Archive for the ‘HISTORIC SITES’ Category

Kuchen

April 12, 2022

In the first chapter of Lies of Omission, protagonist Hanneke Bauer parts company with a traveling companion when their ship docks in Milwaukee. Her friend says, You must promise to accompany your husband if he brings crops to sell in the city. We’ll have coffee and kuchen while you tell me all about the farm.

Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) is a German tradition of long standing. The term suggests not just tasty food, but conversation and camaraderie as well.

There are, of course, many kinds of German cake. The first kuchen I learned to make called for a slightly-sweet yeasted dough with fresh fruit on top, formed in a skillet and baked in an antique cookstove.

Chopping rhubarb for kuchen at the Schottler house, Old World Wisconsin, 1981.

I recently baked a kuchen in Hanneke’s honor, using peaches and raspberries I had in the freezer.

I don’t have a copy of the recipe I used way back when, so I turned to the cookbook pictured below, compiled by the Pommerscher Verein Friestadt of Mequon, WI. (The Pomeranian Society of Friestadt is dedicated to preserving Pomeranian culture and history.)

Happily, I’m able to share the recipe with you!

Apple or Raspberry Kuchen

1/2 c. shortening
1-1/4 c. flour
1 T. sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
2 T. milk
3-4 cups of apples or raspberries
For Streusel: 1 c. sugar, 2 T. flour, 1 T butter, a little cinnamon (omit if using raspberries)
1/4 c. cream or evaporated milk

Mix the first five ingredients like pie crust, then add the beaten egg and milk. Pat in pan. Spread apples or raspberries over crust and spread streusel over the fruit.

Bake 375 for 30 to 45 minutes or until crust is light brown. About 10 minutes before it is done, pour the cream or evaporated milk over the top.

(Note: I omitted the cream and went very easy on the streusel.)

In Lies of Omission, Hanneke is offered a piece of kuchen at a very low moment:

Hanneke accepted it gratefully. Kuchen. She broke off a chunk, careful to catch the crumbs, and popped it into her mouth. The pastry was light with wheat flour, topped with crunchy crystals of sugar that perfectly complemented the tart goodness of diced rhubarb. She was poised to gobble the slice whole, but at the last moment she paused, broke what was left in two, and handed half back. “Why don’t we share.”

If you bake and perhaps share a kuchen, I hope the experience is equally satisfying!

Special Tour Announcement!

April 6, 2022

If you’ve read my latest mystery, Lies of Omission, you’ve met protagonist Hanneke Bauer, a newly arrived Pomeranian immigrant. Her story is set in 1855.

Hanneke’s new home is a fictionalized version of a real historic building once occupied by the Schulz family. The house, which has been restored at Old World Wisconsin, is a rare and fascinating example of an Old World architectural style.

Would you like to learn more? I have partnered with historian Alan Pape, and with Old World Wisconsin, to offer a special tour.

Participants will get a glimpse of Hanneke’s world, and see the spots where some of the action took place.

As a special treat, Alan Pape will share his knowledge of Pomeranian architecture in Wisconsin, including half-timbered houses, black kitchens, and other outbuildings. Alan served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983, and oversaw the development of “Hanneke’s farm” at the historic site.

The tour will take place on Sunday, May 22, 2022, from 9 AM – 11AM.

Space for this unique experience is limited. The Wisconsin Historical Society is handling registration. Click HERE for more information and to book tickets.

I hope you can join us. I’m excited!

Belgian Sites Tour

March 4, 2022

I’m delighted to announce that the Belgian Sites Tour inspired by the 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, is a go! The special event will take place—live and in-person—on Saturday, July 9, 2022.

A full day of programming by the amazing folks at the Belgian Heritage Center in Door County, Wisconsin will provide exclusive insights into the world Chloe explored in the the book.

Highlights include a Great Fire Presentation, a lunch featuring traditional Belgian food, and a guided bus tour of the Namur National Landmark Historic District. I’ll also provide a behind-the-scenes program about The Lacemaker’s Secret.

Space for this unique experience is limited. Click HERE for more information, and to register. I’m excited!

Writer-In-Residence, Week 4

November 5, 2021

My final week at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park was bittersweet. I was excited by how much I accomplished, but sad to see the experience come to an end.

The urge to dig deeper into my research while I had the chance conflicted with an equal urge to start capturing ideas on paper. The latter won.

Writing spot view from the window of the 1824 building where I stayed.

On most days during October I spent some time working in a public spot. I enjoyed answering questions and chatting about the Artist-In-Residence program with visitors.

Enjoying the autumn sunshine on the former Storer College campus, a lesser-known part of the park.

My dwindling days also compelled me to revisit favorite spots.

Harper Cemetery.

One of the best things about spending a month in Harpers Ferry was the opportunity to see the park in different moods.

I’m grateful to the park staff and volunteers who so generously shared their knowledge and skills.

Ranger Creighton doing what he does so well.

Integrating a writer/volunteer into the National Park Service system for a month is no small task. Ranger Samantha, Volunteer Coordinator, ensured that I was warmly welcomed, and that all needs were met.

Best volunteer coordinator imaginable!

I’m especially grateful to these two wonderful women. Cathy Baldeau (left) is the Executive Director of the Harpers Ferry Park Association, a position formerly held by Debbie Piscitelli (right). These dynamos made my visit possible.

I went to Harpers Ferry to research lesser-known stories and teach writing workshops. My residency was also about encouraging visitors to consider that wandering such special places can be inspirational as well as informative.

I was certainly inspired anew!

Writer-In-Residence, Week 3

October 25, 2021

I can’t develop any historical novel without digging into the type of library and archival work I discussed last week. Other research approaches, however, are equally essential.

If you’re familiar with the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, you know I’m often inspired by artifacts. While exploring lesser-known events in Harpers Ferry and the vicinity, the search for material culture took me to the Jefferson County Museum in Charles Town, WV.

This writing chair was one of my favorite pieces. Don’t you think I need a character who would treasure this?
Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word “beautiful” to describe these irons, but…I do think they are.

Most of my time, though, is spent right in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Living here during my month-long residency enables what I love most: walking the ground. There are layers upon layers of events and stories here. Being physically present helps me tune in.

The historic structures preserved in the Lower Town represent perhaps a third of what was here during the town’s industrial heyday. The landscape reveals plenty of clues about what’s been lost to time and floods.

When I started visiting the park in the 1960s, there was little to see. Today you’ll find beautiful structures restored by the National Park Service. Some are furnished to depict their original function,

and others contain formal exhibits.

Excavated treasures.

While the Lower Town is by far the best known area, the park includes much more. I’ve spent time wandering Camp Hill a mile away.

In 1867, the Freedman’s Bureau established a school, open to all, in this building.

The Lockwood House was badly damaged during the Civil War, but became a haven.

Tensions were still high from the Civil War, and many local citizens were hostile to the plan. The educators and students persevered, and the school grew to become Storer College, which didn’t close until the 1950s.

The National Park Service has repurposed this college building as a training center.

Thanks to the Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Historic Town Foundation, I spent a fascinating afternoon learning more about black history on Camp Hill. (The brochure was nice to have, but the Foundation also has the information and maps on their website.)

This superb guide revealed the backstory of many privately-held buildings. The house below, which “symbolizes how important education was to the local African American community,” was home to three generations of Storer College students. It also once held an informal school.

I’ve learned a lot about Harpers Ferry that I hadn’t known before…and there’s a lot more to discover!

Sunset in Lower Town.

Writer-In-Residence, Week 2

October 19, 2021

My time at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is flying by, and I’m enjoying every minute.

My second week here focused primarily on research. The park library is in a great old brick building near the confluence.

Although I have identified a specific era and themes to explore, I’m also leaving lots of room for discovery. I’m grateful to curator Mike Hoskings for helping me access materials.

(Am I the only person who wanders about libraries idly scanning the shelves? I think not.)

Some park collections are only available on microfilm. The old reader is noisy and creaky but gets the job done.

Among other things, I’ve been scanning old newspapers. They provide a helpful snapshot of everything from local gossip…

to public announcements…

to advertisements. Tiny details are very helpful for creating a sense of place and period in stories.

As always, the process of exploring new story topics and events is sometimes meandering. If a historical event intrigues me, I think about how it might work in a novel.

Early on, I got excited about two past events that overlapped. They would mesh perfectly in a novel. I was excited.

A few days later, while digging deeper, I discovered that the two events didn’t overlap quite as neatly as sources had initially suggested. Back to the drawing board.

One wonderful thing about being right here is the ability to balance my research hours. When my eyes get too squinty, I go out to a peaceful spot to spend more quality time with my project journal.

What will the next week bring? I’ll report back!

Writer-In-Residence, Week 1

October 11, 2021

I’m all settled in at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for the month.

Wondering what a writer-in-residence actually does? Curious about the park? Let me provide a peek!

The park encompasses 4,000 acres at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.

This photo was taken from Jefferson’s Rock in WV. The Shenandoah flows on the right, with Virginia on the far shore. It meets the Potomac River, which flows from the left and on under the bridge.

The Harpers Ferry historic district has been beautifully preserved.

Some old buildings have been restored inside to provide a glimpse of earlier days…

…and some house formal museum exhibits.

Although the park is perhaps best known for John Brown’s 1859 raid and Civil War events, there are layers and layers of fascinating history here. Park historians, educators, and volunteers have been developing new programs to share additional stories. I’ll be helping with research into a lesser-known period while I’m here.

My residency is supported by the Harpers Ferry Park Association and the park itself. The HFPA helps the park in many ways, including funding educational programs, managing the park shop, and occasionally publishing books about the park and its history. The HFPA has been very supportive of me since my first book, The Night Riders of Harpers Ferry, was published.

The National Park Service curator and rangers have also been generous with their time and knowledge. Highlights of my first week included a lantern tour of the Lower Town (historic district)…

…and a three-hour tour with a certified guide.

Guide Chris Craig did a superb job of sharing the area’s broad-ranging history. We’re on Bolivar Heights, considering how the landscape shaped events.
Cathy Baldeau, Executive Director of the Harpers Ferry Park Association, also joined the tour. Why yes, we did have a great time!

I’ve been coming to Harpers Ferry for over 50 years, but the overview tour made my realize how piecemeal my approach has been. I’m excited to get a better sense of the whole.

I’m soaking everything in as I learn from experts, walk the ground, and scribble in my journal. I’ll provide an update next week!

Virtual Historical Fiction Workshop

October 4, 2021

I am happily settled in as Writer In Residence at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park!

Although I won’t be doing any in-person events during my four-week stay, I am providing an online workshop: Writing Into The Past: Crafting Historical Fiction on Wednesday, October 20 or 27, 2021, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m Eastern Time Zone.

Storytelling is one of the most rewarding ways to explore history. Workshop participants will begin creating (or further develop) a piece of historical fiction set in Harpers Ferry or another location of choice.  They will engage in a variety of short, guided writing activities to explore the genre’s unique rewards and challenges regarding setting, character development, and plot. Students will also consider a variety of approaches for conducting research and finding inspiration. Both beginning and more experienced writers are welcome!

Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. These workshops are hosted by the Harpers Ferry Park Association, a fabulous organization that has supported this special place for 50 years!

Meet Hanneke Bauer!

September 9, 2021

I’m so happy to introduce you to the protagonist of my new Hanneke Bauer historical mystery series! The first volume, Lies of Omission, will be published on November 30, 2021 by Level Best Books.

I’ve actually been getting to know Hanneke for a long time.

When I accepted an interpreter position at Old World Wisconsin in 1982, I was assigned to the German Area. I loved working in all of the farms there, but was particularly fascinated by an extraordinary house once owned by the Schulz family.

The Schulz House, restored to its 1860 appearance.

I baked many loaves of crusty rye bread in the brick bake oven inside the Schwartze Kuche (Black Kitchen), and learned to spin and weave there.

Weaving linen cloth, 1982.

After spending so much time walking the floors, working through seasonal domestic chores, and thinking about farmwife Auguste Schulz, there where times when I almost glimpsed the hem of her skirt as she disappeared into the next room.

That’s when I knew I wanted to write a book about a Pomeranian immigrant.

This image of an unknown German woman helped me imagine Hanneke.

Other projects kept me busy. Finally, about fourteen years ago (while my agent was shopping around the first Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Old World Murder) I began working on the Pomeranian story. I was half-way through a rough draft when the Chloe series sold, and that kept me even busier. I was only recently able to finish the project.

Lies of Omission takes place in 1855, and begins just as Hanneke arrives in Wisconsin. Intelligent, capable, and strong-willed, she is looking forward to joining her new husband at his farm near Watertown. (Things do not, of course, go as well as she’d hoped.)

Tremendous numbers of German-speaking immigrants were settling during the state in this period, which prompted a backlash of anti-immigrant sentiment in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The nativist movement provided some good material for a mystery! And fictionalizing the Schulz Farm created a setting I can see clearly in my mind’s eye.

After all these years, it’s a special pleasure to see Hanneke emerge on the printed page. I hope you enjoy meeting her as much as I enjoyed creating her! I’ll share more insights about the book as publication day approaches.

(Chloe fans, never fear. I’m already working on her next adventure!)

Folk Arts, Fjords, and Fiddles – 2022!

July 14, 2021

Let’s try this again!

After a pandemic-caused delay, I’m thrilled to announce new dates for the Chloe Ellefson-themed tour of Southern Norway.

When I decided on a Norwegian setting for Fiddling With Fate, the 10th volume in my Chloe Ellefson Mysteries, I chose the area that enchanted me most. In partnership with the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society, I invite you to join me in May, 2022, on a trip to the land of Chloe’s ancestors!

Click the image below to see what we have planned.

We have a Tour Norway With Kathleen website created just for the adventure! It’s your portal for trip information—hotel and destination links, a schedule of Constitution Day festivities (we’ll be in Bergen for the holiday), and more.

Quick Links:

Full Trip Brochure
Travel Insurance

We’ve forged a relationship with Borton Overseas for our 2022 adventure. (Our original travel agent, who did so much to develop our plans, is enjoying a well-earned retirement.)

Borton Overseas began in 1894 as Sunden, Vanstrum, and Co., specializing in steamship travel for Scandinavian immigrants coming to the U.S. We’ll have over a century of experience supporting our trip!

For more information:

amy@bortonoverseas.com
1-612-661-4634
800-843-0602

Discounts are available for members of Sons of Norway, Swedish Institute, Danish American Center, and Norway House.

Note: If the pandemic presents any unexpected challenges for 2022, we will immediately contact you to discuss options. At this time, we don’t know if the Norwegian government will require vaccinations.

However, for the safety ad peace of mind of all, the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society kindly requests that travelers be vaccinated against Covid-19 to participate in this tour. Please keep this in mind when registering. The most up-to-date information regarding entry requirements will be provided as we get closer to our departure.

I’m dreaming of Norway. You too? I hope you can join us!