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Friday, October 29, 2010

What Are Ground Cherries and What Do I Do With Them?

Sometimes the employees at the Newton Falls Public Library have questions of their own. A staff member brought in recently harvested ground cherries; a small light brown, papery covered fruit about the size of a nickel. Inside the husk was a little yellow ball. Most of the staff was unfamiliar with it. Our more knowledgeable member said you could use them in pies and cobblers. The rest of us wanted to know more about this fruit and how to prepare it.

We began our search browsing through the gardening section of the library. In Botanica's Annuals & Perennials: over 1000 pages & over 2000 plants listed we located the ground cherry (Physalis peruviana) which is also known as a cape gooseberry [pp.677-678]. It is related to the Chinese lantern or winter cherry, a plant often used in floral arrangements. According to Botanica's, it is a South American “perennial . . . often treated as an annual and is grown for its crop of bright yellow to purple edible berries.” refers to another variety, an Eastern European cousin of the Mexican tomatillo (Physalis pruinosa) as a ground cherry or cossack pineapple.

The staff had little success while looking through the library’s large collection of cookbooks, including How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Not until we examined the index of Mary Emma Showalter’s 1950 edition of Mennonite Community Cookbook; favorite family recipes did we find a listing for Ground Cherry Pie. The recipe [p.370] requires ripe ground cherries, brown sugar, flour, water, and two pie crusts or one crust and a crumb topping.

The website of Trade Winds Fruit [] compares the taste to a tomato/pineapple like blend. It recommends using them in salads, desserts, jams, and jellies. The fruit can also be dried or dipped in chocolate. The blog Cook Local [] has a recipe for Ground Cherry Salsa. has 117 recipes for us to peruse for ideas of what to do with ground cherries.

Curious about how to grow our own ground cherries for next year, we searched through the library’s collection of books about seed saving. Seed to Seed: seed saving and growing techniques for vegetable gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth has a chapter on Physalis spp .- Ground Cherries, Husk Tomatoes, Tomatillos, etc. (pp. 159-162). It includes step by step instructions on seed production [p.160], harvesting, processing, planting, transplantation, and care. To ensure we have seeds, we need to remove the paper husks and blend the berries in a processor or blender with enough water to cover them. When blending is complete, the mixture is put into a large bowl and more water is added to double the amount. The mixture is then stirred vigorously, and the good seeds are allowed to sink to the bottom of the bowl. Pour off what remains on top, add more water, and repeat the process until the seeds and water are clean. They are then put into a strainer fine so that the seeds to do not pass through. Wipe the bottom of the strainer to remove moisture, and place the seeds onto a glass or ceramic dish to dry. In this area of Ohio the seeds can be started inside around April 1 in .25 inches of soil, and moved outside around May 15. Ashworth’s book calls the fruit we sampled Downy Ground Cherry (Yellow Husk Tomato).

Friday, October 22, 2010

What is a Cake Walk?

“I’m new in town and I keep seeing articles about the Halloween Cake Walk. What is a cake walk?” This is one of Newton Falls’ most interesting community events, and one in which some of the Newton Falls Public staff have enjoyed participating.

We were able to inform the new resident that the cake walk is sponsored every year by the Kiwanis Club, it follows the community Trick or Treat, and is held on Broad Street between Canal and Center Streets. Participants purchase tickets and then walk through arches while music is playing. When the horn blows, those under an arch may select a cake from the many donated. The cakes are supplied by community groups who receive a percentage per cake of the evening’s proceeds for their organization. During the event, the Newton Falls High School Tiger Marching Band entertains and prizes donated by businesses and groups are awarded for costumes.

This question intrigued the library staff who began to wonder more about a cake walk. According to A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (pg. 241), a cakewalk was “Orig. a parade or walk-around, poss. by Negroes, in which the reward for the fanciest steps was a cake. Now a walk in which those participating pay for the privilege of walking to music on a numbered floor, each one hoping that when the music stops he will be on a lucky number and thus receive a cake as a prize.” There is also more historical information online on the subject, but not much is readily available about specific community cakewalks.

To discover more about our local cakewalk, we contacted a member of our local Kiwanis Club and our Local History Room volunteer. The member informed us that the Newton Falls club began in 1924 and he thought their cake walk began around 1930. In searching the old volumes of the Newton Falls Herald, no mention was found before 1926. The headline on the front page of the October 28, 1926 edition announced Big Community Hallowe’en Celebration Saturday. That event was to be held on October 30, 1926, making this year’s celebration the 85th one. The article announced that there would be music by the Newton Falls Band under the direction of L. E. Price, cakes, costumes and “fine” prizes. Besides cash awards of $1-$3 for the best of certain costume types, there were also product prizes. This list included: Best George Washington, 1st prize – vacuum windshield cleaner and 2nd prize - rear view mirror donated by W. C. Liber and Son; Fattest Man, 1st prize - 25 lb. sack of sugar and 2nd prize - 24 lb. Occident Flour donated by O. C. Bedell; and Best Made-Up Man, 1st prize - 24 lb. sack of flour and 2nd prize - 6 bottles of catsup donated by Jack Davis.

In the October 16, 1930 Newton Falls Herald, the Kiwanis decided to hold their annual cake walk on the evening of October 31 at the location where the event is presently still enjoyed. Proceeds were to be donated to the Kiwanis Club fund for the care of underprivileged children. In the October 30 paper, one would assume due to the effects of the Depression, the club decided to devote the monies raised for the relief of the needy in the community. The cakes would be on display at the Bate Brothers real estate office on Broad Street.

For individuals interested in participating in this year’s event, the library has some wonderful resources to inspire a cake baker. Fantastic party cakes: 20 fun cakes to make and decorate by Allison Wilkinson has the Masquerade cake and A Walk on the Wild Side which has tiger stripes draped over it. If decorating a large cake seems daunting, try The Artful Cupcake: baking & decorating delicious indulgences by Marcianne Miller. For those wishing to encourage children to participate, the book Birthday cakes for kids: dozens of fun & creative cakes has Boo the Ghost, Jack-O-Lantern, and Webster’s Web, all which are sure to be Halloween crowd pleasers.

To have a chance to win a prize, Cake Walk participants might wish to investigate the library’s collection of Halloween costume books. Adults can be creative with The Halloween Handbook: 447 costumes by Bridie Clark and Ashley Dodd, teens might find the perfect one in The Original Duct Tape Halloween Book by Jim and Tim, the duct tape guys, and parents will find a variety of easy children’s’ costumes in FamilyFun Tricks and Treats by Deanna F. Cook

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Was the Website Mentioned on Dr. Oz?

“I was watching Dr. Oz the other day, and he was talking about saving money at the grocery store with a website named Shop Smart. I can’t seem to locate it online; can you help me?” This was a question we enjoyed researching as the Newton Falls Public Library staff members also look for ways to save money.

We began with an online search for the words “Dr. Oz smart shop.” The first item listed was “Dr Oz was joined by Lisa Lee, editor in chief of ShopSmart magazine.” We then looked for their website and found ShopSmart;) is a new Consumer Reports magazine to which a subscription may be purchased. The website does have interesting articles which may be viewed online such as Hidden Discounts, Save on Groceries, How to Buy Clothes That Fit and Flatter and Get More for Less. There is also news, advice, smart ideas and a newsletter. This was the information our patron needed.

Searching websites with the words “shop smart” also brought up an interesting list of other sites for our patron to consider. One that intrigued us the most was which will deliver healthy recipes and coupons directly to your email address.

The library also has numerous resources to assist those trying to watch their spending. On Saturday, October 16 from 11 noon attend the Coupon Clipper – How to Save $ presented by Michelle McMahon. Michelle was recently featured in the article Clipping Costs: Residents share coupon secrets by Larry Ringler (Tribune Chronicle, September 12, 2010). Discover ways to save money and to have more in your pockets for the holidays. Register today and bring your extra coupons to the event.

Unable to attend our program? The library has a multitude of materials which can help you save. The Frugal Shopper Checklist Book: what you need to know to win in the marketplace, The Frugal Senior: hundreds of creative ways to stretch a dollar! by Rich Gray and Master Your Debt: slash your monthly payments and become debt free by Jordan E. Goodman with Bill Westrom are a small selection of what can be borrowed to help save.

Careful planning for meals at home can be a great money saver. The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook: 200 recipes for quick, delicious, and nourishing meals that are easy on the budget and a snap to prepare by Erin Chase, Good Housekeeping Dinner for a Dollar: 50 family friendly recipes under $, and Chef on a Shoestring: more than 120 delicious, easy-on-the-budget recipes from America's best chefs have recipes sure to tempt.

Besides finance information, cookbooks, repair manuals, “do-it-yourself” and “make your own” books, the library has purchased two databases to help make engine repairs less expensive. The Small Engine Repair Reference Center can be accessed from any Internet computer and has manuals for all terrain vehicles, generators and other small engines, marine/boat motors, motorcycles, outdoor power equipment, personal water craft, snow machines/snow mobiles, and tractors. For those individuals working on their cars, the library has AllData, the world's most comprehensive resource for automotive diagnostic and repair information, including Technical Service Bulletins, items of Customer Interest, and wiring diagrams. Vehicles from 1982 to present may be searched, and the information is specific down to engine size. This database can be accessed only at the library.

Remember that the library is filled with great resources for those who are frugal.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How Do I Take Care of My Boston Fern?

“I’m getting ready to bring my houseplants back inside for the winter, and I’m not sure how to take care of a large Boston fern. Do you have any books that will help me?” The staff of the Newton Falls Public Library enjoys plants, as can be seen by the ones arranged throughout the library, and understands how important it is to know how to properly care for them.

Our search began in the section filled with books about houseplants. The Pitiful Gardener’s Handbook: successful gardening in spite of yourself by Connie Eden & Tracy Cheney had an appealing title, but did not deal with the problem at hand. In many of the books the Boston fern is listed not by its common name but as Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis.’ Ortho’s Guide to Successful Houseplants and The Complete Guide to Indoor Gardening by Jenny Rawforth and Val Bradley respectively have sections about the care of this type of fern. It requires indirect sunlight or moderate light, and normal room temperature and humidity. The two differ in reference to how wet to keep the soil. Ortho’s Guide to Successful Houseplants [p.270] recommends allowing the “plant to approach dryness before watering, then water thoroughly and discard drainage.” The Complete Guide to Indoor Gardening [p. 134] says to “keep moist at all times.” The RHS Encyclopedia of House Plants Including Greenhouse Plants [p. 359] by Kenneth A. Beckett seems to take a slightly different perspective with the admonition to “allow the surface of rooting medium to dry out between watering.”

The Ortho’s Guide also advises the home gardener to groom the fern by picking off the yellowed fronds and to shape the plant with “light pruning or clipping at any time.” When moving the plant back into the house after a summer spent outdoors, the owner may notice that its leaves are dropping or it becomes spindly because of low light. The Complete Guide to Indoor Gardening notes that dry air can cause browning. If that happens it is suggested that the plant owner set the pot “on a tray of moist pebbles to increase humidity.”

Armed with this information our patron seems prepared to maintain a healthy fern until it can be returned to the outdoors.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I'm Looking for a Job

“I’m looking for a job. I’m afraid my cover letter isn’t very good; do you have anything to help me write a better one?” The staff of the Newton Falls Public Library is aware that a well written cover can catch the attention of a prospective employer. The library has a variety of resources to assist this patron.

Our patron was uncomfortable using the computer, so we suggested browsing titles such as The Everything Cover Letter Book by Burton Jay Nadler, Vault Guide to Resumes, Cover Letters & Interviews by Howard Leifman, Marcy Lerner and the staff of Vault, Gallery of Best Cover Letters: a collection of quality cover letters by professional resume writers by David F. Noble and 7 Minute Cover Letters by Dana Morgan.

In order to become more comfortable with a computer, we recommended that our patron sign up for the program to assist job-seeking adults. The series of classes will be Fridays, October 22, and November 5 and 19 from 1 – 3 p.m. Registration is required as space is limited. Participants are encouraged to attend all three classes. The program has been made available through a grant from the First Place Bank Community Foundation

• October 22 - The first class is Networking and Job Seeking. In this class attendees will list people to network with and make a plan. The instructor will assist them in creating a 30 second “elevator speech” and go through some websites of interest.

• November 5 - The second will cover writing a resume. It will focus on the content of the resume and will specifically have the participants writing accomplishment statements and summary statements for their resumes.

• November 19 - The final class is Creating a Resume in Microsoft Word. This will include basic instruction that teaches how to create a resume using Word.

The Ohio Career Information System (OCIS) also has guidelines for writing cover letters on their website, To have access to this site, our patron would need to use a library computer to register. Once a portfolio has been created, patrons can use the site from any computer with Internet access. There are Assessment Tools, Education and Training, Occupations and Employment resources, and an Employer Locater.

I Need Information About Giving Massages

“I need some information about giving massages. I would especially like to know if you have any videos about it.” The Newton Falls Public Library staff hoped this search would be a relaxing one and began it with our online catalog.
The library owns several books on massage, including Feet First: a guide to foot reflexology by Laura Norman and The Reflexology Atlas by Bernard C. Kolster and Astrid Waskowiak. Newton Falls Public Library does not own any videos about massage but a selection of videos, including Infant Massage: the power of touch, Reflexology, the Timeless Art of Self Healing and the series Healthy Massage, are available through our shared TiPL (Trumbull Independent Public Libraries) catalog. These items may be requested from the owning library, and borrowed by the patron at our library.

In seeking information about this subject on the Internet, we found numerous links to massage and reflexology videos, but were not sure of the quality of the techniques shown. We also discovered the Holland Reflexology Institute School For Advanced Reflexology [] in Niles and Cortland. The website of this Ohio State Registered School has online videos and a list of other Ohio massage therapy schools and their links.