oh, I was not even ready for what was in store. I bought a pair of running shoes, some new cute running outfits (sweat is sexy especially with the right combo) and hit the streets! The pavement hit me right back.

A Door Shut, A Window Opens

I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to write a post about this. Maybe it’s because I was embarrassed. Maybe it was because I was afraid of what people may say. I definitely didn’t want to be vulnerable. I alluded to being slapped in the face a couple of weeks ago, but never elaborated.

In the spirit of transparency, here it goes.

I was laid off on September 5, 2012. Yep. There you have it folks.

Was I shocked? Absolutely! Was I surprised? Hmmm…maybe initially, but the more I think about it, not really.

How ironic for me to share this news with you considering I was just saying how much I loved my job and truly enjoyed what I did every day. I LOVED my job. I wouldn’t say it was my dream job, but in the grand scheme of my goals to achieve by 30, having a position of that caliber was on the list.

Somewhere deep down in my gut I knew it wasn’t going to last long. I sensed it. Heck, I was kind of warned during my interview. HA! I probably, no I definitely, ignored the red flags because I was so desperately wanted to progress in my career and use my skills.

The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I was very emotional. All they kept saying was how “I had done nothing wrong.” My job description was changing. Those words were heartbreaking, downright insulting. I had prided myself on being an expert in my field. What do you mean, my skills are no longer needed?!

This went on for literally 2 hours. Tears flowed down my face. Tissue after tissue was used. At one point, I had paper towels. Why was this happening to me? What did I do wrong?? I am a hard worker. I respectfully gave them my opinion and conveyed these feelings. How I worked hours and hours more each week to get the job done. How I was probably one of the only individuals that actually LIKED their job in the organization.

My boss and the CEO were very kind to me. They said I would always be held in the highest regard and even started mentioning some potential companies I could apply at. I thanked them for their encouraging words and spoke very respectfully to them.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to leave immediately. I asked if they wanted me to say until the end of the following week to finish our projects, they said no, I would be okay and that I should focus on my job search. How thoughtful.

I walked out of the office, told one of my teammates and then immediately headed to my car. Tears were still flowing as I cranked up my car and reached for my phone to call my parents.

Dad’s response: “Really, no kidding?”

Mom’s response: “I am sad of HOW it happened, but I’m not sad that it happened.”

Everyone’s response over the course of that evening: “No way…that’s crazy…how strange…don’t worry, you will bounce back before you know it…there are better things in store for you…etc.” I wasn’t surprised to hear them speak so positively. I have a great support system of friends, family, mentors and colleagues.

Later that evening when the Boy came over, I started crying again. Then, it was like my tears dried up. A sudden peace fell over me. I wouldn’t say I was happy, but whatever negative feelings I had were GONE.

The following Monday, I woke up early to have coffee with a colleague, went to lunch with another friend and then spent the rest of the day at Starbucks updating my resume, searching for jobs and applying for unemployment. I spent 5 hours there, but it wasn’t a bad time. I kind of enjoyed it.

This was pretty much the pattern-sleep in, work out, maybe attend a networking lunch/coffee,  apply for jobs and sometimes just doing nothing. I watched hours of Food Network and wrote down recipes, burned brain cells with reality television or caught up on movies that I had been wanting to watch for weeks.

For the first time in probably 4 years, I was no longer tired from working long days. I was resting. I was at peace. It was a beautiful and much needed feeling. I later learned that my mother had been praying that I would find some rest in my hectic life. I am sure that was not what she had in mid exactly, but hey it worked.

It was during this time that I made the decision I mentioned yesterday. Less than a week after that horrific day, I had an interview. The following week, I had a second interview. Shortly thereafter, I was offered a position in a corporation doing social media and digital/email marketing. I started my new job last  Monday and had a great first week learning about my role and the company. PURE JOY!

The Lord shut a door, but he opened up a window. Isn’t that how it always works? As much as I enjoyed my previous jobs, I honestly was ready to leave the nonprofit sector and use my skills to help a corporation achieve their marketing and communications goals. I was thankful for my foundation. I was thankful for every experience. I was thankful for the humbling years that I spent bringing awareness to individuals and causes that maybe would have been ignored. It was time for me to move on.

I will never forget my humble beginnings, but I am so excited about the future. I will never forget those 3 weeks of being unemployed. I have a new outlook on life. I have a new appreciation for the dollar (mine are a little slim until the 15th). I have a heart of gratitude for my friends and family who called daily with encouraging words or offered to take me out to lunch. I was laid off and found a job in the same month. That is a miracle within itself. What a blessing! I am very thankful for my new company for giving me a great opportunity.

What a blessing to have those 3 weeks to focus on myself as the Lord transitioned me to a new chapter in life. I needed that more than you know. Perhaps, that was a window too. As much as I try  to control my future and determine my own destiny, I am quickly reminded that I don’t control jack. He does. I leave it all in His hands. I trust and believe that in the end, it will all work out for the good.

For now, I will stick my head out the window and enjoy the breeze.

Have you ever lost your job? What did you do? How did you stay encouraged?

Fashionably Fierce, Consciously Conceited

There is no such thing as a “season” in Dallas. Sure, fall officially started a couple of weeks ago, but it was sort of warm for a while there. Sandals were placed in the back of the closets we all anxiously await the first chilly day when we can break out our boots. We’ve had very cozy weather, requiring longer sleeved shirts and maybe a light scarf, but not much besides that.

Until this past weekend…

Meteoreologists predicted a high of 53 degrees this past Saturday and a low of 47.That’s what I call fall weather.

It was kind of cold this weekend though. Not gonna lie.

Of course Dallasites are overacting to this “cold front.” Dozens of women, including me,  were in DSW on Thursday night trying on pair after pair of riding boots. I don’t blame them. By the time, we actually need the heavier footwear, sandals and peep toe shoes would have returned to shelves.

Anywho, with all this change in weather, I thought this would the perfect time to talk about my new take on fashion and appearance! The cooler months are my favorite time of the year because there are really so many options with accessories, layering pieces and of course BOOTS!!!! Is there anything better than boots?? I don’t think so either.

I like the fact that with a few staple items -blazers, cardigans, boots, scarves, etc.-one can have a plethora of outfits for the brisk season. That previous sentence makes me sound like a fashionista. How funny.  To be completely honest (which is a phase I use often here), I never really even cared about my outer appearance to this extent until maybe a couple of years ago. I have NEVER wanted to be viewed as high maintenance, conceited, vain, all of those words that basically mean obsessed with the way I looked. I appreciated the fact that I had more to offer the wold than just a cute face.

Pretty cute face though, if I do say so myself. 🙂

How shallow of me.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking the time every morning to get dressed and look maybe even more than just “presentable.” Clothes are supposed to be an outer expression of our personalities. I think that’s a good thing because my personality is pretty amazing. lol So instead of just throwing some clothes on to run errands, I put thought and consideration into everything I have on before I leave the house. I call it consciously conceited. My style is definitely colorful, fun and fierce. I like to dress like I am in charge, confident, but completely approachable. Is that a contradiction?! I like to incorporate trendy items into my wardrobe, because it gets me out of my comfort zone, and I also like to wear items that accentuate my curves. I got it. I flaunt it. It’s the Kim K./Beyonce in me coming out. I try to subdue her as much as possible.

Back to fall fashion…like I said…I like fashion, but I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic, at all. That’s why I am so happy to see these adorable female bloggers offering ways to look fierce every day. Here are a few of my favorite style resources:

  • J’s Every Day Fashion–I think I discovered her blog through Pinterest, like everything else in the world lately. J does an excellent job of taking inspiration from photos, celebrities, magazine, etc. and translating them into affordable outfits that the every day woman would be able to wear. Plus, she tells you WHERE you can buy them. I am really amazed by how easily she combines colors and textures into cohesive outfits. I visit her blog daily and pin the comparison photos probably weekly. AND…I usually am able to replicate most of them in sort of way. It’s really neat.
  • Marion Berry Style–Ironically, I found Marion on J’s blog! HA! Marion is just adorable. She’s currently with child, a boy to be exact, but is still just the cutest thing ever in her dresses and blazers. My fave part about her blog is her Casual Friday post where she basically gives you great ideas of what to wear on that wonderful day BESIDES a race t-shirt, jeans and those god awful yellow box sandals (apologies to fans of those shoes.) These outfits are perfect because they are usually simple pieces that she accessorizes, blazerizes and of courses complements them with heels. My kind of outfit.
  • Fitting-it-all-In–Clare is amazing! I know her in “real life.” lol her blog is very well rounded, but she is very passionate about healthy living and exercise. Still, every day, she post an outfit and it is always completely doable. It’s so funny because sometimes I own most of the items that she shows. She and I both have a love for LOFT! Many of her clothes are purchased from Forever 21, Target, J Crew, etc. Stores that many of us frequent, so that’s convenient as well.
  • Pinterest–not a blog at all, but I have found SO MANY great outfits on this lovely tool. I have several style/fashion boards No Space in My Closet But…, Fall Fashions, Comfy Chic, Summer Styles, Accessories and several others…wow, I didn’t realize I had so many. I try my best to pin all kinds of interesting items that any woman could use. Polyvore is also a helpful tool and a frequently scene source for my fashion pins.

Besides blogs, I also read lots of magazines to see what trends are happening for the current and upcoming season. How girly of me.  I am honestly so proud of myself for growing and realizing how important it is to look your best. I no longer dread the mall because I know there are outfits out there that will look great on me; I just have to work at it. I feel pretty every day. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to take an outfit and make it work for my body type. When I compose a really good fit, I will definitely show it here on the blog. If I can do it, in all my awkwardness, so can you!

Stay warm out there!

Do you like fashion/consider yourself a fashionista? How would you describe your style?

A Lactose Free Life

I left the hospital that day, September 17, 2010, with an answer to my 10 months of questions.  A collection of documents told me what items I could no longer eat if I wanted to remain pain free. Four hours later and four pieces of paper literally changed and dictated my life. I didn’t even realize how much of what we eat contained food with the lactose sugar. These documents listed off things like M&Ms, because of the milk chocolate, and cake because of the butter that the recipe called for. What?! Surely, this is a mistake.

Cream cheese, sour cream, milk, all these things I expected to be off limits, but those pieces of paper told me that if I had “lactose” or “milk” in the ingredients, I had to stay away.  Most of these items derive from milk. Those darn lactose sugars. Are you freaking kidding me!? This was going to be stressful.

As I usually did for most moments in my life, I called my parents as soon as I drove back to the office upset, but unable to even shed a tear. My dad wondered why I ALWAYS had to have something wrong with me. I wondered the same thing. Mom was honestly just relieved to know what was wrong.

I told my boss and other people at my office. “What?! NO CHEESE!? I WOULD DIE! AREN’T YOU DEVASTATED?”

Drama queens much? So many other delicious foods, in addition to cheese, would have to be removed from my life.  I tried to take those Lactaid pills when I attempted to eat something with lactose products, but it seemed to never work, no matter how many doses I would take.

Weeks went by. My trips to the grocery store were so different. Recipes and cooking were not as fun as they used to be.  Watching Food Network shows were becoming annoying. I love me some Giada de Laurentis, but her cheesy crusts and 1/2 cups of Parmegianno in everything was starting to make me cry.

I avoided my favorite hobby. What was the point of making delicious delicacies that I couldn’t even enjoy?? I would sit at home sad, depressed honestly, because of my new found diagnosis. I remember one evening my parents and I were supposed to go to Abacus for dinner. I didn’t even want to go. What was the freaking point when I couldn’t savor some of their famous dishes?? I sat on the kitchen floor that fall day so angry at life, crying like a baby.

Why Lord? Why did you have to take one of the only things that brought me happiness? Why did you have to take one of the only things that brought me joy? I quickly realized that I didn’t find joy in eating the foods. (Who am I kidding? My reeses peanut butter cake is damn good.) It always brought a smile to my face for my friends, family and sometimes strangers to enjoy my tasty treats and savory items. That was the ultimate goal in all of my culinary adventures. Even though I couldn’t savor my delicious delights, I would still be happy to see others enjoy it.

If anything, I had a new niche in my culinary journey, a lactose free niche. Seems like a lot of people today have some sort of allergy to food. They weren’t complaining. Neither was I.

Cooking and baking is a part of who I am. I couldn’t stay away from long. Halloween 2010, a little more than a month after my diagnosis, I paid tribute to my lactose-free life by going as an ice cream cone. Funniest thing ever. I hung out with my goddaughter that evening for some family-oriented fun. She was so tickled by my outfit and still talks about it to this day.


I also brought a dessert for work pot luck. A delicious Reeses peanut butter cake that I found on Picky-Palate, but added a few yummy things because I always change recipes! It was a HUGE hit. I am so happy I was able to share it with my co-workers. Not going to lie. I may have snuck a small bite just to see how it tasted. This journey is a indeed a journey. hehe!

The next year, I made the most delicious Snickers cupcakes ever! We were having a going away party for a dear fire fighter friend of the organization who was moving back to Wichita Falls to receive around the clock care. Kelly had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He had been requested a dessert from me for the longest, and I thought what better time to make it for them than that day.

So good, they brought men to their knees.

He LOVED them and so did everyone else. Four fire fighters walked up to me, asked me if I made the cook and then proceeded to remove their wedding rings and propose to me. If only it was that simple. hehe! Those cupcakes are the still all the range in the fire fighter world. Everyone heard about them around the State. Even though I’m no longer with the organization, I live on through that story.

I celebrated two years of my lactose-free life a couple of weeks ago. I still take time that day to remember my health journey. To many people, the fact that I can’t consume dairy products (besides eggs) is sad to them, to others, maybe it’s not a big deal. It’s all about perspective. I am really proud of myself for not dwelling in self pity for too long. In the grand scheme of things, it all could be a lot worse.