#136: Going Down Rabbit Holes
Come follow me along the thread of a rabbit hole, plus a kindness calendar for January.
Substack may truncate this edition in your email program but you can read the full entry online or in the App on your phone.
Rabbit Holes? I Can’t Be the Only One
When I hear about something new to me, see a photo, read of or find a reference in a footnote to something interesting, and many times odd, before I can click my heels three times, I find myself click, click, clicking links to learn more. Before I know it, I have spent hours following threads that are fascinating to me. In other words, I go down rabbit holes…regularly.
It’s good to know that I’m not the only one. For example, in a recent chat with Jolene Hardy of Time Travel Kitchen, our conversation saw us sending links back and forth via text to show each other photos of old buildings and hotels across the country. I won’t spill the beans on places that she may share with you, but I can tell you that one I shared with her is of the El Mirasol Hotel in Santa Barbara which was around in my grandparents, parents, and my days as well. I often walked by it in my youth before it was demolished to become the Alice Keck Memorial Gardens in 1980.
The Thread Begins
A few nights ago on Facebook, I saw a post from a friend with a link to an extensive library of knitting patterns from magazines and books dating back to 1812.That was the start. I let my curiosity run wild and clicked on books in the collection. Here are just a very few of the interesting things I found.
In The Second Book of "Hows" : or what may be done with wools in every home by Miss LochI found the Oxford Puzzle Jacket a/k/a Hug Me Tight, Lady’s Cycling Knickerbockers, and Bed Stockings for Old People. The little jacket might be nice in the winter; I can’t really see myself riding Arrow in the knickerbockers; I like to sleep with my feet cool so I guess I’m not old enough for the stockings.
The Child’s Tam o Shanter in the Seventh Book of How’s (1911) is rather nice.
After looking through Madame Dowding’s Corsets, and The Woman's Book: Contains Everything a Woman Ought to Know where I found a number of old parlor games, my travels next took me to Helping the Trawlers where I found sea-boot stockings, stout steering gloves, and a pattern for The Uhlan Cap, a most useful winter “helmet, comforter, and cap in one,” which to me echoes those chainmail caps worn by the Knights of the Round Table under their armor.
Stopping for a moment to check on my email, I found this timely cartoon by Liza Donnelley…
from her Substack newsletter Seeing Things.
I texted it immediately to one friend who is a non-stop knitter and her reply was “I think that IS me!” I must send the cartoon to another friend who brought her needles to click and knit in the dark during Saturday’s Metropolitan Opera live broadcast of Fedora.
Fedora and Who Was Sardou?
Now, I knew nothing about the opera Fedora but, having grown up listening to the Saturday Live at the Met broadcasts, I was overjoyed to learn that this season would be broadcast upstairs at the Naval Elks Hall in my little town. The opera, by Umberto Giordano (1867-1948), is based on a play by Victorien Sardou (1831-1908). I didn’t know who he was either, so I looked him up.
Born in Paris, Victorien Sardou grew up on an olive farm in Cannes until his family was suddenly ruined after a frost killed all the trees. Mon dieu! The family returned to Paris but his poor papá didn’t make much in the way of money and Victorean was left pretty much to figure it out on his own. To make his way, he taught French to foreign pupils, Latin, history and mathematics to students, and wrote articles for cheap encyclopaedias, the later of which I can only imagine.
Sardou did go on to write plays and become famous, but not before he had almost died of typhoid in a Parisian garret surrounded by his rejected manuscripts. It sounds like his life could be a play as well. All in all he wrote some 70 works including a comedy called Divorçons! which the 1918 film, Let’s Get a Divorce!, is based on, not that I’ve seen it.
The movie starred Billie Burke, who was also on the Eddie Cantor radio show—but Burke is best known for her role as Glenda Goodwitch in The Wizard of Oz.
Back to Fedora. The play on which the opera is based was written in 1882 for none other than Sarah Bernhardt, as were many of his later plays. It has everything a melodrama should have--love, betrayal, death, followed by more love, more betrayal, and more death, all in three acts and each in a different international location--St Petersburgh (where I have always wanted to go to see The Hermitage but I won't go down that rabbit hole now), Paris, and the Swiss Alps. It has gorgeous costumes, a sparkling tiara, and a jeweled necklace containing a hidden vial of poison.
And yes, this entry is full of footnotes with links to just a few of my stops along this rabbit hole journey in case you want to check them out, too.
What I’m Reading
Non-Boring History by Annette Laing is very true to its name. Annette shares odd little bits in a rabbit hole of history and is very witty!
The Heritage Cookbook Project Weekly by Leigh Olson
Another who loves to go down rabbit holes this time of food history, culture, and recipes is my friend Leigh Olson. I shared with her the Baked Stuffed Tuna Rolls my mom used to make, and you’ll find the recipe for them in the episode below.
January Random Acts of Kindness Calendar
I’m going to try to remember and post the Kindness Calendar each month for you from the folks at Random Acts of Kindness.
“If you can be anything be kind.”
I would love it if you might leave a comment and click on the little ❤️ below, too. ⬇️