Did You Know? (Banana Edition)

That botanically bananas are considered an herb?

I found this information on page 120 in the book The Story of Food. It is a very fun title about many of the common foods we eat. Touted as “an illustrated history of everything we eat,” there are old photos of harvesting, ad campaigns and artwork for most of the foods discussed.

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel tells us that the genetics of most of the bananas we eat are the same, and how the ‘banana belt’ came to be. He also writes about diseases that threaten banana crops and what is being done to solve the problems. There have been a lot of politics involved in the farming and shipping of this beloved fruit through the years!

For an easier read, The Biography of Bananas by Rachel Eagen has easy to understand facts with lots of pictures, telling you everything you ever wanted to know about bananas but were afraid to ask.

The Banana-Leaf Ball by Katie Smith Milway is an inspiring story about a boy name Deo and his family who are forced to leave their home. They become separated and Deo ends up in a refugee camp in Tanzania. Playing soccer joins the children of the camp together, and Deo teaches the other boys to make banana leaf (soccer) balls.

Even though the banana is an herb, I wasn’t able to find it listed in any of our herb books. Perhaps because it will not grow here. The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Arthur O. Tucker and Thomas DeBaggio lists over 500 types of herbs, uses for them (edible, medicinal etc.), and growing tips. There are sketches of many of the plants as well.

Lastly, an herb you can’t eat, drink or use as medicine…. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass is available at the library on our streaming Hoopla music, or we have several of his CDs. I’m sure, even though you may think you have never heard of the band, as soon as you listen to their music you’ll say “Oh! I’ve heard that before!” Perhaps, you were even eating a banana at the time!

Did You Know? (Brain Sand Edition)

That your pineal gland produces tiny gritty bone particles that are called ‘brain sand?’

I found this on page 12 in the book A World of Information by James Brown and Richard Platt. If I was going to have just one reference book, this would be it! Planets, anatomy, music, morse code, roman numerals etc, etc. are all in here. Perfect for answering all the questions kids (and adults) have. Descartes and others wrote of the pineal gland (which is pine cone shaped) with great reverence. It has been called the seat of the soul and referred to as the ‘third eye.’ It is a split pea sized endocrine gland located in the geometric center of the brain, and it gathers an increasing amount of mineral deposits or ‘brain sand’ as you age.

It appears that the Freemasons and other secret societies have referred to the awakened pineal gland as the Philosopher’s Stone. The Source Field by David Wilcock talks all about this and the symbolism of pine cones through out history.

Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza tells us about the pineal gland, energies in your body, brain chemistry, your bodies’ electrical fields, the movement of cerebrospinal fluid, heart rhythm patterns and much more. He describes how the pineal gland works with adrenal hormones, melatonin, and serotonin. According to the author, it is your bodies’ energy center. This revolutionary book is touted as a “body of knowledge and a set of tools that allow ordinary people … to reach extraordinary states of being.” I’ll admit, I just kind of skipped around and read bits of it. It seemed to me rather technical, but Dr. Dispenza made it fairly easy to understand, in spite of all the big words!

For children, or for those of us with an aversion to big words, the Ultimate Body-pedia by Christina Wilson has excellent pictures of the body and all of its systems, including the endocrine system showing. It also explains all of the glands in the body, including the pineal gland.

Imagine how much brain sand it would take to fill a beach. I think I’d rather just have regular sand on my beach! Two fun stories featuring beach sand are Pig Kahuna Pirates by Jennifer Sattler where Fergus and little brother Dink make a sand castle pirate ship, and If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON’T by Elise Parsley. Parsley’s book is a cute story telling the dangers of having your piano at the beach.

And then, there is quicksand! Quicksand is a colloid hydrogel consisting of fine granular material (such as sand or silt), clay, and water. Quicksand forms in saturated loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated. When water in the sand cannot escape, it creates a liquefied soil that loses strength and cannot support weight. Quicksand can form in standing water or in upward flowing water (as from an artesian spring).

Finally, there is the novel Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito which is touted as the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the year for 2016. Maja and Sebastian have a ‘relationship.’ A mass murder shooting occurs at the high school they attend and Maja is one of the few people to survive. She is accused of pulling the trigger for some of the murders, but this gripping story will make you wonder if she was really to blame. Maja finds herself sinking as if in quicksand as the trial goes on. Hmmmmm….. Maybe her glands made her do it?

Did You Know? (Penal Colony Edition)

That penal comes from the Latin word for pain?

Poenalis means pain or penalty in Latin. The use of the word to mean “appointed as a place of punishment” began in the mid-19th century according to The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories.

Turns out, there were penal colonies all over the world. Frequently the prisoner’s family was sent with them. It wasn’t like a prison term: serving your time and going home. Being sent to a penal colony typically meant being sent away for the rest of your life. It didn’t matter how petty or serious the crime happened to be. Many prisoners were sent away due to their political views.

Australia is one of the best known former penal colonies. A Commonwealth of Thieves: the Improbable Birth of Australia by historian/novelist Thomas Keneally talks about the beginnings of the penal colonies in Australia. This book is based on the personal journals and documents of those involved. England shipped their ‘criminals’ there, and just like that, England was rid of their ‘problems!’ The thousands of convicts’ journeys were just the beginning of their ordeal though, as they started new lives in this unknown land.

The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars by Daniel Beer is a story of the Tsars and how they exiled prisoners to the Ural mountains of Siberia. It is also the tale of how these exiled unruly criminals became revolutionaries who would one day rule the Soviet Union.

Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan is a fictional story about William Buelow Gould being sentenced to life imprisonment at the Sarah Island penal colony in what is now Tasmania. William is a talented art forger and he begins painting pictures of fish to help the prison doctor get into The Royal Society. But the tales are as much about life on the island as they are about his art and the fish.

It can be devastating for a family that is left behind when a member of that family is in prison. The Night Dad Went to Jail by Melissa Higgins is a very useful book for young children with a parent in jail. They need to be reassured that it is not their fault and their parent still loves them. 65% of men in prisons are fathers and 75% of incarcerated women are mothers.

All of these penal colonies and jails are meant to punish. We know that positive discipline and boundaries are a much more desirable way to reap good behavior. Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World by Jill Rigby is full of wonderful anecdotes/scenarios demonstrating healthy ways to deal with tough situations when raising a child. Here at the library we have a wide array of parenting books to help you if you have specific discipline issues that you need to deal with. Hopefully, none of us will have to worry about our loved ones being put in jail!

Did You Know? (Hotcake Edition)

That the difference between pancakes, griddlecakes, johnnycakes and hotcakes depends mostly on if they are made with flour or corn meal?

In researching for this blog, every time I thought I had it figured out I’d find another recipe that contradicted it! Mostly from what I’ve seen, pancakes and johnnycakes (more about them below) are made with corn meal and griddlecakes and hotcakes are made from flour. That excludes buckwheat pancakes which are made with buckwheat, which is also known as Kasha.

Buckwheat, with its origins in China, was produced in Europe in the 1900s and was used in traditional crêpes (pancakes) and galettes (flat cakes) according to The Story of Food (page 239) from DK publishing.

In the UK, flapjacks are made out of sugar, butter, oats, and honey, but in the US, they are synonymous with hotcakes.

I think pretty much anywhere in the world you will find some version of hotcakes. Some are sweet and others are savory. Some are topped and others are filled. Here is a list of a few of the options:

Asian nonya spring roll pancakes

Brazil’s panqueca de carne moida are meat-filled crêpes.

Chinese bao bing (a thin pancake)

Dutch poffertjes (made with a yeast-raised recipe)

French crêpes (crêpes is French for pancake)

Korean hotteok sweet stuffed pancakes

Korean seafood pancakes are reminiscent of egg foo young.

German pfannkuchen (crêpe)

Hungarian palacsinta (crêpe)

Japanese okonomiyaki is the savory, saucy single pancake meal of your dreams.

Nigerian diet are gorgeous, spicy, chewy pancakes.

Spanish panqueques rely on fluffy whipped egg whites to make them incredibly light. (crepe)

Thai roti cooked with egg and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. Thai roti are folded over and over to get beautiful layers when you bite into it. It looks like baklava.

Vietnamese Bánh Khot are tiny, crispy, savory seafood pancakes that are perfect two-bite morsels.

The website What’s Cooking America has a great article all about johnnycakes. They are made with cornmeal and are the New England equivalent of tortillas. They are known under a variety of names: Johnnycakes, johnny cakes, jonnycake, ashcake, battercake, corn cake, cornpone, hoecake, hoe cake, journey cake, mush bread, pone, Shawnee cake, jonakin, and jonikin. They are all regional names for this cornmeal flatbread.

The origin of the name johnnycakes is something of a mystery and probably has nothing to do with the name John. They were also called journey cakes because they could be carried on long trips in saddlebags and baked along the way. Historians also think that “janiken,” a Native American word that means “corncake,” could possibly be the origin.

Waffles, Crêpes and Pancakes by Norma Miller has all kinds of recipes for the titled items. I can’t wait to try the Tiramisu Pancakes!

Paul Bunyan Swings his Ax by Dell J. McCormic has a story about Paul Bunyan’s logging camp and the 10-acre griddle used to make hot griddlecakes so large that it took 5 men to eat one!

So the next time you are having a short stack, think about all the different things people call them, and the fact that around the world there are probably thousands of people eating a hotcake right now.

Did You Know? (Breathing Edition)

That softshell turtles can breathe through their bottom?

Turtles have a cloaca. It is an orifice on their bodies that they urinate, defecate, lay eggs, and (in some species) can absorb oxygen from. While it is not their main way of breathing, it helps while they are eating, laying eggs and especially when they are submerged for extended periods of time.I found this information on page 151 of The Totally Awesome Book of Useless Information by Noel Botham.

You will learn more details about this ability on page 208 of Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins by Ronald Orenstein. He also tells us there are about 30 breeds of soft shell turtles. One example is the Fitzroy River Turtle which lives in fast running water where it can remain submerged for days, or even weeks at a time. Mr. Orenstein’s book has wonderful photographs of all aspects of these amazing animals. It also explains the differences between turtles, including the different ways they pull their heads into their shells: the Pleurodira, which translates to “side neck”, fold their necks sideways while the Cryptodira, known as hidden-necked turtles,pull their heads straight back into their shell.

Sea turtles can be amazingly large. A sea turtle can weigh as much as a water buffalo! Mission Sea Turtle Rescue by Karen Romano Young is full of fun facts, photos and valuable information about conserving the species. This is a must read for anyone planning on vacationing near a tropical beach. Another great book is Sea Turtles by James R. Spotila.

Turtles aren’t the only ones with shells! Shell by Alex Arthur tells about all kinds of shells: sea shells, egg shells, fossilized shells and many others are all in this book.

Lastly, turtles “cry.” This is their way of forcing the extra salt from their bodies that they ingest from drinking sea water. I don’t think that “turtle tears” will catch on nearly as well as “crocodile tears” but who knows?

Did You Know? (Curly Hair Edition)

Curly hair is caused by having flat hair follicles?

Page 10 of the Encyclopedia 2017 World Book Commemorative Edition (Volume # 9 H) tells us:

The texture of hair depends largely on the shape of the hair, which can be seen in a cross section under a microscope. Straight hairs have a round shape, and wavy and curly hairs are flat. The flattest hairs are the waviest or curliest.

Vera Peiffer wrote Regrowing Hair Naturally after she lost her hair to alopecia and nothing the doctors prescribed seemed to work. After doing much research, she has helped many people who have lost their hair for a variety of reasons re-grow it! Even if your hair has been gone for quite a while, you may want to try her techniques.

Curls, Curls, Curls! by Samantha Harris is a wonderful reference that helps you recreate many different hairstyles. Each hairstyle has step by step photographic instructions to help you easily recreate these classic styles.

A Century of Hairstyles by Pamela Church Gibson is a wonderful walk down memory lane, looking at famous hairstyles and the people who made them famous: Jean Harlow and her platinum blonde, the “Farrah Flip” in 1976 from Farrah Fawcet Majors, James Dean’s famous look and many more. I was amazed how many I could actually identify!

Every fairy tale aficionado knows that Rapunzel is famous for her super long hair. Kate Forsyth is an Australian author best known for her historical novel Bitter Greens, which interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale with the true life story of the woman who first told the tale: the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but can’t wait until I can.

But, the most famous “Curly” is the one from the Three Stooges. Jerome Lester Horwitz was the ‘baby’ of 5 brothers. Curly: an Illustrated Biography of the Superstooge by his niece Joan Howard Maurer tells his story. This is such a fun book, full of pictures and anecdotes. Any true Stooges fan will love this book!

Did You Know? (Traffic Edition)

It’s illegal to pull into the center turn lane from a side street or driveway?

I found this information in the 2018 Revised Code of Washington Volume 7. In RCW 46.61.290 it states: “A two-way left turn lane is near the center of the roadway set aside for use by vehicles making left turns in either direction from or into the roadway.”

Karen Gravelle has put together The Driving Book: Everything New Drivers Need to Know But Don’t Know How to Ask. While I did not see the fact about the center lane, there were plenty of other driving facts in this book with fun cartoons depicting the described scenarios. This book is a must for all new drivers!

Drive: The Definitive History of Driving is a Smithsonian book that begins with the internal combustion engine and tells you all about vehicles throughout the ages. It doesn’t say when the police actually began giving tickets for driving infractions, but there is a chapter about meter maids and parking enforcement. It goes on to talk about vehicle safety and hybrid cars. This is a very informative and interesting book with lots of vintage photos.

If you really like to drive, you may consider being a truck driver. Barron’s CDL by Mike Byrnes and Associates gives you all the information to pass the Commercial Driver’s License Truck Drivers Test.

Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer is a fun book about Jenna Boller who just got her driver’s license. She takes a job driving Mrs. Gladstone, an older lady who runs a family shoe store business, across the country in the woman’s enormous Cadillac, visiting her shops and going to a big stakeholders meeting. There are adventures along the way and I enjoyed the way Mrs. Gladstone really became a mentor to Jenna.

The Road Trip Book: 1001 Drives of a Lifetime will help you plan your own adventures. We have a good selection of other books that specify road trips on the Pacific Coast, France, or other places in the USA.

Lastly, while you are road tripping don’t forget to check out some good driving music! We have a large selection of many genres of music… but some of my favorite bands to drive to are Chicago and the Rolling Stones or any other fast paced rock music.