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December 1, 2011

Everyday objects with interesting origins

Daily Star

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Americans travel a lot, especially during the summer and holiday season. If you go to Canada or abroad, a passport is necessary.

Passports for visiting Canada are relatively new, but passports for traveling abroad have been around forever. It's something I've never given a second thought to, until I read a book recently that discussed the origins of passports. Take a quick guess as to when passports began, and you'll likely be way off the mark.

The first record of a passport can be traced to 450 B.C., which is way earlier than I ever would have imagined. They became popular during the reign of King Louis XIV. He personally signed requests for his subjects and asked that they be given safe passage through ports. The request was known as "passe port." Traveling became so popular by the mid-1800s that authorities became overwhelmed and stopped issuing the passes.

When World War I started, nations began to issue passports once again. It was in 1914 that the United States started its requirement of a photo on the passport. Many other countries did so as well around that time, and it is now standard practice. Passports have changed through the decades, and it's interesting to see what they used to look like versus what they look like now. If any of your ancestors have old passports, you know what I mean. Funny how we take things for granted until we stumble across something and realize how interesting its history can be.

New Books

Melody Rush longs to be a detective, but in 1952, careers such as that are frowned upon for women. Melody also encounters ghosts on a regular basis. When the spirit of a murdered prostitute asks for her help, she jumps right in. At the same time, the Grim Reaper puts her on retainer. It seems that someone has stolen his mask and unless it's returned before midnight on New Year's Eve, humanity's existence will cease. "Time of Death" by Gary Madden is an interesting take on the mystery genre.

If you have leftover yarn, take a look at Melissa Leapman's "Stashbuster Knits." She provides nearly two dozen projects along with tips and tricks that will help you use up your leftover yarn. Items include vests, sweaters, patchwork blanket, baby clothes, scarves, hats, bracelets and more.

"All about Roasting" by Molly Stevens looks at new approaches to the roasting technique. Recipes and instructions for meats, vegetables and fruits are included. She explains the technique, different temperatures from high to low and when to use them, and how to carve and serve the results. Also included are suggestions for sauces, condiments and vinaigrettes. Detailed instructions will help cooks of all experience levels.

Children's Books

"Stars" by Mary Ray tells children that the sky is full of stars. But that isn't the only place you can find stars. Follow the story as she finds stars everywhere in our daily life, from those we make ourselves to those that you find on plants. Cleverly done _ children will certainly be on the lookout for stars wherever they go.

Bobo the dog is convinced he can teach a misbehaving kitten to be good. Things don't work out quite the way he expects in "How to Be a Good Cat" by Gail Page. Children will laugh as they watch poor Bobo trying one thing after another.

"No Two Alike" by Keith Baker finds a pair of curious birds trying to find two things that are exactly alike. Are two snowflakes alike? No. Are two leaves alike? No. Follow the birds as they look all through nature to find two things just the same. Will they?

Library Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.

Marie Bruni is director of Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. Her column appears in the community section of The Daily Star every Thursday. Her columns can be found online at