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Friday, May 30, 2014

Why Are Wedding and Baby Showers Called "Showers"?

“Why are wedding showers and baby showers called ‘showers’?”

It’s a good question. We couldn’t find a definitive answer in either R. Brasch’s “How Did It Begin?” or William S. Walsh’s “Curiosities of Popular Customs.” However, we’ve always heard the explanation that showers are so-called because the guest-of-honor is “showered” with gifts. Several websites second the theory, including (It also gives the legend for the origin of the bridal shower: when a bride’s father withheld her dowry because he didn’t approve of her husband-to-be, her friends stepped in to provide her with everything she needed to start her new home.)

The shower of gifts may also have been a literal one -- Beth Montemurro’s “Something Old, Something Bold” mentions the Victorian bridal shower custom of placing small gifts inside a parasol, which would rain down on the bride-to-be-when opened.

Baby showers seem to have taken their name from bridal showers. While celebrating the birth of a baby is a long-held tradition in many cultures, referring to it as a shower seems to be relatively recent.

For anyone looking to throw either a baby shower or a bridal shower, Becky Long’s “Themed Baby Showers,” Courtney Cooke’s “The Best Baby Shower Book,” and Michelle Adams and Gia Russo’s “Wedding Showers” are available here at the Newton Falls Public Library. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

What Is Converted Rice?

“My recipe calls for ‘converted rice’ but I’m not sure what that is.”

Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” had the answer. The difference is in how it’s processed. All rice grows with a husk, which is always removed, and a layer of bran. White rice has had its bran removed, whereas brown rice remains intact. Converted rice is white rice, but, before it’s processed, it’s steamed, so some of the nutrients from the bran are forced into the kernel. The steaming turns the rice a kind of yellow color, and makes it a little healthier than white rice, though not as healthy as brown rice.

A blogger on taste-tested brown, white, and converted rice. She found that converted rice has a pleasant texture and a milder flavor than brown rice while still being more flavorful than white rice. It’s also less sticky than both brown and white rice. She suggests using converted rice in the crock-pot. Since it cooks faster than brown rice but slower than white rice, it will cook more evenly but won’t get soggy.

Uncle Ben’s is a popular brand of converted rice that most people are probably familiar with. According to Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook,” “converted rice” is actually a patented term, and it’s more commonly known as parboiled rice, which may be why our patron hadn’t heard of it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Can Curly-haired Parents Have a Straight-haired Daughter?

“My daughter’s hair is straight, but my hair and her father’s hair are both curly. Isn’t curly hair dominant?”

According to “Ask a Geneticist” on The Tech Museum of Innovation’s website and “What causes people to have straight or curly hair?” by Robert Jones on, curly hair is a dominant trait. However, if both parents actually have wavy hair, it’s possible for them to have a straight-haired daughter.

Remember doing Punnett squares in biology class? CC represents the curly hair gene, and ss represents the straight hair gene. If both parents have curly hair, they can each only contribute a C, so their children will have curly hair too. The same goes for two straight-haired parents – they can each only contribute an s, so their children will have straight hair. What about a child with one straight-haired parent and one curly-haired parent? Because one parent contributed a C and the other contributed an s, the child will have both genes and their hair will be wavy. (Although curly hair is technically dominant, hair type is an example of incomplete dominance, so the curly hair doesn’t cancel out the straight hair entirely.)

Wavy hair, then, is represented by Cs. A wavy-haired parent can either contribute a C or an s, so two wavy-haired parents have a fifty percent chance of having a wavy-haired child, a twenty-five percent chance of having a curly-haired child, and a twenty-five percent chance of having a straight-haired child. It’s the shape of the hair follicles that determine the shape and texture of the hair: rounder follicles will produce straight hair, while more oval follicles will produce curlier hair.

To make things even more interesting, according to Jessica Goldstein’s article for NPR “A Hair Mystery: Curly Hair Gone Straight," some people report that their hair’s been known to change shape and texture on its own as they age. No one’s quite certain exactly why it happens, though changes in hormones and body chemistry probably factor into it.

For more information on the secrets of genetics, Sam Kean’s The Violinist’s Thumb:and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code is available at the Newton Falls Public Library.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Could You Show Me a Friend's Town on a Map?

“An old friend moved to France and sent me her address. Could you show me her town on a map?”

All of the computers here at the Newton Falls Public Library are installed with Google Earth, a program that allows users to take a virtual tour of almost anywhere in the world. We were able to type in our patron’s friend’s address and, from the comfort of a library computer in Ohio, take a virtual walk down her street, catching all the sights, from the outdoor patio in front of the pizza place to the little courtyard gardens.

While absolutely everywhere doesn’t seem to be mapped yet (for example, some Ohio country roads can be viewed from above, with buildings and landmarks clearly visible, but the street view doesn’t yet seem to be an option), it’s still a neat program to play around with. Another one of our Newton Falls Public Library staff members likes to use Google Earth when he’s going to be driving somewhere new, because it gives him an idea of which landmarks to expect.

After exploring on Google Earth, our patron also checked out a travel guide to France, several more of which are available through CLEVNET (such as DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: France) if she decides to take the trip in person!

Friday, May 2, 2014

How Long Do Bluegill Live?

“I stocked my pond with bluegill a few years ago and I’d like to know how long they live.” 

Our extensive collection of gardening books at the Newton Falls Public Library includes several on water gardening, such as Helen Nash’s The Pond Doctor, Richard Bird’s Water Gardens, and Peter Robinson’s Complete Guide to Water Gardening. However, these books all dealt more with the ornamental kinds of fish such as goldfish and koi. We couldn’t find any mention of bluegill in David Alderton’s Encyclopedia of Aquarium and Pond Fish either.

Fortunately, searching online brought up the answer. According to the BioKIDS website (which is run by the University of Michigan), bluegill typically live from four to six years in the wild, although in captivity they can get to be as old as eleven.

For more information on enjoying a pond, including tips, lore, and recipes for fish, frogs, and crawdads, Louise Riotte’s Catfish Ponds & Lily Pads is available for borrowing.