Archive for the ‘Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum’ Category

Researching Heritage Of Darkness

April 11, 2018

 

Image of a wooden Norwegian goat head (Julebukk) with the caption "Sometimes the darkness is inside."

 

Front cover of Heritage of Darkness, the fourth Chloe Ellefson mystery book by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst, published by Midnight Ink Books.Mr. Ernst here. This month the focus is on a surprise that turned up when researching a specific scene in this book, the fourth in Kathleen’s award-winning Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series.

Heritage Of Darkness (HOD) takes place within and around the wonderful, world-class Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. The story is set during December 1982, with historical flashbacks to the 1940s and 1960s.

This is the first Chloe mystery set at an historic site outside of Wisconsin. Other ‘out-of-state’ stories follow, but Kathleen intends to keep Chloe and Roelke firmly rooted at Old World Wisconsin and the Village of Eagle.

 

Image of a Norwegian wooden message tube (Budstikke) surrounded by text stating Dark Secrets Hidden In Norwegian Traditions.

 

Chapter Thirty

As Kathleen crafted HOD, she decided to add an attempt on Roelke’s life.

An isolated location was required — somewhere between Vesterheim in downtown Decorah and a nearby farm that Roelke would be staying at. After consulting a local map and exploring the area by car, Kathleen picked a farm to the northeast, across the Upper Iowa River. (The farm’s exact location remains a secret to protect the resident’s privacy.)

Part of the farm’s appeal was its proximity to a bridge over the river. Roelke would have to cross it when making the one-mile walk between the farm and Vesterheim where he was taking a Norwegian chip carving class. The solitary red pin on the upper right side of the satellite image below shows where the bridge is located.

 

Screen grab of a custom, interactive Google map of Decorah IA with pins marking where key scenes in HOD are located.

Above is a screen grab of a custom, interactive Google map of Decorah. It is one of many reader resources available on Kathleen’s HOD website page. (Map by Bonner Karger and Mr. Ernst.)

 

[NOTE: Each pin marks where a key scene in the book takes place. You can visit the HOD webpage to explore the map’s location photos and descriptions by clicking HERE.]

Kathleen and I initially scouted the book’s locations in warm weather, but given that HOD is set in December, we re-documented them in winter.

 

HOD-TwinSpansModernBridgeWinter500x375w

This photo reveals the partly frozen, snow-covered Upper Iowa River where someone tries to kill Roelke. (Photo by Mr. Ernst.)

 

The modern bridge looked new enough that we decided to confirm it was there in December 1982. Local Archivist Midge Kjome directed me to bridge-related newspaper clippings and photos in the files of the Winneshiek County Historical Society . . . where I found the following.

 

Excerpts from The Decorah Journal Newspaper June 21, 1984 article entitled "City, County cut ribbon to open new bridge."

Excerpts from “City, County Cut Ribbon to Open New Bridge” article, The Decorah Journal Newspaper, June 21, 1984. (Underlining added.)

 

Well, hunh. There was no bridge there when the ‘bridge’ scene was set!

Note from Kathleen:  I hate it when that happens.

Making matters even worse, I discovered that the original “Twin Bridges” was an historic iron truss structure built circa 1880. It had just one-lane, no lighting, and lacked a sidewalk. It also had low, skimpy side-barriers, and offered a steep drop to the river.

In other words, it was perfect for the scene Kathleen envisioned.

 

Black and white photo of the Fifth Street Twin Spans bridge over the Upper Iowa River on the northeast side of Decorah Iowa. Photo courtesy of the Winneshiek County Historical Society.

This undated photograph of the Twin Bridges, also known as the Fifth Street Bridge, looks south across the Upper Iowa River to the City of Decorah, Iowa. (Photo courtesy Winneshiek County Historical Society.)

 

As her readers know, Kathleen is a real stickler for historical accuracy. It’s the museum curator in her. In this case she made an exception, wielding her literary license to shift the tractor-bridge crash forward in time until after the book concludes. Problem solved.

Powerful things, literary licenses.

Below is an excerpt from the resulting scene, which starts on page 284.

 

    Roelke walked north and east to the sounds of boots crunching snow and shovels scrapping sidewalks. The wind drove snowflakes almost sideways through the cones of light cast by street lamps. This may not have been my best-ever idea, Roelke thought as he approached the Upper Iowa River bridge. He was dressed well for wintry weather, but the snow was slowing him down. Best try to pick up the pace.

    Good plan, but he’d no more than tromped onto the bridge when both feet flew out from under him. He landed, once again, on his ass. “Danger,” he muttered as he clambered to his feet. “Bridge surface may freeze before road.”

    There were no lampposts on the bridge. He dug his flashlight from his pocket and scanned the single traffic lane, hoping to identify any additional icy spots. There was nothing to see but snow and the twin ruts of tire tracks. He set out again, this time keeping a hand on the railing.

    He was half way across the narrow bridge when headlights appeared ahead. A car was approaching the bridge, too fast. “Slow down,” Roelke muttered. “Slow down. Slow down, Goddammit!”

    The car didn’t slow down. As it hit the bridge the yellow beams went crazy, slicing the snow-hazy night. The vehicle was a dark blur, whirling, sliding, coming his way–Christ Almighty–coming his way and there was nowhere to go, nowhere to go. The bridge railing bore into Roelke’s hip until something had to give, bone or iron, and the car kept coming.

    Roelke leaned out over the river, away from the speeding mass of steel. He heard the relentless shussh of skidding tires. The car was seconds away from crushing him.

    Instinct pushed him over the railing in a wild twisting scramble. He managed to catch one vertical bar with his right arm. His other arm shot around too, and he clenched his right elbow with his left hand. The car hit the railing inches beyond the spot where he now dangled. The bridge shuddered. Roelke clenched every muscle. The car fish-tailed once or twice before the driver was able to straighten it out.

    Then the car accelerated on toward town. Roelke watched the taillights disappear with stunned disbelief and rising fury.

 

We’d love to hear what you think, now that you’ve had the chance to compare the scene with some of the historical research used to write it. Please feel free to leave us a comment below.

HOD is available in trade paperback and multiple ebook formats from independent booksellers as well as Amazon and other online resellers. Both formats includes a map of Vesterheim, photos of the Norwegian folk art featured in the book, plus a cast of characters.

But Wait, There’s More!

Hopefully this article has piqued your interest in discovering more about the ‘people, places and the past’ that went into making HOD.

You can find a page full of details about it on Kathleen’s website, including a discussion guide, the Google map, the recipe for a dish served in the story, a slide show of objects featured in the book, public radio interviews with Kathleen, plus additional blog posts, links to booksellers that offer HOD — and more — using the link below.

https://www.kathleenernst.com/book_heritage_darkness.php.

Next month I’ll post an article on this blog about researching the next book in the Chloe Ellefson mystery series, Tradition of Deceit, which takes place in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

 

Heritage of Darkness – A Retrospective

April 4, 2018

Heritage of Darkness, the 4th Chloe Ellefson mystery, was the first to cross state lines. It’s set at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.

By the time I started planning this book I’d visited this wonderful museum while writing the first Chloe mystery, Old World Murder, to study ale bowls. I’d also taken several classes through the museum’s folk art school.

Me with my first rosemaling instructor, Gold Medalist Joanne MacVey

 

I also learned the basics of Danish hedebo embroidery (featured in The Lightkeeper’s Legacy)  at Vesterheim. Here instructor Roger Buhr explains motif construction.

I’d enjoyed my own class experiences so much I wanted to feature that element in the book.  I also love Vesterheim’s annual Norwegian Christmas celebration, and decided to feature that as well.

Most importantly, this setting provided the opportunity to develop characters in new ways. A road trip to Vesterheim, where Chloe and her mom take rosemaling classes (Chloe is a beginner; Mom, advanced), let me explore a complicated mother-daughter relationship.

Also, at the end of Book 3, Chloe and Roelke have reached an understanding. They are a couple, and both want to see where their relationship might go. Having Roelke volunteer to come on the trip let their relationship develop as well.

SPOILER ALERT:  Plot points discussed below!

A mystery writer is always looking for ways to get characters in trouble, and for situations that might foster conflict. I was familiar with the old adage, Beware the man with many mangles, which referred to the tradition of men carving a mangle board for the woman he hoped to marry. If a mangle was refused, it could not be offered to another woman. How could I not use that bit of folk wisdom? Thus Emil was born.

This is a mangle board I painted as a class project.

I also decided to focus on some ancient winter customs. In the pre-Christianity days, many in northern Europe believed December’s shortest, darkest days brought evil spirits swooping through the sky. People developed traditions to help ward away the evil. By the time Christian Norwegian immigrants came to the Midwest, those traditions had evolved, but still persisted in the form of julebukking. Since the book came out I’ve talked to many people who remember disguising their identity with a costume and going out to visit neighbors.

This reproduction in the Vesterheim collection represents the Christmas goat. In ancient times a goat head, real or effigy, was used to ward away evil.

That offered some interesting possibilities for a mystery plot! The whole notion of having a chance to act up led to the scene near the story’s end, which takes place in Vesterheim’s Open-Air Division:

The julebukker whipped something from behind his back and shoved it toward her. Chloe glimpsed glowing animal eyes, wicked animal teeth, wildly streaming animal hair—all evoking the childhood memory of the threatening strangers brandishing a bloody goat head on a stick.

…Chloe tried again to wrench away from the devil-creature. Her boots slipped over the drop-off beside the house. The julebukker swung her hard, like a mean child playing crack-the-whip, and released her abruptly. Chloe flew head-first toward the home’s stacked-stone foundation.

My working title for the book was The Power of Darkness, harkening back to those old times. My publisher changed it to Heritage of Darkness to get a “history” word in the mix, a trend which had been established in the first three books. (Old, Heirloom, Legacy.) I trust my many Norwegian friends know the sentiment isn’t personal!

I also trust that my many rosemaling friends know how I admire their work, and how much I enjoy painting myself—even though I have no innate aptitude.

I am always the slowest painter in any class. I think just about everyone else had left for the day when this picture was taken.

Chloe has a miserable time in her rosemaling class, but I wanted to leave open the possibility that some of her challenges stemmed from her own preconceived ideas. This led to one of my favorite moments in the story:

“Do you know what I have loved most about rosemaling?” Mom asked.

“Winning your Gold Medal.”

“No.” Mom stared at Chloe’s tray, but her gaze had turned inward. “Every time I pick up a brush, I feel connected to the old days when skilled painters traveled through Norway’s remote valleys. Rosemaling was done in the winter, so the artists probably traveled by sleigh, or perhaps just on skis. I picture isolated families welcoming the rosemaler into their dark little cabins—back in the days when most people lived in windowless houses with just an open hearth to provide warmth and light. Can you imagine what a joy it would be to have the painter at work while snow fell and wind howled? Can you imagine how people felt while watching the painter bring such vivid life and color to their world during winter’s bleakest, darkest days?”

“Well…I can now,” Chloe allowed.

A small step forward for Mom and Chloe.

By this point in the series, some readers were asking if/when Chloe and Roelke’s relationship would become intimate. Since this is a Traditional mystery, with no explicit sex or gore, I crafted a scene that I hoped conveyed the moment without spelling it out. Perhaps I should have been a wee bit more explicit, because I heard from a couple of people who’d read the book and were still wondering when the two main characters would have sex.

My talented friend Ellen Macdonald made this chip carved candle plate to represent the gift Roelke gave to Chloe, used in the hotel scene.

I also heard from a reader who complained about my sloppy writing, referring to the fact that about mid-book, I repeated a thought.  Chloe and Roelke are, in their separate lodgings, going to bed.  First Roelke thinks:

Tonight, with a killer wandering Decorah and a December wind rattling the windows, he really, really wished he could fall asleep with Chloe in his arms.

In a later scene, in Chloe’s point of view, she has the same thought:

Tonight, with a killer wandering Decorah and a December wind rattling the windows, she really, really wished she could fall asleep in Roelke’s arms.

I crafted that echo in hopes it would convey the growing bond between them; how they both wanted the same thing; that they were connected in thought even if physically apart. One never knows how such things might strike any individual reader.

While Chloe and Roelke’s relationship took a big step forward, Chloe’s relationship with Mom is only somewhat improved. I could have wrapped the book up with some moment of complete harmony and understanding between the two women, but it would have felt—at least to me—too pat and unrealistic.

What did you think?

You can explore relevant people, places, and the past on my webpage for Heritage of Darkness. Resources include a Google map, color images of key artifacts, a Discussion Guide, a recipe for Chloe’s Tomato Soup, and links to lots of additional background material.

A final thought:  People often ask how employees feel about me setting a murder mystery at their historic site or museum. I always chat with key staff before starting a new book, and make sure everyone is comfortable with the idea. The staff and volunteers at Vesterheim have been wonderful, and Mr. Ernst and I have made many friends within the Norwegian-American community. (We even celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in Norway!) The decision years ago to create a protagonist of Norwegian descent has brought wonderful things we couldn’t have imagined. We’re grateful.

Precious Papers

August 17, 2015

A museum curator’s job includes studying, preserving, and interpreting historical objects. When I worked at Old World Wisconsin I thought a lot about objects immigrants used in their New World homes. As I was writing  A Settler’s Year, I thought a lot about the things immigrants chose to carry on their journey.

A few years ago I enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the artifacts in storage at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. Chief Curator Laurann Gilbertson showed a collection I’d never considered—immigrant wallets.

A drawer full of wallets.

Wallets carefully preserved.

As she talked about them, I realized how important these wallets were for those traveling from Europe. Immigrants painstakingly calculated expenses, and money had to be meted out with care.

DSCF6506

In addition to money, these wallets often held precious papers. According to a museum exhibit, these papers might include a “passport” giving a traveler permission to leave, a statement from the local church attesting to his or her good standing, and certificates of vaccination for “cow pox” or other diseases.

Document on display at Vesterheim.

Travel document on display at Vesterheim.

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Travel document on display at Vesterheim.

Given the importance of what was to be carried in these wallets, it’s not surprising that some show real craftsmanship.

DSCF6509

They conjure images of immigrants carefully tucking away their precious documents and money. I imagine men patting their pockets from time to time, reassuring themselves their wallets were still there. I imagine women slipping wallets under their pillows at night for safekeeping.

DSCF6511

Immigrant literature includes many tales of theft, or swindlers waiting in every port to take advantage of newcomers. But with good planning and some luck, the wallets and their contents would see the immigrants safely to their new homes.

A Most Mischievous Christmas

December 24, 2013

In honor of Christmas eve, let’s set aside the ancient, spooky traditions featured in Heritage of Darkness, and celebrate one of Norway’s more recent (and fun) bits of folklore:  the nisse.

nisse heritage of darkness

Nisser are household or farm spirits. Belief in these mythological creatures, which resemble garden gnomes, became common in Scandinavia in the late eighteenth century.

nisse might help with  chores, especially those involving animals. A happy nisse could help ensure a farm’s prosperity. The nisse on the old Christmas postcard below is hauling wood for the family. (Artist unknown/author’s collection.)

nisse

That being the case, farm families were careful to acknowledge their nisse with a bowl of porridge with butter on Christmas eve. If they forgot, trouble was sure to follow! One common story tells of a young girl who ate the porridge herself. The nisse was so angry he forced her to dance until she almost died.

Farmers who swore or treated their animals poorly would also be punished. In this painting by Gudmund Stenersen, an angry nisse is stealing hay. (Wikipedia)

220px-Tomtestealinghay
Nisser were also mischievious.  A bored nisse might amuse himself by tying the tails of two cows together. This nisse, on exhibit at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, is trying to startle visitors with his dangling spider.
vesterheim nisse
In Heritage of Darkness, one of the projects in Chloe’s rosemaling class is a bowl decorated with nisser—a project inspired by this bowl from Vesterheim’s collection.
DSCF9337
Nisser remain part of Christmas celebrations in many Scandinavian households and communities.
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Who knows—if you set out a bowl of porridge tonight, you just might ensure good luck in the coming year!
I wish you all a most peaceful and lovely holiday season.

Happy Solstice!

December 21, 2013

It’s the shortest day of the year! In southern Wisconsin, the day was gray and frosty.

Frost

Hoarfrost on spent coneflowers in our yard.

Centuries ago, our ancestors built bonfires on the darkest day of winter. Many Europeans feared the evil spirits that roamed winter skies.

The Wild Hunt

Åsgårdsreien, by Peter Nicolai Arbo, 1872.  Many cultures have folktales about “The Wild Hunt.”

I thought a lot about that ancient belief and similar folktales while writing Heritage of Darkness. In isolated rural areas, peasants may have carried a goat head to ward away evil. Servants and employers spread straw on the floor and huddled together for protection.

1986xmas(4)

Photograph of a former exhibit courtesy of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

Such  traditions made great fodder for a mystery novel!  But in real life, the winter solstice is one of my favorite days. I love to think about the earth’s cycles. I love to pause and remember that we all have the power to bring a bit of light to the world.

This chip carved candle plate was made by my friend Ellen.

This chip carved candle plate was made by my friend Ellen.

Without these coldest and darkest days, the holiday candles’ glow wouldn’t be so welcome, so cozy, so full of warm and promise.

May your days—and nights—be merry and bright this season!

Solstice observance at the First Unitarian Society, Madison, WI.

Solstice candles at the First Unitarian Society, Madison, WI.

Lefse

October 28, 2013

Since a lefse pin spattered with blood is on the cover of my latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, Heritage of Darkness, it’s not much of a spoiler to say that the murder weapon is. . . you guessed it, a lefse pin.

Heritage of Darkness 1

Which has led some readers to ask, What the heck is lefse, anyway?

Lefse is a round flatbread usually made with mashed potatoes (which used up old potatoes, and kept the bread soft) and baked on stovetop or griddle. It was a staple in the diet rural Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans in the 19th century.

LEFSE

This old stereocard image shows a Norwegian woman making lefse on an outdoor griddle. A lefse stick is used to turn the paper-thin round of dough.

I was introduced to lefse when I worked at Old World Wisconsin. Lefse was frequently made at the Fossebrekke cabin, home to young Norwegian immigrants.

KAE at Fossebrekke Web

That’s me at the 1845 Fossebrekke cabin in 1982.

potato masher

Hand-cranked potato masher, Fossebrekke cabin, Old World Wisconsin.

The heavy wooden pins used to roll the dough were deeply scored or grooved, which helped reduce air bubbles, pulverize any bits of unmashed potato, and keep the rounds of lefse quite thin and pliable.

lefse pins - Version 2

Two pins on exhibit at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

lefse pin

This pin’s groove’s are nearly worn away. (Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum Exhibit)

In Norwegian-American communities it can still be found in local stores. . .

Schuberts Mount Horeb lefse

Schubert’s Diner and Bakery in Mount Horeb, WI.

. . .often folded into quarters and offered fresh or frozen.

lefse sale

Oneota Co-Op, Decorah, Iowa.

Although fewer and fewer people make lefse at home, it still holds a special place in good Norwegian-American hearts. Many people have memories of mom or grandma boiling Russet potatoes and making lefse on special occasions.

Last year my friend Martha invited me to the local Sons of Norway – Valdres Lodge Norwegian Constitution Day Dinner on May 15, held at the Washington Prairie Lutheran Church outside of town.  (Learn more here.)

On the way, she told me that when the church needed a new roof, several elderly members of the congregation made hundreds of lefse. They announced sales, to be held at a bank in town. Sales were brisk, and the money raised helped buy the new roof.

DSCF5941

A few weeks later at Nordic Fest, a celebration of Scandinavian heritage and pride held in Decorah each summer, another small army of  lefse bakers reported for duty.

lefse Nordic Fest - Version 2

Warm rounds of lefse are delivered from the griddle to eager buyers, who add whatever toppings they prefer.

lefse Nordic Fest

I’ve read that 10,000 lefse are served at Nordic Fest each year.

lefse Nordic Fest

Me, I love lefse spread with butter and brown sugar, then rolled up tight. Maybe a touch of cinnamon. Or lingonberry jam.

Decades ago, I bought a lefse pin at an antique store.  I don’t know how old it is, or who used it, but I liked to wonder. Who once used it to roll out a bit of home or heritage on a flour-dusted table?

lefse pin

My lefse pin is much larger than my regular rolling pin.  Heavier, too.

And one year, while working at Old World Wisconsin, the Norwegian-area interpreters gave me this lovely rosemaled lefse pin at the end of the season. While I treasure the stick, I must admit that I’ve never made lefse at home. After learning how on an antique stove in an 1845 cabin, it just wouldn’t feel the same.

lefse pin

This stick has had a place of honor in my kitchen for 25 years.

At the launch party for Heritage of Darkness held at Mystery To Me (in Madison, WI) I witnessed lefse’s popularity all over again.  My talented baker friend Alisha brought a gorgeous cake.  She also brought a plate of lefse made by Lutheran church ladies, and rolled up with butter and cinnamon and sugar—the combination she’d learned from her Norwegian grandmother.

People who’d never tried lefse were eager for a sample. People who had their own fond memories of lefse munched happily, reminiscing.

Alisha with lefse

This plate of lefse disappeared fast. Really fast.

I think the generations of long-gone lefse makers would be pleased.

Why Vesterheim?

September 13, 2013

“Why is the new Chloe book set in Iowa?” The question came in an email. “Why is Chloe crossing the border? Why not explore other sites in Wisconsin?”

Heritage of Darkness 1

I have no intention of having Chloe leave her job at Old World Wisconsin. Roelke McKenna, suitor and local cop, will remain in the area as well.

But I do plan to get Chloe out and about from time to time. She can travel to other sites for professional and personal reasons, finding mystery and mayhem and historical echoes wherever she goes. Variety will help keep the series fresh. It also gives me the chance to showcase other sites that I find particularly appealing.

That happens in Chloe #4, Heritage of Darkness. Chloe, Mom, and Roelke head to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, for a week’s vacation. So. . .  why Vesterheim?

Vesterheim wikipedia

It’s a stellar museum. Vesterheim is the most comprehensive museum in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group. The collection is phenomenal.

Vesterheim trunk

Local historians began collecting artifacts over a century ago. The Norwegian government—believing Norwegian-Americans should be able to learn about their heritage—also contributed original pieces to the museum.

Vesterheim

It is not, however, a museum only of interest to those with Scandinavian heritage.  Vesterheim’s mission is to “explore the diversity of American immigration through the lens of Norwegian-American experience.” I can attest to that. I have no Norwegian heritage, but I find that each visit helps me reflect upon what my own Swiss, Dutch, and Irish ancestors experienced.

Vesterheim knitting

The Open Air Division of the museum contains twelve buildings, ranging from the tiny homes of new arrivals to a huge commercial mill. I only recently learned that Vesterheim’s collection has special significance. Sten Rentzhog, in his book Open Air Museums: The History and Future of a Visionary Idea (2007), notes that “The oldest American outdoor museum appears to be Vesterheim. . . ”

Vesterheim Valdres snow

I had visited Vesterheim several times since moving to the Midwest in 1982, but returned with special purpose in 2005 while doing research for Old World Murder, the first Chloe mystery. That mystery centers on a missing antique ale bowl, and I made arrangements to visit collections storage so I could study Vesterheim’s bowls.

Vesterheim ale bowls

I thought I’d visit, say thanks, and that would be that. Instead, I’ve gotten more involved. My husband and I have returned to enjoy a variety of special events.

Vesterheim syttende mai

Vesterheim Christmas

Another part of Vesterheim’s mission is to “showcase the best in historic and contemporary Norwegian folk and fine arts, and preserve living traditions through classes in Norwegian culture and folk art, including rosemaling (decorative painting), woodcarving and woodworking, knifemaking, and textile arts.”

Vesterheim rosemaling

I’m a heritage arts junkie, and have enjoyed classes in painting, fiber arts, and foodways. Vesterheim’s combination of top-notch instructors and behind-the-scenes access to artifacts for study is unparalleled.

Kate demonstrating the basic stitch.

Vesterheim Laurann

When I took my first rosemaling class, the Education Specialist spoke of “the Vesterheim Family.” It does exist. There’s a special sense of sharing and camaraderie that helps explain why so many people return to Vesterheim again and again.

Writing a Chloe mystery involves several years of thinking, researching, and writing. I can only pick locations that I love—and that I believe readers will love too.

KAE ale bowl Vesterheim

Heritage of Darkness Launch Events!

September 8, 2013

Heritage of Darkness, the 4th Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mystery, will soon be published!  And I have some great launch events—including two special Chloe’s World Tours at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum—planned for my wonderful readers.

For curator Chloe Ellefson, a family bonding trip to Decorah, Iowa for rosemaling classes seems like a great idea—until the drive begins. Chloe’s cop friend Roelke takes her mother’s talk of romantic customs good-naturedly, but it inflates Chloe’s emotional distress higher with each passing mile. After finally reaching Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Chloe’s resolve to remain positive is squashed when she and Roelke find Petra Lekstrom’s body in one of the antique immigrant trunks. Everyone is shaken by the instructor’s murder, and when Mom volunteers to take over the beginners’ class, Chloe is put in the hot seat of motherly criticism. As she investigates, Chloe uncovers dark family secrets that could be deadly for Mom . . . and even herself.

Heritage of Darkness 1

Here’s the calendar:

1.  Book Signing, Saturday, October 12, Noon – 5 PM;  Old World Wisconsin,  Eagle, WI.

The award-winning Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries feature protagonists who work at Old World Wisconsin and in the nearby Village of Eagle. I will be greeting visitors and signing books from Noon to 5 PM in the museum store, which will have copies of my mysteries for sale. Get an autographed copy of Heritage of Darkness, and then explore the locations at Old World where key scenes in the series take place. Free “Locations Guides” can be downloaded from the Old World Murder and The Heirloom Murders pages on my website. Note: while tickets are not needed to visit the store, there is a fee to explore the museum’s extensive grounds and buildings.

Old World Wisconsin – (262) 594-6301 – W372 S9727 Hwy 67, just south of Eagle, WI.

* * *

2.  Book Signing, Sunday, October 13, 10 AM – Noon;  Islandtime Books,  Washington Island, WI; 10 AM. 

I’ll be greeting guests and signing copies of Heritage of Darkness at this wonderful independent bookstore.  You can also get The Light Keeper’s Legacy, which is set on Rock and Washington Islands, and the first two books in the series.

Islandtime Books – (920) 847-2565 – 1885 Detroit Harbor Rd., Washington Island, WI.

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3.  Launch Party, Tuesday, October 22, 6 – 7:30 PM;   Mystery To Me Bookstore,  Madison, WI. 

I’ll be introducing the latest Chloe adventure and signing books from 6 to 7:30 PM in Madison’s newest mystery bookstore, which will have copies of all the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries for sale. There will be mementos for all guests, great door prizes, and another fabulous cake by Alisha Rapp.

Mystery To Me Bookstore – (608) 283-9332 – 1863 Monroe Street, Madison, WI.

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4. Book Signing,  Thursday, October 31, 5 – 7 PM; Vesterheim Museum,  Decorah, IA.

Heritage of Darkness is set in Decorah at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. I’ll be signing books from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, Thursday (Halloween Night) in the museum’s Bruening Visitor Center at the corner of West Water and Mechanic Streets.

Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum – (563) 382-9681 – 502 West Water St., Decorah, IA.

* * *

5.  Ticketed Chloe’s World Tour, Wednesday, December 4, 5:30 – 8:30 PM; Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Decorah, Iowa.

This tour, which is limited to 25 participants, includes:

    • An after-hours Chloe’s World tour.  The tour will take readers through the museum, highlighting the locations featured in Heritage of Darkness.  Stops will include the Norwegian House, the rosemaling and woodworking exhibit galleries, the vault, and the Valdres House in the Open-Air Division.  The tour also includes a stop at one of the museum’s collections storage facilities for a peek at some hidden treasures.
    • A visit to the rosemaling classroom featured in the book, where participants will enjoy dinner with the author.  The meal will include the soup featured in Heritage of Darkness, salad, and drinks.
    • A sampling of Norwegian Christmas cookies and a book discussion in Vesterheim’s new Visitor’s Center.
    • Favors for all participants, plus special door prizes.

Tickets for this event cost $25.  Reservations are required and can be made by calling 563-382-9681 and asking for Jocelyn.

The tour will begin in the lobby of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 502 W. Water Street, Decorah, Iowa. Please gather at 5:20 PM. Since the tour and discussion will include major plot points, guests are encouraged to read Heritage of Darkness in advance. Museum members and those registered for the ticketed tour who order the book through Vesterheim’s Museum Store will receive a 10% discount.

* * *

6. Free Chloe’s World Tour, Thursday, December 5, 10 AM – Noon; Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

The tour will take readers through the museum, highlighting the locations featured in Heritage of Darkness.  Stops will include the Norwegian House, the rosemaling and woodworking exhibit galleries, the vault, and the Valdres House in the Open-Air Division.  The tour also includes a stop at one of the museum’s collections storage facilities for a peek at some hidden treasures.

The tour will begin in the lobby of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 502 W. Water Street, Decorah, Iowa.  Please gather at 9:50 AM. Since the tour will include discussion of major plot points, guests are encouraged to read Heritage of Darkness in advance.

Heritage of Darkness teaser 1

7.  Blog Tour
I’ll be visiting several blogs in coming weeks—and doing a Giveaway at each stop! Visit and leave a comment, and you’ll be eligible to win your choice of the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mysteries.
Monday, September 16: http://sheilaboneham.blogspot.com/index.html
Wednesday, October 9:  http://bethgroundwater.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, October 23:  http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/
Saturday, November 23:  http://www.killercharacters.com/
More tour stops will be added, and posted on my Facebook Author Page.

Heritage of Darkness Teaser 2

There is nothing better than connecting with readers! I hope to see you, or hear from you, during one of these events.

Holiday Food Traditions Class – You’re Invited!

September 8, 2013

I am very excited about a weekend workshop I’m teaching this fall, Holiday Food Traditions:  Remembering, Writing, Tasting, Sharing. The class is scheduled Nov. 1-3, 2013  (Fri. from 6:00-8:30, Sat. and Sun. from 9:00-5:00) in Decorah, in northeast Iowa.

Precious family stories are often shared around the table, and many involve favorite recipes. This holiday season, treat yourself to a special weekend designed to help you recall, record, and celebrate food traditions from your family or community. Tattered recipe cards can lead to reminiscences, poetry, scrapbook pages, family cookbooks…the possibilities are endless, and the results make perfect gifts.

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I’m teaching this class at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, but you do not need to be of Norwegian descent to participate!  This will be an easy-going weekend intended to help capture and share some food memories in whatever form works best for you.

The workshop includes fun, reflective, and imaginative writing activities. You’ll also enjoy baking demonstrations of favorite traditional Scandinavian Christmas goodies, as well as advice about preserving and protecting kitchen heirlooms. You’ll leave with some holiday treats, a finished scrapbook page, and lots of creative ideas for turning recipes and memories into cherished family gifts.

cookies

I’m team-teaching the workshop with Darlene Fossum-Martin. Darlene’s cooking style is shaped by the Norwegian cuisine of her ancestors. Although she holds a degree in home economics and education, her strengths in cooking come from the women in her family. Darlene has taught traditional Scandinavian food classes for adults and children of all ages throughout the Midwest and at John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

Darlene and Kathleen

You may know me, but if not – I‘m the author of twenty-five books, including the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series for adults and historical novels for young readers. I’ve taught writing at the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Mount Mary College, and many conferences and workshops. I’ve also spent thirty years exploring and writing about food heritage and traditions.  During my decade as a curator at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum, I coordinated the historic foodways program for different ethnic groups represented in fourteen period kitchens. I trained museum staff in foodways traditions and techniques, and often wrote about food history for professional publications.

Can you join us in Decorah?  Here’s everything you need to know:

Level of instruction: All levels. Youth ages 14-17 signed up with a participating adult receive a 25% discount.

Dates: The class is scheduled Nov. 1-3, 2013  (Fri. from 6:00-8:30, Sat. and Sun. from 9:00-5:00) at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, in northeast Iowa.

Cost:  $148 Vesterheim members / $198 non-members.  There will be an ingredients fee.

Registration:  You’ll find registration information and forms on Vesterheim’s website.

If you have questions, please call Darlene, Vesterheim’s Education Specialist, at 563-382-9681, Ext. 215.

 vesterheim cookies

 

 

Nålbinding, Part 2 – Getting Started

March 9, 2013

As I mentioned in a recent post, when I learned that Kate Martinson taught workshops in nålbinding at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, I signed right up.

When the class began, I quickly learned that the trickiest part is getting started. Projects begin with a chain of stitches, and creating those first few stitches took some practice. Kate prepared a little started piece for each student so we could learn the basic stitch before having to start from scratch.

Kate demonstrating the basic stitch.

Kate demonstrating the basic stitch.

Here’s my first attempt at a chain. After a couple of mistakes (toward the right) I started getting the hang of it.

Kate brought a variety of nålbinding needles to class so we could experiment. She encouraged us to find just the right one, based on how it felt in our hands.

Examples of Nålbinding needles.  Kate urged us to try different kinds, and choose one that felt good in our hand.

Examples of Nålbinding needles.

Everyone made a small pouch for their first project. These let us try increasing and decreasing, and changing colors.

Nalbinding

Nalbinding

Once a project is completed, the next step is fulling. (Felting refers to manipulating raw fibers; fulling refers to manipulating fibers that have been spun, knit, crocheted, woven, etc.) The creator can decide whether to full their piece, and how much to full it.

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Here Kate is using a fulling board–similar to an old-fashioned scrub board–to help individual wool fibers catch with their neighbors.

Agitating

My pouch is in the bototm of this tub.  A simple potato masher helps with the agitation.

The next three photos show the procession. First, the completed pouch before any fulling.

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The individual stitches and overall stitch pattern are clearly visible.

Next, the piece in the middle of the fulling process.

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The wet fibers are easy to stretch at this point.

The wet piece is blocked and left to dry.

The pouch after it dried, with button ready to be sewn into place. I could have chosen to start the fulling process all over again, but I wanted to leave some of the stitching pattern visible.

After we made our pouches, each student began planning a project of his or her choice. Kate made sure we had a good grounding in all the fundamentals, such as yarn selection. (And we took a field trip to the wonderful yarn store, Blue Heron Knittery, down the street. )

Kate discussing types of fibers that do--and don't--work well for Nålbinding .

Kate discussing types of fibers that do—and don’t—work well for nålbinding .

She also brought lots of her own projects for inspiration.

Scarves, mittens, hats…

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mitts…

and bags.

The class was informative; it was also great fun. Kate reminded anyone who got frustrated about making a mistake (that would be me) that historically, women were working toward practicality and functionality, not perfection. And she would know—she’s studied nålbinding for years, and has even taught classes in Scandinavia.

In addition, it’s special to take a class at a world-class museum where original artifacts also provide inspiration.

Kate is offering her nålbinding workshop again this summer. I highly recommend it! For more information, visit the Vesterheim website.