Posts Tagged ‘Chloe Ellefson Mystery series’

Upcoming Virtual Programs

November 22, 2022

I have a couple of online presentations on the calendar – and you’re invited!

This richly-illustrated program will take you behind the scenes of the Chloe Ellefson mysteries that feature aspects of Norwegian culture and history. I’ll share why I decided to create Chloe as a Norwegian-American, and the themes that have shaped her evolving cultural identity. You’ll also see the special historic places, artifacts, and folk art—from Old World and New—that inspired Chloe’s stories.

As a special treat, we’ll be joined by Destinee K. Udelhoven, Executive Director of the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society. Destinee will explain the society’s Norwegian Connection, and share some special artifacts with us.

Courtesy Mount Horeb Area Historical Society

As many of you know, I’ve partnered with the MHAHS to offer a unique trip to Norway in May. After the program, Destinee and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about Folk Art, Fjords, & Fiddles: Exploring Southern Norway.

This free program will take place on Tuesday, November 29th, 2022, from 7:00 – 8:00 PM Central. Click HERE for registration information.

And if you like to plan ahead, here’s a sneak peak at a program coming in January.


This program will feature some of the immigrant voices featured in my nonfiction book A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons.

This free program will take place on Tuesday, January 4, 2023, from 7:00 – 8:00 PM. Click HERE for registration information.

Belgian Star Barns

October 10, 2022

While driving back roads in northeast Wisconsin as I researched the 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, I encountered a handful of old Belgian structures featuring stars. Most of them were white, on the gable ends of barns.

Near Union, WI.

No one seemed to be sure of the custom’s origin, although some historians have speculated that they represented the settlers’ strong religious faith.

There are a handful of Catholic Churches in the region named Stella Maris (Our Lady, Star of the Sea), an ancient title for the Virgin Mary. It signifies protection and guidance.

Near Algoma, WI.

I chose to incorporate that idea into one of the book’s pivotal scenes. Last July, when participants on a tour of Belgian sites in the vicinity asked about star barns, I promised to share some photos.

Near Rosiere, WI.

I hope these shots will help you imagine the scene!

One of my favorites! Near West Kewaunee, WI.
And a star house! The brickwork on this beautiful home is astonishing. Near Rosiere, WI.

By the way…I’ve neglected my blog of late in order to focus on manuscripts in progress. I’ll try to do better. Happy autumn!

Folk Arts, Fjords, and Fiddles – 2023!

August 26, 2022

The third time’s a charm, right?

I’m thrilled to announce that trip details have been finalized for the upcoming 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, 2023, on a trip to the land of Chloe’s ancestors!

Click the image below to see what we have planned.

We’ve partnered with Borton Overseas for our 2023 adventure. The company 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!

Click HERE for itinerary, pricing, and registration information.

If you have specific trip and travel questions, you may also reach out directly to Amy, Borton’s Scandinavian Specialist.
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.

For the safety and 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.

You’ll find more information on our dedicated trip website, including more insight into some of the places we’ll be visiting.

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

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!

Exciting Discovery

August 30, 2021

After the special event at the Hanka Homestead on August 21, Mr. Ernst and I made a detour so we could visit the Oulu Cultural & Heritage Center in northern Wisconsin.

When our guides took us into the tool shed, I spotted an old handmade loom reed hanging on the wall.

In the 11th Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge, Chloe finds just such a reed in the Hanka family’s trash dump. Look at the craftsmanship!

Here’s the scene:

Chloe was about to turn away when something snagged her attention. She shoved some loose barrel staves with a foot to get a better look…and caught her breath. “Oh!” She was looking at a loom’s reed, the wide tool with evenly spaced gaps weavers used to keep warp thread spread consistently. It was filthy, the teeth caked with dried mud, but she pulled it free and regarded it with wonder. Someone in the Hanka family had been a weaver.

Chloe thought about one of those Hanka women weaving rugs for the family in that once-cozy home. She thought of her own Lake Superior rug, which she’d locked inside the Pinto that morning for safekeeping. And she thought about the immigrant women who’d brought their weaving experience with them from Finland—whatever their grandmothers had taught them about weft preparation and warp tension, about color and balance and design. Had they known that the tradition, unlike so many domestic arts, would persist through coming generations?

I used the reed in the story because of what it could suggest or reveal about the person who once used it. I wasn’t able to view one while writing the book, so this made my day.

The Center also owns a fabulous loom made entirely from a single tree. (Learn more about tree looms/root looms here and here.) It’s a thing of beauty, and educators are using it to teach the art to weaving students.

I’ll do a full blog post about the Oulu Cultural & Heritage Center later, but I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of these artifacts as much as I did!

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!

Logistics for the Hanka Homestead Tour

July 11, 2021

I’ve had some questions about carpooling and lodging relevant to the special Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum Tour on Saturday, August 21. This evocative historic site is the setting for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge.

The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum is located in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Here’s a map.

Lodging is limited in the vicinity, so if you’re searching online for accommodations, you might need to cast a wider net than usual. The event doesn’t start until the afternoon, so you’ll have some time to travel that morning.

If you’re interested in attending and would like to share the driving with someone, let me know where you live and I’ll do what I can to help facilitate connections. For starters, a friend in the Madison, WI area is hoping to find a companion for the trip. Contact me if you can help.

For more information about this free program, visit my event registration page. It’s going to be an awesome afternoon!

Widow of the Grasses

June 18, 2021

That’s what some people in Finland called a woman left behind when her husband immigrated to America.

(Sorrow, Albert Edelfelt, Finnish National Gallery)

Sadly, it was not uncommon for desperate poverty to force families to separate. Some men planned to earn what was needed to send passage money to their wives. Others planned to work for a while before returning to Finland in better financial shape. Although it often took years, many families were reunited.

Some women, however, never saw their husbands again. Letters stopped coming, the promised wages never arrived, and they were left alone to wonder what had gone wrong. Effectively widowed, these women were sometimes ostracized by their neighbors, or blamed for their husbands’ departures.

(Solvieg, Albert Edelfelt, Helsinki Art Museum)

Another term for the women left behind was Amerikan Leski, or America Widow. In 1905 one such woman, Elisa Valkama, published a song warning other Finnish women about men who left their wives behind. Here are the opening lyrics:

Since you left me, that two-timing husband, I have no pangs of sorrow. It’s a well-known thing in these here parts, an America Widow.

If you are a good upstanding wife or a happily engaged young girl, never never let your husband take to the road, or go traveling to the new world.

Many couples are no longer happy, it’s all because the man’s gone away. America’s call has captured men’s hearts, while he left his wife there to stay.

Do not say it’s America’s doing, there’s all too many wives left behind. Ignominy places them in a prison, there to face censure unkind.

To read the full lyrics, and hear the song, click the image below.

At least a few  Widows of the Grasses managed to make their way to America and search for their husbands. In 1905, a local newspaper  reported  that a woman arrived in Red Jacket, Michigan, in search of  her missing husband, Herman. She found him living with a woman he’d presented as his legitimate wife.

The abandoned woman must have been outraged, but she needed Herman to provide for her and their six children. Herman agreed to leave his illegitimate wife in favor of his lawful one. (Wife #2  responded by promptly emptying their bank account.)

Whether happily reunited with their husbands or not, it’s painful to imagine how difficult the situation was for all the women left behind in Finland—and the men who felt they had no other choice.

I decided to explore this topic in The Weaver’s Revenge in honor of all those who found themselves in that situation.

Launch Party!

May 10, 2021

I invite you to join me for the virtual launch party for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge! The event is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 12, at 7 PM US Central time.

It will be hosted by Mystery to Me, my local indie bookstore. I’ll show slides of some of the people, places, and the past that inspired me to write the story.

This online event is free, but you must pre-register

I’ll also sign and personalize books for anyone who orders from Mystery To Me.

Although I miss in-person events, I’m delighted that geography won’t limit anyone. I hope to see you there!

Anna’s Loom

April 29, 2021

Thanks to reader Robyn S., I have another loom to show you—and this one comes with a story!

Robyn, who is half Finnish, weaves on this loom at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista, CA. (Robyn refers to this as a Finnish Tree Loom, a perfect descriptor for what are also called root looms.)

Anna’s loom.

This story begins shortly after World War II, when many people in Finland were struggling with poverty. Finnish immigrant Matt Rihinen, a dairy farmer in Negaunee, MI, began collecting clothing donations on his dairy route to send back to those in need in Old Country.

Some of the donations were too worn to be included in the care packages. Matt’s wife Anna asked him to build her a loom so she could put the scraps to good use. Matt began work in 1944, and finished in 1945. Anna wove rugs on this loom for the rest of her life.

Eventually the farm, and the loom, passed on to Anna and Matt’s only child, Johanna Pohjala. Johanna became a celebrated weaver herself, who wove and sold enough rugs to finance three trips to Finland! When the heavy overhead beater became too difficult for her to handle, her husband reconfigured it for her.

The loom was inherited by her daughter Christine Simonen, who donated it to the museum. Christine also donated a large warp chain prepared by Johanna before her death.

Johanna’s warp being wound onto the loom by Robyn and two other museum volunteers.
Weaving in process.
Completed rug.
Here’s another rug Robyn wove on the same warp. What a difference weft choices make!

Robyn and other museum volunteers keep all sorts of textile traditions alive. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum.

And to gain more insight into the social history of Finnish rag weaving, check out The Weaver’s Revenge: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery!