Photo Credit: BSA photography
Some people in the south usually do not get the gravity of being different unless they are actually different themselves or have been affected directly by someone's difference . Growing up in south Mississippi was really hard for me. People there don't empathize easily. It is a deep rooted and early learned mentality that is taught throughout life. Some children of these households are told that being different is weird, it usually "goes against their religion" and is looked down on.
It really doesn't matter what type of difference really- whether it is skin color, religion or sexual orientation.
Change comes very slowly in the south. For example, Just a couple of weeks ago, in a town an hour away from where I grew up, finally changed their town's holiday back to "Martin Luther King Jr. Day" from "All American's day" due to major backlash this year. It was renamed "All American's Day" in the mid 1980's.
For me, as a teenager, learning that I wasn't like all the other boys was particularly difficult. I was a late bloomer and a pretty small and shy boy. I didn't like sports and I kept to myself mostly. I was often bullied about my differences. There is only so much of that someone can take before they really start to question their purpose in life. I was called "gay" before I even knew what gay meant. Over time, it really hurt me and would often break me down. I'm sure all across this country- not just the south- people are bullied, teased, and hurt because they are "different." It took years to really get over that part of my life. In a way, I was traumatized. My heart breaks when I hear other stories of people being bullied about being different- about being gay. There is something that happens to someone's confidence when they grow up in an environment such as I did. Over time, as I grew up and as I moved away from Mississippi, I was able to put my childhood behind me. I was able to focus on the "here and now" and not dwell in my past. I feel that was the best thing I could have done as I started out in New Orleans on my own. I was able to move on, but I was not able to forget. As much as I wish I could and not be bothered by my past, sometimes it comes bubbleing back up. This really didn't happen until we had our beautiful baby, Alli Mae. She is the absolute light of our lives and I fall more in love with her ever single day.
I don't know what it is like being gay and having a child in New York or California... but in the south, it can be particularly difficult for me because of people's judgement of our lives.
I feel like I probably read in to things too much, or maybe I overthink things too often. It is hard for me to turn a blind eye to glares from onlookers. Just last year, Mississippi passed a freedom of religion law that allows any business to refuse service to customers that goes against their religion. Yes, in 2017, in my home state of Mississippi, my own family can be denied service because we are different from most people.
My little girls parents are gay, and because of that, we can be turned away. It breaks my heart.
Today however, I have to be a strong papa. I cannot let my angel see that I am hurting. The last thing I would EVER want to do is allow her to realize the pain that I am feeling because of the society around us.
Recently, Douglas helped ease my mind. In public, we get looked at, A LOT. It doesn't matter if we are in Olive Garden, or at Home Depot. It actually brings me back to my childhood and really makes me feel self conscious and I didn't like it. I would often feel defensive and self conscious about the glares until Douglas chimed in. "What if the people's glares were actually stares?" He asked.
"This may be the first time straight people have ever seen a gay family. This may be the first time they have ever seen a baby be as happy as ours with 2 dads. This may be the time that we proved to them that gay people can be just as good of parents as traditional ones, he continued. We are even better than some. Everytime we go out, people stare because they may have never seen this before. Rather than being self conscious about it, own it. Let it be a teaching experience for them. Don't read into their stares. Most likely they are staring with curiosity and not judgment" he said adamantly.
I think about those words everytime I am in public now. I never realized that some people down here may have never seen or interacted with a gay family. We are however in the south, and it isn't all that common with gay men. Lesbian families are a bit more prevalent. Living in this small suburb of New Orleans, we may very well be the only gay men family. So now, this actually excites me more now than scares me because I want them to see that we are like any other "traditional family". I just need to remember to stay confident.
One of my most favorite quotes really sums all of this up for me. Hellen Keller once said, "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."
Follow my family's journey on
Instagram @nolapapa and
Photo Credit: BSA Photography
For the first time in my life, I am able to breathe fresh air of change- A fresh breath of hope-A fresh breath of validity. I am able to call my partner my legal husband. I am able to create a family that is right in the eyes of our law- that is just like any other traditional family, simply because we are all Americans. Regardless of what side of the aisle you sit, denying someone else's right to the same privilege that someone else naturally has is unfair and is against the principles that our United States were founded on and that our country is about.
Though President Obama didn't change the law for the LGBTQ community, he is and always will be a trailblazer and ahead of his time when it comes to standing up for what is right.
While for some, including my own extended family are happy about the transition, I ask for discretion, restraint, and tact in this time of adjustment.
It sometimes is hard to say goodbye. Though some may not understand, I just hope they can empathize. We are saying goodbye to an era- to a movement. We are saying goodbye to Obama's revolution.
We must band together as the beautifully diverse country that we are and continue our march towards equality. We must lift up the ones who need a voice, and turn our heads from the ones that misuse it.
We are not saying goodbye to change, to hope, to equality. I refuse to back down now when so much is at stake.
It is, and always will be our ONE nation under God, with liberty and justice FOR ALL.
Thank you President Obama.
❤the Alexander's- New Orleans, La
My absolute favorite time of year for desserts is citrus season- particularly, Meyer lemon season!
I have had Meyer lemon trees for years now. I love to go outside and pluck the juiciest lemons to make a homemade dessert. There is nothing like it! Meyer lemons are a hybrid of lemons and oranges. A tart blend of sweet and sour!
There are so many different delicious desserts I make each winter.
Today, I'm going to share with you my
Meyer lemon meringue pie recipe.
This is a classic southern dessert that is certain to be a show stopper.
It will have your family begging for more.
You absolutely do not need Meyer lemons for this recipe, however I recommend them.
Now- lets begin!
The utinsils you will need are:
•Large mixing bowl
You will need an unsweetend pie shell, store bought is fine
For your pie crust-
put a sheet of parchment paper over your crust and fill your crust with pie weights. I have used uncooked, dry red beans for years now as my pie weights.
•Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes
For your pie filling-
•in a medium sauce pan combine ingredients- *plus a quarter cup of water*
(add egg yolks last- one at a time while stirring)
mix together with rubber spatula.
•on medium heat- melt a quarter cup of butter while stirring.
Once all ingredients are incorporated and you have a smooth mixture,
•put pie crust on cookie sheet- pour mixture into pie crust
•bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes- until the mixute is jiggly and not rippley.
For your meringue-
•in a kitchen aid mixing bowl, add your egg whites and beat on medium high speed, lightly adding sugar and cream of tarter.
•beat until very stiff peaks and irredentist in color
Once pie filling has baked, take out of oven and top with meringue.
•Using your rubber spatula- place spatula onto the meringue and move in an upward motion, making pointed meringue peaks.
•Once pointed peaks are made, place back in oven and bake at 350 degrees until the meringue is lightly browned.
•Let cool and then chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
This is my husbands absolute favorite dessert of all time. He grew up with his grandmother's lemon meringue pie and this brings him back to his childhood. I love to see his reaction when I take one out of the oven.
I surely hope your family enjoys yours as much as my family enjoys mine!
Please post a picture of your pie and #nolapapa
I would love to see your hardwork!
Also, follow my family's journey on
Instagram @nolapapa and like us on Facebook/Nolapapa
photo credit: BSAphotography
Our open adoption was one of the most serious and heavy discussions Douglas and I had in our whole adoption process. There are so many different feelings and opinions out there about open adoptions. We needed to come to an agreement about where we both actually stood on this.
For us, this was already an unfamiliar situation and adding this element to it made us feel even more vulnerable. We were dealing with a very young couple that seemed very sweet and genuine but I was still left with a deep fear that maybe the birthmother would change her mind after the adoption had finalized.
That scenario ran thru my mind so many times. With the help of our attorney and social worker they were able to put that fear at ease for me. In our state of Louisiana, there are laws in place for this very situation. When I was able to release that fear, I was then able to focus on the future.
To me, an open adoption would allow us to remain truthful and candid about the origins of where our child came from. We would be able to give Alli Mae the opportunity to meet her birthparents once she became old enough and if she desired to.
Another great point in an open adoption is that this seems to be the direction that American adoptions are heading today. We found that there seemed to be more birthparents wanting open adoptions than closed. We knew that we would hopefully match faster with a birthmother if we were willing to be flexible and allow this process be open rather than closed.
I so vividly remember the evening of our very first meeting when we sat down with the birthparents and our attorney.
We had a list of very important questions we needed to ask them. A couple of them were:
How do you both feel about an open adoption?
We wanted to make sure that all of us were on the same page with this. You cannot make an open adoption work if some of the party involved doesn't want it.
It pleased us to hear them say that they desperately wanted it.
For our birthmother, she was also adopted. She was from Guatemala and she has no idea where her birth family is or how to even find them. This remained a very emotional topic for her and it was something she did not want this baby to go through later in life when she got older.
This definitely answered our first question. It was a genuine and emotional plea to give Alli Mae the opportunity to find them if and when she wanted to.
Our other question was:
What are the terms you request in having an open adoption?
We knew that we wanted a few visits in the first year for them to see the baby's growth in person. Thru that first year we would also send updates thru text messages.
After the first year the personal visits would end. Douglas and I both felt like after Alli Mae was one year old she would be able to start recognizing faces and we didn't want to add confusion as she got older. We both would send updates every so often- 2 or 3 times a year. Summer vacation, birthdays and Christmas are 3 important yearly events that we could use to update with milestones and pictures.
Douglas and I both knew that this process was especially hard for the birthmother. Her situation was particularly difficult and I knew that this would hopefully ease her pain thru all of this.
When I asked them this question it brought tears to their eyes, which then brought tears to our eyes. It was a very tender moment for all of us and their desperation to have some sort of placement in the baby's life seemed to be visible now.
During Alli Mae's first year all of our conditions were met. There were a few more personal visits than we had discussed, but to be honest with you, it was completely fine with us.
We had different visits with the birthmother and her family. Time would pass and then we would have visits with the birthfather and his family. It was sometimes emotional for me to think about.
Our first visit with the birthmother was especially emotional for me. She was obviously sad and upset when she handed me a letter for Alli Mae to read one day as she was leaving.
I could not imagine the pain in saying goodbye. All I could do was hug her as tight as I could and kiss her cheek letting her know how grateful we were.
Both families brought Alli Mae gifts at different points through the first year. Some gifts were cute clothes, jewelry and some were stuffed animals. At first it was hard for me to look at the stuffed animals after they left because it was so sad for me to think about. I needed to allow myself to see the beauty in this rather than the pain. Each stuffed animal Alli Mae received was a symbol of their love that would always be with her, just as Douglas and my love will.
Instead of feeling insecure about the toys, I needed to embrace them. This is all coming from places of adoration and the need to know that they will not be forgotten.
Our last meeting was the hardest for me.
It is even hard as I write this blog.
We all developed a friendship through this. As we were sitting on our living room floor, the birthmother handed us a beautifully decorated photo album that was so thoughtfully crafted by her. Every page had pictures of both of the birthparents and their families with all of their likes and interests, hobbies, where they like to travel and details about their lives.
And then, on the last page there was a beautiful picture of Douglas and I.
The happiest picture of the day that we brought our beautiful baby girl home.
It meant so much to me that she included us in this book.
It made me cry then just as Im crying now.
The unlikely friendships that were made through this process and the love and appreciation we have for everyone involved is a beautiful feeling.
I could not imagine our adoption any other way. I think about them often and I wish all of them happiness and light every day of their lives.
Our family would not be where we are today if it wasn't for each of them and our choice to have an open adoption.
I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram @nolapapa
As Im inching closer and closer to 40 now, It's so easy for me to get distracted from my personal health. Since we had Alli Mae, it seems as my own work out schedule falls by the waste side, and-rightfully so. Especially in the early months after we brought her home, there was definitely no time to work out for papa. I tried really hard to sneak in a cardio session here and there between nap times... but those were few and far between.
As the early months progressed, and she became a little bit older I was able to get back on the saddle- somewhat.
Our baby is like any other precious little one when it comes to attention. I was use to working out at the gym for at least 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. That was dramatically cut in half- if not more. I also wasn't able to go to the gym anymore either. About 8 months before we brought her home I invested in a treadmill. Thank goodness I did! I think it is worth it's wait in gold. Sure, some people buy them and they magically turn into a new closet to hang button down shirts and khaki pants on. However, for me, I have always loved to run. So, purchasing this beauty was a godsend! It also wasn't a necessity for me to go to the gym anymore.
As she got older, she allowed me to get a smaller work out in but it definitely could not be two hours. I have now created a home work out routine for myself that fits to our schedules.
My work out routine is great for me because I know what is good for my body. It is important that if you are reading this and you want to start your own work out routine, remember- my routine was created for me, and what works for me - may not work very well for you -So you would want to consult a professional trainer or physician. Your body will thank you for it!
In the gym I had everything I could possibly want to work out with. Now that I work out at home it's significantly different, however it is a bit more convenient.
The "power tower"
15 pound "free weights"
My mornings for years and years now, usually begin with "The Price is Right" and my latte, with now recently adding Alli Mae to my lap. The first half of the show I watch while I drink my coffee, and the other half I watch as I start my pre work out.
I tell you this not because I'm a qwerky Price is Right nut, but because I have found, for me at least- that having my attention to something in the background, like a TV show, helps me remain focused on what I am doing while keeping it fun for me.
My pre work out consists of:
•100 reps of free weights
After the prework out, I then go upstairs to my equiptment and begin my work out.
I have this awesome bounce swing that Alli Mae sits in and plays behind me while I do the rest.
I start out by stretching. Stretching is such a vital part of my workout and when I don't stretch- my body definitely lets me know.
•25 pull ups on the "power tower"
and then I start my cardio.
Running for me is almost spiritual. I am able to put my music on, with my certain playlists- depending on what time of year it is. I think changing up your playlists seasonaly helps to take away the monotony of working out so often. I either put on my headphones or turn on the sterio and then just run. I run as long as I possbily can.
I am able to think about the past, present and usually the future. I find myself getting lost in my thoughts and before I know it, 3 miles have passed and I am sweaty mess.
It also helps when I am having a bad or stressful day. I start out with a mind cluttered with aggression, and by the end of my run, it is like all of the stress has been written out onto paper and thrown into a waste basket.
I love running almost as much as I love cooking.
After my run of what is usually about 3 miles, I walk another mile to "cool down".
After the treadmill,
•25 more pull-ups.
Finally, Finish the work with a
•new round of stretching.
My workout is only half the battle of staying healthy.
My eating habits are usually the other half. This is pretty hard for me because I love to eat what I want. I love carbs and sweets! I try to have them in moderation, that way I can still enjoy what I love, but it won't throw my whole workout out of line.
Seeing results, for me- is what really keeps me motivated to keep going. Cardio definitely gets me to where I want to be. Even after a few "cheat weeks," the high endurance of the treadmil helps me lose rapidly what I gained.
I have to remember to be diligent and consistent when it comes to working out. The more often I do it, the more healthy I feel and look. Working out also helps my mental health, as well as my emotional health.
It would be so easy for me to get wrapped up in my everyday life and family and forget about keeping my body healthy. I have to have the willpower to keep moving forward. I can stop for a minute, but afterwards... march on and continue to the goal of being as healthy as I possibly can be, especially now that I have a precious gift that depends on me for everything.
Alli Mae watching me work out from the power tower-
I Would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram @nolapapa
This This southern boy loves Christmas. I love everything about it! This time of year for me is special because- I know I've said this before but, I love traditions. If someone asked me on the street, what my favorite thing about the holidays were, I'd easily respond with- "Traditions."
The food, the lights, the decorations, the joy and laughter... okay, okay... maybe all of that is my favorite things about Christmas.
This year is extra special because our daughter is now old enough to enjoy this time with us. Last year she was a just a month old, so Douglas and I were up to our noses in a completely new way of life. However this year we are able to decorate, cook, and watch the holiday specials with Alli Mae. Seeing her light up when she saw Frosty or Rudolph for the first time made my heart sing and it is something I will remember forever.
When it comes to decorating, I'm able to dedicate 4 solid days of organized phases.
Phase 1: Garlands and lights
Phase 2: Centerpieces and Nicknacks
Phase 3: the Christmas tree
Phase 4: Outside decorations
Things were a bit different this year because of a 13 month old baby running around. I would have to decorate during nap time and after she had gone to bed. I was still able to stay on schedule with a few tweaks here and there and help from Douglas, my husband.
I have been decorating with the same decorations for years now. I am able to organize each item into different labeled storage bins so I can quickly assemble each step.
When you have kids this is a must, so you are able to quickly find what you need and assemble each task and move on to the next.
I have it down to an easy and fast process that is fun but requires Christmas music.
I thought in the spirit of Christmas, I would share some fun DIY projects helping to enhance your Garlands and Centerpieces.
If you have kids, a fun project is collecting centerpiece materials! In the south we have giant Pine trees that produce huge pinecones that are absolutely perfect for centerpieces and lasts for years!
Give your kids a paper bag and have them collect around 25-30 pinecones.
While they are gathering them, set up your glitter station with glue, paint brushes and either silver or gold glitter along with a drop cloth to collect any mess that may fall.
Paint on your glue to the prettiest and largest pinecones and sprinkle glitter all around them.
Once all the pinecones are glittered, set outside to dry.
The remaining items you will need are all found at Michaels.com
I go there for all of my craft needs. They are also pretty cheap.
With all this said, let's get started!
We will start with green garland-
I found that instead of just the bare green garland, you can really make your decorations stand out if you layer them. After you have your garlands in place, then string your white lights through it. The more lights you use, the prettier the finished product will look.
After you string your lights, the next steps move pretty quick.
Next, you will need your foliage glittered
garland and your faux cranberry garland.
After you have everything,
layer the glitter garland over the
green garland as seen in "step 2"
Then take your cranberries and layer them over the glittered garland as seen in "step 3"
Now that the garlands are completed, we can move on to the different center pieces.
Dining tables and mantles are perfect for these!
You will need your:
Find a red or white table runner that runs the length of your dining table. On top of the runner place your glittered garland. Then, place your pinecones down the middle of your table. I use around 12 or 13 on my display. After the pinecones look naturally placed embellish the final look with your cranberry garland.
2 large white candles really polish the look.
I also have a plastic gold bowl to hold a few cranberries. This helps make all the placements seem more full.
These are my favorite. They are really fast to assemble and are beautiful once completed. I use apothecary jars filled with candy to really embellish my final look.
It brings me back to my childhood every time I see my candy jars in these displays!
Lay your green garland on the top of your mantle. String in your white lights and lay your glittered garland and cranberries on top. Use the same 3 step process as before.
Place your apothecary jars in the middle and just like that, your centerpiece is complete!
Our home doesn't have a fireplace, so unfortunately we do not have a mantle.
In lieu of a mantle we use the top of our entertainment center.
I have my nutcrackers to help fill the space because the area is so long, but you really do not need them for a mantle.
These decorations are great because they last for so many years. White lights are usually the only thing I have to buy every year.
The first year I started these particular decorations took the most time. But, every year after... I replicated the previous year.
Being organized helps the process move quickly and seamlessly. Each year, you learn a little more to help you in the following years.
Instagram is a great place to get inspired by different people's ideas. I have a few that Inspire me daily!
Check them out and I'm sure you will be as inspired as I am every single day!
With everything that has happened this year with our country,
this Christmas season it is especially important to be compassionate and tolerant, even in the face of cruelty and ignorance.
The holidays are the perfect time to teach our children to be empathetic and learn how to help the less fortunate.
As we teach them to love and be kind to others, they are then helping to pave a brighter future for all of us.
From Our home to yours, we truly hope that each of you have a wonderful Holiday and a safe and Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas from the Alexanders!
❤️🎄❤️ Erik, Douglas and Alli Mae
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So much information flood your mind when preparing to bring your new baby home. All the books you read, the advice you've been given and all the videos you watch simply cannot touch on everything you must know.
If you've already been thru this, you may agree... but if you are just starting out-
take a deep breath and have the comfort in knowing, we all Learn as We go.
It's hard to wrap my mind around where Douglas and I were mentally at this time last year. We brought Alli Mae home December of 2015 and our lives have been in hyperdrive ever since.
Our minds were bombarded with anxiety about knowing everything we needed before she came home... but as I look back, that is simply and quite humorously impossible.
Douglas is in medical school and he loves to read. We had that avenue covered. There are so many books about the first few months and books about parenting in general. Later on, I will list a couple that I feel really helped us.
If books were not enough, it seems like everybody has something to say about how "their babies were". They list off so many situations that they went thru and what they learned from. Each and every person that opens up to you about their experience are coming from a place of love. They want you to succeed. It may seem like a brain overload right now, but listen to each and every person. They all have an opinion about the way they raised their children. With that said, know that every baby is different. All the information you have been cramming for and all the stories and advice you have been told lead you up to this moment in bringing your baby home. All of the information you have learned in the past few months needs to have a filter.
Use your own personal judgement about when you actually use all of this knowledge.
I personally had a chain of command when it came to our decision making process. I first would talk with Douglas, my husband, and we would usually come up with an answer for our next step. Our pediatrician would be the next person we consulted with. After the doctor then we would talk to our parents. Sometimes the parents would or wouldn't agree with the pediatrician, but at the end of the day you are making the best choice you possibly can for your precious little one.
The books we read and stories we were told about did not touch on what we were about to learn.
Our daughter, Alli Mae was born premature at 30 weeks. She was so delicate and tiny and was born at 3.5 lbs. Although itty bitty, this baby girl could EAT. We quickly found out that we needed to really figure out our food intake schedule. She was on a 2 hour feeding routine.
We started out with the traditional glass bottles. Our formula was Similac NEOSURE for premature babies. We quickly found out that our sweet baby had digestion issues.
It was so hard and sad to see her in pain. It was almost unbearable to know our baby was hurting. We really needed to get to the bottom of what was causing her belly to hurt.
We quickly switched the bottles that we were using as we felt like she was taking in too much air. They were causing a lot of gas. So we chose to switch to Playtex "Vent Aire" bottles.
Tho, she did not have colic, she did have gas and a hard time digesting the high calorie formula that we had to give her. These bottles really helped. The nipples come in, slow, medium and fast flow. You are able to change them out as your baby grows.
We had to keep feeding her the NEOSURE formula because of her prematurity. So, although we had fixed the bottle problem, her tiny tummy was still having a hard time digesting this powerful formula.
A couple of remedies that we found helpful while we were using NEOSURE formula was different gas medicines.
If you just walk down the aisle in your pharmacy you may become overwhelmed at all of the choices.
We wanted something all natural and that really worked.
"Gripe water" really helped most days. It is also pretty cheap.
Gripe Water didn't help all the time, and in those situations we had to use gas drops.
We found that "Pediacare" gas relief drops knocked the pain out most of the time.
We didn't want to use these drops often because they are not all natural.
They are powerful and on days and nights where she was in a lot of pain, and Gripe water didn't help, these drops usually did and were effective almost immediately.
We were able to get a prescription from our pediatrician that was able to help with the rest of our time on this powerful formula. Baby "Zantac" is given twice daily before the bottles. It takes a few days for it to start working but we stayed on this medicine for about 3 months until her belly was strong enough to digest without it.
We found that pouring the medicine into the nipple of a bottle rather than putting the medicine dropper in her mouth served more effective.
Just remember that every baby is different. You will find this out if you have not already. Just know that parents, friends, and neighbors all have stories that they feel may help you. They are all coming from a place of love and want you to be the best parents you can be, and so do I. At the end of the day, use your own judgement that you feel is best for your baby.
As far as books, there really are so many different ones out there to help you learn.
A couple of our favorites are:
The Wonder Weeks
And What to expect in the first year.
I would love to know some of your tips that you used with your baby or maybe still do. Comment below and tell me!
Follow my family's journey on
photo credit: www. BSAphotography.com
and on instagram @ BSAphotography
Some of my fondest memories growing up were the smells coming from my grandmother's kitchen. We were always so excited after Halloween because we knew that she was going to be baking in her kitchen from Thanksgiving until New Years. I have been replicating some of those very recipes for years now because just one whiff transports me back in time in just a matter of seconds.
I remember as a little boy the happiness I felt for the first pie or cookie she took out of the oven. The pure anticipation was almost too much to handle!
All of those tradtions I think are so important to pass down to my children. I want to see their excitement when they come home from school and smell pralines as they walk up the drive way. I want to hear their joy when I ask them to help me roll out the cookie dough to make Christmas stars. To me, Traditions are an integral part of growing up and I feel it is my responsibility to keep the magic alive!
I thought it being almost Thanksgiving, I would share three of my most precious dessert recipes that are a huge hit with my loved ones. I sincerely hope you enjoy them as they are a piece of my family as a gift to your family. ❤ it being almost Thanksgiving, I you enjoy them as
Southern Pecan Pralines-
Pralines are a staple in the south. The way they crumble and melt in your mouth ensures them to be a unique addition to any dessert spread.
There are many different variations and over the years I have perfected my very own.
Pralines can also be pretty tricky. There is a certain technique to ensure these treats are perfect. Not allowing the mixture to cool long enough makes them sticky and not the consistency that you are looking for..
Making sure you have all the necessary utensils are very important.
A few of them are:
My wooden spoon I have had for years and it is key to scraping the bottoms of pots so you do not damage the surfaces. When using your wooden spoon make sure you designate either sweet or savory dishes for its lifespan because certain foods seep into the wood.
2 quart sauce pan-
It is important that it is non stick, light weight and
easy to handle.
When making anything like pralines, fudge, caramel, etc. a candy thermometer is critical. It gives you a fail proof reading, letting you know when exactly your treats are ready for the next step.
A silpat is a rubber mat that is used instead of parchment or wax paper. They are reusable and much more efficient and are much cheaper over time than the others.
My silpat has come in handy for years!
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
(helps prevent crystallization of mixture)
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (high quality)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 - 2 cups of chopped pecans
(depending on how much you like them)
Butter the sides of sauce pan.
Place sugars, salt, corn syrup, sour cream and
butter into pan.
Over medium heat stir consistently with wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil.
Add your candy thermometer to the side of your pan and continue to cook, until your reach exactly 240 degrees, stirring occasionally.
Cooling the mixture:
You can either do "cold water test" which is where you take some of the mixture onto a spoon and dip it into cold water, it should flatten down when you press it.
Or you can let the mixture cool for about 5-6 minutes.
Once cooled add vanilla and nuts.
Beat for 2 minutes with your wooden spoon until
mixture loses its glossy shine.
When the mixture is no longer shiny -VERY QUICKLY- drop spoonfuls down on your silpat. This is a very fast process and the quicker you get the mixture out of the pot and onto your mat, the better your pralines will look.
It takes just a few minutes for them to cool.
The smell of your kitchen right now isnthe stuff traditions are made from!
Don't worry If your pralines did not come out pretty.
Its ok! It takes many times to perfect your technique.
Practice makes perfect!
If they came out beautiful, congratulations!
Either way, Im sure they will disappear in a matter or hours!
Yields: around 18
Meyer Lemon Star Cookies
I have had Meyer lemon trees for years. A Meyer lemon is a hybrid of an orange and a lemon. They are sour with just a hint of sweet and they add just the right amount of tartness to a variety of dishes whether savory or sweet.
I have found that with my cookies, the lemon icing really serves the punch I am looking for.
It is not at all mandatory to have Meyer lemons for this recipe. You actually could omit lemons all together if you aren't a lemon fan. The icing is the only component that has lemon juice.
The cookie itself holds up beautifully for up to a week. They are soft and make the best holiday cookies.
Getting started, make sure you have your necessary utinsils:
-mixer (either Kitchen Aid or hand mixer)
-large mixing bowl
-2 cookie sheets
1 1/2 cups butter softened
2 cups of white sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract (good quality)
5 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 Meyer lemon
1 box of confectioners sugar
Yellow food coloring
In a large bowl or kitchen aid cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Stir in baking powder and salt, and
add cup by cup of flour.
Once all is mixed together and dough forms, wrap in plastic wrap and let sit over night in refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees Celsius)
Place silpats on cookie sheets.
Roll out dough on floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut into stars or desired shapes and place on silpat spaced about 1 inch appart.
Bake about 9-11 minutes.
You do NOT want crispy cookies.
Light and fluffy cookies are ideal.
Let cool for about 3 hours.
Pour confectioners sugar in a bowl
juice half a lemon.
You want a thick icing, the consistency like you would see on top of cinnamon roll.
If you need more liquid, juice other half of lemon frugally
If you are not using lemon juice, replace with 2 % milk.
Add 3 drops yellow food coloring.
mix together very well until you have a brilliant yellow color.
Spread icing generously and let sit for about 20 minutes.
Love is written in the stars, and so are my star cookies! Enjoy! ✨⭐️💫
Yields: about 32
Chocolate Meringue Pie
Of all the recipes and delicious treats I bake in the kitchen this is the holy grail. My mamaw used to bake this for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays but she would often surprise us throughout the year on our birthdays.
The rich and silky, smooth texture that marries with the buttery crust along with the light and airy meringue make this my number one favorite dessert of all time.
Getting started make sure you have all your necessary
-2 quart sauce pan
-Kitchen Aid mixer or hand mixer
-sieve (used for straining chocolate)
-small bowl (for egg whites)
Ingredients: (pie filling)
4 egg yolks
2 cups of white sugar
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 (12oz) can of evaperated milk
1 nine inch pie shell- store bought is fine
1/4 cup butter
Quarter teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla (good quality)
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 tablespoon of sugar
In a sauce pan add your cocoa, flour, salt, evaporated milk, vanilla, and butter. Mix together over low-medium heat. Add your egg yolks individually and keep stiring with your wooden spoon until your butter has completely melted. Make sure your flame is not too hot, as the yolks will cooked and your custard will be ruined.
Once butter is melted turn flame off. Place pie shell onto cookie sheet. Pour mixture through sieve into your pie shell leaving all impurities behind, giving you a beautiful silk custard.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.
After baking cycle is complete, test your pie with a slight shake. You want your finished product to jiggle and not ripple. You can also touch the outer edge of your pie with your finger and if it is soft and your finger comes away clean, then your custard is completely baked.
Set aside and begin meringue mixture.
In your mixing bowl add your egg whites, cream of tarter, and sugar- whip on high speed.
Beat mixture until very stiff peaks.
Beat until you get an iridescent like mixture.
Once meringue is completed pour over custard using your rubber spatula. Using upward motion as you dollop gives you the pointed effect that meringue pies are known for.
Place pie back in oven for another 7-10
minutes giving the light brown tint to the meringue.
Once completed, Let your pie cool for at least 2-3 hours.
In this hectic time for our country, some of the most productive things we can do is to find our passions. Teaching our children new things and hearing their laughter as we watch them will not only help you pass the time in an unsettling world but will build and strengthen your own relationships and maybe even start new traditions.
I hope you are able to create new traditions with the ones you care most about.
What are your favorite traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas? I would love hear them! Comment below and let me know.
I hope y'all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Try to listen to all of the laughter a little closer this year.
You can follow my family's journey on
Instagram @ nolapapa
I will admit, it is an unsettling time right now for a lot of people in America. We have come a very long way in the past eight years. The progress we have made should not be overshadowed by anger and fear but as a gay man, with a husband and daughter it is impossible for me to turn a blind eye to this. It is a scary thing to know that some people in our country do not want us to be classified as a "family" along with theirs. It is also frightening to know that our future growth could be hindered because of some people that refuse to even try to understand.
I pray that my precious family and our path for our next baby will not be obstructed because of our new President, his Vice President or the supreme court justices that he will appoint.
I also pray that we can all come together as people of the free world and embrace everyone in this country for who they are, as diverse as it is. It is so important to be compassionate and to not lose sight that everyone wants to be loved. We need to practice kindness in the face of the unusual without disrespect because of our fear of the unknown.
Some of the most beautiful things about our country is how diverse everyone is.
Although different, everyone longs to be respected.
My family and I live in a suburb of New Orleans where people often fly American flags on the back of their pick-up-trucks. It isn't uncommon to also see Trump flags as well. The amount of support that went in Trump's favor around here makes me just wonder, "What if he is a good president?"
No good will come from hurting or disrespecting another because of this outcome.
Someone dear to me taught me the saying,
"It is what it is". So I will search my heart and accept what has happened because everything happens for a reason. The good, the bad, and the ugly I know helps me grow as a husband, father and friend. "Lead by example" is also another term I have learned to live by as well. If we want good to happen, then we must look deep inside ourselves and reach for that goodness even in the darkest of times and once we have found it then we share that goodness as often we can. Some people react in anger because that is all they know... but if we react in compassion in the face of rage, the love we show could maybe teach the angry to be empathetic, the ill timpered to be patient and help the immature to grow. Sometimes, this will not work and the mean will still rear its ugly head and when that happens, walk away. The best thing you can do is just turn around, and in your heart know that you tried. The worst thing you can do is to give up. Tomorrow is a new day.
Remember that one single smile can travel thousands of miles. When words do not help, a smile will.
I feel in my heart that Our LGBTQ family will be just fine. We have allies now helping to make sure we will be.
Follow my family's journey on
So many thoughts flashed through our minds when we were matched with our birth mother. Where do we start? Bottles, diapers, onesies? It can all be overwhelming, so we focused on one thing at a time. Planning is your friend. The more you plan, the better organized you will be for when the big day comes!
First focus: the nursery, which is the peaceful world we create for our precious little ones. My mother-in-law showed me the best way to turn our guest room into a tranquil wonderland for our baby and I want to share her guidance with new prospective dads.
Each nursery can have its own personality, with its own look. Here are the most important things we needed: a crib, rocking chair, recliner, diaper changing station, book shelf and wardrobe.
The fundamental items I’ve listed above makes up our daughter Alli Mae’s nursery. We have found that each piece really plays an important role in our day-to-day life; each item has its own practical purpose. Practicality is the key word here. A piece of furniture may seem great for the space but if it isn’t practical then you may want to rethink its placement.
For example, I really wanted to convert an old dresser that was very special to me into a diaper changing station. We found that when opening the drawers to the dresser, they would sometimes get stuck. When you have your baby on the top of the dresser on a diaper changing station and the diaper drawer becomes stuck you have a real problem. You want easy gliding drawers so you can keep one hand on the baby while the other is easily able tograb the diaper, onesie or whatever you may need.
After determining our furniture, we plugged them into a designing program that configured the space we had to work with. This really helped things move along more swiftly and correctly. The furniture may not fit as well in the room as it does in your head and the program really helped solve any problems before they occur.
Following the placement, we then picked out our color scheme. For Alli Mae’s room I wanted a pastel lavender on the walls and white trim with white furniture. When we added this to the program I was able to see that we could really set off the peaceful effect I was going for if we painted the ceiling a lighter tone than the walls. I never would have thought about this if we didn’t have this program.
Purple pastel on the walls and ceiling
After we figured out what furniture to use, where to place it all, and the colors we needed, it was time for the next step: lighting.
We have three lights in her nursery: a main light fixture on the ceiling and two wall fixtures. From the beginning I knew I wanted a chandelier on the ceiling. We added a ceiling medallion to the chandelier, which really enhanced the overall effect. Keeping to the theme of practicality, we planned on using the wall sconces to help when reading bedtime stories.
Natural lighting is so important for babies. They adapt to falling asleep during the day during nap-time when there is natural sunlight coming through the windows. I wanted to work with the light rather than block it, and found that “Battenburg lace” did the job perfectly. It allowed sunlight to shine in but blocked it just enough with the blinds.
After I found the perfect curtains, I could then spend time on added features to make the room “pop.” One of my favourites: the forrest decals on the wall. It really was exciting to realize I did not have to paint pictures on the wall to give the effect I was looking for.
We found a website that specializes in removable sticker decals. They make different sceneries that really set off whatever theme or mood you want to create. We went with a winter forest look with birds, squirrels and deer. When the decals ship out, they are rolled up in tubes and come in large sheets. Before you begin to apply them on the walls, you have to cut each object out. This is time consuming but the finished product is well worth it!
After the decals were placed, it was time to add the final decorative touches like the mirror above Alli Mae’s bed and the white shag rug on the floor. Fully decorated, we let the room air out for a couple of nights before finally using it.
To help get started, I Googled “lavender baby nursery” and found my inspiration. We worked tirelessly for about a week to get it completed. Once it all was done, I actually liked our nursery better than the inspiration I had found.
I was so grateful for Everyone's help! It took a lot of planning and organizing but at the end of a long week, the hard work payed off, and now our sweet angel has her very own tranquil wonderland…that is, until she gets old enough that she wants to change it!
Listed below are the sights and places we used to get most of the contents and furniture for her nursery:
Shag rug- Wayfair.com
Battenburg lace curtains- Macys.com
Wall decals- innovativestencils.com
Wall paint- Home Depot
Light medallion- Home Depot
Wall sconces- Wayfair.com
Wall mirror- Target
I really hope you are able to create a beautiful and peaceful environment for your new precious bundle. Just remember to plan, organize and pace yourself. Most importantly, HAVE FUN! While you may not realize it now, you are creating not only a nursery but awesome memories you will have forever!You can follow our journey on Instagram @nolapapa