Old-Time Cinnamon Jumbles

November 12, 2014

Like Chloe Ellefson, protagonist of my historic sites mysteries, I love to bake. Historic foodways are most fun of all. Tradition of Deceit sees Chloe visiting the site destined to become the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, which is all about historic baking. Since I’m an experiential kind of author, I’ve been busy in the kitchen.

The Mill City Museum is located in the former A Mill of the Washburn Crosby Company. Washburn Crosby Company began publishing cookbooks in the 1890s. In the 1920s-1930s, the Gold Medal Home Services Department made recipe boxes filled with cards available as premiums to home bakers. The cards were wildly popular.

I purchased a set online, and after thumbing through, this is the recipe I wanted to try first.

CinnamonJumblesRecipeFront450w

 

CinnamonJumblesRecipeBack450w

I planned to follow this recipe exactly. I used Gold Medal Flour and dutifully beat the eggs before adding them.

beating eggs

I even got out my vintage sifter.

As directed, I baked the first pan for 9 minutes, then removed the pan to add the cinnamon/sugar mixture. However, the cookies were already so set that most of the sprinkling didn’t bake into the cookies, and instead fell off when I removed the pan again 3 minutes later. (Perhaps my oven doesn’t match what was in the test kitchen.)

version 1 jumbles

So I felt compelled to tinker. On the next pan, I sprinkled the topping onto the cookies prior to putting the pan into the oven. That worked better, but wasn’t quite right either.

version 2 jumbles

These cookies don’t spread much while baking, so the rough contours of the dough after being dropped from the spoon remained. Most, but not all, of the topping stayed in place.

Finally I sprinkled the cookies and then flattened the cookies slightly with a spoon before baking. This pressed the cinnamon/sugar into the dough, and removed the rough contours from the cookie. (The dough was so soft that it was impossible to flatten slightly before adding the topping.)

versioni 3 jumbles

The third pan.  Much better.

versioni 3 jumbles

Ah—a perfect cookie.

3 sample jumbles

For comparison: first batch on the left, second batch on the top, and the final batch on the right.

The only other discrepancy was that I ended up with 4 dozen cookies, not 5 dozen. I’m sure that’s because I automatically dropped dough based on modern norms, instead of paying more attention and making smaller cookies as directed.

These cookies are light, moist, and delicious however you handle the topping. I suspect that your family—or book discussion group—will love them!

jumbles

PS – The recipe for Rolled Sour Cream Cookies sounds good too.  If anyone tries it, let me know how they come out!

Tradition of Deceit Launch Events!

November 5, 2014


Tradition Of Deceit Cover

Tradition of Deceit:  A Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mystery is here!

I’ve got a busy month or so ahead, and I would love to see you at an event. It’s great fun to connect in person! You can get some holiday shopping done and support a local store or historic site at the same time. Here’s the scoop:

**
November 7th, 2014; 3-4 PM
Author Panelist – Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, Waukesha, WI
I’ll be on the the Historical Fiction Panel with fellow author Eva Augustin Rumpf. We’ll discuss our work, answer audience questions, and sign books.  The festival features 75 writers and is free and open to the public.
SE WI Festival of Books – University of Wisconsin, 1500 N. University Ave., Waukesha, WI

**
November 13, 2014; 7 PM
Launch Event – Once Upon A Crime Bookstore, Minneapolis, MN
I’ll be sharing stories about the places and ideas that inspired Tradition of Deceit, greeting readers, giving away door prizes, and signing books at the Twin Cities’ premier independent bookstore.
Once Upon A Crime Books – (612) 870-3785 604 West 26th Street, Minneapolis, MN

**
November 18, 2014; 11-1:45 AM
Radio Interview – The Larry Meiller Show, Wisconsin Public Radio Ideas Network
I’ll be Larry’s guest, discussing Tradition of Deceit and taking calls from listeners about the Chloe Ellefson series.
Larry’s show can be heard on WPR’s Ideas Network (AM 930, 970, and FM 88.1, 88.3, 88.7, 88.9, 89.1, 90.3, 90.7, 90.9, 91.3, 91.7, 91.9, 107.9). It is also streamed live over the Internet. After the broadcast the show will be available on the WPR Archive page for listening or downloading as a podcast. A link to a copy of the show will also be installed on my Tradition of Deceit web page.
Wisconsin Public Radio – (800) 747-7444 - listener@wpr.org

**
November 18, 2014; 6:30 PM
Launch Party! – Mystery To Me Bookstore, Madison, WI
I’ll be sharing stories about the places and ideas that inspired Tradition of Deceit, showing relevant artifacts, greeting readers, giving away door prizes, and signing books at this special independent bookstore. Cake provided by Alisha Rapp.
Mystery to Me Bookstore - (608) 283-9332 1863 Monroe Street, Madison, WI

**
November 19, 2014;  7 PM
Launch Event – Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
I’ll be sharing stories about the places and ideas that inspired Tradition of Deceit, greeting readers, giving away door prizes, and signing books at this wonderful independent bookstore.
Boswell Book Company - (414) 332-1181 – 2559 N. Downer Avenue, Milwaukee, WI

**
November 20, 2014; 7 PM
Chloe Ellefson Program – Middleton Public Library, Middleton, WI
I’ll be presenting a lively, illustrated program that takes readers behind the scenes to reveal the experiences and places that inspired the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mysteries. I’ll talk about how my years at Old World Wisconsin influenced Chloe, how research into police work helped shape Roelke McKenna, and how I went about researching and writing the latest Chloe mystery. There will be time for questions, and door prizes. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

This event is free and open to the public. Please call to reserve your seat.  Middleton Public Library – (608) 827-7402 – 7425 Hubbard Ave., Middleton, WI

Note:  I will also be doing a program for American Girl fans at the Middleton Public Library at 4 PM. I’ll share stories about creating Caroline Abbot, AG’s newest historical character.  Books will be available for purchase and signing.

**
November 22, 2014; 2 PM
Launch Event – Books and Company, Oconomowoc, WI
I’ll be sharing stories about the places and ideas that inspired Tradition of Deceit, greeting readers, giving away door prizes, and signing books at one of my favorite bookstores.
Books & Company – (262) 567-0106 – 1039 Summit Avenue, Oconomowoc, WI

**
November 23, 2014; 4 PM
Launch Event – Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI
I’ll be sharing stories about the places and ideas that inspired Tradition of Deceit, greeting readers, giving away door prizes, and signing books at the this lovely independent bookstore.
Arcadia Books- (608) 588-7638 – 102 East Jefferson Street, Spring Green, WI

Note:  I’ll also greeting American Girl fans and signing Caroline books at Arcadia at 2 PM.

**
December 6, 2014; 1-5 PM
Booksigning – Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Deborah, IA
I’ll be greeting readers and signing Chloe books in the museum store as part of the Norwegian Christmas Weekend special event. The museum will be hosting many special activities throughout the weekend. Books will be available for purchase.
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum - (563) 382-9681 - West Water St., Decorah, IA

**
December 13, 2014; noon – 5 PM
Booksigning, Old World Wisconsin, Eagle, WI
I’ll be greeting readers and signing Chloe books in the historic site store as part of the An Old World Christmas event. Several buildings in the Crossroads Village will be open. Books will be available for purchase.
Old World Wisconsin - (262) 594-6301 W372 S9727 Hwy 67, just south of Eagle, WI

 

Happy Reading!

Why Milwaukee’s Old South Side?

September 24, 2014

If you’ve read any of the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries, you’ve already met Officer Roelke McKenna. Based on reader mail, he’s a popular guy. Well, in Tradition of Deceit, Roelke gets his fair share of page time.

Tradition Of Deceit Cover

Chloe spends much of the book in Minneapolis, helping a friend. Back home, Roelke gets slammed with the news that his best friend, a fellow police officer, was shot and killed while on duty.

Roelke began his career in Milwaukee, but I’ve never specified a district or neighborhood…until now. His beat was in Milwaukee’s Old South Side. When he hears accusations that his friend was drinking on duty shortly before his death, he fears the investigation is tainted and returns to familiar territory to seek the truth for himself.

District 2 Police Station

So…why the Old South Side?

First, its history perfectly suits my interests and background—and a recurring theme in the Chloe series. I’ll quote the excellent book Milwaukee’s Old South Side (Jill Florence Lackey and Rick Petrie):  “If one adjective could be used to describe Milwaukee’s Old South Side, it would be ethnic.”

I’d already decided to celebrate Polish culture in this book. And at one time, the Old South Side was home to the largest Polish community outside Poland.

Kosciuszko_Park_ice_skating

Ice skating in Kosciuszko Park, 1910. (Photo by Roman Kwasnieweski; From the Archives Department, University of Wisconisin-Milwaukee Libraries.)

Second, it’s still easy to see evidence of the neighborhood’s early Polish immigrants. They built homes on narrow lots, with gable ends facing the streets, as shown in the photos above and below.

South Side neighborhood

This style of architecture became known as Polish Flats.  If families eventually needed more space, they jacked up the foundation and add a lower level.

Kosciuszko Park is the heart of the neighborhood.

Kosiuszko Park

View from Lincoln Avenue. The park, named for prominent General Thaddeus Kosciuszko, provides a 34-acre greenspace in the middle of the most densely populated neighborhood in Milwaukee.

Kosiuszko Park

Note the blue police call box in the foreground. In Roelke’s time, police officers still used these boxes to communicate.

Third, the community can claim several prominent historic sites. These working-class Polish-Americans built beautiful churches, including the magnificent Basilica of St. Josaphat.

Basilica of St. Josaphat

The basilica is also visible across the frozen pond in the historic photo above.

And right down the street is Forest Home Cemetery, established in 1850, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

cemetery

In the 1970s, highway construction and urban renewal sent some of the Polish-Americans to the suburbs, making room for more Mexican immigrants and other Latino newcomers. Tradition of Deceit takes place in February, 1983. The area was—and remains—vibrant and diverse.  It provided a wonderful setting for Roelke’s story.

Old South Side restaurant

Roelke finds himself slipping easily back into the old  neighborhood where he once walked a beat—talking with residents, visiting local landmarks, stopping for coffee at the local George Webb’s.

Old South Side George Webb

You can learn more about the neighborhood by visiting the basilica, park, and cemetery. I also recommend visiting the Old South Side Settlement Museum.  More about that later.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

And as always, you’ll find lots more information, photos, and maps on my website.

Milwaukee readers – any favorite memories to share?

Polish Heritage

September 18, 2014

In previous Chloe books I’ve featured Norwegian, Swiss, and Danish culture. When I began conceptualizing Tradition of Deceit, the 5th Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery, I knew I wanted to celebrate a different ethnic group.

The first time I toured the Mill City Museum, where some of the book is set, the guide told us that the earliest women employees were hired during World War I. The company began packing flour into small five-pound sacks, and managers believed that women were best suited for that job.

Female worker as depicted in an early ad.  Author's collection.

Female worker as depicted in an early ad.

When the guide mentioned that some of the women hired were of Polish descent, I knew which ethnic culture to include in the new book!

I created a plot strand that follows several generations of Polish-American women, and wove their story through Chloe and Roelke’s stories. Magdalena, the first woman, immigrated under very difficult circumstances in the 1870s. The story of Magdalena and her descendants resonates into the modern stories.

At the time Magdalena left Europe, there was no Poland. Poles lived under foreign rule from 1795 to 1918.

Many of them summarized their reason for immigrating succinctly: Za chlebem—For bread. Thousands of desperate people saw no hope of preserving their culture, tilling their own land, or otherwise providing the most basic necessities for themselves and their children in the Old World.

However, some of the Polish immigrants’ vibrant traditions provide a wonderful contrast to the grim struggles many faced in Old World and New. The old postcard below shows folk costumes from the region where my character Magdalena was born.

Polish Lowitcz region

Folk dress from the Lowicz region, by Irena Czarnecka; card printed in Poland. (Author’s collection)

This photo shows the cheerful paper cuttings and ornaments some people made to decorate their homes.

The Open Air Museum of the Łowicz Region Village in Maurzyce

Photo from the Open Air Museum of the Łowicz Region Village in Maurzyce.

And with a plot centered on a flour mill, I simply had to include a few Polish baked goods, such as these filled doughnuts called pączki.

Wikipedia - pączki

(Wikipedia photo).

Some of the customs I discovered became important elements in the murder investigations at the heart of Tradition of Deceit. In weeks to come I’ll share more information about some of the folkart and baking traditions featured in the book. I suspect that Chloe readers will enjoy exploring them as much as I did.

Tradition Of Deceit Cover

 

Why the Mill City Museum?

September 7, 2014

In Tradition of Deceit, Chloe visits a friend in Minneapolis to help with a proposal to turn a long-abandoned flour mill into a museum.

Tradition Of Deceit Cover

The mystery is set in 1983, when such discussions and plans were underway. The visionaries were ultimately successful, and the Minnesota Historical Society opened the  Mill City Museum in 2003.

Mill City Museum

So…why did I choose to feature the Mill City Museum in the fifth Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mystery?

First, it tells a fascinating story. When the Washburn Mill was completed in 1874, it was the world’s largest flour mill. The production of a basic food item was industrialized for the first time in history.

washburn A mill

Early print (author’s collection).

That building was destroyed within a few years. When it was rebuilt, the new 1880 structure and milling process was the most technologically advanced in the world. Records suggest that the mill at peak capacity could produce enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread a day.  More mills were constructed nearby, and Minneapolis was known as “The Flour Milling Capital of the World” for about five decades.

Chances are good you can find personal connections to this story in your own kitchen.  The Washburn company’s flour did so well at an early competition that it began packaging it under the name…Gold Medal.

Old Mill-111

(Photo by Kay Klubertanz.)

The marketing department created Betty Crocker.

exhibit Mill City Museum

MCM exhibit.  I inherited a copy of this particular Betty Crocker cookbook from my grandma.

After several mergers, the company became a little entity known as…General Mills.

Second – Baking, baking, baking! I’ve been testing old recipes, and will share favorites in the coming months.

jumbles

Old Time Cinnamon Jumbles, a yummy Betty Crocker recipe from the 1920s.

Baking Kathleen Ernst

I’m exploring a new (for the Chloe series) ethnic food tradition, too.

Third, the mill’s history in the 1980s was poignant and compelling. After closing in 1965, the mill was empty for years. It provided dubious shelter for many people with nowhere else to go. This let me explore some social issues of the time, and provided a unique setting for a murder mystery.

Homeless Protest Master combined

Star Tribune, May 2, 1990.

Finally, I loved exploring the Mill City Museum…and I think readers will too, whether within the pages of Tradition of Deceit (when the museum was still a dream) or on a field trip to see the real thing. The museum was created around the ruins of the Washburn A Mill (which was largely destroyed by fire in the 1990s).

(Photo by Kay Klubertanz)

(Photo by Kay Klubertanz)

The interpreters are consistently great,

Mill City Museum

I think this interpreter was pointing out dust collectors. After you read Tradition of Deceit, you’ll understand why they were important.

and programming often includes first-person presentations.

Mill City Museum

This interpreter portrayed Mary Dodge Woodward, a widow who moved from Wisconsin to a 1,500-acre “bonanza farm” in the Dakota Territory in 1882.

In addition to traditional exhibits, the museum features a baking lab,

Mill City Museum Baking Lab

Interpreters in the lab help guests understand the science and history of baking…

Baking lab Mill City Museum

…and guests can sample the recipe of the day.

and a  very cool Flour Tower Tour.

Flour Tower Mill City Museum

This special tour—one of the most ingenious interpretive program I’ve ever seen—was created by repurposing an old freight elevator. Guests riding up and down glimpse different aspects of life in the old mill.

Interpreters also lead special behind-the-scenes tours on a regular basis.

Kathleen Ernst Mill City Museum tour

That’s me, scribbling frantically while touring one of the areas not generally open to the public.

I’ll be sharing lots more in future posts.  In the meantime, you can learn more by visiting the Mill City Museum website. I also recommend Mill City: A Visual History of the Minneapolis Mill District published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.  Have fun exploring!

Mill City Museum

 

It’s Up To You!

August 21, 2014

I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. When I was nine or ten, I decided that if reading books was so much fun, writing my own stories would be even better. In a few months my 30th title will be published!

Reading

That’s me, lost in a book.

People often ask if my editors at American Girl tell me what to write. No, they don’t. Although I work with a great team of people who help make each book the best it can be, I make up my own stories. I decide what my characters should do.

Peg Ross, my editor, spends a lot of time combing through my manuscripts to make sure the stories are clear.  We've worked on 15 books together!

Here’s Peg Ross, my editor, making notes on one of my manuscripts.

Until now, that is. Catch The Wind:  My Journey With Caroline offers many opportunities for you to decide what the characters should do!

Catch The Wind

Imagine yourself transported back to Sackets Harbor during the War of 1812. Would you want to leave at once, or would you stay a while? If you saw an enemy ship, would you give chase or go for help? If your best friend was going on a raid, would you tag along or decide it was too dangerous?

In Catch The Wind, you get to decide all of those things—and make lots more choices too. When you finish the book, you might even want to go back and see what happens if you make different choices.

Catch The Wind was the first Choose Your Own Adventure story I’ve ever written. I drew diagrams to help keep everything straight.

Catch The Wind diagram

Here’s one of my early diagrams. The numbers refer to different scenes.

Catch The Wind Outline

Here’s part of the graphic organizer my editor made to help us make sure the story flowed properly.

I loved having the opportunity to explore lots of plot ideas and possibilities. I was able to include some situations I didn’t have room to include in the original Caroline stories.

So settle down with the book, and settle in for an adventure that has lots of twists and turns. It’s all up to you!

Time Travel

August 5, 2014

I’ve been curious about the past ever since I was a little girl.

I can't remember if this was my first grade or second grade school photo.

I read lots of historical novels. When my family visited historic sites, I imagined myself living there long ago.

Kathleen.Priscilla.Williamsburg600w

That’s me, taking a carriage ride at Williamsburg, about 1965.

If you’ve read the original Caroline stories, have you ever wished you could actually meet her? When I was writing the first seven Caroline books, I often wished I could get a real peek at Sackets Harbor as it was during the War of 1812.

Well, that’s the idea that inspired American Girl to create a new kind of adventure for their historical characters.  Catch The Wind:  My Journey With Caroline is a story I wrote about a modern girl who travels back in time and meets Caroline!

Catch The Wind Can you imagine what it would be like to suddenly find yourself in Sackets Harbor, New York, after the war started? How would you feel? What questions would you ask? And after you made friends with Caroline, what kind of adventures would you have?

I had a lot of fun writing Catch The Wind.  I hope you have just as much fun reading it!

Welcome to America

July 3, 2014

Scott and I spent Independence Day at Genesee Country Village and Museum in New York last year. Having celebrated the 4th of July in 1876 style at Old World Wisconsin for 12 seasons, I was eager to see how another large historic site interpreted the holiday.

The first special event of the day, however was not an historic reenactment or period activity. It was a citizenship ceremony that took place in front of the town hall in the Village square.

Town Hall Genesee Country Village

The presiding judge told of his father and grandfather, who had immigrated from Italy. He spoke eloquently of visiting Ellis Island. He assured the newcomers that this was a country where they could keep cherished cultural traditions from their homeland while embracing their new status as American citizens. He reminded them that as citizens, they have a responsibility to help govern; to be involved.

Genesee Country Village

Thirty-two people recited their oath of allegiance. They represented twenty-three countries:  China and Somalia, Australia and Russia, Sri Lanka and Honduras, and many more.

DSCF8480

Then each came forward to receive their certificate of citizenship. Some wore something traditional from their homeland. Many clutched American flags.

Genesee Country Village

I had a lump in my throat. I could think of no better way to begin celebrating the Fourth of July. And I could think of no better place to hold a naturalization ceremony than at an historic site like Genesee Country Village.

Many of the participants stayed at the site for the day. They were in the crowds as interpreters reenacted celebrations from 1836 and 1876.

Genesee Country Village

Reading the Declaration of Independence.

DSCF8515

And patriotic music.

And the site had lots of opportunities for guests of all ages to simply have fun. Period activities included sack races and a pie-eating contest.

DSCF8495 - Version 2

A rather chaotic egg toss.  A good time was had by all.

But the ceremony lingered in my mind. Modern immigration is part of the continuing story. The juxtaposition of period reenactments and modern ceremony reminded everyone, I think, of some of the principles that formed our nation, and continue to do so.

Genesee Country Village

Interpreters at the 1830s festivities…

Genesee Country Village

And Civil War Veterans at the 1876 celebration.

DSCF8499

A 94-year-old visitor/veteran of World War II—such a wonderful storyteller that he became an impromptu interpreter himself.

Historic sites are, of course, by definition largely about the past. And my personal philosophy of interpreting historic places is generally narrow. I’m usually not a fan of interjecting anything contemporary into an historic setting.

But historic sites also exist to help us all understand how we got to be here, now. Watching these modern immigrants, I thought of my own paternal grandparents, taking similar vows almost a century ago after they left Switzerland. I thought about how hard people have struggled for over more than two centuries to create and maintain a democracy. I was reminded that for all its heartbreaking flaws, the United States of American is still a beacon for, to paraphrase poet Emma Lazarus, the tired, poor, and huddled masses on distant shores, yearning to breathe free.

That’s interpretation at its best.

Genesee Country Village

A New Look—and a New Book!—for Caroline

June 17, 2014

As some readers know, American Girl is giving the Caroline books, and books about their other historical characters, a new look.  Here’s the scoop.

A company spokesperson explains the update:  “Our new BeForever books feature our beloved historical characters in a new format designed to appeal to girls who like high adventure and contemporary fiction.”

The first six Caroline books will be repackaged as two longer volumes. Meet Caroline,  Caroline’s Secret Message, and A Surprise For Caroline will be presented  as Captain of the Ship:  A Caroline Classic.

CarolineCaptainOfShipCover

And Caroline Takes a Chance, Caroline’s Battle, and Changes for Caroline will be presented as Facing the Enemy:  A Caroline Classic.

CarolineFacingEnemyCover

Those titles will be released on August 28.

On the same day, American Girl will release my brand new Caroline book!

Have you ever wished you could travel back in time and meet Caroline? A modern girl gets to do just that in Catch The Wind:  My Journey With Caroline.

Catch The Wind

What if you suddenly found yourself in Caroline’s world, right in the middle of the War of 1812? How would it feel to know your home is under attack—and how would you stay strong during such a scary time?

Join Caroline on adventures where the two of you could find ways to help the Americans win, confront a possible spy, or even plunge headfirst into ice-cold Lake Ontario! Your journey back in time can take whatever twists and turns you choose, as you select from a variety of exciting options in this multiple-ending story.

I’ll have lots more to share about Catch The Wind as the publication date draws closer. And as always, you can find information, photos, and behind-the-scenes news about the books on the American Girl page of my website. Happy reading!

 

About Those Trailers…

June 12, 2014

Readers sometimes wonder if I exaggerated the artifact storage conditions when I wrote Old World Murder. Well, here is one of the trailers Chloe discovers when she begins her job. (When collections care was tacked onto my job as curator of interpretation at Old World Wisconsin in the 1980s, this is what I inherited.)

Trailers II

In a former, happier life, the trailer had served as Wisconsin’s Historymobile, as celebrated in this recent image from a Wisconsin Historical Society newsletter.

scan0002 - Version 2

The Historymobile was retired as Old World Wisconsin was being developed, and it was repurposed at the site for collections storage. It wasn’t adequate, but with no proper facility, it had to do.

Trailers III

However, soon after I left the site, the situation improved. For the first time, a full-time collections curator was hired for Old World. And the modern storage facility that Chloe (and Ralph Petty) dream of in the book became a reality. (Photos courtesy Old World Wisconsin.)

Coll Bldg II

Coll Storage

While I confess to missing the good old days at times, it’s nice to remember the things that have improved! For a long time now, Old World Wisconsin has had a dedicated Curator of Collections and proper storage for the site’s huge collection of artifacts. Even Ralph Petty would approve.


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