Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Photo Shoot

In October, Mom Meads and daughter-in-law Judy were shopping in Kohl's, Mom wanted some warm pajamas. They found a cozy pair of red fleece sprinkled with snowflakes. Judy said it would be fun for the other four women going to our Canaan Valley gathering to have red PJ's as well. Sarah thought that was such a clever idea, so she took it a step further and ordered the four children and the three men festive nightwear as well. It was important to document this occasion so a family photo by the fireplace was in order. Judy and Bill donned their new attire.

Sarah and Jeff followed. All the kids were dressed in their new bed clothes , and we were ready for the photo event.

I set up the tripod and, with the camera timer engaged, captured the images of the four generations attending this gathering.

Someone suggested we take a funny photo - so here it be!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Party

Flora helped blow up balloons for her sister's birthday celebration. Jeff also assisted in this production of festive decorating.

Nate was quality control manager, checking that each balloon had the right amount of pressure.

It was time to light the cake and let Lucy blow out her candles.

Everyone helped in reading the cards to Lucy.

Seems that Nate was eager to help Lucy in unwrapping her gifts.

Happy Fourth Birthday to Miss Lucy!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Treasure Hunt

John, Rachael, Flora and Lucy arrived early Saturday afternoon. Aunt Judy prepared a series of instructions so the kids could have some fun hunting for treasures. Flora read the clues, and they were off on the search.

The clues involved going to such areas as the pool table on the lower floor, to a table on the second floor, the hallway on the first floor, and even outside to the hot tub. At each station there were clues. The last stop was our room. Prizes were new PJ's for each grand kid.

In addition to the pajamas, there were other goodies such as sweet and sour tart bracelets!

On Saturday evening we had our Thanksgiving feast. Turkey, dressing, cranberry salad, hot rolls, green beans, sweet potatoes, Uncle Bill's famous cooked apples, and mashed potatoes with gravy.

Later, we celebrated Lucy's fourth birthday. Grandma Judy baked a chocolate cake and Sarah iced and decorated the layers. Sarah made the icing with a hundred pounds of confectionery sugar (OK- it was ONLY two pounds). The cake was certainly heavy and dense with generous layers of sugary topping.

Tomorrow - Lucy's Fourth Birthday.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Grandma Great's Surpris
Sarah and Jeff had a gift for Grandma Great. What could it be! It looks like a Christmas wreath.
Not a wreath, but a collapsing Thomas Kincaid Christmas tree. You insert a pole in the base.

Much like a hoop skirt - the tree expands to a full-sized 6 -foot tree, complete with lights, ribbons, ornaments, poinsettias, and a large bow adorning the top.

Grandma Great was so pleased with the gift.

On Friday night, Grandma Great's tree was the night light in her room.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday -First Gourmet Meal

An integral part of sharing with family are the meals and their preparation. Wife Judy is preparing the pasta for spaghetti and sister Judy below is making a fine salad with the freshest of greens and veggies.

Grandma Great is always ready to help. We are blessed that at 86 years young she is still independent and active.

Sam tried out the face painting kit. John, Rachael, Flora and Lucy would not arrive until Saturday so Sam decided to test out the face art before the other kids got there.

Uncle Bill and Sarah prepared the wine and our dinner was complete.

Yummy in the tummy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Howdy! The Meads clan met once again in Timberline (Canaan Valley) to celebrate early Thanksgiving. We arrived on Thursday (November 18) and enjoyed family time until we had to leave on Tuesday of this week (November 23). We also rented the same house as last year- Cedar Creek 35.

On Friday, we (along with Sarah and Grandma Great Meads) decided it was time to take a hike on the boardwalk along Freeland Road.

It was a beautiful sunny day with a cool wind blowing through the valley. Grandma Great was all bundled up.

Sarah wore her new winter hat. She should probably change her name to "Helga"! Yes, the blond pigtails are part of her hat.

Nate and Sam were walking the boardwalk as if they were participating in a marathon.

Sometimes a guy has to stop and just rest!

It is always neat to check out the wildlife areas. Beaver certainly are active in this area.

I love to stop and see closeups of what nature has to offer. Here are lichens growing on a hawthorn.

Ole Nate beat us back to the vehicles. It was a good walk! Tomorrow's posting will continue our adventures.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

3 New Frog Species

When a team of scientists headed into the forests of western Colombia in September of 2010, they were hoping to rediscover a long-lost frog species that hadn't been seen in decades. They never did find the lost species -- but today they announced that they've come across three previously unknown species of amphibians.

The new species include a long-nosed beaked toad that can camouflage itself as a dead leaf, an only-somewhat-poisonous rocket frog with flashes of red on its legs, and a red-eyed frog that's so mysterious scientists don't know exactly how to classify it.

September's expedition involved scientists from Conservation International, the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group, Global Wildlife Conservation and Fundacion ProAves. Their aim was to find the long-lost Mesopotamia beaked toad, which hasn't been seen since the outbreak of World War I.

The scientists looked in habitats ranging from steamy rainforests to chilly cloudforests fo Colombia's Choco and Antioquia departments.

"After spending several days searching for the Mesopotamia beaked toad with no success, the team’s spirits were pretty low," Robin Moore, who organized the search, said today in a news release. "But finding these new species, including a new beaked toad, was like a shot of adrenaline. We definitely left on a high."

Here's how the species were described:

  • Beaked toad, genus Rhinella: Found in the rainforests of Chocó department of Colombia. The toad has a long, pointy, snoutlike nose that reminded Moore of the nefarious "Mr. Burns" character on "The Simpsons" TV show. George Meyer, who was a longtime "Simpsons" writer/producer as well as a member of Conservation International's Chairman's Council, agreed that the toad's "imperious profile and squinty eyes" were positively Burnsian. In addition to its strange appearance, the toad is unusual in that it probably skips the tadpole stage, laying eggs on the forest floor that hatch directly into toadlets. The coloration and shape of the head make the toad resemble the dead leaves on which it lives, and the only two individuals found were no larger than an inch in length.

  • Toad species, genus undetermined: Found on the forest floor, this toad is about an inch and a half (3 to 4 centimeters) in length, with striking bright red eyes. This highly unusual species has scientists baffled -- they know nothing about this species other than where it lives, which is around the 7,000-foot (2,000-meter) elevation in the Choco montane rainforest. Scientists trekked up very steep slopes to reach the habitat where they found the new toad. "I have never seen a toad with such vibrant red eyes," Moore said. "This trait is highly unusual for amphibians, and its discovery offers us a terrific opportunity to learn more about how and why it adapted this way."

  • Rocket frog, genus Silverstoneia: This is a type of poison dart frog -- a group that has given rise to many chemicals found to be useful to humans. This particular species is less poisonous than its brightly colored relatives. Living in and around streams, the rocket frogs carefully carry newly hatched tadpoles on their backs to deposit them in water to complete their development. This is a small species, which probably does not grow larger than an inch and a half (3 centimeters) in length.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

White-winged Crossbill

Yesterday, friend Diana stopped by and we had a spot of tea. A bird suddenly flew into our living room window. Judy saved the critter as she usually does very effectively. Diana and I went out to see the bird and found it to be a white-winged crossbill. This is a new one species for us. The photo above is a female. Males are more rose colored.

A close look at this crossbill reveals a curious adaptation. The long tips of the upper and lower bill don’t meet, but instead cross over each other. The bills of young birds are not crossed at hatching, but cross as they grow. The Crossbill bites between the scales of a cone and pries them apart by opening its bill, then dislodges the seed with its tongue.

White-winged crossbills can be found in large flocks year round and call when they are foraging in an unproductive area. When many seeds are available they remain quiet. If only a few birds call, the flock continues to forage, but if a number of birds call, the flock will move on to find a more productive spot. Their bills are adapted for removing seeds from cones, and they start at the bottom of a cone and spiral upward, prying open each scale and removing the seeds with their tongues. The bills can cross in either direction, and the direction of the cross dictates the direction that the bird spirals up the cone. They can eat up to 3,000 seeds a day.

A Red Crossbill below illustrates this unusual beak.

By the way, Judy once again came through and her gentle touch "healed" the bird and off it flew!

Friday, November 12, 2010


Engineers have used high-speed videos and mechanical gizmos to figure out the mechanics of a cat's drinking style, confirming what most pet owners know already: Cats are way different from dogs.

Dogs drink by dipping their tongues into liquids like ladles. A little pool of water is brought into the mouth every time Fido takes a gulp from the toilet bowl. Cats, in contrast, touch only the curled-back tip of the tongue onto the surface of the liquid. When the tongue is drawn back up into the cat's mouth, a thin column of the liquid is drawn up as well. Then the cat closes its mouth around that column.

They found that domestic cats average about four laps per second, with each lap bringing in about 0.1 milliliters of liquid. In contrast, tigers, lions and jaguars lap at less than half the rate. In each scenario, the lapping action strikes a balance between the inertia that makes the liquid rise into the cat's mouth ... and the gravity that makes the liquid fall.

"What is remarkable is that cats seem to know about this balance, and lap with a frequency that maximizes this volume ingested," said MIT's Pedro Reis, another co-author of the paper.