Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Southern Hail

This morning, early, Father and I were in the kitchen getting ready for the day. It was rather windy and before long I heard something:
THUNK, BUMP, bump, roll...
THUNK, bump, roll...
THUNK, roll...
THUNK, BUMP, roll...
Me: What on earth is that? Is someone up?
Father: I think it's the sweet gum balls.
I looked out on the deck. Sure enough, some of the million, trillion fully-ripened sweet gum balls were falling in the wind and hitting the roof, deck, yard, cars...
Southern hail!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Marriage blessing

Our Godchildren's marriage blessing was last Sunday. It was lovely. I'll post more pictures of the actual marriage blessing itself when people e-mail me pictures.

I constructed another cake for the occasion. This time I made it pink and white since this was the day after Valentine's Day. I made it at my mother-in-law's house since she wanted to watch. It was surprising how much "stuff" I had to pack just for the cake. I didn't take too many pictures of it "in progress" since I was getting nervous about time. I eventually finished it about 11:30 Saturday night. (There was a large time out that evening for vespers and dinner.) I'm not entirely satisfied, but if you sort of squint and don't look too closely, it's not too bad. Well, here are the pictures:

I was more concerned about the decorating than the baking. Here you can see the tiers constructed out of frozen Sara Lee pound cake. It's a lot easier to cut them horizontally into separate layers if you don't thaw them completely. You can't really see it but each tier is on a cardboard square cut to size. I put apricot jam and buttercream icing between the layers. Then I frosted each layer separately with buttercream icing (thinly so the fondant wouldn't slide around or squish out).
I tinted half of the fondant pink and rolled out a circle for each tier. Then I draped it over the tier and smoothed it down. That white object in the lower right of the picture is a tool for smoothing the fondant. After smoothing and trimming, the tiers were stacked and I stopped to go to vespers. It's a lot easier to do the corners than you might think. I just did the top, then the sides, not getting too close to the corners, then started carefully working the fondant down each corner. Unbelievably, it really doesn't make folds. Have a look:
The children were on the floor watching Bugs Bunny while I was working. For some reason it was necessary to set up the laptop next to the counter thus necessitating a large detour around each time I needed to reach the other side. Pickles looks enthralled.

Here's the cake after I finished with it for the night. I rolled out strips of white fondant and cut scallops into them. Then I used different sized round decorating tips to cut out the little holes to make it look like eyelet lace. Once all of the lace was applied (using a little bit of water brushed on to the fondant surface), I piped on the extra bits with white decorator's icing using a tiny tip.
The cake might have looked OK, but I was rather a mess. I can't believe I'm actually posting this picture of myself. My husband took this flattering shot:
The next afternoon, after a two-hour trip from one church (ours) to another (for the marriage blessing), I finished the cake with baby's breath and miniature roses. The bride's bouquet was roses as well, but for some reason I didn't take a picture of it. It should be visible in pictures of the wedding.

Whew! A lot of work, but rather fun. I kept thinking of things I wanted to do "next time".

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Laughter Lives! Tuesday

Laughter LivesThis post is part of "Laughter Lives! Tuesday" on the Riggs Family Blog. Check our their blog to read everyone else's "Laughter Lives!" posts.

Here are some of my favorite funny pictures. First, from Engrish:

I have no idea where these came from; Father found them somewhere and saved them:
And one of my long-time favorites:

...always good advice.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Population Implosion

From time to time I find a good article on the myth of overpopulation. This myth is used to support anything from abortion to sterilization and is used as an argument for the funding of birth control and abortion availability in third-world countries. A little publicized fact is that many countries have a birth rate (defined as number of children born per woman) that is below the accepted replacement level of 2.1. Consider the birth rate of these countries (a small sampling - see this chart for the entire list): Afghanistan 6.9 Armenia 1.5 Australia 1.8 Austria 1.4 Belgium 1.6 Bosnia 1.3 Brazil 2.3 Bulgaria 1.2 (tied for lowest) Cambodia 4.6 Canada 1.6 China 1.8 Costa Rica 2.8 Cuba 1.5 Denmark 1.7 Egypt 3.0 Finland 1.7 France 1.7 Germany 1.3 Ghana 5.2 Greece 1.3 Guatemala 4.9 Hungary 1.4 India 3.1 Iraq 5.3 Ireland 1.9 Israel 2.7 Italy 1.2 (tied for lowest) Japan 1.4 Korea (North) 2.0 Korea (South) 1.7 Liberia 6.3 Mexico 2.8 Mongolia 2.6 Netherlands 1.5 Norway 1.9 Romania 1.2 (tied for lowest) Russia 1.4 Singapore 1.7 Spain 1.2 (tied for lowest) Sweden 1.6 Switzerland 1.5 Ukraine 1.4 United States 2.0 United Kingdom 1.7 Yemen 7.6 (highest) Note Yemen with the birth rate of 7.6. Sounds scary? Consider that Yemen's population is around 23 million and ranks as the 49th most populous country. China has around 1.3 billion people, ranking first in poplulation. Its birth rate is 1.8. Let's look at the top three most populous countries and compare their population to their birth rate: China 1.3 billion 1.8 India 1 billion 3.1 United States 300 million 2.0 If you look at a graph of Russia's population, it has shown a steady decline. Russia is currently the 8th most populous country with a population of 140 million...and a birth rate of 1.4. It would appear that the problem will not be an exploding population, but a declining one.

You might say, "So what? The population declines, big deal." But there are more implications than just shorter lines at Walmart. The people alive right now, in their forties, fifties, sixties, etc. will still be alive twenty to forty years from now. But here's the catch: there will be fewer young working people to support the tax base and care for the elderly. Being a nurse, health care is something that I have a personal interest in. The population in America is graying, bringing with it a need for more doctors, nurses, hospital beds, nursing homes, home health agencies, etc., etc., etc. There are, however, going to be fewer people to support all of this. Rod Dreher summed it up nicely here. If you think this is an exageration, watch this animated graph.

Here's a current example of what I'm talking about:

TOKYO (AP) - After getting struck by a motorcycle, an elderly Japanese man with head injuries waited in an ambulance as paramedics phoned 14 hospitals, each refusing to treat him. He died 90 minutes later at one facility that finally relented—one of thousands of victims repeatedly turned away in recent years by understaffed and overcrowded hospitals. Paramedics arrived at the accident scene within minutes after the man on a bicycle collided with a motorcycle in the western city of Itami. But 14 hospitals contacted to provide medical care for the injured 69-year-old all refused to admit him citing a lack of specialists, equipment, beds and staff, according to Mitsuhisa Ikemoto, a fire department official. The Jan. 20 incident was the latest in a string of recent cases in Japan in which patients were denied treatment, underscoring health care woes in a rapidly aging society that faces an acute shortage of doctors and a growing number of elderly patients. (snip)

Similar problems have occurred frequently in recent years. More than 14,000 emergency patients were rejected at least three times by Japanese hospitals before getting treatment in 2007, the latest government survey showed. In the worst case, a woman in her 70s with a breathing problem was rejected 49 times in Tokyo.


Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe told a parliamentary committee late last year that the rising number of elderly patients hospitalized for months was in part clogging up space for those needing emergency treatment.

Stuff to ponder... Other reading: