Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Gloria's Banana Nut Bread

1 1/2 cup sugar                                                *1/4 cup sour milk or buttermilk

1/2 cup butter                                                  1 tsp. soda

2 eggs                                                              2 cups flour

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2)                    1 tsp. baking powder

½ cup chopped nuts, optional

 Cream butter, sugar & well beaten egg together. Add mashed bananas & sour milk to which soda has been added. Sift together flour & baking powder and add to first mixture. Add walnuts. Fold in beaten eggs. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Insert toothpick in the middle. If it comes out clean of batter, it’s done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing. Cool an additional 10 minutes before cutting.


Sunday, January 22, 2023

I have spent many hours searching the many lines of my family tree, and one of the most frustrating is using birth dates to locate marriage dates and figure out the parents of the previous generation. When digging back into the years before my ancestors came to America, dates were really hard to rely on for accuracy. I found that this history was part of my problem. I decided I would....  

Blame it on the Romans

             Most genealogists know that in 1751 our colonial ancestors lost over two months of their calendar year, but I wonder how many are aware of the long, drawn-out process that led to that event.

            You can blame it on the Romans. In 45 B.C. Julius Caesar established a 12 month calendar based on the solar year as determined by the number of days it took the earth to orbit the sun—365.25 days. That quarter day was a bit awkward so scholars of that time recommended that three years out of every four have 365 days and the fourth year have 366 days. That sounds familiar, but wait.

            After centuries, in which many civilizations all over the world followed the Julian calendar, so named for the emperor, new and more accurate measurements of the earth’s orbit lead scholars to figure out that the previous calculations were a bit high. What to do?

            Simple. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII decided it was time to make adjustments. He simply plucked 10 days out of October that year. October 4th was followed by October 15th. That’s not all. He made January 1st the beginning of the year instead of March 25th as it had been previously. And he decreed that the end of each century that was divisible by 400 would be a leap year. However, not everyone liked the new calendar.

The Roman Catholic countries soon adopted the new Gregorian calendar, which naturally was named after the pope, but Protestant England and her colonies, did not. It wasn’t until an Act of the English Parliament in 1751 that Great Britain was ready to make the change. You remember that the Pope cut 10 days out of October.  Because 170 years had passed since that time, the British had accumulated an additional twenty-four hours.

             They solved the problem in 1752 by eliminating 11 days from September. September 2nd was followed by September 14th. Additionally, in order to put the English citizen in sync with the earth’s position, there had to be another change. The year 1751 began under the Julian calendar on March 25th and ended on December 31st so that 1752 could begin on January 1st under the Gregorian calendar like most other countries.

Many Englishmen were furious about the change and there even were a few riots in the American colonies. Here’s the rub. Prior to 1752, under the Julian calendar January, February and March, up until the 24th, were at the end of the year. For example, in the year 1750, March 24th was New Year’s Eve. Suddenly in 1751, December 31st was New Year’s Eve. That made 1751 only 9 months long. January was pushed into the following year -- 1752. Consider this. If an important date, such as a birthday, fell on March 15, 1751 and that date was moved to 1752 … would you wonder how old that made you?

In addition, not all countries got on the bandwagon. For example, Sweden didn’t make the change until 1753. Japan held out until 1872. Greece and Turkey lagged even further behind.

            What does this all mean to the genealogist? If you’ve searched for your colonial ancestor, you are probably familiar with the slash mark (/) used in many birth dates during the early 1700s. You will often find that if your ancestor was born in January or February their birth date was moved 10 days ahead in the Gregorian calendar. But did you know that if a colonist was born between February 29th and September 1, 1752 they moved their birthday ahead 11 days?

Also, think of all those tombstone dates. If you’ve searched for some old tombstones made prior to 1752 to verify a death date, consider that the date may have been under the Julian calendar and not the Gregorian calendar. Confused? If you think you’re confused, think what it must have been like for your ancestors. For us, 255 years later, it’s just an interesting puzzle, but for them it must have caused all kinds of consternation.


Saturday, September 10, 2022

Accouncing My New Historical Novel - Della's Destiny

 After three years in the works, my new book is finally finished and will be up on Amazon.com next week. I am thrilled to have it finally finished and I hope everyone who reads it finds an enjoyable story. 

The year is 1904. The setting is Jerome, Arizona Territory. Della McCrea and her parents arrive in Jerome when the mines are producing copper ore worth millions and some of the roughest characters in the west.

Della is in for the ride of her life when she is orphaned. Gambling and prostitution are part of everyday life. Saloons, gambling dens and brothels thrived. Without funds she is going to have to figure out a way to earn enough for a train ticket home to Ohio. Only seventeen years old, her choices are few. 

As her troubles mount, the question becomes, can she escape Jerome without her character being sullied and to what length she will go to achieve that end?



Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Life After Covid

 It's been a year since I had Covid and was hospitalized. I had the nasty variety, but with the help of my sons, survived, obviously. Since then I developed a pinched nerve in my back. I did a round of physical therapy which didn't help much. So after many trips to various doctors, I had an implant wired into my spine. That helped, but I still have to take some sort of pain med if I want to sleep at night. But enough of that.

I've just finished writing my 4th book and am in the process of getting it ready for publication. It's not a mystery like my first 3. It's an historical novel titled Della McCrea. The setting is in Jerome, Arizona in 1904-5. Poor Della is orphaned in a rugged mining town and has to fend for herself and earn enough to buy a train ticket back home in Ohio. It was fun making her suffer. Does she succeed? I guess you'd have to read it to find out. 

Have a great week.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Writing in 2022

 Now that the holidays are over, I can get back to being serious about finishing the historical novel I've been working on. There are only a chapter or two and the first draft will be done, then of course, I'll have to do some serious editing. Fortunately, my heroin doesn't age while I'm dragging my feet on the long journey.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

It's been aged since I post anything and now it's November, 2021. The year is nearly gone. I can't say I'm sorry. It's been a rough one for me. Back in May I contracted Covid-19 and ended up in the hospital for a week. The after effects have dragged on and on: muscle weakness, brain fog. My book-in-progress, Della, has languished in the computer. But I am hopeful for the new year, determined to finish it and do the editing. Hope Springs Eternal. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Tales from the Strip Mall

The Ant Farm appears in Tales from the Strip Mall, an anthology published by Tulare-Kings Writers. All of the stories in the anthology take place in one of the stores in the strip mall. Some are funny, some are more serious, and all of them are great reading.

I thought it would be fun to post a sample here, and of course, it's the one I wrote. Any resemblance to real life is purely coincidental. Enjoy!

The Ant Farm
By Gloria Getman

Most days are fairly predictable. The sun comes up, bills arrive in the mail, the neighbor’s dog barks too much. Things like that. People go along thinking they have life pretty well figured out.

And that’s why Doris Catzberg expected the box she was about to open would contain exactly what she’d ordered for her customer.

Doris was the owner of Pets & More, a pet store situated in the North Point Mall. She’d been in business two years, and it’d been a good experience, so far. She’d managed to keep a variety of cute kittens and puppies available for sale. The parrot, Feathers, she’d named him, was from Costa Rica and very popular with the children. Fish and fish tanks were a steady seller, along with pet toys, leashes and grooming products. She was pleased with what she’d accomplished.

Occasionally, one of her customers would ask her to order something special. Like Mark Hansen, who wanted an ant farm for his eight-year-old son. It had been easy to find a supplier. She’d simply located a site online and placed the order. 

Now, as she examined the carton, she noted that  it had been stamped “Fragile” and “This Side Up.”  It had taken nearly three weeks for the order to arrive, and she was anxious to find out the condition of the ants. She’d expected the package to be around 20 by 20 inches, maybe a little larger due to packing material. But this box was three times that size. When the delivery truck had arrived, the driver had loaded it onto a cart with a hydraulic lift to bring it in and place it on her work table.

Doris got a utility knife from under the counter and carefully sliced the wrapping tape on top. As she was about to pull back one of the flaps, the chime at the front of the store indicated a customer had entered. She set aside the knife and turned her attention to the man who had come in.

“I hope my order has arrived,” Mark Hanson said. He was a young father, about twenty-five, she guessed, who worked at the cheese factory in a nearby town. He’d explained that his son was handicapped due to a birth defect and was unable to participate in sports. He thought the ant farm would fascinate his son and make an interesting hobby for him.

“It has,” she said. “You’ve timed it just right. I was about to open the box.”

Hanson walked back to the work table where the big cardboard container sat. Doris pulled open the top of the box, lifted out packing material, and they both peered inside.

What they saw was the wooden top of a clear glass case, but it was a lot bigger than either of them expected.

Momentarily taken aback, Doris said, “I can’t lift this out by myself.”

“Why not just cut the front corners of the box,” he said. “and we can slide it out.”

“Sure. Why didn’t I think of that?” 

As soon as she had the front panel loosened, she removed more thick packing material to revealed the contents.

Doris’ eyes bugged and Mark Hanson’s jaw dropped. This was no ordinary ant farm. Two huge ants stood on top of a mixture of earth and sand that filled the lower half of the 20 by 30 inch container. 

“Good Lord,” Hanson said. “Those aren’t the kind of ants I was expecting.”

Doris blinked. “I … I don’t know what to say.”

The ants stood a little over an inch tall and four inches in length, much bigger than the carpenter ants she’d seen when she lived in the northeast. Their antennae flicked back and forth above beady black eyes.
They look almost sinister, Doris thought. 
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Catzberg, but I can’t take this home to my son. These creatures must have come from a jungle in South America. I wanted a simple kid’s ant farm.”
“I’ll send them back and order from another supplier.”
“It’s too late. His birthday is Friday. I’ll just have to find a substitute gift.” Shaking his head, Hanson headed for the front exit.
“Good gracious. What am I going to do with them?” Doris pulled the remaining packing from around the case and looked for a packing slip, but there was none. She stood there almost a minute, staring at the insects and wondering who would buy such a display from her store. Maybe a zoo, she thought. She was considering how the heavy container could be moved without causing damage, when her thoughts were interrupted.
“Whatcha got there, Mrs. C?”
It was the voice of Andy Krunkle, a sixteen-year-old high school student she’d hired to help out with clean-up after school. Andy had entered the back door of the building without her notice. He was a lanky kid, who stood six inches taller than Doris, had a mop of black hair, part of which flopped over one eye, and a gold earring in his left ear. A tattoo of a snake slithered out from under the left sleeve of his t-shirt. 

He walked up and stood next to her. “Whoa! Those are some ants, Mrs. C. I never seen any ants that size. Where’d they come from, Africa?”

“I don’t know where they originated. I ordered a simple ant farm, and this is what arrived. The customer has refused to take delivery. Now I’m not sure what to do with them.”

“Boy, wait till I tell the guys at school about these suckers. They won’t believe it. They’ll all want to come see ’um.”

“Now, Andy, you know how I feel about kids wandering around the store unsupervised.”

 “I’m gonna tell Mr. Bungleson, the biology teacher.” Andy didn’t seem to be listening. He bent over to get a closer look. “I know he’d be interested in seeing somethin’ like them. Maybe he could get the school to buy ’um from you. That would be a trip.”

Just then the sandy soil in one corner began to move. A tiny volcano of sand erupted and the head of another ant appeared.

Andy straightened with a jerk. “Whoa! Will ya look at that? There’s more.”
Doris’ eyes reflected a mixture of surprise and consternation as the third ant pushed its way into full view. She felt her heart palpitate. “How many could there be under all that dirt?”
Andy scratched his head. “By the size of it, there could be dozens. I wonder what they eat.”

“Good question.” Doris ran two fingers across her forehead. “Clearly, the supplier neglected to provide any nourishment for them during shipping.”

Andy raised his eyebrows and looked at Doris. “Maybe they did, but them crawlers ate it all.”

“Could be. Ordinary ants like fruit. I’ll get some ripe fruit.”

“Hey, want me to go to the store for ya?”

“Good idea. I’ll give you some money.” Doris went to her desk drawer for her purse and gave Andy a ten-dollar bill. Knowing a boy like Andy was always hungry, she added five more and told him to buy a snack for himself.

A grin lit up Andy’s face. “Gee, thanks.” He headed for the back door, but paused before going out. “Hey, if you stick that display out by the front window, they’ll draw lots of lookers. Might bring in some customers. I’ll bet the newspaper would come and take pictures.”

 By the time Andy returned with the fruit he’d purchased, it was time for him to go home. His mother would be expecting him. Doris turned her attention to the ants, pried up the lid of the enclosure and poured in the entire bag of peaches, plums and mangoes, then stepped back. The ant’s antennae excitedly flicked back and forth before they quickly began to devour the fruit.

“The poor things must have been hungry,” she remarked as she watched them haul small pieces down the little volcano hole.

       Satisfied that the ants were taken care of, she made one last round in the store, checking that the kittens and puppies had food and water, covering Feathers, and putting out the trash. Then she turned the closed sign around on the front door and sighed. She’d deal with the problem of the ant farm tomorrow.

At eight o’clock the next morning, Doris entered through the back door of Pets & More, put her purse and sack lunch away before busying herself with her usual routine of feeding the fish, checking on the snakes and refreshing the water and food for the kittens & pups. Her last stop was the ant farm.

        Every bit of the fruit she’d given them the day before was gone. “My goodness. You guys have quite an appetite.”

The ants moved close to the glass, their antennae flicking back and forth as if trying to communicate.

        “Are you still hungry? I don’t have any more fruit. And I can’t leave the shop right now.”

She put her hand on her hip. “I guess I’ll have to share my lunch.” With a frown, Doris started toward the break room at the back of the building. “I hope you like peanut butter and jelly,” she called back over her shoulder. “Good grief! Look at me, talking to ants. Maybe I need a vacation.”

        A couple of minutes later, after dropping her sandwich into the ant’s home, Doris went about the work of the day, waiting on customers, dusting and restocking shelves, and placing orders for a few new items. As she worked, she rearranged a couple of displays in order to free up a table to move to the window at the front of the store. She’d decided Andy’s suggestion of using the ants to draw customers was a good idea.

        When noon arrived, she locked up and walked down the mall to a cafĂ©. A quick lunch would leave time for a side trip to the fruit stand down the street. Those ants are going to eat me out of house and home, she thought. I wonder if they’d like dry cat food. I have plenty of that.

        Later, while returning to the store, she found herself smiling. She’d made the farmer very happy when she asked him for his over-ripe fruit. He’d grinned like it was Christmas and cheerfully filled her grocery bag to the top.

        As soon as she let herself in the door, she lost no time making her way to the ant farm. What she saw there almost caused her to drop the bag. The surface of the dirt in the enclosure was alive with ants. They were moving in and out of the little volcano, and across the enclosure to a pile of brown and white particles. Evidently, they were cleaning out their subterranean nest.

        She settled on the stool behind the work table, her thoughts in a spin. Could this be all of them, she wondered, or were there even more? She bit her lower lip. There was one thing she knew for sure. It was the nature of ant colonies to grow. How would she manage a larger population—the space, the expense?        She stood. A simple transaction had turned into a huge problem for her.

        Well, no matter what, she couldn’t let them starve. Too much money was already invested. She deposited a generous amount of soft apricots and peaches in the opposite corner from their trash heap, then set the bag on the floor. “I need a cup of tea,” she muttered to herself.

But she didn’t get very far with that idea. The chime at the storefront sounded and she turned in that direction. A tall, slender man had entered. He was dressed in what Doris thought of as office attire, dark slacks, short-sleeved white shirt and tie. His brown hair was a tad shaggy like he’d neglected a haircut, and bushy eyebrows above blue eyes made him look a bit stern.  

As soon as he saw Doris, he said, “Where are they? I must see them.” He strode toward her. “When Andy Krunkle told me you have some gigantic ants here, I didn’t believe him. But he was so adamant, I had to come and see for myself.” He stretched his neck, glancing around the store. “Where are they?”

“Ah, well, yes. Come this way.” Doris led him back to where the ant farm sat on her work table.

“I’m Bill Bungleson,” he said as he followed her. “I teach biology at the high school.” As he approached the display his bushy eyebrows bounced like they might pop off his brow. “By golly, I’ve read about such insects, but have never seen any live ones in my travels.” He leaned over and stared for a moment, then straightened and moved slowly around the enclosure to view the ants from different angles.

After a moment, he said, “Mrs. Catzberg, what you have here is a very rare species, endangered, I imagine. They are Zycopian ants from a remote area in Africa. I have to tell you, it’s probably unlawful to import them.”

She felt her pulse quicken and her stomach turn sour. If he were right, the result could be serious. She found herself chewing on a fingernail as she watched him leave her shop.

Despite the threat, that afternoon, Doris, with Andy’s help, set up the display in the front window of the store. It did attract attention, and a number of people came inside, not only to get a better look at the phenomenon, but to buy supplies for their pets. Her opinion of the ants was beginning to brighten a bit, even though keeping them supplied with food was a chore. She even tried them out on dry cat food. They made short work of it.

 The following Monday a letter from the EPA arrived indicating that it had been reported to that office that she was harboring an endangered species in her store. Inspector Harold Nusepacker from the EPA’s Northern District would arrive on Friday to validate the report.

Doris’ nerves jangled. She was sure she was breaking out in a rash. Those confounded ants were not only going to be the ruination of her business, but were going to put her in jail too. This new threat was overwhelming. What to do? What could she do? People had seen them. She couldn’t just flush them down the toilet. Besides, she couldn’t bear the thought of handling them. They might bite.

Later that afternoon, Doris noticed a dark-skinned man with close-cropped gray hair and a neatly trimmed beard standing in front of the window. He was smiling. A minute later, he entered the store and approached the display.

Doris walked over to him. “May I help you?”

“I pray you will,” he said in a very cultured deep voice. “I would be grateful if you would sell your ant display to me.”

Thinking about the official from the EPA, Doris wondered what the penalty for selling an endangered species would be.

The man reached in his back pants pocket and pulled out his wallet. “I’ll give you three hundred dollars.”

 “I’m not sure I dare sell them. You see …”

“I must have them,” he said with a tinge of urgency in his tone.

Fearing it was against the law to sell them, Doris was torn. On the other hand, if there was no sign of them in her store when the man from the EPA arrived, she could deny she ever had any such creatures. Stalling for time to think, she asked, “Why are they so important?”

“My wife and I are from a tiny village in north Africa. We immigrated here twenty years ago for my job at the university. One of the things we miss so much from our home country is a special dish we haven’t had since we were children—sumquasun. It requires a particular ingredient that’s no longer available.”

Not making any connection, Doris asked, “What sort of special ingredient?”

“It’s called cobula, derived from the finely ground exoskeleton of Zycopian ants, the ones you have here.” He took five one hundred-dollar bills out of his wallet and held them out to her.

“Please,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Our fortieth anniversary is Saturday. I have a surprise party planned for her. It would be the most precious gift I could give my wife. You see, she’s just been diagnosed …” He choked on the words.

Doris took the money from his hand and smiled up at him. “Saturday, you say? What time is dinner?”