Sunday, July 23, 2017

Weekend Round-Up- Part One

Skinny Taco Dip
Cook's notes:
This dip comes together so quickly and easily in just 10 minutes, making it perfect as a party appetizer or even for game day! And with the lightened up ingredients, you can eat this guilt-free.  YUM !YUM! Serve with your favorite chips. Recipe and
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 -1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small avocado, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons sliced olives
  • Combine softened cream cheese, Greek yogurt, salsa and taco seasoning until smooth and well combined. Spread into a rectangle baking dish or pie plate (I used an 11"x 7" baking pan) 
  • Refrigerate for an hour to let flavors combine (optional). Top with remaining ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips or tortilla strips.

Interested in history with a Minnesota connection? This could be just the book you were looking for "Alice in France."

In March 1918, twenty-six-year-old Alice O'Brien and three close friends set off from New York harbor, bound for wartime France. Unlike the soldiers aboard their ship, they were unpaid volunteers. As the daughter of a wealthy family in St. Paul, Alice had no need to work no need to go to war. But she also drove her own car, was trained as an auto mechanic, spoke French, and had the passion and determination to contribute selflessly to the war effort.

Alice and her friends joined hundreds of American women serving as nurses, clerks, drivers, and canteen workers for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other organizations. Her letters home, full of breezy gossip and telling detail, describe living conditions, attitudes and actions of French soldiers and civilians, and her own remarkable efforts near the front.

The letters dated from the time she boarded a ship bound for France in April of 1918 to December of that year, have been gathered and edited by her grandniece, Nancy O’Brien Wagner, daughter of the late St. Paul entrepreneur Thomond O’Brien and his wife, Alvina.

A side note:
In 1945, 20 years after William O'Brien's death, his daughter Alice offered 180 acres along the St. Croix riverfront to the state. The donation was eagerly accepted, as Minnesota did not yet have a state park near the Twin Cities, and the park was ratified by the legislature two years later. The proximity to the metro area was a mixed blessing. Land was added to the park at every opportunity, to reduce crowding and to prevent housing developments from being built right up to the boundary. In 1958‚ S. David Greenberg donated Greenberg Island in memory of his parents. Accessible only by canoe‚ the island has become a haven for wildlife and wildflowers. The park was expanded into the bluffs west of Highway 95 and a second campground added. A large tract was added in 1973, leapfrogging a rail line, and another 120 acres came in 1986. William O'Brien remains one of the top five most-visited state parks in Minnesota.
Information from Wikipedia


  1. Hi Sue -

    I hadn't heard about the book 'Alice in France' -- it sounds fascinating! I love learning that Alice didn't HAVE to go, but chose to go. There are so many yet-untold stories of brave/heroic/patriotic/smart women in history, so I'm delighted to hear Alice's story is out.

    I would like to tell you about another history book with a Minnesota connection. The work of non-fiction just came out last month. It's titled, "Marcel's Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man's Fate." The book weaves together two stories. The first is about the design of a modern connected cursive computer font. The font was based on beautiful handwriting found on letters bought at an antique store in Stillwater, MN. The letters were in French -- I could not read them -- but for the purposes of the font, that did not matter. An 'a' in French looks like an 'a' in English, after all.

    The letters themselves were extraordinary to find The pen-and-ink handwriting was filled with flourishes, the paper had been painted in the background with stripes of blue and red, the papers themselves were beautiful shades of yellow. The letters had been mailed from Berlin to a small village in France in 1943 and 1944.

    After working on the font for years (evenings and weekends as I could carve out time), I decided to have one of the letters translated. It turns out the man who wrote them, Marcel, had been one of 650,000 French forced laborers compelled to go to Germany. The letters had been mailed from a labor camp.

    After reading the translated text of Marcel's letters, which combine beautiful words of love and testimony of survival inside the camp, I HAD to learn answers to the questions: Who was he? Why had his letters been for sale in Stillwater? And most importantly, did he survive the war to be reunited with his wife and daughters.

    If you would like to learn more about this book with ties to Minnesota, I invite you to visit my website: Or you can send me an email at carolyn (at)

    Best to you,
    Carolyn Porter

  2. This sounds like a really interesting read. You find the most intriguing books.

  3. Fascinating book! We've had the privilege of working with Nancy on a number of projects, including our Minnesota Red Cross centennial. For more information, check out Thanks for giving her a shout out!
    Carrie Carlson-Guest, Red Cross


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