Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tea-totaler

So I'm a (gay) man of a certain age who has never had a beer or any type of alcohol.  Not even a glass of wine.

Does that make me a unicorn?  Or Mormon?

Let me preempt your rush to judgment that I'm religious (god, no!), or recovering from something.  (Sadly, the only thing I'm addicted to is salt.)  I have no moral or ethical reasons for not drinking alcohol.  I don't care if others drink themselves under the table.  Like tattoos and piercings, alcohol is fine with other people - I just choose not to.  And though I use a bit of wine in cooking (how else do I deglaze a pan and make a good sauce?) and baking (my eggnog cheesecake would not be the same without a little brandy), it's never in large quantities.

We never had much alcohol in the house growing up.  My parents would have the occasional glass of wine, and while I'm sure I must have tried it at some point along the way, I never had any interest in having more.  And throughout high school, none of my friends at the time seemed to be interested in alcohol.  Or perhaps they were, and I was wholly oblivious to it.  (Which is - in all honesty - more likely the case, since I was oblivious to much outside of music and swimming.)

Even when I went to college - completely liberated from home and parents - I never explored alcohol (even though I would have welcomed anything to dull the pain of living in the dorms).  Why?  Well, I remember a dorm party that ended with a drunkard finding his way to my secluded corridor in the basement and throwing up in our common kitchen (and which didn't get cleaned up until the next day - bleh).  Or the garbage cans that were thrown down the stairwell from the seventh floor to the first floor lobby, leaving a disgusting mess.  So I decided that I would get my kicks some other way.

But I think what really kept me from drinking was that I was terrified that I would accidentally out myself if I got drunk.  Even though I was living in a very liberal city, in a very liberal college, among very liberal friends and colleagues (who probably knew way before I told them), I was worried that my family would somehow find out that I was gay before I had the opportunity to tell them, however irrational that fear may have been at the time.  And lord knows, Asian men can't hold their liquor, so I was afraid that it would be one beer and I would be dancing on the tables and professing my love for broad shoulders and a hairy chest to the world.

But even after I had come out to my family, it seemed almost pointless to try.  And now, having chosen not to drink alcohol for such a long time, I almost feel like an old dog who can't learn any new tricks.  Maybe it's pride at having gone this long.  Maybe I'm just so frakking uptight that I can't bear the thought of ever losing control. 

So these days, I am happily the designated driver by default, and casual observer of what people do when they get tipsy or drunk.  Because it can be funny sometimes to watch the chatty drunks, and sleepy drunks, and obnoxiously-loud drunks, and dude-you're-invading-my-personal-space drunks.

And then I go back to nursing my orange juice.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Meatballs

There are things that are good when blocked.  Like leaking pipes.  Or holes in canoes, or dams for that matter.  Spam e-mail or telemarketers.  Bad memories.  People who try to friend me on Facebook simply as a means to boost their friend count.  The kids who used to use our backyard as a shortcut, until we installed our six-foot fence.  Faux News.

And then there are things that aren't so good when they're blocked.  Toilets.  Arteries.  The end of our driveway, by the morons who are apparently blind, and oblivious to the fact that they're blocking a driveway (which has also happened when friends of ours had parked their car in our driveway).  The doors to a Wal-Mart on Black Friday.  The doors to a crowded train, by the idiots who don't move out of the way for those trying to get on or off.

Or my writing. 

Not sure what it is, but I've hit a bit of a blogging dry spell over the past week and a bit, hence the radio silence.  And the crickets chirping.  Plenty going on in the world and in my life, but the writing has not been forthcoming.  And I always feel that I should write something of substance, hence the four half-finished draft posts in my virtual outbox because I'm horrified by their tragic awfulness at the start.

But, over the weekend, with a morning run out of the way, a partner occupied by work, and several discs of Battlestar Galactica beckoning, I put in a few hours in the kitchen to process some food for the week and catch up with Starbuck, Apollo and Adama.  And with the dearth of snarky humor, adoption-related postings, or other musings, I will simply share with you with my recipe for meatballs, which is based on a Mark Bittman recipe.

2 lbs of ground beef (or any other ground meat, like pork or turkey, or any combination thereof; I use 95% lean beef, which is good for lower fat content, but requires more seasoning for taste)
1 cup of bread crumbs
1 cup of light cream (or milk)
1 half-cup of raisins (if they're hard, soak them in warm water for a few minutes to revive them)
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Other herbs and/or seasonings of your choice (the Bittman recipe calls for parsley, of which I am not a huge fan; I added some Worchestershire sauce instead)

Soak the bread crumbs in the cream for 5 minutes.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl, and form into the meatball size of your choice (I prefer walnut-sized meatballs - they cook faster and are easier to eat).  Brown the meatballs on all sides in a non-stick pan for just a few minutes - they don't have to be cooked all the way through, because they'll finish in whatever type of sauce you make.  I love adding raisins to these meatballs, as they add a moist sweetness to the mix.  These proportions of ingredients make about 50-60 meatballs, which, in our household, is enough for two five meals.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cupcakes

In my division at the office, we like to take the time to celebrate each other's birthdays, even when things are crazy (as they currently are while in preparations for our big annual event).  We try to surprise each other, but most of the time the surprisee can generally see it coming from a mile away.  (An unexpected meeting - why, sure!) 

This past week it was yours truly's turn to ante up the goods.  Now, I still feel a bit guilty from last year's cake fiasco for this particular colleague, because, in all honesty, what I made wasn't very good.  I had tried out a recipe for the first time for a dark chocolate cake with ganache frosting, but neither turned out very well:  the cake was dry, and the frosting ended up being very heavy.  And while I love my colleagues for not complaining, I've had baking anxieties ever since.  Don't know why - probably Asian guilt.

So this year, in the midst of work craziness, I know I could have simply bought something to ease the panic.  But I didn't, because I still have my pride.  And something to prove.

So the question was - what to make?  Fortunately the birthday surprisee had reminded me earlier in the week (in an unrelated conversation) that she has given up chocolate for Lent.  Or maybe she just told me that as a pre-emptive strike against any re-attempt at the tragic chocolate brick that I produced last year.

I had bought a bag of limes at Trader Joe's the prior week (as I like to have either lemons or limes on hand in case a recipe calls for them), and had a few of them left, so I found myself fixated on producing (non-Key) lime cupcakes.  And a brief search on the WWW led me to make these lime-coconut cupcakes with mango frosting.


I can't take credit for the recipes, to which I've linked above.  The lime-coconut cupcake actually comes with a recipe with a white chocolate frosting, which I would have liked to have tried, but didn't, because (a) chocolate was verboten this time around, and (b) I don't stock white chocolate in my pantry on a regular basis. (Oh, and I added a few drops of green food coloring to the cupcake batter in keeping with the lime theme.)

But what I can take credit for is the half-assed frosting job.  Seriously, I simply suck at frosting.  It's probably because I don't have the right tools (wah, wah, woe is me), and, since I don't make cakes and things that need frosting on a regular basis, I don't get a lot of practice.  This frosting's sad story is that I made it the night before the cupcakes, then microwaved it for a few seconds after it had been in the fridge overnight to get it to a spreadable consistency.  I dug out my cheapo, rarely-used frosting kit, lined the inside with a funnel of wax paper (which really helps cut down on the clean-up), and got it all filled with frosting and ready to make wonderfully big swirls of mango-flavored buttery and sugary heaven...only to find that all my available tips were too small.  Sigh.  It's been that long since I've used the frosting kit that I had forgotten its shortcomings. 

And so the stupendously horrible frosting job above was accomplished with the back of a spoon with a few passes of a four-inch spatula that was really not helpful.  But since I had filled the frosting bag already, I was at least able to use it to put a little rosette at the top to help stabilize the slice of lime for presentation.

But in spite of the sad looking frosting, the cupcakes themselves were a hit.  My taste tester - as biased as he may be - said that they were among the best cupcakes he had ever had, and everyone at work seemed to really enjoy them.  The coconut helps add moisture to the cupcake, and even though I am not a huge fan of frosting (neither eating nor manipulating), the mango added a bit of fruity tang that made it quite pleasant.

Redemption!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Obsession

A few random things that have been spinning around in my head of late:

Adoption - Ya think?  See here, here, and here

Brown rice - I've only recently discovered brown rice, and I like it, both for the nuttier taste and the fact that it's healthier than white rice.  But I find that I can't eat it plain, like I can white rice - plain brown rice just ends up feeling too heavy or chewy - so I've been mixing it with white rice in equal parts, which seems to be manageable for our household.  But I've read that it spoils faster than white rice (due to the oils in the outer coating that is otherwise removed for white rice), so I've been rotating our stock regularly.


Downton Abbey - I just found the first season of this Masterpiece Theatre show on streaming Netflix, and I can't get enough of it, so I'm going to be really sad when I finish the last episode of this seven-part series and have to wait for the second season (which hasn't even started filming yet, from what I've heard).  I'm a sucker for a good period piece, and this one has all the makings of a great soap opera, set in 1920s England.  It follows Lord Grantham, his American wife, and their three daughters, and the staff that manage the estate, including the conniving footman, Thomas (Rob James-Collier), who's in love with a duke.


It also features the incomparable Maggie Davis.  But she's not as pretty to look at as Rob.

2010 Kennedy Center Honors: Tribute to Jerry Herman - So I think I'm about to lose even more gay street cred here by admitting that I actually didn't know who Jerry Herman is until I saw last year's Kennedy Center Honors on TV.  Of course, I knew a few tunes from Mame (having seen our friend, Patrick, in a touring production a few years back), but I didn't know or remember Herman by name.  Of all the Center tributes last year, I think this one was by far the best.  Matthew Morrison - say what you will about his freakishly thick, apparently-Lubriderm-styled hair, but the man can dance and sing.  And Christine Ebersole and Christine Baranski are always a riot.  The only weak spot in this segment is poor Matthew Bomer, who's a cutie-patootie (and apparent member of the religion), but really can't hold up his end of the deal in his duo.  It's worth a watch to the end, particularly when the curtain raises on the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C.




I've been watching this at least two to three times a week on my commute home since I found on the clip on YouTube, even though it annoys the crap outta me when we hit a cell phone dead zone and it freezes up on my phone.

2010 Kennedy Center Honors: Tribute to Paul McCartney - I didn't care much for the McCartney tribute, except for this last segment, featuring James Taylor and Mavis Staples.  To me, the best part was seeing the entire audience up on their feet, waving those little blue lights together.  Awesome.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Process

So - where do we go from here?

Having officially joined the waiting adoptive family list, we're very relieved.  And a little anxious.  But sending out good vibes into the universe.  And here's a continuation of my terminology experiment as a way to guide my explanation of what happens next in the process.

The wait:  Until this past year or so, the average wait time between married and same-gender families for placement of a child was about the same, although we've been told that it's now 20 months for a same-gender family, and 14 months for a married couple.  But it could also happen much faster, or take longer - it really depends on if and when our profile falls into the right hands, and we become part of a...

Match:  From the long profiles (see my prior posting) of those families who agree to be presented as "finalists," the birthmother chooses an adoptive family for her child, without having met any families in person.  The decision is entirely hers to make (but only if she chooses to make it), and, at that point, you're considered to be in a match.  I had initially thought that it would be like a job interview - a birthmother would meet with several prospective families and then make a selection - but I think this way is probably better, in that it would be far too emotionally draining, both for the birthmother and the prospective adoptive parents to go through that.  (Families who are not selected at this stage are "released" back into the waiting family pool.  This may happen several times before a match occurs, so you can imagine the roller coaster of emotion that occurs each time you know you're being considered as a finalist, but not knowing if you're going to be chosen.  We've been told that the average wait time between the long profile being presented and a choice being made is generally a week.)

A match could happen at various points in a birthmother's pregnancy, typically in the third trimester, or it may happen after her child is born.  From my understanding, we would then have two in-person match meetings with her - the first being "getting to know you" (although she would know a lot about us already, having most likely read our long profile many, many times over), and the second to discuss other adoption-related items, such as the level of openness in the adoption; the amount and regularity of contact; and maybe even potential names.  Both of these meetings will be facilitated by Cradle staff.

If a birthmother does not want an open adoption - or if she does, but her circumstances or feelings about it change in the future - the match meeting could potentially be the one-and-only time that we get to meet her in person, so we know that it will be important for us to learn as much as we can about the birthmother so we can tell our child about her in the future. 

72 hours:  By Illinois state law, the birthmother cannot sign the legal paperwork making her adoption plan official until after 72 hours has passed after giving birth to her child.  She can, of course, take longer, if she is still mulling her options.  Until we actually go through this ourselves, I can only imagine what that period of waiting is going to feel like.  Once the papers are signed, the birthmother's decision is irreversible and cannot be challenged by law.

Change of heart:  It's a reality that a birthmother could potentially change her mind and decide to parent her child, even after having selected an adoptive family.  We're aware that there is always this possibility before the paperwork is signed, but of all the emotional ups-and-downs that may occur, I think this might be the most challenging.  But it is the birthmother's decision to make, and we respect that.

Placement:  This will be the moment that we take placement of our child - and when our lives will change forever.  I've been purposefully trying to avoid thinking about this in emotional terms, because I know it's going to be both amazing and mind-boggling at the same time, and I don't want to let myself go there - at least for now - because I think that it might add to my anxiety about this whole process. Logistically, one thing I'd like to at least try is to get someone else to come with us and record/photograph the placement, because I think that: (a) I'm going to be a wreck and probably unable to hold a video camera with a steady hand; and (b) I don't want to miss a single moment of it while trying to capture it on film!

At the request of the birthmother, and with guidance from Cradle staff, we may have the opportunity for a direct placement from the hospital, meaning that we could potentially take placement of a child shortly after birth, and before the 72-hour window has passed.  This will be a tough decision to make (for everyone - see change of heart above), although the birthmother does have the option of placing her child in the Cradle's on-site nursery until she has finalized her plans.  Should that happen, we would take placement at the Cradle itself, if and when the paperwork has been signed.  The adoption becomes official six months after placement.

And - should everything go well - that's how we would become dads.  Perhaps I'm not feeling as anxious as other waiting parents may be, but I think I'm definitely feeling a sense of powerlessness in this whole process, in that we don't know if and when a match will occur.  While we can - and will - do our best to get the word out there and network (because you never know if your dentist's son's neighbor's niece's BFF might be pregnant and considering an adoption plan for her child, and wants a really fantastic gay couple - like us! - to adopt her child), the decision is entirely up to the birthmother to make.  And so it's hard not to look at our fellow waiting families and feel slightly "competitive" (for lack of a better word); it's hard not to second-guess our profiles or photos if we're not getting chosen, but others are; and it's hard not having any control, when we have (or like to believe we have) so much control in other areas of our life.

So, in the meantime, we're going to keep busy.  Reading books about babies and parenting.  Getting around to setting up that Facebook group page we've seen other waiting families do.  Spreading the word about our plans to adopt.  Living life. 

And blogging about it ad nauseum.

Thanks for reading.