The Oldest House

October 10, 2019

The Hardanger Folkemuseum‘s traditional exhibits are amazing, but there is more to see at this museum in Utne, Norway! Up the hill from the museum proper is an open-air division. Two of the buildings there were original to the grounds, but most have been moved from other locations in the Hardanger area, and restored. It’s a gorgeous setting.

Eldhuset, a Cook House.

The buildings have been arranged to suggest a cluster farm, which was common in the 1800s. Several families often shared a courtyard or common area while farming their own holdings beyond.

Hardanger Folk Museum

When I was planning Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, I chose to feature the Hardanger Folkemuseum in part because of the open-air division. My favorite building is Tveismestova (Tveisme House), which inspired the fictional Høygård used in the novel.

Warning: Mild plot spoilers ahead!

Tveismestova is the oldest building in the museum’s collection. Scholars believe the home was constructed between the 13th and 14th centuries.

Taken from inside the entryway, this shows the front door on left and the doorway to the main room on the right.
This single space was used for everything. Note the raised hearth in the center and the kroting on the back wall. The wooden shutters in the back wall covered the hatch.

As tour guide Klara explained in the book, In the old days, people believed that a dead person’s soul would try to return to the house where it had lived, using the entrance where it last emerged.  So bodies were removed through the hatch, which was kept closed at all other times.  That way the soul wouldn’t return through the door.

A closer look at the raised fireplace, with iron kettle hanging above.
Tveismestova, Hardanger Folk Museum.
Looking up at the smoke hole. It could be covered with a greased animal bladder.

The house has only one window, which replaced the original hatch. In one of the final chapters in Fiddling With Fate, Chloe approaches the house from this side, and peeks in the only window.

Tveismestova had a turf roof, constructed on top of a layer of birchbark…

…but some the buildings in the open-air division had slate roofs. This is the type of slate tile Chloe picks up in the book.

The real Tveisme Farm was struck by more than one tragedy. An avalanche struck the farm in 1781, killing the farmwife. The house, barn, and sheep barns survived, but the farm was moved to a safer location nearby–all except the old original house. When the farm burned down five years later, only the cabin remained.

Once moved to the Hardanger Folkemuseum in 1931, it had many stories to tell.

The Hardanger Folkemuseum

September 19, 2019

If you’re traveling in southwest Norway, and appreciate folk traditions, the Hardanger Folkemuseum is a must-see.

After my first visit, I knew I had to get my protagonist Chloe Ellefson there.

Most of Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe mystery, takes pace in Hardanger, and the museum is prominently featured.

The region is famous for its folk costumes and textiles. The museum’s collection is stunning.

Textile gallery, Hardanger Folk Museum.
Textile gallery, Hardanger Folkemuseum.
The Hardanger bunad, or folk costume. Bunads are folk costumes based on traditional folk costumes from rural areas. The Hardanger bunad has been widely adopted in modern Norway. Construction techniques used include elaborate beadwork, embroidery, and cutwork.
The museum recently displayed 1,000 bodice inserts. You can see how they were worn with a vest in the photo above, and see some of the oldest in the photo below.
Agnete Sivertsen, museum director, is an expert in regional textiles. When Mr. Ernst and I visited while on a group tour in 2015, she gave us a fantastic tour.

Music is another aspect of local culture. Hardanger fiddles, which have also come to represent the nation, are the region’s most famous instrument.

Another instrument, the Psalmodikon, has one string and is played with a bow. They were often used in the 1800s to accompany hymns, or to teach songs in school.

Psalmodikons, Hardanger Folk Museum

Other folk traditions are preserved and displayed at the museum as well, such as these pieces carved by Lars Trondson Kinsarvik.

The Hardanger Folkemuseum is a gem. After exploring the traditional exhibits, be sure to tour the open air division. (More on that next time.)

And if you’re like me, you may want to linger on the grounds, soaking in the landscape and thinking about people long gone…but not forgotten.

A Fiddling With Fate Celebration!

September 3, 2019

The 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Fiddling With Fate, officially launches on September 8th! That’s quite a milestone.

And the story includes a major milestone for main characters Chloe and Roelke, too.

Chloe was born and raised in the charming town of Stoughton, Wisconsin—where Fiddling With Fate begins and ends. Chloe’s backstory, everything that makes her unique, is rooted there. So what could be better than letting Chloe readers explore her heritage with people who are actively working to preserve Stoughton’s history and Norwegian cultural traditions?

To that end, I’ve partnered with the Sons of Norway-Mandt Lodge, with help from the Stoughton Historical Society, to plan a unique event.

The celebration will begin at 3:00 PM, Saturday, October 26th. Attendees will visit the Society’s museum to hear about Stoughton’s history, Norwegian settlement, and its role in reviving the folk art of rosemaling (rose painting).

The Stoughton Historical Society Museum.

At the Mandt Lodge there will be folk art demonstrations and a live performance of Hardanger fiddle music. Afterwards we’ll enjoy a traditional cod dinner and Norwegian dessert.

The Sons of Norway Lodge in Stoughton.

I’ll provide a richly illustrated program about the people, artifacts, and historic sites featured in Fiddling With Fate.

(Photo by Solveig Lund)

Event Time & Date:  Saturday, October 26, 2019, 3 PM – 7:30 PM.

Price:  $20.00 per person. Registration is limited, and pre-registration is required. Click HERE to access a registration form.

I’m enormously grateful to my friends in Stoughton who are making this event possible. I hope you can join us!

And to see all of the events scheduled for September and October, please visit my Calendar page.

The National Quilt Museum

August 30, 2019

“Phenomenal” is not a word I use lightly. The National Quilt Museum, in Paducah, Kentucky, deserves the description.

According to its website, the National Quilt Museum “works to advance the art of today’s quilters by bringing it to new and expanding audiences worldwide.” 

This is not the place to look for antique quilts. Instead, expect to see the work of extraordinary contemporary quilters. Some are inspired by traditional patterns; others develop totally original designs and techniques.

I noticed two things in particular during my recent visit. Visitors often felt compelled to speak to strangers: “Did you see such-and-such?” or “Isn’t that one amazing?”

It was also common to hear murmured exclamations of “Oh my God!” (or similar sentiments) when a visitor discovered some particularly astounding quilt.

One exhibit prompting such astonishment, aptly named “OH WOW!”, was a collection of miniature quilts. To be included, a quilt must be no more than 24″ on a side.

A sampling. Remember, these quilts are 24″ per side–or smaller.
Dollhouse quilts by Pat Kuhns.
Idlewood Rose, by June Kempston. (17″ x 17″)

To give you a sense of scale:

Idlewood Rose, by June Kempston (Detail)
Illusions, by George Siciliano (10-3/4 x 10-3/4″)
Tulip Star, by Lynne Taylor (17″ x 17″)
Tulip Star, by Lynne Taylor (Detail)

I can’t imagine working with such tiny pieces! These quilts are made the same way full-sized quilts are; only the scale is different. Phenomenal.

I’m grateful to the National Quilt Museum for permitting photography. Nothing compares, however, to seeing the quilts for real. I hope you can visit the museum yourself!

Hardanger Fiddles

August 8, 2019

The 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery sends Chloe and her fiancé, Roelke McKenna, to Norway. Given the book’s title, it’s probably obvious that the plot involves Hardanger Fiddles.

Historians believe that violins arrived in Norway by the 1600s, probably from Germany and Italy. The first known Hardanger fiddle (the Jaastad fiddle) dates to 1651. The Hardanger region in SW Norway became famous for its fiddle makers—and fiddlers!

When Chloe arrives in Norway, the director of the Hardanger Folk Museum introduces her to the instrument:

“How much do you know about Hardanger fiddles?
“Not a lot,” Chloe allowed humbly.
“This region is, of course, the birthplace of the hardingfele—the Hardanger fiddle. They have understrings that resonate when the top four are played. That gives the instruments a unique sound.”
“Haunting, I’d call it,” Chloe offered.

Fiddler at the Norsk Folk Museum, Oslo

Later, a fiddler explains why the instrument was so important in rural Norway:

“Hardingfele tunes once measured everyday life. Music was deeply rooted in rituals and traditions. There were specific tunes for every aspect of a Hardanger wedding. There were tunes for planting, for harvesting, for celebrating a good yield.”

As beloved as the instruments were, there was a time when Hardanger fiddles were considered, by some, to be “the devil’s instrument.” They were associated with parties, heavy drinking, and casual sex.

(Adolph Tideman)

One particular tune, Fanitullen, was supposedly taught to a fiddler by the devil himself.

(Adolph Tideman)

Some zealots went so far as to destroy any fiddles they could find.

Such violence must have been wrenching to the fiddlers and fiddle makers, especially because Hardanger fiddles are gorgeous, decorated with intricate inked designs and mother-of-pearl inlay.

(Hardanger Folk Museum)

Many also feature an elaborately carved figure at the scroll on top of the instrument.

(Met Museum/Wikimedia)

Some fiddlers and makers emigrated, bringing their skills to the new world. The Helland brothers, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1901, became famous for their fiddles and violins.

Knut and Gunnar outside their fiddle workshop in Chippewa Falls. Picture taken before 1920. (Wikipedia)

And happily, the traditions continue today. I had the chance to learn more about Hardanger fiddle construction when Madison, WI resident Karen Rebholz made a presentation at Livsreise in Stoughton.

Karen Rebholz and several exquisite fiddles she made.
Fiddle by Karen Rebholz.
Fykerud’n Spelemannslag, which performed at Syttende May in Stoughton, WI, 2019.

I’m not a fiddle player, but I loved exploring the music and traditions while writing Fiddling With Fate!

To learn more, visit the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America. You can also find lots of performances on YouTube.

Fiddling With Fate Giveaway Winners!

July 30, 2019

Congratulations to  Megan Barry, Merry Chapman, Carol Pasbrig, Sue Wendt, Christine Witherill, and Moscato Zingler! Each won a signed Advance Review Copy of the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Fiddling With Fate.

Thanks to all who entered! Winners were chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page.

The official release date for Fiddling With Fate is September 8th. Happy reading!

Fiddling With Fate Giveaway!

July 28, 2019

How would you like to read my new Chloe Ellefson mystery a month before it is officially released?

Fiddling with Fate is a riveting page-turner that culminates in a nail-biting ending. It is more than superlative fiction. It’s a masterpiece. -Author Maddy Hunter, Passport to Peril Mysteries

Publishers prepare Advance Review Copies (ARCs) in order to get some buzz going prior to publication. And I have six to give away.

The six winners will be randomly selected from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page. Each will receive a signed paperback ARC—which I will send via priority mail.

Enter to win by leaving a comment below before 11:59 PM (Central US time), Monday, July 29, 2019. One entry per person, please.

The winners’ names will be posted here the following day. Good luck!

Fiddling with Fate is a story about proud, strong women and bitter dark secrets. In her richly-detailed and multi-faceted mystery, Kathleen Ernst skillfully intertwines the past with the present as Chloe and Roelke search for her family roots in Norway amid escalating danger. Author Patricia Skalka, Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries

Norwegian Folk Dance

July 23, 2019

It’s no secret that Chloe Ellefson, protagonist of my historic sites mystery series, loves folk dancing. In the second book, The Heirloom Murders, she dances with her Swiss ex, Markus.

The 10th book, Fiddling With Fate, reveals that she was a member of Stoughton High School’s Norwegian Dancers group. (Stoughton, WI, is well known for its Norwegian heritage.)

The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers formed in 1953 to help foster ethnic pride in the community.

Scrapbook with Yearbook photo. (Stoughton Public Library)

Those early years were challenging. Jeanne Reek, the first director, had no experience with folk dance or Norwegian heritage. Money for costumes or travel was minimal.

But the group was something special. The director traveled to Norway to learn all she could about traditional dance. The dancers’ parents organized to raise funds. The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers quickly became a beloved community institution.

That story is part of Chloe’s background.

1967-68 Stoughton Norwegian Dancers (Stoughton Public Library)

I planned Fiddling With Fate with the premise that a research expedition takes her to Norway. What would appeal to her more than learning about folk dance and music?

This travel poster beautifully captures the romance of Norwegian folk dance. (Artist unknown)

Once in Norway, Chloe finds plenty of information about traditional dances. However, she’s interested in more than documenting dance steps and styles. Here’s a scene where she and Roelke McKenna, her fiancé, visit an old dance site:

“There’s the platform.”  Roelke strode over to inspect the crumbling wooden structure.  “What’s left of it, anyway.  Do not try to climb on that.”

Already enchanted, Chloe didn’t need to climb on anything.  She quivered with the joyful energy left by generations of people who’d barely scraped a living from the rugged landscape.  This is what I need to capture back in Stoughton, she thought. How important music and dance were to rural people who worked hard for every morsel.  

I think about that every time I watch a folk dance performance. In fact, when I recently watched the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers perform for Syttende Mai (Constitution Day), I got a little emotional.

The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers, 2019.
Always a crowd pleaser!

One dance, the Halling, lets boys show off their athletic ability in hopes of impressing the girls.

The Halling ends with a particular feat. A female dancer holds a hat high on a stick, and then male dancers attempt to kick it free.

Scrapbook, Stoughton Public Library.
The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers, 2019.

What would the early Norwegian immigrants have thought to know that over a century after their arrival, a group of high school students would work so hard to preserve and share this aspect of Norwegian heritage?

Scrapbook, Stoughton Public Library.

And that these beloved dance traditions are still enjoyed today?

Stoughton Norwegian Dancers, 2019.

I can only imagine they’d be pleased.

# # #

Many thanks to Susan Slinde for sharing her memories of the Norwegian Dancers.

Why Norway?

July 10, 2019

Cultural identity, and the many ways people explore and express their own, is one of the recurring themes in the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series.

When readers meet Chloe in Book 1, Old World Murder, she takes her own Norwegian heritage largely for granted. Her feelings evolve over time, and by Book 10, she is eager to learn more about her ancestors.

Mr. Ernst and I were lucky enough to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to Norway arranged by Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

We loved every minute in that beautiful country, but the place I was most reluctant to leave was Utne, in the Hardanger District of Hordaland County.

Utne, Norway.
The village of Utne marks the northern tip of the Folgefonna peninsula between the Hardangerfjord and one of its branches, the Sørfjord.

The charming village is home to the Utne Hotel. It opened in 1722, and may well be Norway’s oldest continuously operating inn.

Hotel Utne

The region is famous for its rich folk heritage, including Hardanger fiddles and exquisite textiles. Utne is home to the Hardanger Folkemuseum, which preserves and celebrates these traditions.

Tradtional folk clothing on display at the museum. The couple on the left are dressed as bride and groom.
The museum has a fine collection of Hardanger fiddles.

In addition to formal exhibits, the museum includes an open-air division. Most of the buildings have been moved from locations within the Hardanger region and restored on the museum grounds.

I wanted to get Chloe and her fiancé Roelke McKenna to Norway. When I started conceptualizing the 10th Chloe mystery, I knew what region they would explore. Quests both professional and personal send them to Utne.

Are you up for some armchair travel? I hope I captured a bit of the Hardanger area’s magic in Fiddling With Fate!

Fiddling With Fate cover

The book will be published on September 8, 2019. Stay tuned for more peeks behind the scenes.

The Badger Mine and Museum

June 12, 2019

If you’re exploring southwest Wisconsin’s lead mining history, be sure to include a stop at Shullsburg’s Badger Mine and Museum. Mr. Ernst and I visited while I was working on Mining For Justice, the 8th Chloe Ellefson mystery, and we’re glad we did. (I recommend both Platteville’s Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums and Shullsburg’s Badger Mine and Museum. They’re quite different.)

White and some African-American miners were digging lead in the Shullsburg area as early as 1818. The community boomed during the Lead Rush of the late 1820s. The Badger Mine, hand-dug in 1827, became one of the most productive mines in the area. Experts estimate that about five miles of mine tunnels exist beneath the city.

The last lead mine in Shullsburg closed in 1980. Fortunately, you can get a good peek at life for early miners on a tour of the Badger Mine.

The tour begins in the museum.

A windlass, used for raising and lowering ore—or men.

Visitors descend  51 steps to reach the mine.  (Note: The steps are steep.)

Mine passage.

Despite the guide’s warning, I kept forgetting that some of the passageways were shorter than I am. It was a good reminder of the cramped conditions miners faced.

Our guide demonstrated how the early miners drilled holes…

…and gave us the opportunity to experience the mine lit only by a candle in a sticking tommy.

The Badger Mine has limited hours, so be sure to check the website for more information.

Enjoy your tour!