Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!!!

The Sydney Harbour Bridge erupted with fireworks to welcome in 2007.. ABC News Online
The Sydney Harbour Bridge erupted with fireworks to welcome in 2007.

One of the first places to celebrate the New Year is Australia, which this year included more than 1 million people who attending this spectacular fireworks display. How appropriate - the Commonwealth of Australia was first official on January 1st, 1901!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Antique Folk Art Hooked Rugs

Those of you who've read my blog in the past know how much I love early antique textiles, especially hooked rugs. The ones which truly catch my eye are those which are original designs, drafted by an artist-hooker 100 or more years ago. Although there are many stamped pattern rugs which are beautiful, there's just something about a one-of-a-kind design that speaks to my heart.

Today I'm showing a couple of animal hooked rugs. Animal rugs are some of the most desirable designs to be found in the antique hooked rug world. Both of these were hooked by hand in wool strips, not yarn.

were both made c. 1900, and each has it's own "character". The horse rug was made by an unknown hooker somewhere in New England. It shows the fine use of shading and color, which gracefully showcases the artist's view of this prancing, dancing horse. This rug has lots of action, yet not too much in over-powering details.

Typical of the time period, the colors are muted and primarily in soft tans and browns, with only a hint of bright color in the partial blue sky and the reds, blues and whites in the leaf & vine border. This is a fabulous, one-of-a-kind piece of fo
lk art, clearly showing the artist's imagination and expertise. It deserves a special wall for all to enjoy, and belongs in a top-quality antiques collection.

It is quite large - approximately 5' x 5.5', and is mounted on a strong wood frame so it can be hung. For a hooked rug, it is somewhat uncommon in shape, being more square than rectangular. The last time I saw it, it was one of the shops in Wiscasset, Maine, priced at just under $6000.

The next rug is more stylized, also from the turn of the last century. This too is a one-of-a-kind hooked rug, and this particular hooker designed a silhouette of a black Labrador retriever with a shaded
background. The light tan shades make this dog's image really pop, and it is a really superb rug.

Approximately 3' x 5', this simple design was well-done, with good outlines of ear and eye. The use of black color blocks in each corner provide a "frame" around this rug's main character - the artist wanted a quiet, pure vision of this dog, uncomplicated and easy on the eyes. The black color "blocks" draw one's eyes inward directly towards the central image.

This rug was found recently at a Michigan antiques show, priced at $3200. It originally came from Ohio, and - as the horse rug - was mounted as folk art.

Both of these rugs were in exceptionally fine condition, showing their age and textile "patina", yet without stains or other damage. If you are looking for a good rug to add to your collection, be sure to carefully search a potential purchase for damage, stains or dry rot. Those which are already mounted might be a bit harder to examine, but you should still be able to see any major problems. Don't worry about the minor stain or damage - it's just part of the rug's history and life. In the end, you as the buyer must decide what is acceptable to you personally in terms of textile problems, keeping in mind the price of the rug and how strongly it "speaks" to you.
Just remember that there are not huge numbers of early wool hooked rugs out there - time and owner care often compromise a rug's original good looks. If a rug speaks to your heart, and you know you'll love it, buy it and enjoy it. I can tell you from nearly thirty years of experience that I've never bought a single antique that I've regretted, because I only bought those which spoke to my heart and my heart has never led me wrong.

BUT - I can give you a list more than the length of my arm of wonderful antiques which spoke to me and that I passed up, and now definitely regret not buying. Some had a bit of damage, or were priced more than I wanted to pay. I wish I'd ignored the damage, or had negotiated time payments for those special antiques. My husband and I now whistfully talk about "the ones that got away." They are gone forever now, and I do wish I'd been more open and creative in arranging for them to come home with me.

Just so you have an idea of what mounting a rug costs, the current rate in my area is approximately $15-20 a square foot for a rug around 3' x 5' in size or under. Larger rugs are a bit more of a challenge to a professional rug mounter, and sometimes the cost is more just because of the extra time, materials and special care needed for quality work.

Before you hire someone to mount your rug, ask to see some examples so you are cmfortable with their work. There are good mounters and not-so-good mounters, and you want someone who truly understands antique textiles. Discuss in detail if there are any extra costs - cleaning, repairs, mounting design that allows both vertical and horizontal hanging (good for geometric rug designs), etc.

Above all, get a detailed receipt for your rug, including a written description. Remember to take a photo of it before you turn it over to a mounter. Last but not least, do ask for an approximate date when the rug will be finished to be included in your receipt.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Love to Cook? Try

I'm a foodie - love to cook, to experiment in the kitchen, try new foods. My husband's the same way. In fact, he's kicked me out of the kitchen more than a few times while he cooks up some new dish he wants to surprise me with. He's pretty darn good in the kitchen, and I haven't been disappointed in any of his cooking yet! (But let's not discuss the after-cooking clean-up . . .)

There's been some very funny moments. Like the time a couple of weeks ago when he tried cooking chestnuts. You can boil them, steam them, roast them. I told him about a new method I'd just read about, where you take chestnuts still in their shells and cook them in the microwave. So one night, to surprise me, he decided to try this new method. Unfortunately, he'd never cooked chestnuts before, and didn't realize that whichever way you choose to cook them, you really do need to score the shells with an X first.

That night, I heard a few surpised curses coming from our kitchen, then quite a bit of laughter from my husband. He was microwaving unscored chestnuts, and when they got really hot they exploded. He wasn't prepared for the chestnuts blowing up, and it startled him.

Luckily, he didn't damage the microwave, and only made a minor mess in the microwave. We called it chestnut puree, but really, it was a zillion bits of chestnuts and shells all over that ended up in the trash. We laughed until we had tears in our eyes, but at that moment it sure was funny.

I've been having a lot of fun with the website
It's a website which has a huge amount of cooking information, and a wonderful forums section where people who enjoy cooking share a lot of information, how-tos and recipes. Some of the recipes are quite unusual, and it's not uncommon for those participating in the forums to be living in other countries and sharing their regional insights and food ideas. There are many different topics, but here's some examples:

>> What is your favorite holiday breakfast?
>> Crock Pots
>> Smoked Butter
>> Heirloom tomatoes
>> Persimmons
>> Frozen Herbs
>> What cookbooks are you reading?
>> What is your favorite Brownie recipe?

This group of foodies share all sorts of superb recipes that you never knew existed. The Brownie recipe section was hugely popular, and there's enough choices there to have you making brownies for the next decade.

Here's the next recipe I'm going to try:
(The notations are from website administrator/owner Heidi Swanson, who writes the articles for this website. She is a cookbook author and photographer, and is absolutely awesome. Be sure to read some of her articles - they are excellent!)

Lingonberry or Cranberry Jam

Depending on the tartness of the berries you may need to adjust the amount of sugar.

1 lb. 2 ounces (500 g) frozen or fresh lingonberries or cranberries

A scant cup (7 oz/200g) of caster (superfine) sugar (hs note: I just gave my regular granulated sugar a whirl in the food processor for 15-20 seconds)

Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 small apple, peeled and cored

Rinse the berries, if necessary, then drain well and put them in a non-metallic bowl with the sugar and lemon juice. Leave overnight, turning once or twice.

Coarsely grate the apple and put it into a jam-making pan or other heavy based saucepan with the grated lemon rind. Strain in all the juice from the berries (hs note: I didn't end up with a ton of juice, but scraped all the thick, sugary juice in) and add two wooden spoonfuls of berries, leaving the rest of the berries in the bowl for now. Add 1/2 cup (125 ml) water and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the apple is very soft and the whole lot has thickened (hs note: I ended up ~10 minutes). Add the rest of the berries and heat through for 5-8 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars. Seal tightly and turn upside down. Cover with a cloth and leave to cool completely before turning upright and storing in a cool place. The jam will keep for a couple months but, once open, keep it in the fridge and use fairly quickly.

Makes about 2 cups.

If you get a chance, do take a quick peek at - sign in for free and become a participating forums member. If you see the name Antique Cook, that's me.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Our New Grandson

We're just back from a week in Florida, visiting our new grandson James for the very first time. James is adorable - just 2 months only, and already has his very own canine guardian. Here you see him with Mick (short for Michelob beer, as his father works for Budweiser). Mick is a Catahoula Spotted Leopard dog, and has volunteered to be James' personal protection. He wasn't trained to do this - he just loves James, and no one gets near this baby without Mick's approval.

You wouldn't want to argue with Mick. He's 60 pounds of solid muscle, and can do serious damage to someone if he chooses to. He's loving and protective, and has a very gentle nature. But you do notice him when he positions himself next to the baby. We never saw him growl or do anything dangerous. He just loves this baby, and stays near him, quietly watching, as others coo and play with James. As Mick determines that each person is okay and not going to harm the baby in any way, Mick settles in for a nap, always close by.

I just love this photo. Mick loves this baby so much, and you can see that James is giggling too!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

We love Oriental Food

Since I travel a lot on business, I end up eating in restaurants far too often. Not that I have anything against restaurants - it's just that, depending on where I'm traveling, my food choices tend to be somewhat limited.

I rarely go to fast food chains. Maybe to McDonalds once in a while for their pancake and sausage breakfasts (an acceptably filling meal for an inexpensive price). Otherwise, I look for family-operated restaurants, especially those which offer nightly specials, or regional home-cooking.

But when I'm home, I love to cook. And since my husband also enjoys cooking, we often plan meals together. We both really love Oriental meals - Thai, Chinese, Indian - and experiment frequently. I'm not big on eating meat, prefering seafood and fish, with just a touch of pork or chicken once in a while. He, on the other ha
nd, still loves meat and can eat it 2 or 3 times a day. (I'd rather minimize it to 2 or 3 times a month.) We've managed to adjust to each other's needs by cooking something Oriental, so that he can add meat as needed, and I can enjoy my meals with just veggies.

The other day we spent the better part of an afternoon at one of our favorite Oriental grocery markets. The local ones are very limited in their offerings, and we have to travel about about 100 miles roundtrip to do any serious Oriental food shopping. That means we go to at least 3 groceries, and we buy supplies to last us several months. It's worth the time and distance, not to mention the gas, for us to shop this way - we always come back with new ideas and interesting products to try!

This time we came home with a new game plan - I cleaned out one of our kitchen cupboards (for several years it was one of my cookbook storage areas) - and we filled it with our latest Oriental grocery purchases. We filled th
is three shelf cupboard completely - see the photo - and now I have to sort through my cookbooks to determine which are staying and which need new homes.

If you look closely at our Oriental cupboard, you'll see we bought a huge amount of dried Chinese mushrooms (they only take about an hour to re-hydrate, and they have a wonderful woodsy flavor and very meaty texture), fresh chestnuts, lots and lots of canned cream of coconut, a new-to-us curry powder, fish sauces, commercial-sized cans of oyster sauce and (my favorite) hoisin sauce, rice wine vinegar, and rice noodles. The groceries we visit are very moderately priced - we filled our cupboard for about $60 or so, and will have many, many meals over the next few months. We buy our fresh veggies, meats and seafoods locally, mostly dependent upon what's on sale.

There's also a bit of extravagance slipped into our shopping. I love tamarind candies, especially not the super-hot spicy ones. Can't find them near home, so I buy several boxes of them and they last for at least a couple of weeks. I also like ginger candies, not so much candied ginger, but the ones which are shaped like taffy candy and have a good strong ginger taste to them. They don't last very long either.

Anyhow, if you are into cookbook collecting, be sure to take a look at my
Ruby Lane website, Red Moon Antiques. to see which vintage cookbooks I have for sale. I'm just starting on sorting, so will be offering books from my collection over the next month or so. Take a peek and see if any of them speaks to you . . .

Thursday, November 30, 2006

WebMD Symptoms Check

Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est.
Knowledge is power. Francis Bacon


Here's a great website for those who know they don't feel well, but haven't any idea of what might be wrong. WebMD offers this website free to anyone who wants to know more about what's physically troubling them, and it's simple to use.

You just start here, then click on Male or Female to begin. Select the part of your body which is having problems, and just continue answering questions and narrowing it down.

There's many more interesting topics on this medical website, so browse a bit and see if any are helpful to you.

And in a completely different direction, thought you'd all laugh at this photo below as much as I did!

Words of Wisdom.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

With the power vested in me, I now pronounce you....idiots!

With the power vested in me, I now pronounce you....idiots!

So not every driver is a rocket scientist, and these New Yorkers were having an especially bad day.

Not only did someone do something really dumb, but this fellow is now trapped in his car until the tow truck pulls him out. (See the tow line attached to the front of his car??)

He also knows that the state trooper standing 20 yards behind him is waiting to have a conversation with him . . . as soon as he can get out of his car.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cleaning for the Holidays??

Having spent a whole lot of time cleaning for the Thanksgiving weekend, I didn't spend much time on my computer. Wish I had. Today I tripped across this site on How to Clean Anything, and wonder now if I could have saved a lot of effort and time by reading up on how to clean stuff.

Well, better later than never, so I'll take a few moments to peruse what other cleaning ideas might come in handy from this site. Already I see sections on cleaning bathrooms, using abrasive cleaners, how to clean walls, and - quite important since the flu is raging through our family as I speak - how to clean my computer keyboard.

I even found a really nifty article on polishing your antique Airstream trailer!!
Before Polishing
Buffed and ready to go!

Maybe this site will get me going on all those cleaning projects I've been procrastinating on?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Antiques Make Great Christmas Gifts

Since Monday, November 27th, will be the biggest on-line shopping day of the year, today's blog is dedicated to all those who enjoy shopping for Christmas gifts on-line.

Need some ideas for yo
ur Christmas list? Think antiques, and try these:

Mom: Vintage jewelry, old and pretty picture frames for family photos, interesting vintage desktop accessories - an inkwell, perhaps, or a small tray to hold pens . . .

Sisters and Female friends: all of the above, also Christmas ornaments, souvenirs from places they've been, pretty decorative perfumes, decorative old kitchen items, vintage sewing items, white ironstone
bowls or pitchers . . .

Fathers, Brothers and Male friends: antique tools, a Western bolo tie,
antique pocket knife, folk art, books, antique hand tools, watch chains for their pocket watch, stoneware, vintage cufflinks . . .

Of course, you can find many of these different antiques in my antiques webshop on Ruby Lane.

Take a quick spin through my shop, forgive my shameless self-promotion, and enjoy a browse through Memory Lane!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Free Anti-Virus Software - AVG 7.5

Quite a while back, I posted in this blog that I was using AVG anti-virus software that I'd downloaded free. I've been using it for the past year with no problems, and it's caught a few viruses before they could do damage. It's a simple program to down-load, and doesn't take much space (like Norton), plus it adds automatic updates so you don't even have to think about whether yours is current or not.

Recently, AVG announced that the free version 7.1 will be discontinued.
Does that mean that you now have to pay? Nope - they still have a free version for personal use, and you can get it here.

This is the new 7.5 version, and you can easily download it. It's a large file, so it may take a few minutes if you are on dial-up. If you are using Firefox, choose "save to disk" so the file will end up on your desktop, which will allow you to double-click the icon to install it. If you are using Internet Explorer, you'll click on "Run" to install.

If you already have the 7.1 version of AVG, you do not have to remove it first before installing the 7.5 version.

When installing, just leave all the boxes unchecked under "Component Selection."

When it's finished downloading, you'll have to re-start your computer to install AVG. (Remember to save all your open files before you re-start!!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Old Souvenir Collectibles

Sometimes, it's just fun to collect something really whimsical, maybe something that brings back special memories of a place you've been to and want to enjoy remembering. I have friends who collect souvenir collectibles from a particular location that they enjoy visiting each year. They have a great time hunting for the handpainted souvenirs made during the 1920s and 1930s, and it's quite inexpensive to buy.

Sometimes it's china, but they also look for non-china pieces, and have found many different forms of souvenirs showing their favorite vacation spot. They have wonderful memories of this place, and have a small collection - 20 to 25 pieces - of all sorts of items, including china plates, small pitchers, plates they display on their wall, tablecloths, etc.

They've found them all over the country as they travel, and rarel
y spend a lot of money as they add to their collection. They've only been collecting for the past couple of years, and have been quite successful in locating some very different and interesting pieces, all of which fit into just a couple shelves in their family room. Most of all, they've had great fun hunting, and are making more memories as they hunt!

This tiny doll-sized cup (above) was made during the 1920s, and is a souvenir of Hot Springs, Arkansas. It shows the "new" Arlington Hotel, one of the spa hotels so well known in Hot Springs. The Arlington Hotel was new three different times - it burned down twice during it's first fifty years of existence, and this little cup commemorated it's newly-rebuilt state in 1924.

I have a customer who searches only for World's Fair souvenirs, like this 1904 St, Louis World's Fair cup. He has a special personal connection to St. Louis, and his collection has been acquired over several years. This cup was made of a base metal, and then brass-colored, showing off it's wonderful molded details from the World's Fair.

There are thousands of souvenir items out there - some quite popular, like the Statue of Liberty, and others a bit less well-known, like many of the small towns across America. If you have special memories of a certain location, souvenir collecting can be a fun challenge to hunt down, and you won't break the bank buying them!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Getting Young

I've been bad at blogging lately, and I apologize to those reading my blogs and only getting old stuff. Between moving back to Michigan as I do each Fall, then travelling 6000 miles doing a series of antiques shows across the country from Sept until last week, it just didn't seem like I had enough hours in the day to do all the stuff I wanted to do, like write on my blog.

But now I'm home, and am getting somewhat back to normal (whatever that is), so I'm back into blogging again. Thought I'd share a favorite email with you, sent to me by a friend:

I think the life cycle is all backwards.
You should start out dead, get it out of the way.
You wake up in an old age home, feeling better every day.
You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, then,
when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day.
You work 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement.
You drink alcohol, you party, you're generally promiscuous and you get ready
for High School. You go to primary school, you become a kid, you play, you
have no responsibilities, you become a baby, then, you spend your last 9
months floating peacefully with luxuries like central heating, spa, room
service on tap, larger quarters everyday, and then you finish off as an
It's got to be better this way 'cause this getting old sucks.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Going the Extra TEN Miles

Antique bridle rosette pin or brooch, horse head Yesterday I had an interesting email from a close friend. She's an antiques dealer who sells regularly on the Internet through a well-known non-auction webstore site.

She'd sold several items to a customer and shipped them. One of the items was a matted and framed picture, which she placed in it's own separate box and marked in very big letters on this box "PICTURE ENCLOSED". All the items to this customer were shipped in one large box.

The customer received the package, and emailed the dealer, asking when she'd be receiving the picture. The dealer emailed back explaining that the
picture was with the other items in the large box, and explained in detail how she'd packaged the picture in it's own box marked "PICTURE ENCLOSED."

Apparently, the customer has tossed out that box. The picture was gone forever.

The dealer thought about it a bit, and decided to refund the customer's money for that picture. She certainly wasn't obligated to do so; this was a mistake made by the customer, who admitted she was probably more responsible than the dealer for this mistake. (I'm not even going to address that statement . . . )

The dealer had done a good job of packaging, including clearly marking the internal packaging. She'd gotten the entire purchase there safely and in good condition. Her decision to refund the customer's purchase price on this lost picture was something few dealers would have done, since it presented lost income. Not just money lost from the dealer's original investment in that picture - since she refunded the entire price, she also lost the profit that thrown-away picture represented.

It wasn't an expensive item. Still, most dealers would have just told the customer that they did something really dumb, and sorry, but it was your responsibility to not throw away your purchases. But my dealer friend recognized that honest mistakes happen, and was sympathetic enough to commiserate with the customer and return her money.

My dealer friend asked me two questions. First, what would happen if the thrown-out purchase had been worth a much larger sum? And second, what would I have done in the same situation?

I told her my opinion, for the two cents it was worth. I would have done what she had done, and chalked it up to the "Customers Doing Goofy Things" file. Had it been a purchase worth a lot more money, I would have handled it differently. I would given her my condolences, and would have tactfully and politely explained that I was sorry for her loss but that I could not be responsible for a customer throwing away an item that I'd carefully marked and safely delivered. And, no, I would not have refunded her purchase price on an expensive item.

However, my dealer friend had gone the extra TEN miles for this customer (a new customer, I should mention). By doing so, she had forever has impressed upon that customer that she was buying from a VERY reputable Internet dealer who understood human error happens occasionally. My dealer friend had responded in a very kind and decent way.

That refund cost the dealer some money, yet made a very big impression. Shortly thereafter, that same customer purchased two more items. She's probably a customer-for-life, and - if she's a really, really nice person - she'll tell her friends and family this story.

If you would like to know more about this dealer and see what kinds of things she sells, go to her website.

Meet my good friend Dexter. I am so proud of her, and am honored to share a wonderful friendship with her. She is truly a gem.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Funny Signs

Okay, I just couldn't resist - these signs were all sent to me by my daughter-in-law, and they are sooooo funny!! Thanks, Shannon, for sharing these!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Auction Action in Maine - Kaja Veilleux

So many auctions, so little time! Nearly any day of the week, somewhere in Maine there's an antiques auction. It might be a weekly Sunday morning local auction, or a bi-weekly consignment auction, or an on-site once-in-a-lifetime old family farm auction, but it's not difficult to find auctions to attend in Maine.

Dealers love auctions. Not only is it an opportunity to buy fresh stock, but it's a lovely way to spend a day socializing with other dealers and catching up on news (and gossip
). It's pure good luck if you come home with something new to add to your inventory, since buying is super-competitive, and it's possible you may spend an entire day at an auction and buy absolutely nothing. Attending auctions is just part of a dealer's life, and if the gods are smiling and your wallet isn't too tight, you might actually be successful.

One of the premier auction houses along the Maine mid-coast is the Thomaston Place Auction, which only offers about a half-dozen or so sales a year. The quality is some of the best to be found in New England, and auctioneer/owner Kaja Veilleux - known locally just as "Kaja" - knows his trade well. He consigns early New England furniture and decorative accessories, folk art, marine-related antiques, high quality jewelry, toys, dolls, paintings, and similar good antiques, all designed to bring in the heavy-hitting buyers. It's a formula which works well for him, and over the years he's built a well-recognized auction house based on his ability to accomplish strong sales prices.

I previewed his most recent auction a couple of weeks ago and took a few photos with permission, since I was writing a free-lance story for an antiques trade paper. Take a look at the photos and prices, and you'll know why Kaja has such a large following of dedicated auction-lovers who want rare antiques.

The quality was there, and the antiques appealed to big-ticket buyers. There were plenty of items sold at much less money than shown here, but I thought you might like to
see what some really good old stuff sells for at auction in Maine.

In the middle of the page, the 42" tall, circa 1870s, hand-carved from wood figure was made by an unknown ship-builder. She's Lady Liberty, and is all original surface, with outstretched hands holding books. She is fabulous and one of a kind - and was truly appreciated to the tune of $35,000.

At the top is the stack of three 19th century boxes in old blue paint, which sold for $1800 as a group.

And the rare leaping 19th century stag full-bodied weathervane, in beautiful original gilt paint, was estimated to sell for between $18,000 to $22,000, and brought $25,000.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Funny Signs are my favorites

By now you know that I just love funny signs, as you've seen others in my blog. Here's a new one I've added to my Funny Sign collection. I don't know where this was taken, but I can surely appreciate sitting in a long line of traffic, just hating the guy who wrote this sign!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I love Maine because . . .

Some of the things I love best about Maine are everyday things, just little bits and pieces I've noticed. LIke some of these . . .

. . . Mainers are patriotic. Not just for the Fourth of July and for Memorial Day, but all year around. I see U.S. flags flying proudly in front of homes, on porches, on trailers, in front of stores, on fence posts, in wide open fields, and in places you might not normally expect to see flags. Mainers love their country and want everyone to know.

. . . Mainers are non-stop hard-working people. Vivian Libby is 80-years-old and is still cutting hay on her 1948 International Harvester, which she bought new back in 1948. She works her son's farm in Newcastle, just a few miles from my home. Women in Maine have a long tradition of working their farms, and most can't imagine "retiring". It's just their life style. Vivian didn't even stop cutting hay when the local newspaper photographer showed up to take her photo for the LIncoln County News, so all the photographer could get was a distant shot of her driving her tractor across a huge field of hay bales!

. . . Mainers are courageous. A local man was fixing his neighbor's roof, when friends came over to tell him that they'd noticed a family of four vacationers hadn't returned from a morning's sailing trip. The man, a former Navy Seal, realizing the approaching storm had brought rough seas, hopped into a boat and went searching for them. He found the husband and wife with their four-year-old twins clinging to their overturned sailboat. They'd not looked at the weather reports and had not anticipated serious weather before going out. They hadn't told anyone exactly where they'd be sailing. They had no communications, and after their sailboat overturned in strong winds and heavy seas, had been in the cold sea water for more than an hour. He brought them into his boat, brought them AND the sailboat back to shore. He saved their lives. They were strangers to him, but he cared. And then went back to work on the roof . . .

. . . Mainers have a sense of humor. Over the last few months I've photographed several different kinds of home made signs, some funny, some serious (see my blog of 8/18/2006 and the blog on the Beau Chemin farm). Mainers don't mind sharing their opinions through signs, and they don't care what others think of their signs.

. . . Mainers are polite and helpful. Often it can be difficult to get into Route 1 traffic in July and August, as there are long lines of vacationers. Route 1 is the main north-south route through the coastal communties, and there just isn't an alternative driving route. Locals hate the long waits in traffic, but also realize that without all those people coming into the area, they wouldn't be seeing the dollar amounts spent in restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, antiques shops, boutiques and other places which sustain Maine's tourism industry. So they grin and bear it, and they regularly stop on the highway, make a break in the traffic line, and wave others in from the side roads and business driveways. Always with a friendly wave and a smile . . .

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bakelite Jewelry - Information and How to Test

Bone colored Bakelite Dog Head pin
If you like Bakelite jewelry, you know how expensive it can be. You'll want to know a bit of history so you can buy with knowledge, and also how to test to be certain you are really getting Bakelite.

Bakelite was created by Dr. Leo Baekland around 1909, when he was experimenting with elements to creat a new varnish. He used phenol and formaldehyde under pressure and heat, and inadvertently discovered the first plastic ever made from polymers - Bakelite!

His new invention produced durability and hardness as well as heat resistence. Because of it's versatility, it was sometimes called "The Material of a Thousand Uses". One of it's best properties was that it was castin a mold, it couldn't be melted.

The 1930s were the heyday of Bakelite jewelry. It was not expensive, and during the Great Depression it was used in a wide variety of ways to copy natural materials like tortoise shell, ivory, amber and other higher cost jewelry. The most carved or brightest or multi-color pieces of Bakelite were very desirable during those years of the Depression. Now they are hard to find and bring the biggest prices!

Bakelite Testing Methods

There are dos and don'ts of testing Bakelite. Here are some suggestions.


Hot Pin Method - Some people still think that it's okay to use a the sharp point of a red-hot pin to test Bakelite. The belief is that since Bakelite is heat-resistant, it won't burn or melt when the hot pin is applied.

However, if one applied a red hot pin to Bakelite, it won't melt but it will show a dark mark at the point of contact. A heated pin means either that - if it's not Bakelite - it will melt anad therefore damage the item, OR, if Bakelite, it will show that permanent dark mark. Either way, the item is greatly devalued with this test.

Scrubbing Bubbles - Many believe that applying the bathroom cleaner Scrubbing Bubbles is the answer to testing Bakelite. Not so. Rubbing Bakelite with this cleaner can get you a yellowish streak on the applying cloth, telling you that it is genuine Bakelite. However, it also can mean that you just have dirt on a plastic jewelry piece that happens to be yellowish - as in nicotine from a smoker's home. Unfortunately, Scrubbing Bubbles is a harsh chemical and strips the finish from Bakelite. This makes a nice shiny original finish now a dull, lack-lustre finish. This method of testing is definitely not-recommended.

DO Use these Testing Methods

The 409 Method - This is one of the more widely accepted tests for Bakelite jewelry. Using a cotton swab, apply the cleaner 409. You will get the yellow streak associated with real Bakelite. Be sure to first wash the piece being tested with mild dish detergent and warm water, so the streak you are looking for isn't dirt. Don't soak the piece in water - it may weaken the glue holding the findings. Just wash it quickly and dry it immediately. The yellow streak can be anything from pale yellow to a rich yellow-orange, but on a clean piece of Bakelite, it's a good way to test for the real thing.

Simichrome Polish - Another good test is using the silver cleaner Simichrome Polish. A little bit goes a long way - you don't need much. Again, you are looking for a yellow streak to show it's Bakelite. Don't forget to wash your test piece first.

Even better, using Simichrome means that you'll be polishing your test piece. Even if it's not Bakelite, it will look better being polished to a shiny finish!!

simi.jpg (17787 bytes)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fun Visit to Beau Chemin "Antique" Farm!

Driving up coastal Route 1 the other day, I noticed a handlettered sign saying "Organic Farmstand - Heirloom Tomatoes". That was enough to catch my attention, and my van made a right turn down that two-lane blacktop road nearly all by itself.

What a joy to find real veggies! None of that boring, tasteless stuff you see in the grocery store. These were al
l picked that morning - the freshness was so wonderful, you could smell the richness of the tomatoes! And I bought several kinds of heirloom tomatoes, had them for dinner, and now will make it a point to buy them as often as possible.

Beau Chemin Farm offers organic vegetables, and if you want to actually see
where these are grown, you only have to walk about 100 feet from the stand to see their 18 kinds of historic tomatoes from the 19th century. Also in this large patch are eggplant, a variety of squash, cucumbers, peppers, raspberries and more.

I met the owner Jo Ann Myers, who was digging in her garden and at that moment battling tomato horn worms. Being organic means no spraying of her plants, and she was individually picking off the darned things, a very time consuming task. They ar
e the length of your index finger, and a royal pain to eliminate, since where you find one you'll find a half dozen hidden in the tomato leaves. They look much like the plant stalks, very green and thick, and it's easy to miss them. They are giant caterpillars, not worms, and if they didn't decimate a tomato plant overnight, you might even consider them pretty. I don't, since I lost 3 plants this summer to them, and have barely managed to save the other six plants in the tomato patch. They'll eat all the leaves and some of the green tomatoes too. I detest them.

Anyhow, I digress. The Beau Chemin Farm is unique in that they specialize in not only
heirloom vegetables and flowers, but also raise endangered heritage breeds of livestock. They are a working farm that is open to the public for self-guided tours, and they have several different kinds of farm animals, including sheep, chickens, ducks, cows and draft horses.

Now here's something a bit different - take a look at the sign they've posted at the veggie stand about payment. If you cannot make change (and there was plenty of coin change in a small plate on the table), there were other options listed on their sig
n. These are true Mainer farmers - they work their farmstand on the honesty system - if you don't have the money at the moment, they'll even let you run a tab!!!

This is such a wonderful place to tour, a great place for an afternoon of family fun. I hope
to get back soon for my own tour - didn't have enough time before, and now want to get back to see the antique barns and "vintage" animals!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Story behind the Sign

In Sheepscot, Maine, after months of construction, a new bridge was opened. Sheepscot is a rural village, with just a few dozen homes on either side of the Sheepscot River. There's no main street, no commercial businesses - it's just a simple, quiet, residential village with a two-lane blacktop road running through it.

This road is often driven by knowledgable locals who use it to get around long traffic lines on Route 1 during the busy tourist season. By driving through Sheepscot and across the new bridge, one can cut 20 minutes off the bumper-to-bumper, snail's pace five-miles-an-hour traffic jam on Route 1 in mid-coast Maine. Few tourists know about this shortcut.

Apparently, a few locals have been driving too fast for this quiet little village, and this particular villager isn't happy about it. This sign was recently erected, and it certainly catches your attention!!

Mainers do speak their minds . . .

Monday, August 14, 2006

2007 Lobstering Women of Maine Calendar

JANUARY 2007Brittany Dunbar
Bet you never gave a thought as to who catches all those lobsters in Maine. Though it's mostly a male-oriented trade, there are women up and down the coast who set and pull their own lobster traps for a living. Their decidedly independent spirit is shown in the 2007 calendar, "Lobstering Women of Maine". It's a high quality, full color 12 month calendar,

No, these women don't pose au naturel. They don't even pose in bathing suits. These are hard-working, serious and dedicated professional fisherwomen who are shown in their work clothes along coastal Maine settings.

If you are looking for something different and colorful, this is a fun calendar. Click here for ordering information (and yes, there's a 2007 Bachelor Lobstermen calendar available too!).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Maine Lobster Festival!!!

With the extreme heat across the entire United States, today's a great day to stay inside in a cool place and wander the Internet. If you get a chance, look at my Ruby Lane shop - I've added quite a few fresh antiques I've recently found.

Or have a wander through the Maine Lobster Festival, which starts today through this weekend.

The Lobster Festival is huge, and only about 25 miles from my home. It's a HUGE amount of fun, and who would have ever imagined how much entertainment you can conjure up with a lobster theme!

Maine Lobster Festival - Photo #47 Parades, a Lobster Queen (no, she doesn't have to dress up like a lobster), the lobster crate run (with this week's heat, there's going to be a whole bunch of people entering this one - you run across a path of plastic lobster crates tied together in nice, cool Penobscot Bay), the human-sized Giant Lobster Trap, and of course - eating lobster, lobster, and more lobster - there's lots to do at the Lobster Festival.

By the way, the hot news in the lobster fishery this past few weeks has been the rare colors of lobsters which have been caught by local lobstermen. Lobsters are usually mottled green in their natural state. The only turn red when cooked.

A couple weeks ago an unusual 2-color red & green lobster was found in a trap. Talk about weird - it looked like someone had dyed this lobster. It was red on one side, and green on the other, as if a color line had been drawn down it's center lengthwise. It could have been a Christmas Lobster!

Then a couple of blue lobsters have been found recently - very, very rare.

And today, it was announced that not one, but TWO yellow lobsters have been discovered, each in different places miles apart. It's estimated that the chances of a yellow lobster being caught is 1 in 30,000,000. I know it's a true color rarity, but that yellow lobster looked pretty anemic to me.

No one eats these rare-colored lobsters - they end up in a tank somewhere like a restaurant or store, to be viewed and enjoyed by the public.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ideas for New Antiques Show Dealers

One of the nifty things about being an antiques dealer is that you ARE your own business. In other words, not only do you own your antiques business, but you also decide how to operate it. In the end, you are largely responsible for your own success.

The antiques show trade needs new blood. There are many, many dealers who are in their 50s - 80s and have been in the business for 25 or more years. New dealers in their 20s are a rarity, and the business needs more of them. It can be a fun career, but it's hard work. There is no such thing as "easy" for show dealers. Long hours, bad weather, and unexpected problems are part of a dealer's destiny - to be a show dealer, you must be flexible and be able to adjust according to the needs of the moment. If you are a one-way/my-way kind of person, probably the show trade is not for you.

We all learn by trial and error. If you are lucky, your errors are small and inexpensive. If you are unlucky, you make big mistakes and it costs you plenty. The difference can be substantial. As a antiques show dealer for the past 26 years, I've learned how to minimize boo-boos and I'm going to share some of these ideas with you.

First, choose your shows wisely. Exhibiting in a show that is poorly managed can only hurt your business. Don't be afraid to interview a promoter before you decide to exhibit in his show. You need answers before you commit to a show.

Ask the promoter before you sign up for the names of the publications where they are advertising. Lack of advertising is a show's worst enemy (besides bad weather, but there isn't anything you can do about that.) As show costs rise, some promoters cut back on advertising to save money. This could easily cost YOU money, so you want to know specifically where they are advertising. Advertising in the right publications - the ones which people actually will read specifically for local antiques shows - is absolutely necessary. If you get vague answers from a promoter about where he is advertising, pass on that show.

Ask how many and which dealers by name have signed up for the show. If only 10 dealers have signed up, a red flag should go up. It's going to be a tiny show and the public won't attend because they'll feel they aren't getting value for their admission fee. Also, it would be nice if some of the dealers doing the show were recognized, established dealers who will attract their own customer base to this show. Experienced show customers recognize their favorite dealers, often through show ads that list exhibitors (that's how show promoters get people to come to their shows - they list dealers doing their show in major antiques trade publications). Customers often decide to attend because they like those dealers.

Is the show inside only, or does it have both inside and outside booths? Outside booths cost less, and dealers are usually responsible for setting up their own tent (an expense in itself). Some shows offer pre-set tents which is included in their rent. Being under cover makes set-up easier and quicker. Inside booths are usually smaller and cost more, but if the show experiences bad weather, that's where all the customers will go. If you are inside or under tent cover, it may save you from a horribly bad show in bad weather.

Early on in my career I did many outdoor booths at shows, and set up my own tent (hard work, especially in hot or rainy weather). Now I just always sign up for indoor booths, and save myself a lot of aggravation. It's usually smaller in size, and my set up goes more quickly because I can only get so much stuff in that smaller booth. I've learned that I don't really NEED 20 boxes of merchandise to have a successful show, which is what I used to have to display to fill the larger outside booths. Also, I'm not worn out by the time I have my tent set - if it takes an hour to set up a tent, and then you have another 3-4 hours until you are finished with your display, it makes for a really long day .

If you don't have your own display tables, ask how much tables cost. And don't expect them to be something you can just pick up after arriving for set-up. Always order your display tables in advance. Most show promoters order tables in advance, and since they have to pay for them, may not order any extras.

Ask to see a contract before you agree to do the show. Yes, you have to read the fine print. Do it to protect yourself. Most contracts are pretty standard, but there is the occasional quirk that can make a difference. There's an East Coast promoter known for slipping in a requirement in his contract that if you do another nearby show during the week his show is running, you will pay him $5000. He has that contract clause because he wants to make sure his dealers only do HIS show. If a dealer is doing more than one show in the same area in the same general time period, promoters know that there is a strong possibility that the dealer will show much of the same merchandise at both shows. That means that one of those shows is not getting fresh merchandise, making that show appear to be a re-hash of "old" inventory. This particular promoter is just protecting his show's reputation for having great dealers with fresh stock, but a dealer needs to know all the rules from the start. Read the fine print.

And most importantly - ask other dealers if they've done this show before, and what their opinion of it is. You'll learn a lot, both good and bad. Ask other dealers if they are still doing the show. Or, if they aren't, ask them why.

Ask a lot of questions, because you will receive many different answers. Do your homework. Then you can put all that info together and make an intelligent decision on whether you want to do a particular show. Knowing ahead of time what a show entails could save you a tremendous amount of aggravation, time and possibly some serious money.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Antiques Show in Camden, Maine

Just finished exhibiting at a local, small antiques show in midcoast Maine. Although it only had 50 dealers, it was a beautiful show with many very high
quality sellers.

The photo above is one corner of my booth. As you can see, I do like country antiques!

I noticed that certain items were selling well. Early American Pressed Glass was selling, as was English Staffordshire china. Native American items w
ere moving - my neighbor dealer sold a large Navajo rug, also a few smaller Indian items.

Surprisingly, furniture was finally moving. For the past six months, it has been difficult to sell furniture, and yet I saw tables, a desk, Hitchcock style chairs, cottage dressers and a lovely pie safe in old paint all head for new homes this week. More than likely there was other furniture that sold as well, but those were the items I personally saw go out the door.

White ironstone was selling. I sold six pieces to a San Antonio, Texas dealer who came to the show late on Sunday afternoon. I also sold a couple more pieces to other customers. In fact, by the end of the show, I only had one
white ironstone item left - a large wash bowl.

Vintage textiles were selling - Victorian white decorative linens were sold, and a beautiful Turkey Red tablecloth from the 1890s found a new home.

Unfortunately, the number of people attending the show was down considerably from the previous year. This show has been running continuously for 25 years, and has always had a strong attendance by both local residents and tourist. Not nearly as many folks made it to the show this time, and it's probably because of higher gas prices and the overall state of the economy.

I'd mentioned in an earlier post about a Detour sign I'd recently found. Here's
a photo of it - it definitely needs to be hung over someone's fridge!!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Meet Buster, the Work Shop Mouse

The other day, while visiting my friend Dan's woodworking shop, we noticed that a small field mouse was wandering around the shop. He stayed quite close to the humans, in fact, he didn't seem to mind humans at all. As Dan was sitting in his chair, this little gray mouse sat at his feet. We talked and laughed, moving around the shop, and the mouse just ambled about, always in close proximity.

After more than 30 minutes of this friendly behavior, we decided that the mouse needed a name. After all, if he was going to be part of the work shop
landscape, he may as well be the shop pet! So Dan's wife Miriam named him Buster, and we've been calling him that ever since.

Buster seems to be quite curious about humans. He gets closer and closer - the photos I took of him were from only one foot away. As I photographed him, I spoke to him, telling him his new name and that he'd have to keep an eye out for those giant human feet which could easily squash him. As I spoke, you could see his ears swivel towards me to hear me better. It was sort of a weird experience - I'm not in
the habit of conversing with field mice - but Buster is sort of endearing as he be-bops around the shop, checking for anything on the floor which might be edible.

He doesn't panic when we step over him to get to another part of the shop. Sometimes he moves aside, but most of the time he just sits and twitches his nose. In fact, one of the photos seems to show him sneering slightly, as if to say - "This is my home, and you are being a bit bothersome with all that table saw and power sander noise!"

When I'm in the work shop and Buster happens to be around, I tell him that he has to be respectful of humans. I noticed he was quite interested in perching on the base of Dan's swivel chair - not a good idea for a little mouse who could easily end up under the chair's wheels. Even worse would be for Buster to want to get really close to humans, i.e., maybe thinking about a fun run up someone's pant leg. I don't think Dan would take kindly to a mouse up his pants. That might be the permanent end of Buster. So Buster will be learning some mouse-manners as I shoo him away from chairs in the work shop.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Getting Ready for an Antiques Show

It's been such a busy week. I've been cleaning and pricing fresh antiques finds, preparing for the show I'm exhibiting at in Camden, Maine. Most of the things I'm taking are country-antiques, since that's my specialty.

Recently found some fun old decoratives - an old forked washing stick, the kind they used more than a hundred years ago to stir hot laundry while it was in the old wash tubs. I have friends who have several of these wash sticks, and they look wonderful hanging as a collection on their wall. Each is different, and because they are long - each is about 3 feet in length - they fill a small area but are quite eye-catching.

Another item I found last week is an old wooden 'Detour' sign, used somewheres on a highway years ago. It's just a simple white painted sign with lots of character, with the word 'Detour" boldly handpainted over a giant arrow. It's funky and interesting, and would look great hung in someone's home - maybe in the kitchen (I'd hang it over my refrigerator!!!) or family room.

This weekend's show is a small long-running antiques show, maybe 50 dealers or so, and is held at a local high school. Dealers come from five states to exhibit. It's a lovely show - good dealers with great quality - and both local residents and visiting tourists always attend. It's especially popular amongst the local antiques dealers - they are always the first in line at the door when the show opens. They've learned that this particular show has many affordable antiques, which they can buy and still make a small profit in their own shops.

It's not a hustle-and-bustle type of show; instead, it's more relaxed, definitely the kind of show where you actually have a few moments to talk with shoppers, visit with neighboring dealers, and even have a chance to wander around the show and buy a few things myself.

Yesterday I spent part of the day loading my van with my latest finds, since the weather was so beautiful. Probably would have preferred to be walking the ocean shoreline with my camera, having fun and playing the day away. But work calls, and I didn't want to do it today, since the weather forecast was for rain as a storm moves up the coast. As I write, the rain is softly but steadily coming down. I'm glad I did all my van loading for the show during yesterday's beautiful, sun-shiny afternoon. I don't mind today's rain - it's such a soothing, comforting sound through my windows as I write. The catbird is singing as he's perched on the blackberry bushes - he really does sound like a cat - and I'm glad he's there as we haven't seen him in several days, and wondered if the local hawk had encountered him for breakfast.

The gardens are happy for the rain. All the flowers are showing their best this week. From my living room and kitchen windows I can see at least ten different kinds of day lilies (maybe there's more - I can't quite count them from here), plus phlox, Russian sage, astilbe, many kinds of roses, delphiniums, and several flowers I don't know the names of. My landlords keep telling me to pick bouquets for my apartment, but since I won't be around much this weekend, I'll wait until I'm home next week and can enjoy them fully. It's such a treat to be able to enjoy fresh cut flowers!

From my bedroom windows and my office I can see the vegetable garden's raised beds. The tomatoes are nearly 4 foot tall and have many green tomatoes on them - we'll have a bounty this year, as I planted nine plants. We have Amish Paste (sort of like a Roma, but a bit bigger), cherry tomatoes, early-ripening Glaciers (perfect for Maine's short growing season) and something called Chelsea. I don't know what that is, but it was available in a six pack of plants for only $2.15 for six and I couldn't pass up such a bargain. Whatever they are, they are growing like crazy, and I'm already collecting tomato recipes to try out as soon as they are ripe.

Within a a couple of weeks the blackberries will be ready, and I'll be making jam and freezing them for future use. The vines are already drooping from their heavy load - we're going to have lots of blackberries this summer, especially if I beat the birds to them. The birds and I have an agreement - they can have the berries inside the middle of the patch, where I can't reach. But they have to leave the outer edge of the patch for me to pick. I think the catbird is checking the patch frequently, singing and letting me know he's around and will be getting his fair share.

But I digress - the antiques show is the order of business for this weekend. I'll see many dealers - both as shopping customers and those selling at the show - who I only see once or twice a year. It's such a transient business - we sometimes only see dealer friends when we're both working the same show, and many shows only happen once or twice a year. Still, over the years I've become friends with several, and we're happy to visit annually. Sometimes we go to dinner after working all day - it's a wonderful way to catch up on news, have a glass of wine, exchange stories and generally wind down a bit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gardening in Maine

Basil: Herb of the Year 2003Although I no longer have time for a serious garden, this year I did add a few herbs to my landlords' raised beds. Mostly basil (2 kinds) and lettuce, but also a few other things like cantaloupe, an early-harvest watermelon, and 9 tomato plants which will soon have us all eating tomatoes on a daily basis. They have loved all the rain, and are absolutely huge.

The ruby-red lettuce is still growing at a speed that allows us all to help ourselves nearly daily, and the good news is that it hasn't bolted yet. It makes the prettiest salads! My French sorrel keeps bolting, and I don't yet have enough to make my favorite sorrel and smoked sausage soup. The Italian basil has gone nuts is growing well, and the Blue African basil has gone nuts - it's the size of a small bush. This particular basil is okay, but I'm not enjoying the taste as much, and probably won't plant it again next year. I'll probably just use it in a pesto.

When I pick basil, I often put it in a glass on my counter with about an inch of water in the bottom. It'll stay fresh and ready to use for several days. The current supply was on my counter last night, and I decided to use it for a stir fry. BUT - when I pulled it out of the glass, I noticed it had already started rooting!!! Maybe I'd better use my basil more often - if it's able to root, it's not being used frequently enough.

Guess I'll plant it - there were 2 bunches rooting!! - and give it away as a new plant to friends. There's still lots more in the garden, enough to make batches and batches of pesto. How perfect for a hot summer night's dinner appetizer!

Soon the blackberries will be ready, and jam is on the agenda. These big sweet berries are so dense on their vines, on their vinets. Last year Dan and Miriam sold quite a few quarts of them in the antiques shop here. They never lasted more than a few hours after picking - blackberries aren't easy to find around here, and they sold quickly.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Like Different Ethnic Foods?

Image: A proper cheese plate

Recently I've been having fun reading and participating in a great website on eating ethnic foods. It's called
and is a new website dedicated to those of us who are a bit adventuresome and like to try different things.

It's been great fun to learn from those in other countries who are sharing their food descriptions and recipes. Lots of folks on this site are asking questions about foods they've heard about but wanted more information. All sorts of different ethnic foods are covered - I've been looking at forums on Greek, Maylaysian, Thai, Mexican, French and more. There's also threads on specific foods - cheese, sushi, Indian breads, vegetarian and more ideas keep arriving everyday.

Be sure to check this one out - it's really whetted my appetite for some interesting, scrumptious food ideas.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My Husband is My Hero

Even though we are more than 1000 miles apart, my husband and I talk on the phone every day. With Verizon's America's Choice program, we talk cell-to-cell for free and do so frequently.

Sometimes we only talk once a day, but often - depending on what's going on in our lives - we talk several times a day. We're one of those couples who can stand to be around each other a lot, and if we can't be together in person then the phone is the next best thing. For the past four years, our summers have been spent apart as I work seasonally in Maine while he works in Michigan.

A couple of evenings ago, we were talking as he was getting back into his van at a local shopping center. It was just casual conversation between us, typical gabbing, when quite suddenly he said in an urgent voice, "Gotta go - I'll call you back," and the phone went dead.

We've been married more than 18 years, and we know each other well. His tone of voice told me something serious had just happened, and I knew he was taking action. It's Tom's nature. I just didn't know what was going on, and would have to wait until he called me back - it was definitely "test of patience" time.

About 30 minutes later, my cell rang. He told me the scene which had unfolded before him, and it was pretty spell-binding. By God's grace, Tom just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

While he had been talking with me earlier, he noticed an elderly woman pulling her car into the parking space across from his van. Two young women in their late teens were walking between parked cars, and as the woman was pulling into the empty space, they somehow startled her.

Instead of hitting the brake, the elderly woman accidently hit the gas pedal. Her car lurched forward, and smashed into one of the young women as they crossed in front of her. The teenager was pinned against a parked car.

That's when Tom said to me "Gotta go", and went to help. He had immediately recognized the emergency, and took his cell phone with him. (Okay, now that was a silly statement - anyone who knows my husband knows that he doesn't go anywhere without his cell phone - he's a well-known cell-aholic.)

The injured young woman suffered a compound fracture of the upper thigh. She was bleeding profusely, and Tom realized that the main leg artery had been compromised. She was literally bleeding out, right there in the parking lot.

In only a few seconds, she had gone from a simple evening of shopping to very suddenly becoming a victim of a life-threatening injury.

Tom quickly applied pressure to stop the arterial bleeding, but it wouldn't quit. Simultaneously, he handed his cell to the second young woman, and as he had his hands full at that moment, he instructed her to dial 911. Since he uses and was wearing his Bluetooth headset for his cell (yes, he's a gadget-kind-of-guy), he told the 911 dispatcher what was happening. He asked her to send both an ambulance and a patrol car, and was able to give his specific location in this huge shopping center parking lot.

The bleeding still wouldn't stop, and the situation in only those few moments had become critical. He turned to the second young woman and asked her if she had anything string-like. Wouldn't you know it - while shopping, these two young women had just picked up SHOELACES. Quickly, with the pen in his pocket, Tom fashioned a make-shift tourniquet with a new shoelace, allowing him to get good tight pressure on the bleeding. It slowed dramatically.

More good fortune - both an ambulance and a patrol car happened to be only a very few blocks away, and arrived within a few short minutes. By then Tom had found a second pen and had written the tourniquet start time on the injured young woman's forehead so the hospital would know the length of time it had been applied. Seeing the ink on her friend's forehead, the second young woman said, "She's not going to like that." Tom just smiled, knowing he had done the appropriate procedure.

Of course, no one there watching this scene would have guessed his background - corrections officer, patrol officer, nursing school, volunteer ambulance service - and that his training from all these careers had kicked in automatically, At least, not until he updated the ambulance EMT, who immediately knew that all Tom's actions were not only appropriate, but absolutely necessary (including the forehead notes) and had probably saved a life.

The young woman was transported to the hospital, where she most likely had surgery to repair the compound fracture and the artery injury. She probably won't feel so great for a while, but it sure beats the alternative.

The elderly lady driving the car was very shaken and upset, but uninjured.

Tom gave his statement and information to the police officer, and left. He had a pile of firewood to stack.

To him, this was nothing particularly unusual. It's not the first time he's witnessed and assisted at an accident. He was quite matter-of-fact about it when he called me to say he was okay and tell me what had so suddenly interrupted our phone call. That's just his nature - he's solid as a rock in emergencies, handles it all carefully, thoughtfully and calmly, and then goes on with his day as if nothing special had happened.

But it WAS special. Very, very special.

If he hadn't responded quickly, what would have happened to that injured young woman?

Would someone else have had the presence of mind to immediately call 911? Minutes were crucial.

Would someone have been able to exactly describe the specific location of this accident? It was a huge parking lot, with hundreds and hundreds of cars.

Would anyone have known how to apply arterial pressure to slow the bleeding? If they did, would they actually get involved? Would they recognize the immediate need for and how to apply a tourniquet with make-shift materials? It doesn't take very long to die from an arterial bleed.

If Tom hadn't been there, or hadn't responded so quickly, what would have happened to that young woman?

My husband's always been special to me. He's absolutely the best husband I could ever wish for. But last Saturday evening in Kalamazoo, Michigan - even though she probably doesn't know it - he was VERY SPECIAL to a young woman in an asphalt parking lot who now is still on this earth because Tom cared.

My husband is my hero.