Archive for the ‘HISTORIC SITES’ Category

Hanka Homestead Tour – Save The Date!

April 8, 2021

Would you like to explore the historic site featured in my 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge? I’m delighted to announce a special event for readers!

I invite you to join me on Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum in Pelkie, Michigan.

You’ll enjoy a view of the site from Chloe’s perspective. I look forward to showing you where the action took place, and chatting about how the story developed.

Plotting murder and mayhem on one of my research trips.

My special guest will be Alan Pape, who launched the monumental group effort to restore and preserve the abandoned Hanka buildings in the early 1980s. Alan served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983, and has a special affinity for—and knowledge of—Finnish log structures. Hearing from Alan will be a rare treat!

Alan at work on one of the Hanka buildings, c. 1983.

And, experienced Hanka Homestead guides will be leading tours, telling stories about Finnish immigrants’ heritage and experiences, and showing you some special artifacts.

Oscar, one of the knowledgeable volunteers.

This event will be free. (Donations to the Homestead will be greatly appreciated.)

I’ll have more details later, but I wanted to give you a chance to plan ahead. The site is in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, with limited accommodations in the vicinity.

(Covid note: I’m proceeding with the expectation that conditions will be much better in August, but of course will keep an eye on the situation.)

Come see for yourself why I found the Hanka Homestead so inspiring!

Finnish Rag Rugs

March 11, 2021

Most Chloe Ellefson mysteries celebrate a folk art relevant for the featured ethnic group. When I chose to focus on Finnish immigrants in the 11th book, The Weaver’s Revenge, I wanted to spotlight the tradition of weaving rag rugs.

Practical weavers collected worn clothing, cut the fabric into strips, sewed the strips together, and used them as weft. Although this craft was widely practiced by people of different origins, scholars note that Finns have been most successful at maintaining the tradition.

Some “hit and miss” rag rugs reveal a largely random approach, with irregular pinstripes.

(The National Museum of Finland)

Historically, most American rugs were created this way. However, the skills Finnish weavers brought to the New World included color and design. The two examples below show controlled stripes and gorgeous palettes.

(The National Museum of Finland)
(The National Museum of Finland)

Many traditional weavers went further by creating more complicated designs, such as twill, rosepath, and tabby.

Rag rugs for sale in Puutori in Turku, Finland, 1955. (Finnish Heritage Agency)

The photo below provides a closer look at a spectacular rug.

(The National Museum of Finland)

In Chloe’s time—the 1980s—some scholars considered rag rugs too commonplace to warrant study. When I learned that, Chloe’s boss Ralph Petty popped to mind. In The Weaver’s Revenge, when Chloe wants to research both patterns and the social implications of Finnish American rag rug weaving in the Upper Midwest, Petty is not impressed:

“I told you not to waste time on that ridiculous proposal, did I not?”

“You did,” Chloe allowed, “but I still want to help the Rankinen interpreters by learning more about–”

“What’s there to learn? Rags were made into rugs. End of story.”

There was, of course, much more to the story. Finnish American immigrants wove rugs that were practical and beautiful. Weaving helped women cope—sometimes financially, sometimes emotionally. The practice was and remains an important aspect of cultural identity.

Loom at The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum

Most old rugs received hard use, so few have survived. The tradition, however, endures. Here are two recent prize-winning examples from Finnish country in northern Wisconsin.

And if you visit a site devoted Finnish heritage, it’s easy to imagine how much cheer these works of art brought to log homes.

Rug on display at Little Finland, Hurley, WI.

You can gain much more insight into the Finnish rug weaving tradition by reading the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge. Coming soon!

Why the Hanka Homestead?

February 25, 2021

Whenever I write a new Chloe Ellefson Mystery, I have the fun of choosing a new historic site or museum to feature in the book. The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum in Michigran’s Upper Peninsula provides the setting for the forthcoming 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge.

Click the image above for my video introduction to the site.

Readers are often curious about how I choose settings. It’s a complicated process, so let me share some of the reasons that this site reached the top of the list.

First, a potential setting must appeal to me on a personal level. Between researching and writing a book, I spend a lot of time—physically and mentally—in this space. My first visit to the homestead convinced me that I’d be happy immersing myself in this place and story. (And I knew Chloe would feel the same way.)

No matter how much I love a particular site, I can’t use it as a setting unless it has enough “geography” to support a murder mystery plot. I need room and opportunities to get characters into trouble. The Hanka property is remote, with no phone service. It includes ten buildings, including a couple of specific structures that hadn’t been featured in any earlier books. Perfect!

The Hankas were Finnish immigrants, so choosing this site allowed me to celebrate a new-to-the-series ethnic group. I was excited about the opportunity to shine a little lamplight on Finnish stories, heritage, and folk traditions.

Birchbark shoes on a woven rag rug.

At best, a Chloe Ellefson mystery represents a collaboration with site staff and local experts. I always talk with site hosts before committing to a book project. (If anyone expressed concern, I’d move on. It hasn’t happened yet.) The volunteers involved with the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum, and representatives from Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center, were enthusiastic about the idea. They’ve been extraordinarily helpful through the research and writing phase.

Some the energetic people who provided a warm welcome during my first visit to the homestead.
A private tour on a misty day. Evocative!

And, it was nice to spotlight a wonderful site that is run entirely by a small group of volunteers. Such people make the museum world go around!

As the series has progressed over the past decade, I’ve planned ahead, thinking a lot about where main characters Chloe and Roelke are in their emotional journey. I like to choose settings that permit the book’s plotlines to reflect challenges Chloe and Roelke are facing at that moment. In The Weaver’s Revenge, they’re trying to figure out exactly what their marriage will look like. I won’t share any spoilers here, but that broad issue is mirrored in a number of elements from the Hanka/Finnish story used in the novel.

The earliest museum brochure, about 1985, designed by Alan Pape.

Finally, I had an added bonus. The man who originally started the Hanka Homestead restoration/museum project, Alan Pape, was a former colleague who served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983. He was generous with his memories, knowledge, photos, and other records from the 1980s when the restoration got underway. My mystery plot is fictional, of course, but Alan’s assistance made it possible for me to root it firmly in real events.

That’s me at the homestead with Alan, on the right, and Professor Emeritus William H. Tishler, another vernacular architecture expert. I spent a fun weekend with these two, cruising the backroads looking at old Finnish buildings and listening to their stories.

I hope you enjoy exploring the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum as much as I have!

The Weaver’s Revenge will be published this spring by Three Towers Press. I’ll let you know when it’s available!

Setting Reveal – The Weaver’s Revenge!

January 14, 2021

As series readers know, curator Chloe Ellefson visits different historic sites and museums in each mystery. There’s been a lot of speculation about the setting for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge, which features Finnish heritage.

Over the course of the series I’ve often featured large and/or famous sites. It’s also important to shine some lamplight on lesser-known sites, where a small group of dedicated volunteers is preserving something special.

That’s what I chose to do this time. Click the photo below to view a video introduction to Chloe’s next destination, Michigan’s Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum!

I hope you enjoyed the mini-tour! I’ll have a lot more to share about the Hanka Homestead in the coming months.

(The book is slated for a spring, 2021 release. It is not yet available for pre-order. I’ll keep you posted!)

Update—Travel With Me To Norway

October 30, 2020

When I partnered with the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society and Group Travel Directors last year to plan a trip to Norway , COVID-19 wasn’t on the radar. We forged ahead with a spring trip announcement, hopeful that we’d all feel safe traveling by May, 2021. The planning committee agreed that having something wonderful to anticipate could only brighten such difficult times.

Well, we get to enjoy that anticipation for a while longer than originally planned. I’m sure it will surprise no one to hear that the Chloe Ellefson tour to Norway has officially been postponed.

I’m as excited about this trip as ever, and we are committed to making it happen! Although we’re not announcing specific dates at this time, we hope to travel in spring, 2022. When we do arrive in Norway, we shall have special toasts all around!

If you’d like to be on our mailing list for trip-specific updates, let me know. We’re grateful for your interest and support. Please stay safe and well!

_____________________________________________________

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!

Authors Reading Aloud

July 18, 2020

I’m excited to announce my first Facebook Live presentation! It’s scheduled for Sunday, July 19, 2020 at 6 PM Central Time, 7 PM Eastern.

I’ll be chatting and reading aloud from my first published novel, The Night Riders of Harpers Ferry. I’ll also do my best to answer your questions.

It’s easy to connect. You can learn more, and access the program, by clicking HERE.

Although I have lived in Wisconsin for many years, I spent a lot of time roaming Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and the surrounding area when I was young.

Taken on Maryland Heights, late 1970s.

Those explorations helped me understand how story and place are entwined. That foundation has guided my writing ever since.

I hope you can join me!

I’m grateful to program hosts Writers Reading Aloud and Harpers Ferry Park Association.

Symbols

June 4, 2020

Norwegian people have used symbols to express important thoughts since ancient times. Even simple carved, painted, or stitched motifs on building or folk art often had important meanings.

Fiddling With Fate:  A Chloe Ellefson Mystery

Agnete Sivertsen, director of the Hardanger Folkemuseum in Utne, introduced me to the ritual use of symbols in old Norway while helping me identify an artifact handaplagg (hand cloth) to use as a prototype for one described in Fiddling With Fate, The 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery.

Hand cloths were traditionally worn during weddings in the Hardanger region. The geometric motifs stitched into this cloth are more than pretty designs. They have meaning.

After showing me the cloth, Agnete took me to the Hardanger fiddle gallery. The intricate designs embellishing many old fiddles are similar to the designs embroidered in the handaplagg.

Director Agnete Sivertsen, Hardanger Folk Museum.

My fictional handaplagg is introduced in 1838, when Gudrun stitches symbols into a handcloth for her granddaughter Lisbet to wear for her wedding.

Gudrun spread the cloth she’d been stitching over her lap. It was old, but she’d cared for it well. The linen was still crisp; the original black embroidery silk still dark and even. Her own grandmother had stitched her blessings and fears into this cloth. Most of the symbolism Gudrun understood, but she’d been young when her grandmother died.

The maker is unknown, but the handcloth is believed to date back to the 1700s.

Are there messages in the patterns that I’ve missed? Gudrun wondered, touching the old threads with a gnarled finger. Have I misinterpreted something I’m meant to pass on? Will coming generations understand what I’ve contributed?

When Chloe fictionally inherits a similar hand cloth, she takes it with her to Norway. She gradually discovers some of the meaning incorporated into her cloth—and many other types of folk art as well.

Squares like the one below represent agricultural fields; smaller stitches within represent seeds. Such motifs reflected hopes of a fertile marriage.

Detail of the handcloth pictured above. Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne, Norway.
Inked design on fiddle. Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne, Norway.

Circles and spirals were often used to symbolize male power.

Fiddle, Hardanger Folkemuseum, Utne.

Ram’s horns (the reciprocal spirals at the bottom of the mangle board shown below) were invoked to encourage male fertility.

Mangleboard, Utne Hotel, Utne.

Sun symbols summoned all that was good and warm and holy. 

Stave container, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
Tankard, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Decorah, Iowa.

Some symbols protected the family and farm. For example, crooked designs like those below may have been intended to confuse and drive away evil spirits.

Kroting (chalk painting) done during a class at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

The stitched figures below may represent the disir, spirits who guarded women and linked their families from one generation to the next throughout time.

Embroidered cloth. Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo, Norway. (My apologies for the poor image quality.)

At the end of the book, Chloe asks an expert to share her thoughts about the symbols on her handaplagg.

Sonja smiled. “I think the women in your family wanted to protect their daughters and granddaughters from evil, and to bless their lives with love and balance and holy light.” 

Love and balance and holy light, Chloe thought. Who could ask for more? 

Do any symbols appear within your own family heirlooms or ethnic heritage? Have you included any in your own handwork? Feel free to share!

* * *

Would you like to learn more about symbolism found in Norwegian folk art—up close and personal? Join me on a special tour, Folk Art, Fjords, & Fiddles: Travel To Norway With Author Kathleen Ernst.

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!