Monday, October 22, 2018

Nancy's Gifts to Me...

I told you I was going to write about the gifts I received from Nancy Zieman....

In the 1990's, I wrote a little book called, "How To Dress With Style When You Feel Like Cher, But Look Like Roseanne."

Mary Mulari recommended me to her friend Nancy Zieman, who invited me to be a speaker in her retail store in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. It was only my second out-of-town speaking gig...and I was more than a little nervous.

I drove three hours to Beaver Dam, and checked into the Park Motel. The morning of my seminar, Nancy picked me up at 8:00.  Her son, Tom, (a toddler then), was in a booster in the back seat of her mini-van.

Although I don't remember much about the seminar I presented on that day in the Nancy's Notions store -- I do know it was the beginning of an exciting new career for me.

For the next 20 years, I presented seminars at stores and sewing guilds in almost every State in the Union.  I was invited to speak at American Sewing Guild Chapters, and the biggest and best consumer shows in the country.  I wrote the book, "Life Is Not A Dress Size" -- and I did a 12-city book tour.  Eventually, I landed my dream job -- doing Public Relations and Marketing for the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington.

That evening, we were driving to her house to eat supper.  She pulled into her garage, turned off the van and said,

"You're really good at this, Rita.  But you need to double your fee."

I didn't know it then...but that was Nancy's first gift to me.


20 years later, her last gift was a beautiful set of wind chimes...which I have hanging on the back corner of my house.   Nancy sent a note with the chimes.  She signed it --  "consider yourself hugged, Rita"

And whenever I hear those chimes -- I feel that special Nancy hug...

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Nancy and her friend Marilyn

The best part of my job with the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington -- was, of course, THE PEOPLE.  Every day, I got to connect with other women who shared my love of sewing.  We seemed to have the same attitude about life...and I looked forward to seeing them every year.  One of those people was Marilyn Norton...
This picture was taken in 2010? Mary Mulari and me with Marilyn and her Mom...

On Wednesday,  after I wrote my Nancy Zieman post, I received this messsage from Marilyn:

Happy Anniversary to you and John!! Doesn't it make you wonder where does the time go??We'll be married 53 years in Nov.Yikes!!

I wanted to respond to your blog today about Nancy. One of my favorite memories was a Friday night live at Expo with Nancy...

That day, Nancy sat at our lunch table(with me and my friend Sherry).  We talked about the classes we had taken.  After she finished eating lunch she said all I need now is a piece of chocolate and I'm good.  I handed her one out of our lunches.

Later while we were walking the show thru different vendors a hand reached out and grabbed my arm.  I looked up and it was Nancy Zieman. She smiled at me and said thank you for saving my life this afternoon. I was blown away. But that was the kind of woman she was.

Because I try to honor her I bake cookies monthly and deliver them to either the fire station or the police.I don't think we'll ever see someone else quite like her.


I was delighted to find these pictures. From 2013 -- the night Mary and Nancy did Kick It Up A Stitch...
Marilyn and her mother were sitting in the FRONT ROW..
They are waving for my camera...
One of the WORST pictures I ever took (and there's lots of competition for that prize)...but you can see Marilyn's Mom is laughing, right?
THIS IS MY BEST PICTURE of the two of them on that night...
And this is my BEST PICTURE EVER...after they won one of Nancy's momento-door-prizes...
Thanks for taking the time to write to me, Marilyn, and share a Nancy story.

She would be very pleased about the cookies...

Friday, October 19, 2018

Nancy and Mary Kick It Up A Stitch

Mary Mulari was a frequent flyer on Sewing With Nancy. She and Nancy made exactly 654 television shows together (that is my guess, and possibly a gross exaggeration).

When I was invited to write on the Blog Book tour for Richard's new book, I knew you'd want to hear from Mary...

Mary Writes:

Reading all the wonderful blog tour tributes to Nancy this week reminds us all how special she was, how much she contributed to our lives, and how much she is missed. So many voices on the tour have expressed this all so well. I have been overwhelmed by those of you who have reached out to me, recognizing my loss of a great friend and sewing partner. Blog-less as I am, I am jumping onto Rita’s tour with a report of working with Nancy to present “Kick It Up a Stitch,” the seamsters’ version of Emeril’s kitchen escapades.

It all started at the end of one of Nancy’s visits to my home in Minnesota. I wasn’t paying close attention to the time, so I delivered her to the Duluth airport too late to catch her plane. (Don’t worry…she reminded me of that several times while we were on stage!) While waiting for the next plane, we sat in the vending machine room and began to plot the K.I.U.A.S. program for Nancy’s Notions Sewing Weekend.

The plan was to show a real sewing project from one of our books or patterns and then show a “kicked up” version of the same project. Mixed in was the preparation of recipes that somehow related to the sewing projects. For the first performance, the Beaver Dam High School Jazz Band played during the breaks and prep times of our program. The band director and members were given samples of our food preparations to taste. It was an ambitious program that involved kitchen tools, ingredients, and appliances along with a sewing machine, photocopier, and sewing tools. I’ll never forget the audience shocked response when I diced celery for Newfangled Caviar with a rotary cutter. Then I got to splash Nancy when I turned the electric beaters on high speed for the dessert preparation. Oh, we really had fun and so did our audience. We should do this program again!

The second presentation of K.I.U.A.S. was the one taped for PBS.

 It’s the one you can watch on a DVD or at This time the high school jazz band came from Memorial High School in Madison WI.  It was the first time Nancy’s brother Dean and my future husband Doug saw us perform. Nancy’s Blonde Joak Book made an appearance and she had several opportunities to share her favorite blonde jokes and brand names of products, something she never did during a normal Sewing With Nancy program. (see the photo of the apron).  You may have known Nancy to be a serious sewing personality but you saw her fun and humorous side during this program, and also during her live seminar appearances.

Our third show was evening entertainment at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup WA. The band from a local college arrived at the last minute so we had little time to prepare them for the crazy stage acts of sewing and cooking and taste-testing our concoctions.  Our assistants Judy and Chris brought all the kitchen supplies from their homes in Portland and helped us cook and clean up afterwards. Along with Deanna’s ever-present and valuable help, we couldn’t have done it without all the back stage workers.

Here’s why I want to share these memories with you: These performances were memorable highlights for both Nancy and me. It was so much fun to be silly on stage with appreciative audience members joining us in laughter. Nancy would like you to remember her in this way along with the “real” sewing she shared. After all the heartfelt, moving testimonials and tributes, I believe Nancy would say, “Okay, let’s talk about something else.”

So this was something else, the light and funny side of Nancy.



One of my crappy, fuzzy photos -- but Deanna was ALWAYS there, behind the scenes, in this case, with an actual script for Kick It Up A Stitch...cuing the music, and the band, and the props...
It was a sold-out audience that night.  More than 800 people...both Mary and Nancy were nervous.
I hadn't quite learned how to take pictures yet...but here is a long table full of food/sewing props...
The Ya Ya Stalkers were an important part of the back-stage team -- bringing MANY props from their own homes.
Both sides of the room were filled to capacity.
Babylock gave away FIVE SEWING MACHINES that night!!
Were you in the audience that night?

Many people have told me that they never laughed harder in their was shocking to see the FUNNY, HILARIOUS side of Nancy Zieman..and, along with her friend Mary, they created MAGIC for us...
And, tomorrow -- I'm gonna share a NZ story from somebody who was in that audience...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Nancy Zieman

On July 22, 2017, I received an email from Nancy, saying the cancer was back...and she was going into hospice.

I wrote back one of those tearful LIFE IS NOT FAIR...and YOU HAVE MEANT SO MUCH TO ME...emails...I reminisced about some of my memories -- and how important I felt the first time I walked the aisles of Quilt Market with NZ. EVERYBODY would come up to her, and say how much they loved Sewing With Nancy.

Nancy Zieman was ALWAYS, without fail, gracious and kind to every person. Posing for every picture, noticing every sewn garment, remembering names of dealers she hadn't seen in years...she was amazing.

Then, I thought about how everybody in her world felt the same way -- and we were all trying to tell her what a difference she made, and to thank her for being such a wonderful friend...

And how depressing all those heartfelt good-byes would be.

Here's the thing. When somebody is dying -- you don't know what to say. NOBODY DOES. When compared to dying -- everything else seems unimportant and trivial. Of course you worry that you'll say the WRONG thing. Even Hallmark can't figure it out. It's too late for a "Get Well Soon" card...

But the worst mistake you can make is to say I decided I would write to Nancy about normal, everyday stuff.

Dear Nancy,

I will continue to send these Iowa reports, Nancy...because you were so encouraging...

When I wake up, one of my first thoughts is that I hope you have a good day. Then, remembering the kindness you always showed people, Nancy -- I take a look at my own day, and determine to make the most of do something be pass it on in some way.

(...blah, blah, blah....and I wrote about a Grandma Camp baking adventure...)



I love to vicariously live through your emails. You have no idea what these notes mean to me. The story of the fondant (Which I have never attempted to make),  Monday cleaning, book club, are priceless. You’re one of the BEST grandmother’s I know. Wish I could hear Lily sing from Hamilton!

Next week if all goes well, the boys and family will be here to celebrate Adeline’s first birthday. I will control from the couch, but being there is the most important part.

Your kind comments about talking to people during trade shows is not totally true. Flying to Paducah, the plane was cancelled in Memphis, I rented a car and asked other quilties to drive with me. I gave the map (pre-cell phone days) to someone I later learned didn’t know north from the bottom of her purse, and arrived in Paducah 2-hours later than we should have. (I should have commandeered the map sooner.)

After the quilties waved bye bye, I was famished with a headache as big as a house, took a trolley to a restaurant, and had a quiet dinner in a corner. On the way back to the hotel, 6-7 fans got on the trolley and screamed “Nancy Zieman,” I nodded but didn’t elaborate... A week later I got a scathing letter from one of them, “How dare I  . . . .” It was awful. Only once in my career (that I know if) did I ever want to hide in a corner when a viewer approached me and that was the payback. Now you know!

Mornings are my best time so I better get answering other emails. Thank you for theses glimpses into your life, make me smile...


Starting on July 27, 2017...I sent an email to Nancy every morning.   My last email to her was November 13, 2017.

Tomorrow -- the gifts Nancy gave me...

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Nancy Zieman, The Rest Of the Story

When I was asked to be on the Blog tour for Richard Zieman's new book, Nancy Zieman, The Rest of the Story -- I didn't hesitate. OF COURSE!! WHAT AN HONOR!!

But writing this post about Nancy is hard. When I read Rich's book, I cried. Again. Because Nancy didn't get enough time. Because she was such a good person, and a wonderful friend, and I miss her.

Also, here's the pressure, people. A Blog Tour means you have already been reading about Rich's new book, and other people who were much closer to Nancy have written very eloquently about her.

Our friend Eileen Roche wrote a wonderful tribute to Nancy to kick off this blog tour -- and, as I read it, I cried...again...and mostly I just wanted to say A BIG DITTO!! I can't say it any better than Eileen did...really...Nancy Zieman was a remarkable woman, and her life was an inspiration.

When I got the email with the pertinent information about the Blog Book Tour, my assigned date was October 17...and I suddenly knew EXACTLY what I wanted to say.

October 17 is my wedding anniversary. Today, John and I have been married for 48 years.

So what, you say?   What does my anniversary have to do with Nancy Zieman?

Stay with me for a minute.....

The day we got married, October 17, was a beautiful fall day...and, over the last 48 years, we have often enjoyed a drive "up north" to see the fall foliage.

I refer to our traditional anniversary road trip as "The Wisconsin Cheese Tour".
It's about 3 hours from our home to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin...
But, of course, a major element of our Cheese Tour is the EATING.
And one of our favorite restaurants was Benvenuto's in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Where the food is terrific -- and so is the company. If they were in town, Nancy and Richard would join us for dinner.
On this night, Nancy and Rich could not resist holding a friend's new twin grandbabies...

I went back into my photo archives to find this picture of Nancy and Rich.  Because, on this day, I am celebrating my own wedding anniversary -- and I want to take a moment to admire the 40 year marriage of Nancy and Rich Zieman.  In his new book, Nancy Zieman, The Rest of the Story, he shares a lot about the last five years of Nancy's life.

Rich was a wonderful care-giver, and I know Nancy felt his love and she often told me she was lucky to have him.

But their life together was about a lot more than luck.  More than any couple I know -- Nancy and Richard Zieman changed the world they lived in.  And they made a difference in so many people's lives.  For starters -- it's impossible to measure the impact they had on their beloved home town of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.  They started Nancy's Notions as a mail order business in their basement.

And LOOK AT WHAT THEY DID..!!  Eventually, Nancy's Notions became the largest independent employer in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin...

Thanks to their hard work, sound business practices, vision and risk-taking -- Nancy and Rich provided employment for hundreds of people.  These were the kind of decent jobs that change lives.

Their employees were proud to work for Nancy's Notions, and they were able to buy homes, and cars, and send their kids to college.

Nancy was many things to many people...
And we're all going to miss her. Her family most of all.

Good job, Rich....on sooo many levels...

Thanks for inviting me to be on the Blog Tour, Rich and Deanna.  And the Blog Book Tour is moving on...but I've decided to write a new post about Nancy every day this week.  Tomorrow, I'm going to write about the gifts....

P.S.  For all the pertinent information about Rich's book...please check back on the earlier blogs on the tour...they are WAY more computer savvy than me....and they put up GREAT LINKS  (good job, Pat Sloan!)

P.S.S...If you leave a comment, you will be eligible to win a copy of Rich's new book.  Also, click on the badge (on the right side of this post) to find out more about the book and this Blog Book Tour.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

2018 Fall Television Shows

My Fall Television Review:

THIS IS US: This show has been so great, I was terrified. Remember when you thought Blacklist was terrific? And by Year #3, you forgot what night it was on....and the same thing is happening with Madame Secretary...ugh. I WAS WORRIED that the third season of This Is Us couldn't possibly live up to the first two seasons. And now that we know how Jack died and then William died from can it maintain that same spectacular level?? BUT I NEEDN'T HAVE WORRIED. This show is so well-written, and the characters are so real...I love all of them, and it is still the #1 show on my playlist...

DANCING WITH THE STARS: Every year, when they announce the cast, I think I don't know any of these people -- so the show will suck. But they always manage to hook me during the first episode. And nobody I know realized Mary Lou Retton had knee just surgery SIX WEEKS before winning her Olympic Gold Medal..!! They make me care about the "stars"...and the dances are amazing. But, of course, without a doubt - the BEST thing about DWTS is the costumes. Honestly. Well done, people..

DANCING WITH THE STARS JUNIOR: I taped this show so Lilly could watch it. I had no real interest in watching Honey Boo Boo doing a Salsa. But -- hey -- every since Abby Lee Miller went to jail, I have been missing my Dance Moms fix. So it's good to see a few of her girls get jobs...

MANIFEST: So far, this show has great promise. Lilly loved the trailers -- and we watched the first two episodes together. There is an element of who-done-it, and every week something unexpected happens. Fingers crossed...

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS: This show is a Category 5 Disappointment. Ron Livingston plays the part of John -- a successful businessman who has a beautiful wife, two lovely children, and three best friends who all have NHL season tickets. In the first five minutes, this handsome man commits suicide by jumping off the balcony of his ritzy office. And, here's the thing -- at that exact moment -- one of those good buddies is ALSO about to commit suicide by swallowing a bunch of pills. When he gets the phone call telling him John killed himself, he spits out the pills...

Obviously, this show is trying to clone the THIS IS US formula...except they completely left out the part where you CARE ABOUT THE CHARACTERS.

GREY'S ANATOMY:   I am a big fan of medical shows...The old ER of the 90's was one of my favorites, and Nurse Jackie was the first show I ever binge watched. I even miss "House".  Grey's was good for a long time...then, Meredith Grey came back from the dead (several times), there was an unbelievable plane crash, the doctors had to BUY the hospital because it wasn't making enough money,  Amelia recovered from a life-threatening brain tumor with no ill effects...I'm just saying that at some point, I cannot maintain my sense of suspended reality. (and I have HUGE SKILLS HERE, PEOPLE)...And -- oh -- did I forget to mention the storyline where a DOCTOR gives up being a doctor to become a FIREFIGHTER?? So -- you can see my problem, right?

NEW AMSTERDAM.  Anyway, I was looking forward to a new Medical Show set in New York City. But, whereas Grey's Anatomy requires a lot of suspended reality --  New Amsterdam is so far out there, it cannot be considered a medical show at all -- but, rather, SCIENCE FICTION. A current day hospital where the new top guy tells everybody the only thing they should care about is PATIENT CARE -- not the bottom line.  And forget about the insurance companies...But, hey -- if you're a fan of Star Trek -- you might give it a try.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Cafe Dodici

After our exciting Washington Library event -- we were eager to move on to our next event -- LUNCH AT THE CAFE DODICI..1!
This upscale Italian Ristorante sits on the Northwest corner of the Town Square.
There's a coffee shop/bakery in one part of the first floor.
And a full-scale fancy restaurant on the corner.
The restaurant is small -- but was very busy when we arrived.
Apparently, there's a B and B element upstairs
Our food was DELICIOUS.
My burger was a vegetarian, non-GMO, Gluten free option (I ordered it because I did not think this was possible in the middle of Iowa...) I ate every bite!!
We enjoyed our lunch -- and I don't think the owners even realized they are mentioned in Carol's new book.
There was an article hanging on the wall, explaining about how this elegant Italian restaurant came to be on the nearly abandoned town square 20 years ago -- and SAVED A VILLAGE.
Here's an article in the local newspaper about how this restaurant, and the dream of one woman, inspired a town to spend $20 million to revitalize their downtown.

WELL DONE, WASHINGTON, IOWA. You make me proud...!!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Simple Truth

Now -- to get back to my story. The REASON we went to Washington, Iowa in the first place.

Carol Bodensteiner was doing a presentation for a group of writers who meet at the library once a month.
Carol has written three books. Her first was Growing Up Country, and her second was "Go Away Home" -- the this fall, her third book was published...
Simple Truth takes place in the current day -- in the State of Iowa.
I met Carol (many moons ago) in a Memoir Workshop at the Writer's Festival in Iowa City. Her path as an author has been exciting and I think everybody in that room learned something that day.

She self-published her first book, Growing Up Country. And her success with that book was due, in large part, to her background in Public Relations. She did a great job of marketing her book -- and made some decisions early on that paid off in a big way.

Her second book, Go Away Home -- took a very different course.  She originally self-published it.  But, happily, the sales were so good, it was picked up by Amazon and re-published by them.
This was the group we spent the morning with -- and Carol had a lot of information for other writers.
But our good time in Washington, Iowa is NOT OVER...
Because -- here's the thing you did not know. The REASON Carol was invited to Washington, Iowa is because this little town played a small role in her new book, Simple Truth. The characters in the book ate at an elegant Ristorante on the corner of the Town Square....Cafe Dodici...

Friday, October 12, 2018

History of Washington Free Public Library

First of all -- YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE MY LIBRARIES. And, I'm a big fan of Andrew Carnegie, who funded over 3000 libraries in America. But the Washington Free Public library has a unique history.

From their website:   In 1877, the Washington Public Library was established by a group of dedicated volunteers with a combination of private donations of money and books and a small public tax.

Many of the original books held by the Washington Public Library came from the private collection of Gen. Hiriam Scofield, a civil war general from who lived in Washington and held one of the largest private libraries in the nation. The Washington Library still owns most of these books, though they have begun to deteriorate somewhat.
In 1901 Jane A. Chilcote, widow of Dr. Alexander Chilcote, bequeathed her house at 120 E. Main to the City of Washington to use as a public library.

In her honor, the library was affectionately known as the Jane A. Chilcote Library for many years. The Chilcote house was extensively remodeled to serve as the library. During the late forties and early fifties the house had begun to seriously deteriorate. The foundation had begun to crumble and the walls and floors were infested with termites.

In 1952 the city undertook the construction of a new building on the site funded in large part by major donations by Fort Sherman and Ralph Smith. The Chilcote house was demolished and the main portion of the new E. Main building was constructed. The building built in 1952 was about 7,100 square feet.

For the next 40 years or so, the Washington Free Public Library served the community by remodeling the space, and putting on various additions to the building.

The Library purchased some abandoned buildings on the west side of the Town Square. And they started to raise money to build THIS...
And here's the part I love the most.....

On October 1, 2009 -- when the new building was complete -- the community came out in force and the citizens physically MOVED all the books and materials to the new building.

They used a few mini-vans and pick-up trucks -- but primarily, they pushed carts, carried totebags and WALKED the books and library materials  from the old location over to the new location on the town square.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Washington, Iowa

It was Saturday, September 22. Carol Bodensteiner had invited the TMBC to come to a library event in Washington, Iowa. It's about two hours from Princeton -- and it looked like a BEAUTIFUL DAY for a road trip!! 

Hey -- I've never been to Washington, Iowa -- so I didn't need much convincing.

Unfortunately, some TMBC members were not able to go. Sandy was in London, LP broke her arm...and Sharalan had her 50th class reunion.
So, it would just be me and my cousin Linda. Otherwise known as LK...
We got up early for our second big Road Trip Adventure of the fall. (the week before the two of us took the bus trip to the Wisconsin Quilt Expo).

It was a BEAUTIFUL DAY to be driving.

Like so many other small towns in the Midwest, Washington, Iowa is laid out around a "town square"...
There's no courthouse in the middle of the Town Square -- just a lovely, well-kept City Park.
The store fronts line up on all four sides.
You can walk around the square -- or straight across to the other store fronts.
They have a new, modern bandshell. (complete with teenagers hanging out)
We were shocked to find THE WASHINGTON CITY LIBRARY is a new building -- built right on the square!!
We loved the funky art on the OUTSIDE of the building!  (those are bicycle wheels)
INSIDE the building -- everything is state-of-the-art
This hanging tin ceiling is from the previous library building.
Many cozy reading areas.
Across from our conference room -- there was a GRAND PIANO...which anybody could come in and play, anytime (more about that later)
You can borrow art...
And, OF COURSE -- books, books, books...
There were skylights on the second floor
A children's area
And THIS would be our conference room.
But, first -- a little history about this particular library...