Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Smiley Tells All to Woman's Hospital Auxiliary Volunteers

Smiley Anders was the guest speaker at the Woman's Hospital Auxiliary luncheon today.  Woman's Hospital is one of the largest women’s specialty hospitals in the United States and is recognized throughout the country for its innovative programs for women and their families. Most of the babies born in Baton Rouge are born at Woman's.  It's a nonprofit hospital and the Auxiliary lends support in volunteer hours and fund raising.  I have met many wonderful people through volunteering and I have felt the work to be very rewarding.  You can find out more about Woman's and the numerous ways it serves the community at http://www.womans.org/.  There are many ways to support the hospital.  (http://www.womans.org/giving_opportunities)   How rewarding to further the health and well-being of women and children of the community!  Every gift, whether time or money, is so much appreciated.

For those of you in the Baton Rouge area, Smiley Anders needs no introduction.  He has been writing an award winning human interest column six days a week in The Advocate (http://www.2theadvocate.com/) since 1979.  Many of his readers are very dedicated.  He told us that one lady told him that she reads the obituaries first, and then his column on a daily basis.  His column is on the first page of the second section so his readers don't have to search for it. Years ago the newspaper changed its format and Smiley's column had to be "continued" on a second page. The public outcry was enormous.  The very idea of having to turn the page to read Smiley! Smiley's column is sure to bring a smile (pun intended) to those who read it. 

Smiley will admit that he doesn't really write the column, because his readers supply him with bits of trivia, humor, notes of thanks for acts of kindness and notices of events that are for good causes.  He wishes happy birthdays to those who reach 90 years of age.  He used to mention those who were 80, but had to quit because of the longevity of his readers and there were too many to mention!

He is an avid LSU Tiger Fan.  He has written many columns where he made fun of former longtime rivals of LSU, The Texas Aggies.  Today he showed us a gift given to him  when he was invited to speak to an Aggie Alumni group meeting.  It was a trophy in the shape of the "south end of a northbound horse."  He told the volunteers in the audience, that if you give it out, then you should be able to take it, too!  Smiley can be contacted by emailing him at smiley@theadvocate.com.  If you have something for his column he would appreciate hearing from you. 

I took my mom to the luncheon today.  She loves Smiley and his column and wanted to meet him.  It was so much fun having her with me.  I was proud to introduce her to my fellow volunteers.  She and Smiley posed for a snapshot. 

Smiley told us that he is amazed at the good will of the people who contact him with information for his column.  He cited one example where his readers showered a small girl with get well cards when she had to be hospitalized. Smiley had mentioned the child in his column and asked the readers to send the cards.  The mother reported that the entire hospital room had been papered with cards and flowers and stuffed animals as a result of his request. 

Because of the popularity of his column, Smiley has written a book, The Best of Smiley. The book contains snippets from his best columns over the years.   I found it on Amazon.com and http://www.authorhouse.com./ He had copies of the book at the luncheon today and folks were lined up for book signing.  It contains bits of wisdom and humor from his daily ruminations.  In his talk today, he shared his personal mantra with us.  "Practice senseless acts of kindness and random acts of charity."  Good advice for Woman's Hospital Auxiliary members and for all of us.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Healthier Spinach Queso

I love Spinach Queso.  You have probably ordered a  dip like this at a restaurant.  It's normally served with tortilla chips and is loaded with flavor and salt.  The combination of cheese, peppers, tomatoes and spinach are not only tasty, but visually appealing as well. 

The problem I have found with this type of appetizer (in addition to the calories) is the huge amount of salt consumed with the tortilla chips and the cheeses in the dip.  "Various organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, have published recommendations on daily sodium limits. Most recommend not exceeding the range of 1,500 and 2,400 milligrams (mg) a day for healthy adults. Keep in mind that the lower your sodium, the more beneficial effect on blood pressure." (www.mayoclinic.com)  I don't have high blood pressure, but there are many who do.  There are many products available at the grocery store that are "reduced sodium" and I believe that lower salt diets must be healthier for us. 

I decided to concoct a recipe for Spinach Queso using low or no-salt items I had in my kitchen.  I did not add any salt to the ingredients and relied on the flavors of the individual components.  The entire recipe has less than 500 mg of sodium and it serves 4-6 people.  (I calculated the sodium content by reading the nutrition labels on the products.) That's a very small percentage of the recommended allowance.  Enjoy this appetizer without feeling the overload of salt.  Now, if I could just figure out a healthier Margarita....

Spinach Queso and Tortilla Toasts (Low Sodium Style)

½ cup chopped green onions
2 cups julienned and chopped fresh spinach leaves
6 ounces Neufchatel Cheese (lower fat cream cheese)
2 ounces Velveeta Cheese (or 3 prepackaged slices)
3 Tablespoons skim milk
1 cup diced salt free canned tomatoes, drained*
2 or 3 chopped jalapeno peppers*
4 flour tortillas, 8 inch size

1. Spray an iron skillet with Pam. Saute the green onions and spinach leaves over a medium heat until both are wilted.
2. Add all other ingredients (except the tortillas) and heat over low heat until cheeses are melted. Keep warm until serving time. If the dip is too thick, add more skim milk and stir well.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges. (stack them up and use a pizza cutter)
5. Place the tortilla wedges in a single layer on a large cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and turn wedges over. Bake another 5 minutes. When cooled, these will be crispy.

*substitute drained Rotel tomatoes if you are not worried about your salt content.  You can eliminate the chopped jalapenos if you use Rotel.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Granny's Platform Rocker

When my mother-in-law went to her final resting place a few years ago we inherited a platform rocking chair from her home.  This chair had a history and special meaning to my husband as it was purchased when he was a small child.  Over the years it had been many colors and had been in several spots in several houses, but it has found a place in our new home in Zachary.  I was interested to know about platform rockers and found on the Internet that "platform rockers had been patented and were in production by the late eighteen and early nineteen-hundreds. Some owners thought the platform rocker to be superior to the ordinary rocking chair because most rockers were considered hard to place near walls." (http://www.designboom.)/  You can rock in this type chair all day and it will not travel across the room as a traditional rocking chair tends to do.

In the process of downsizing this year, we had decisions to make on which pieces of furniture to toss, donate or sell.  There was never a question about Granny's Platform Rocker.  We would select a place for it and call in a upholsterer to update it for our new surroundings.

 Upon the recommendation of a friend, we called Ron Green's Upholstery.  Ron came to the house and gave me some advice on fabric selection and style of the updating we wanted.  I was lucky enough to hit the sale at P-Tree Textiles in Baton Rouge for a beautiful gold colored chenille.  I felt the texture of the fabric would lend a retro look to the rocker.  The photo is Ron and the chair. 

We decided against having the wood refinished as my husband was sure that some of the imperfections were due to his teething on the wood arms of the chair when he was an infant.  So nostalgic of him!  Also I wanted to feel that I was placing my hands on the same wood as Granny when she rocked her children and grandchildren.  We felt that sanding and restaining the wood would eradicate those memories.  We are not sure of the age of the chair, but my husband is old enough for Medicare.  You do the math.

Ron delivered the chair today.  I was impressed when he explained that he had to remove at least three layers of old fabric including a layer of naugahyde.  Remember that from the 50's?  Each layer must have had a story.  I believe that Granny felt it was worth saving this chair, just as we had.  He also added some padding to the seat and back cushions.  Trimming out with welted cording gave it a classy touch.  We opted against a trim cording so he used tacks instead.  I highly recommend Ron if you need something reupholstered.  He was prompt and gave us a very reasonable price for his skilled craftsmanship.  He also refinishes wood furniture and I have seen some of that work as well.  He is a top-notch artist at his work! He takes pride in each project.  We trusted him with our keepsake.

I normally don't place a lot of value on things, but this chair has great Karma for us.  We have given it a place of honor in our den and have great plans for it in the near future.  Our beautiful daughter and son-in-law are presenting us with a grandchild later this year.  Granny would be so proud to have her great grandchild rocked in her chair.