Posts Tagged ‘Chloe Ellefson’

The Belgian Farm

December 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glass protectors.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Chloe Tours at Vesterheim!

October 21, 2018

Exciting news!  Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum has scheduled two special tours based on the fourth Chloe Ellefson mystery, Heritage of Darkness.

Here’s the scoop on both tours:

November 10, 2018 | 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Location: Begin at Vesterheim’s main building lobby

Join us for mystery and intrigue at the museum!

This tour is for fans of Kathleen Ernst’s Chloe Ellefson Mystery Series. Kathleen’s fourth book in the series Heritage of Darkness, is set at Vesterheim Museum.

The special tour includes:
• Vesterheim Museum admission
• Guided tour to see Vesterheim artifacts and buildings featured in the mystery
• Special presentation Norwegian Courtship & Betrothal Gifts by woodworker Rebecca Hanna  (Note from Kathleen – Rebecca is wonderful. You’ll love her!)
• Treat break with Norwegian sweets mentioned in the book.

$20 per person

Spoiler alert: Read the book in advance—the ending will be revealed during the tour!

Reservations are due November 3, 2018
To sign up, contact Karla Brown at 563-382-9681 x107, or kbrown@vesterheim.org.

 

Heritage of Darkness Tour

November 30 | 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Location: Begin at Vesterheim’s main building lobby

Join writer Kathleen Ernst for mystery and intrigue at the museum!

This tour is for fans of Kathleen Ernst’s Chloe Ellefson Mystery Series. Kathleen’s fourth book in the series Heritage of Darkness, is set at Vesterheim Museum.

The special tour includes:

• Vesterheim Museum admission
• Guided tour to see Vesterheim artifacts and buildings featured in the mystery
• Special presentation given by Kathleen Ernst “The Chloe Ellefson Mysteries: Behind The Scenes!”
• Treat break with Norwegian sweets mentioned in the book.

 

$25 per person

Spoiler alert: Read the book in advance—the ending will be revealed during the tour!

Reservations are due November 23, 2018
To sign up, contact Karla Brown at 563-382-9681 x107, or kbrown@vesterheim.org.

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I hope you can enjoy one of these special tours. Vesterheim is an amazing museum! I’ll also be signing Chloe books in the gift shop on December 1, from 1-4 PM during Vesterheim’s Norwegian Christmas celebration.

Belgian Pies

October 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belgian Pies

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

 

An enthusiastic thumbs-up from Mr. Ernst.

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

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

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

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

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

Gina demonstrates squeezing excess liquid from the cottage cheese.

The dry curds.

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

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


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

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

Ethnic

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

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

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

piesign

frozenpies

Happy reading, and happy baking!

Why Belgians and Lace?

September 3, 2018

The 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, is set in Green Bay and southern Door County, Wisconsin. It features the Belgian immigrants who arrived there in the 1850s.

The primary settings are Heritage Hill Historical Park in Green Bay, where a gorgeous Belgian-American farmhouse has been relocated and restored, and the Belgian Heritage Center in Namur, a wonderful history and cultural center.

Readers often ask how I choose locations, historical topics, and (in most cases) ethnic groups to showcase in each new Chloe Ellefson mystery. This isn’t always easy, as I have a long and ever-growing list of historic sites and museums I want to write about.

So how did Belgians and lace rise to the top of the list?

First, I only write about places I think readers would enjoy hearing about, and perhaps visiting. Heritage Hill Historical Park has preserved some phenomenal buildings, and my favorite is the Belgian Farm.

Massart Farm, Heritage Hill

The lovely Belgian Farm at Heritage Hill Historical Park previously belonged to the Massart family in Kewaunee County, WI.

Also, the Belgian Heritage Center in Namur is an incredible example of what a group of dedicated volunteers can do to preserve and share their history and cultural heritage. I first considered the Center a research stop, but decided I wanted to feature it in the book itself (even though I had to fictionalize its time of establishment to do so.)

BelgHeritageCenter

The Belgian Heritage Center is located in the former St. Mary of the Snows Catholic church, located in the community of Namur, in Door County, WI.

The other critical factor is how well the setting/topic of a new book can help reflect the personal journeys that main characters Chloe Ellefson and Roelke McKenna are taking in the series—together and individually. I think a lot about where they are emotionally at the end of the previous book, and where I want them to be by the end of the new book. I try hard to make the place and mystery plot reflect that.

One of the first things I learned about Belgian immigrants was that faith played a big role in their lives and communities.

Le Mieux Chapel, UWGB

It was common for Belgian immigrant families to build small chapels on their properties. This is the Le Mieux Chapel, in Green Bay, WI.

At the end of the previous book, Mining For Justice, Chloe and Roelke needed to consider what “having faith” meant in their relationship.

Despite all this careful thinking and planning, sometimes pure serendipity plays a role in book development as well. While attending a mystery conference a couple of years ago I met Bev, an avid mystery reader who knows a lot about lacemaking, and works with the lace curator at the National Museum of American History. She asked, would I be interested in touring the collection? Why, yes, indeed I would.

Karen

Karen, lace curator, shows me one of the many fabulous pieces in the National Museum of American History’s collection in Washington, DC.

I knew nothing about Belgium’s bobbin lace industry before my visit. The pieces of lace I saw were amazing. The stories I heard were compelling. Ideas about how bobbin lace might be featured in a future Chloe book started taking shape in my mind.

I hope The Lacemaker’s Secret might serve as a quiet tribute to the courage and tenacity of the early Belgian immigrants. Many of their descendants still live in northeast Wisconsin.

During the coming weeks I’ll share more behind-the-scenes information about the book, and its topics and themes. I’m excited about readers finally getting the chance to dive into The Lacemaker’s Secret

To learn about the book’s launch events, see my online Calendar.

Mining For Justice Giveaway Winners!

August 23, 2018

Congratulations to SHIRLEY HYING, DIANE JOHANSON, and SUE SMITH! Each won a signed, personalized copy of Mining For Justice in this month’s 8 Books in 8 Months Giveaway. Winners were chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author page.

Thanks to all who entered! Stay tuned—Mr. Ernst and I have more fun planned for September.

Mining For Justice Giveaway

August 21, 2018

This year from January through August I’m holding monthly giveaways of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries. The featured book for August is the eighth in the series, Mining For Justice.

To enter the giveaway for Mining For Justice, leave a comment below before 11:59 PM (Central US time), August 22, 2018. One entry per person, please.

Three winners will be chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page, and announced the next day. Each winner will receive a personalized and signed trade paperback copy of Mining For Justice
Good luck!

Digging for Information

August 20, 2018

It’s challenging to find primary-source information about Territorial Wisconsin. While researching Mining For Justice, the 8th Chloe Ellefson mystery, I was therefore delighted to learn that a few newspapers from 1837 still exist, and have been microfilmed.

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 6.56.35 PM

July 28, 1837. How cool is that?

They helped paint a picture of Mineral Point.

MFP - 7.14.37

Advertisements and editorials helped me understand what goods were available, and how much they cost.

MFP - 12/22/37

“Oats are from fifty cents to a dollar per bushel, the whole year round–corn the same, and potatoes almost so. Butter is thirty seven cents a pound, and all other articles in proportion….”

This notice reassured me that it was quite reasonable to have Ruan open his own blacksmith shop.

MFP 7.28.37

“The subscriber informs the public, that he has opened the above business, and intends carrying it on, in all its various branches….”

I found editorials, such as this one about Governor Dodge.

MFP 8.11.37

“We are now perfectly satisfied that Governor Dodge is unfit to be Governor of Wisconsin–and that he should forthwith, immediately, and without delay, resign a station so important to the people, for which he is entirely unqualified….”

And this notice for a missing man helped me write my own.

MFP - 9/29/37

“…Any intelligence of his fate communicated by letter…will be immediately handed to his disconsolate wife.”

I wouldn’t have known these scans existed if the kind and helpful archivist at the Mineral Point Library hadn’t clued me in. Mining For Justice readers will know that I portrayed Midge, the fictional archivist, as a research whiz. I had lots of similar help, and I’m grateful!

The Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums

July 31, 2018

The latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, Mining For Justice, features Wisconsin’s lead mining era.

To learn about the miners’ work, the mining museum in Platteville, WI, is a great place to explore.

Touring the 1845 Bevans Lead Mine with a knowledgeable guide is a highlight. The lead region produced over 27,000 tons of lead that year!

About to descend into the mine. I’m holding a piece of lead ore, which is heavier than it looks.

Museum staff discovered the exact location of the Bevans Mine, which had long been closed, in 1972. The city of Platteville opened the mine to the public four years later.

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Mannequins have been arranged along the tour route to depict several aspects of mine labor.

Mining Museum Platteville

Just for comparison—same scene without a flash. The guides carry flashlights, and there is lighting in the mine, but spending time there reminds guests in a visceral way that these men worked in dark conditions.

Mining Museum, Platteville

Heavy labor.

Mining Museum, Platteville, WI

The “man” on the right is holding a gad (used like a chisel to loosen rock) while his partner drives it into the rock wall. This teamwork required trust and skill. Note the sticking tommy with candle in the wall nearby.

IMG_0883

I’m looking at a pile of rubble shoved aside and left behind by miners. It helped me picture a key scene in Mining For Justice. Museum Educator Mary is on the left.

In addition to the mine, there are formal exhibits to explore.

Mining Museum, Platteville

This display reminds guests that Native Americans were smelting lead long before white miners arrived.

Mining Museum, Platteville

I love this diorama, showing how miners would work down until they found a promising drift of ore. They would then dig horizontally, following the drift until it played out.

Version 2

Regulations for miners.

One particularly interesting display was developed by students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Historians knew that African American miners were involved in the lead boom, but the students dug out details about freed and enslaved black men.

In addition to touring the mine and museum, I visited one day when Stephanie, former long-time curator at the museum, was demonstrating how lead was heated to a molten state and poured into molds to make ingots.

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Stephanie melts down lead over an open fire.

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Once in a liquid state, the lead was poured into molds. After cooling, the bar of lead can be flipped out. Lead was made into ingots for ease in transporting.

Mining Museum, Platteville

Many thanks to Mary and Stephanie for their help!

The mining museum is open May through October. If you plan a visit, be sure to check the website for full details. And it’s a two-fer! You can also tour the city’s Rollo Jamison Museum.

A Memory Of Muskets Giveaway Winners!

July 27, 2018

Congratulations to SUSAN NELSON, CARRIE STAMMER, and MELISSA WEINSTEIN!  Each has won a signed and personalized trade paperback of my seventh Chloe Ellefson mystery, A Memory of Muskets.

Winners were chosen randomly from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page. Thanks to all who entered, and for the lovely comments too. Next month I’ll hold a giveaway of my eighth Chloe mystery, Mining For Justice.

A Memory of Muskets Giveaway

July 25, 2018

This year from January through August I’m holding monthly giveaways of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries. The featured book for July is the seventh in the series, A Memory of Muskets.

To enter the giveaway for A Memory of Muskets, just leave a comment below before 11:59 PM (Central US time), July 26, 2018. One entry per person, please.

Three winners will be chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page, and announced the next day. Each winner will receive a personalized and signed trade paperback copy of A Memory of Muskets
Good luck!