Archive for the ‘HISTORIC SITES’ Category

Travel With Me To Norway!

May 17, 2020

I write about special historic places in each of my Chloe Ellefson Mysteries, and nothing makes me happier than sharing them with readers.

Well, guess what?

I’ve teamed up with the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society to offer a trip to Southern Norway—the land of Chloe’s ancestors! Click the link below to see what we have in store.

When I decided on a Norwegian setting for Fiddling With Fate, the 10th volume in my Chloe Ellefson Mystery series, I chose the area that enchanted me most. Now, you can experience the Hardanger Region as well!

Important note:  Although we’re making plans for a stupendous trip, no one can predict the future in these challenging times.  We understand.  We also know that anticipating an adventure can relieve stress!  If the pandemic makes it necessary, the trip will be postponed for a year (with a possible adjustment in price), not canceled.

For more information contact:

Group Travel Directors
952-885-2133
800-747-2255 ext. 133
jtollund@gtd.org
www.gtd.org

We also have a Tour Norway With Kathleen website created just for the adventure! It’s your portal for trip information, blog posts, and much more.

I am incredibly excited about this trip. I hope you can join us!

Save The NEW Date!

May 9, 2020

Due to the pandemic, my friends at the Belgian Heritage Center and I have decided to postpone the special Chloe tour scheduled for this summer.

The NEW date is Saturday, July 10, 2021. The tour plan outlined below remains the same. We all need things to look forward to, right?

The 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, takes place in northeast Wisconsin where early Belgian immigrants made their homes.

When readers asked for a special book-themed tour of the area, I turned to my friends at the Belgian Heritage Center in Brussels, WI.

We’ve planned a very special excursion for readers on Saturday, July 11, 2020. I hope you’ll join Mr. Ernst and me as we explore featured locations and learn about the inspiring history of one of Wisconsin’s lesser-known ethnic groups.

Activities will include:

  • Great Fire Presentation

This powerful program will be provided by Barb Chisholm, historian at the Belgian Heritage Center. The Great Fire, which happened on October 8, 1871, was devastating for southern Door County’s Belgian community. Two of Barb’s ancestors survived the fire by hiding in a well, and part of her presentation shares her great-grandmother’s experience.

  • Guided Bus Tour of Namur National Landmark Historic District

Experience Belgian culture and tradition on a narrated tour of the largest Belgian settlement in the United States. The tour will include Belgian architecture, Roadside Chapels, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

  • The Lacemaker’s Secret Illustrated Presentation

Learn more about the stories, places, and artifacts that inspired Chloe’s—and Seraphine’s—stories.

  • Time to explore the Belgian Heritage Center’s exhibits.
  • Traditional Lunch of Booyah, Bread, & Belgian Pie.
  • Optional add-on tour of Heritage Hill State Park’s Belgian Farm (Friday)

Space will be limited, so save the date!

When the time is right I will announce registration here on my blog, in an email to those signed up for my mailing list, and on my Facebook Author Page.

Hardanger Lullaby

April 29, 2020

On my first trip to Norway, I experienced something special while visiting the Hardanger Folkemuseum’s open-air area.

Our guide, Maria Folkedal, took us into Tveismestova. I found the old farm so compelling that I used a fictionalized version in Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery.

Maria made it easy to imagine living in the building centuries ago.

Tveismestova, Hardanger Folkemuseum. Experts believe the structure is at least 700-800 years old.

Then she sang a lullaby that area mothers have used to soothe their babies for just as long.

It was a magical moment. Now, you can experience it too! Just follow this link to my YouTube channel.

Fiddling With Fate is about mothers and daughters, and Maria’s gift of song offered a new aspect of that theme. How could I not incorporate this experience into the book? Here’s Chloe’s take:

“I’d like to share with you a different aspect to life in the old days on the fjord,” the guide said. “Music has always been incredibly important to Hardanger people. This is a lullaby that local women have sung to their babies for hundreds of years.”

She began to sing. The lullaby, offered in a clear soprano voice, was hauntingly beautiful … and familiar. Chloe closed her eyes, taking it in. Had Amalie Sveinsdatter sung this to baby Marit? Perhaps the lullaby was somehow imprinted in Mom, Chloe thought, and got passed down to me.

Maria singing the lullaby in Tveismestova, August, 2015. (Sorry for the poor quality – it was dark!)

I’m grateful to Maria for sharing her talents, and so happy to share her song with you as well. Enjoy!

The Utne Hotel

March 31, 2020

Not many businesses claim a lineage dating back almost 300 years. The Utne Hotel, which can, is known as Norway’s oldest continuously-operating hotel.

The Utne Hotel in 2018.

In 1722 Peder Larsson Børsem was given a license to run a guesthouse in the village of Utne. The village was home to the district court, which kept travelers coming and going. A post office was established in 1826, and steamship travel in 1861. Explorers were followed by tourists.

For years boats beached right in front of the inn. This photo was taken between 1880 and 1887. (National Library of Norway/Wikimedia Commons)

The inn began modestly, with just a living room and one bedroom. Although the inn has grown, those rooms are still in use.

Women have provided much of the Utne Hotel’s hospitality over the years. From 1830 until 1900, Torbjørg Johannesdotter Utne was responsible for keeping the inn running. “Mother Utne,” as she was known, became legendary for making visitors welcome at the guesthouse.

Painting of Mother Utne by Eilif Petersen. (Photographed at the hotel.) In Fiddling With Fate‘s historical timeline, Torhild works for Mother Utne.
Gurid Aga, who ran the inn with her husband Lars from 1918 to 1956. They restored the hotel in 1930. (Photographed at the hotel.)
Hildegunn Aga Blokhus served as hostess in the 1940s. In 1956 she officially took over the hotel from her parents, and served until 1996. She thrilled guests by wearing her Hardanger folk costume and preserving food traditions. She had a fictional cameo appearance in Fiddling With Fate. (Photographed at the hotel.)

The hotel has never lost it’s reputation for warm hospitality and fine food. When I planned to have Chloe and Roelke visit Utne in Fiddling With Fate, the 9th Chloe Ellefson mystery, where else would they stay?

Photo taken between 1945 and 1960. (National Library of Norway/Wikimedia Commons)

They checked into Room 15. In the photo above, its window is just above “Utne Hotel.” As mentioned in Fiddling With Fate, a tragic legend tells of a young woman who jumped from that window after romantic heartbreak.

Room 15, Utne Hotel.
Room 15.

Roelke dubiously eyed the twin beds, pushed together to make a double. “Footboards. We’re both on the tall side for footboards.”

“Who cares, when we have the best room?” Chloe asked happily, as if the prospect of bruised toes was of no importance. “Look at this view!” She crossed to the open window and put her hands on the sill.

View from Room 15, Utne Hotel.
Today the view from Room 15 also includes the ferry dock.

Common areas include many antique pieces that have served the hotel for over a century.

Parlor, Hotel Utne.
A parlor.
Dining Room, Hotel Utne.
The dining room.
Mr. Ernst after an exhausting day of research.

My husband and I enjoyed our stay at the Utne Hotel immensely, so it wasn’t difficult to imagine Chloe’s joy at the opportunity to spend time there too!


Save The Date!

March 22, 2020

I’ve been dithering about whether to announce the Chloe tour scheduled for this summer. In the spirit of optimism…here you go.

The 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, takes place in northeast Wisconsin where early Belgian immigrants made their homes.

When readers asked for a special book-themed tour of the area, I turned to my friends at the Belgian Heritage Center in Brussels, WI.

We’ve planned a very special excursion for readers on Saturday, July 11, 2020. I hope you’ll join Mr. Ernst and me as we explore featured locations and learn about the inspiring history of one of Wisconsin’s lesser-known ethnic groups.

Activities will include:

  • Great Fire Presentation

This powerful program will be provided by Barb Chisholm, historian at the Belgian Heritage Center. The Great Fire, which happened on October 8, 1871, was devastating for southern Door County’s Belgian community. Two of Barb’s ancestors survived the fire by hiding in a well, and part of her presentation shares her great-grandmother’s experience.

  • Guided Bus Tour of Namur National Landmark Historic District

Experience Belgian culture and tradition on a narrated tour of the largest Belgian settlement in the United States. The tour will include Belgian architecture, Roadside Chapels, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

  • The Lacemaker’s Secret Illustrated Presentation

Learn more about the stories, places, and artifacts that inspired Chloe’s—and Seraphine’s—stories.

  • Time to explore the Belgian Heritage Center’s exhibits.
  • Traditional Lunch of Booyah, Bread, & Belgian Pie.
  • Optional add-on tour of Heritage Hill State Park’s Belgian Farm (Friday, July 10)

Space will be limited, so save the date!

I sincerely hope that all of us feel comfortable traveling by July. Since we don’t know how events will unfold, however, I am not yet taking reservations for the tour. When the time is right I will announce registration here on my blog, in an email to those signed up for my mailing list, and on my Facebook Author Page.

The Voss Folkemuseum

January 16, 2020

Although most of Fiddling With Fate centers on the Hardanger Folkemuseum, I also wanted to include the Voss Folkemuseum, a sister site. The museum, founded in 1917, preserves the old farmstead at Mølster (Mølstertunet). That museum has a special claim: all of the buildings at the site stand on their original locations.

Historians believe the farm at Mølster was established over a thousand years ago. In western Norway, it was once common for several small farms to be clustered together.

This drawing showing clustered farms, on exhibit at the museum, was made by historian Arne Berg.

Individual families had their own buildings and plots of land, but shared a common courtyard. In Voss, these jumbled patches didn’t start getting consolidated until about 1860.

(Diorama on exhibit at the museum.)

Two families lived at the farm until 1924, when the property was formally transferred to the folk museum.

The museum board visiting the farm in 1919. (Photo displayed at the museum.)
This old postcard shows the farm perched on a hilltop. (Enerett Normanns Kunstforlag A/S Oslo)

In the book, Chloe visits the Voss Folkemuseum with a colleague. After a meeting, she’s able to enjoy a quick tour of the site:

The guide slogged across the muddy lane. “Let’s start in the barn. We’ll be out of the rain and we can see the whole farmyard from there.” She headed toward a large barn with side bays for hay and grain, and a central drive-through/threshing floor. “There have probably been two families farming here since before the Black Death in the thirteen hundreds …”

Chloe tried to listen, she really did, but on this cloudy day the deserted old homes and cowsheds and storage houses—their logs weathered almost gray, with roofs of slate or turf—seemed especially evocative.

The courtyard, as viewed from the barn.
This is the barn Chloe visited.

Focus, Chloe ordered herself, but the palpable rage and joy lingering in the barn were too strong to ignore. …And from a distance, she heard a hardingfele’s irresistible call.

The barn became the setting for the 1888 fiddle competition and dance which Britta and Erik attended.

My visit to the folk museum provided lots of other details for the mystery. The oldest building is an årestove, a log house with a central open hearth, which has been dated to about 1500.

This provides another view of the type of kitchen described at the high farm, in the early years, in Fiddling With Fate

The cluster includes a more modern home (the building on the left in the photo below).

Some of the artifacts in the home helped inform my descriptions of the later years in Fiddling With Fate’s historical timeline.

The room below, in a storehouse, is similar to the one Lisbet visited with Gudrun in 1838: They climbed to the loft, where the family stored wooden chests filled with rye and barley, her mother’s silver jewelry, her father’s savings, their best clothes. Those included Lisbet’s bridal attire.

And this shows the type of bunks provided in the outbuilding for farm workers. Torhild and Gjertrud slept in a storeroom like this while working at the Hotel Utne in the 1850s.

Mr. Ernst and I visited the Voss Folkemuseum on an evocative rainy day, which turned out to provide lots of inspiration. If you have the chance to visit the Hardanger region, keep this historic site on your list!

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!

Our Lady Of Good Help

February 22, 2019

Adele Brise was born in Belgium in 1831, and immigrated to Wisconsin with her family in 1855. The Brise family settled about 16 miles northeast of the city of Green Bay in Robinsonville, now Champion, Wisconsin.

Little is known of Adele’s early years, but she was remembered as a devout young woman.

Our Lady of Good Help
(Photo on display at Our Lady of Good Help)

In October, 1859, apparitions of the Virgin Mary occurred to Adele as she was walking through the woods. Mary instructed Adele to teach local children in the faith. Adele devoted the rest of her life to that charge.

AdeleBriseStudents
Adele Brise with students. (CatholicLane.com)

Many church leaders doubted the veracity of Adele’s story. Her friends and neighbors believed, however, and Adele’s father built a chapel nearby. In time it was replaced with a larger chapel, and facilities for students.

In 1871, during the Great Fire, some area residents fled to the grounds. They processed around the chapel carrying the statue of Mary. Conditions almost overwhelmed them, but Adele instructed them to pray. When the firestorm finally passed, everything around the chapel grounds had been destroyed. The outside of the fence was charred, but the grounds were undisturbed. 

Adele Brise, Our Lady of Good Help
Adele Brise was not a nun, but she adopted attire similar to a nun’s habit. (Photo on display at Our Lady of Good Help)

Adele’s vision was not accepted by the church before she died in 1896. Finally, over century later in 2010, the apparitions were formally approved. Today, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is the only Marian shrine in the United States on the site of an approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I read about Adele while doing early research for The Lacemaker’s Secret, the 9th Chloe Ellefson mystery, which focuses on Belgian immigration to Northeast Wisconsin. I wanted to include Adele’s story. As a non-Catholic, I also wanted to be respectful.

Before making any final decisions, I visited the site itself.

Our Lady of Good Help

It includes a small museum that tells Adele’s story.

National Shrine Of Our Lady Of Good Help
The apparition appeared between a maple tree and a hemlock tree. These are pieces of the roots of those trees.
IMG_4723

The site includes a contemporary church, home to an active congregation. The sanctuary is beautiful.

IMG_4727
IMG_4730

Around a corner and down some stairs is the Apparition Oratory.

IMG_4746

These crutches near the entrance are testament to reports of visitors being healed of illness or affliction after a visit.

IMG_4737

To me, even more powerful was the absolute, reverential beauty of the small chapel.

IMG_4739

 

I knew that if Chloe visited the chapel, she couldn’t help but be moved as well. I decided to have her visit at an emotionally low point, so she could find solace.

The grounds are also peaceful and inviting.

IMG_4749

This is Adele’s grave.

Version 2

The building below is a roadside chapel that was moved to the site and restored in 2003.

Our Lady of Good Help

Visitors are welcome to visit any day of the year, from 7 AM to 7 PM.

* * * 

Print

To learn more about The Lacemaker’s Secret, or my other books, I invite you to visit my website.

Click here for a more detailed account of Adele’s story.

The Belgian Farm

December 12, 2018

Every Chloe Ellefson Mystery is set at a real historic site or museum. This lets me celebrate special places, and allows readers to visit the scene of the crime.

When I planned the 9th book in the series, The Lacemaker’s Secret, I honed in on the Belgian Farm restored at Heritage Hill State Historical Park in Green Bay, WI.

The house, constructed in 1872, was originally located in Rosiere, Kewaunee County, WI. The farm belonged to John Baptist and Theresa Massart.  (To see photographs of the buildings before they were moved, visit the Belgian-American Research Collection at the UW-Green Bay Archives.)

Members of the Massart Family standing in front of their home. (Photo displayed at Heritage Hill)

The buildings were moved to Heritage Hill in 1984, and restored to show a farm typical for Belgian-American farmers in northeast Wisconsin. The timing was almost perfect; The Lacemaker’s Secret is set in late 1983, so I only needed to make a slight adjustment.

The house was built of logs and covered with a brick veneer—a practice common after the Great Fire of 1871. The low building  to the right is the limestone summer kitchen.

The Massart Farmhouse, restored at Heritage Hill State Historical Park.

When restoring any home, curators choose artifacts that help tell stories about the people who once owned, made, or used them. In the mystery, Chloe accepts a consultant job tasking her to create a furnishings plan for the farm.

The furnished kitchen—what Chloe imagined as she toured the empty farmhouse.

Some of the artifacts currently on display in the farmhouse made their way into my story.

The next lady brought two round crocheted pieces with beads added along the fringe. “Do you know what these are?”

“Doilies?” Chloe hazarded. “Maybe to put under a candlestick or vase?”

“No!” The old woman was clearly tickled to stump the curator. “My mother made these to keep insects out of beer mugs and water glasses.”

“Ah!” Chloe imagined the pieces draped in place, stymieing inquisitive hornets. “Beautiful and practical.”

Glass protectors.

Religious artifacts reflect the strong faith that saw many Belgian immigrants through difficult times.

The skirt and shoes below became Seraphine’s in the book, special attire brought from Belgian and worn to celebrate the first Kermiss.

Seraphine felt festive in her full brown skirt with green and purple stripes near the hem and the Sunday sabots Jean-Paul had carved with flowers for her.

The large log barn at the Belgian Farm, also featured in the book, came from the Lampereur family in Brussels.

Animal stalls were built into each side bay. The center bay of was used as a drive-through when unloading hay. 

 

Inside the center bay.  Note the ladder leading to the loft, and the hay fork hanging from the ceiling.

 

After the Great Fire, a few trees were damaged but standing. Farmers harvested them quickly, before disease could render them unusable for building. One log here shows a large knot left in place, and charred scars.

Incongruously, another structure mentioned in the book is visible from the Belgian Farm:  the Green Bay Correctional Institution. A plotline that involved police business at the prison let me bring cop Roelke McKenna to Green Bay for the final chapters.

One scene in The Lacemaker’s Secret is set at another historic building at Heritage Hill, the Cotton House, which dates to the 1840s.

Mr. Ernst and I had a great time exploring Heritage Hill. I hope you can plan a visit too!

Belgian Pies

October 15, 2018

There are lots of fun things about writing a mystery series that celebrates ethnic heritage. One of those is the chance to explore food traditions.

When I started researching The Lacemaker’s Secret, which focuses on Belgian immigrants in northeast Wisconsin, I quickly discovered the importance of Belgian pies.

Belgian pies are a staple of Kermiss, the annual celebration of thanks for a good harvest:

“Then came the baking, which in the early days could only be done in outdoor ovens. …The Belgian pie! What would the Kermiss be without the famous delicacy, the crust of which was made of dough, spread over with prunes or apples and topped with homemade cottage cheese. So tasty it was that one bite invited another.”  (Math S. TlachacThe History of the Belgian Settlements.)

The outdoor bake ovens could hold as many as three dozen pies. Children were charged with the huge jobs of pitting and grinding prunes, peeling apples, washing dishes.  It wasn’t uncommon for several women working together to produce hundreds of pies. In fact, Belgian pie-making dwindled in recent years because many of the recipes handed down were for enormous proportions.

Photo on display at the Belgian Heritage Center, Namur, WI.

My husband and I first sampled Belgian pie while attending the Kermiss held at the Belgian Heritage Center.

Belgian Pies

An efficient storage system. They were going through the pies fast.

 

An enthusiastic thumbs-up from Mr. Ernst.

Belgian pies are smaller than American pies. Most consist of a yeast-raised dough, a fruit filling, and a top layer of cheese. Traditional flavors are apple and prune. Rice pies are also traditional. Those are topped with whipped cream instead of the cheese.

To learn more, I signed up for a class taught by Gina Guth in Door County. Gina has deep Belgian roots on her mother’s side, and has been making pies for years.  In addition to baking for Kermiss, her mom made thousands of pies for customers at the family tavern.  Gina has adapted recipes for home use.

This wonderful photo of Gina’s mother appeared in the Appleton, WI’s Post-Crescent newspaper, 1969.

During class, Gina provided four types of pie for us to try:  apple, prune, Door County cherry, and rice.

The cheese topping is made with cottage cheese sweetened with butter, sugar, and egg yolks.

Gina demonstrates squeezing excess liquid from the cottage cheese.

The dry curds.

Each student got to make two pies. I chose to make cherry and rice. The dough is pressed into the bottom of pie pans, then almost covered with the topping.

If you live within driving distance of Sturgeon Bay, WI, I recommend Gina’s class at The Flour Pot bakery.  Individuals can also register through the St. Norbert College Outreach/Cooking Class program.


As is true in any community, local bakers don’t always agree on the elements of a traditional Belgian pie. For another take, with recipes, see Edible Door County.

Ethnic Cooking Wisconsin Style (American Cancer Society, 1982) includes several Belgian Pie recipes.

Ethnic

This cookbook includes directions for making the more traditional dry cottage cheese topping.  It calls for blending 1 pound of cottage cheese, 1-1/2 T. sugar, 1 egg, 1 T. whipping cream, a dash of cinnamon, and 1/4 t. salt.  Force the mixture through a sieve, and spread onto pies (this amount covers 4 pies) before baking.

If your book group is reading A Lacemaker’s Secret, why not make a Belgian Pie?

You can also find them, fresh or frozen, at Marchant’s Foods in Brussels, Wisconsin.

piesign

frozenpies

Happy reading, and happy baking!