Deyrolle in 2007

Taxidermy heaven in Paris

On a trip to Paris in 2003, a large number of transit and public utility workers were on strike. Strikes of this kind are extremely common in France; a week when no one is on strike would be considered strange. In any case, a lot of people weren’t showing up for work, either because the subways weren’t running or because they were participating in demonstrations on the streets. As a result, museums and other attractions were forced to scale back their hours of operation. After leaving the Musée d’Orsay early, we had some time to kill on the left bank, and we took the opportunity to look up a nearby shop Morgen had read about.

In Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik describes the five years he spent living as an expatriate in Paris along with his wife and young son. (Hey! I did that too!) One of their favorite places to go on rainy days was a strange and fascinating shop called Deyrolle on the Rue du Bac. Deyrolle could be described as a taxidermy shop, but that doesn’t begin to do it justice, and besides, taxidermy shops are not exactly a dime a dozen—especially in Paris.

The Dead Zone

When we arrived at Deyrolle, we couldn’t determine if it was even open for business. At street level, there were large glass display cases on either side of the door; beyond that, a dark foyer. There was no sign saying “Ouvert,” no lights on, no people, no signs of life. In fact that last point should have been the tip-off that everything was normal. We tried the door; it opened. There was a creaky old staircase ahead of us, and we tentatively mounted the stairs. When we got to the top we were greeted by the reassuring glow of fluorescent lights, and the somewhat less reassuring sight of a moose staring at us.

I had always thought of taxidermy as a craft marketed rather narrowly to hunters wishing to display their prized trophies. At Deyrolle, no animal is too exotic, or too ordinary, to be stuffed. You’ll walk past lions, tigers, zebras, and a giraffe, not to mention a polar bear, a hyena, a badger, and a baboon. But you’ll also find every imaginable barnyard animal, as well as birds, deer, rabbits, and so on. The animals are scattered throughout the store as though they were customers, and they are for the most part extremely lifelike, sometimes eerily so. Some of the more exotic animals are for display only, but most are available for sale or for rent. That’s right: you can rent a dead zebra, elephant, or bear for your next party.

Take This Pet and Stuff It

The shop was founded in 1831 by Emile Deyrolle, and it moved to its current location—the former home of Louis XIV’s banker—in 1881. It is now owned by a company called Le Prince Jardinier that runs a number of specialty household goods stores. Most of the people who walk into Deyrolle are there mainly to browse, though the store does a fairly brisk business in mounted butterflies, beetles, and other insects, as well as rocks, fossils, and a variety of educational products. It is, however, a functioning taxidermy operation, and for a few hundred euros you can have your household pet stuffed when it expires. Deyrolle politely declines requests by humans to have their mortal remains stuffed and mounted; I heartily agree with the wisdom of this policy.

When we first visited Deyrolle, it looked as if it had changed little in the last hundred-plus years. Like its products, it seemed to be in a perpetually immobile yet lifelike state. But on February 1, 2008 (just months after we moved to Paris), a major fire tragically destroyed a significant portion of Deyrolle’s collection. With the help of numerous generous artists, the building and much of its contents were quickly restored, and the shop reopened in May of that year. It’s now a little bit…shiny for my tastes (you can see for yourself in a virtual tour on Deyrolle’s website), but still as weird and endearing as ever.

Current laws make it virtually impossible for a taxidermist to obtain the kinds of large, exotic animals that were once Deyrolle’s main trade (there are some exceptions, such as animals that died of old age at a zoo). That’s probably just as well; it’s a rather discomfiting notion given modern sensibilities about wildlife preservation. But the store is still well worth a visit for the sheer strangeness of it all.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Interesting Thing of the Day on October 9, 2003, and again in a slightly revised form on September 28, 2004.

Image credit: saragoldsmith [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Go to Source
Author: Joe Kissell

Eat Brussels Sprouts Day

Cabbage and Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts were high on my “yucky” list as a kid, although—as is usually the case—I hadn’t ever tried them. Indeed, I somehow managed never to consume a Brussels sprout until well into my 40s. When I finally found myself in a restaurant with Brussels sprouts on my plate, I decided reluctantly to take the plunge, and…oh wow. This is what I’ve been missing all these years? I was shocked. They didn’t taste anything like I expected them to. They were amazing. And I’ve been eating them ever since. (They’re especially good roasted, with a bit of olive oil, salt, and bacon crumbles.) Interestingly, I had almost exactly the same experience, around the same time, with sauerkraut—and cabbage, after all, is a close relative of Brussels sprouts (the former is essentially a miniature version of the latter). I will be eating more today!

Image credit: Marco Verch [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Go to Source
Author: Joe Kissell

Gluten Free Vegan Oreo’s or Chocolate Sandwich Cookies Recipe — Easy and Frugal

A little while back my family was gifted with a bunch of free Oreo’s.
Only they’re gluten, and 4 out of 5 members of my family don’t eat gluten, so my eldest, Lee, got them all to himself. My other kids were envious, and I told them that I’d make them gluten free Oreo’s instead. To be honest, when I told them I’d do that, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d do it, but had confidence that I’d figure

Go to Source
Author: Penniless Parenting

3 Ways Parents Can Find Extra Cash

We all know what it’s like to be tight on cash. But how can you bring in extra cash if you’re a busy parent? Here’s some good suggestions from a reader. Hope they help!

Image via Flickr by Homedust

Are you looking to add a little extra income to your household? Bringing in more money can ease some of the financial burden of covering expenses for your family. You might even be able to use the

Go to Source
Author: Penniless Parenting

Stowe At The London Legal Walk Launch Reception

In 2018 13,000 people walked 10k and raised a record breaking £830,000 for supporting legal advice charities in London and the South East.

Last night, Stowe Family Law’s Graham Coy and Alice Wightman attended the formal launch reception for the London Legal Walk 2019 at the Royal Courts of Justice. Sue James of the Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre and Pamela Fitzpatrick of Harrow Law Centre spoke of the crucial nature of these funds in maintaining the law centres and gave several inspiring case studies demonstrating the significant impact of pro bono legal advice for individuals who are unable to fund a route to access to justice. Finally, Lord Burnett of Maldon, Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales and President of the London Legal Support Trust gave an excellent speech reiterating the importance of fundraising events such as the London Legal Walk and expressed the Trust’s hope of raising £1,000,000 through 2019’s walk.

In 2013, Ministry of Justice statistics confirmed there were 870 not-for-profit legal aid providers. By 2014, this had fallen by 90% to just 95. The impact of local Government spending cuts together with legal aid cuts has resulted in there being little funding available for many issues significantly affecting people’s lives such as conditions at work, homelessness, immigration issues and employment disputes.

The funds raised by the walk support charities that provide or host free legal services to numerous charities. Legal advice services within the community are vital as they assist vulnerable individuals and families to be treated fairly since up to two-thirds of the population are uninformed as to where to seek legal services when in need. Receiving sound advice early on can save £10 for every £1 invested and ensure people remain in work, education and keep families together in their homes.

The walk will take place on Monday 17th June 2019. While Stowe Family Law is unable to offer Legal Aid, we will be gathering a team to walk one of the two routes (Parks or River) to support those in need of legal assistance. There is no entry fee but if every registered walker aims to raise £75, we could raise £1,000,000 to support access to justice in the community.

For anyone interested in supporting the event or if you would like to take part, visit the London Legal Support Trust website.


The post Stowe At The London Legal Walk Launch Reception appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

Go to Source
Author: Alice Wightman

The Oak Island Mystery

Digs and Buildings, Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, August 1931

Nova Scotia’s notorious money pit

Canada’s maritime provinces may not be the first place you think of when you hear the words “buried treasure,” but for over 200 years, treasure hunters have had their eyes on tiny Oak Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Over the years, millions of dollars have been spent—and at least six lives lost—in repeated attempts to excavate one of the world’s most infamous alleged treasure sites. What could be worth so much effort? Possibly an enormous cache of gold and silver, ancient manuscripts, or…nothing at all.

Can You Dig It?

The story begins in 1795, when a boy was wandering around on the island and found a curious depression in the ground. Right above this depression was an old tackle block hanging from the limb of a large oak tree, as though someone had used it to lower something heavy into a hole. Having heard stories about pirates frequenting the area in centuries past, the boy immediately suspected buried treasure. He returned the following day with two friends and began digging. A few feet down, the boys found a layer of flagstones; 10 feet below that was a wooden platform. Both of these markers strongly suggested the hole was man-made. They kept going, but by the time they reached 30 feet, they realized there was no end in sight and called it quits.

Several years later, having secured some financing and additional help, they returned, this time digging to more than 90 feet—hitting several additional wooden platforms on the way down. At 90 feet they found a stone inscribed with strange symbols they could not decipher. (Later, some would claim that the symbols were a cipher for “Forty feet below two million pounds are buried,” but that stone was soon, conveniently, lost.) Just below that was a layer of mud. Probing down into the mud with a crowbar, they hit another solid surface—perhaps another wooden platform, or perhaps a treasure vault. But when they returned the next day, the shaft had filled with 60 feet of water, which foiled all attempts at bailing. Shortly thereafter, they tried to dig a parallel shaft, thinking they’d get below the treasure and tunnel in horizontally—but this second shaft filled with water as well. The first crew of treasure hunters abandoned their dig.

In 1849, a second group attempted an excavation. Then another, and another, and another. Each time, treasure hunters made some intriguing discovery, but each time, their attempts to go deeper were frustrated—by flooding, cave-ins, accidental deaths, and other misfortunes. On several occasions, workers attempted to drill into the earth beneath the water that filled the pit, and the drills brought up some interesting fragments—a piece of gold chain here, some wood there…and a small scrap of parchment that had one or two letters written on it. The evidence suggested that below more layers of earth and wood was an empty space—a vault containing chests, perhaps with gold coins inside. But these were just educated guesses, because no one could actually get down to them. Some attempts to widen or deepen the hole—or to get at the treasure indirectly through other holes—caused whatever the drill bits had hit to sink even farther down. The diggers eventually realized that the flooding was due to two or more horizontal tunnels that ran to the shore, and had seemingly been dug as booby traps. Unfortunately, repeated attempts to block those tunnels also failed. By the early 20th century, so many large holes had been created that the original location of the so-called money pit was no longer certain.

Excavations using modern equipment in the 1930s enlarged the main hole greatly, but still nothing of value was found. In the decades since, various groups have made additional attempts to unearth the treasure, digging ever larger and deeper holes, and although more intriguing objects have been uncovered, there’s still no definitive proof that there is, or was, a treasure there. Following years of legal disputes about the ownership of the land and the rights to any treasure that may be buried there, agreements were finally reached among various parties with a financial stake in the site and the provincial government. Excavation work is ongoing, and has been documented on the History Channel’s series The Curse of Oak Island since 2014.

Getting to the Bottom of It

Over the centuries, dozens of theories have been advanced as to what the Oak Island treasure really is. One popular theory holds that it’s Captain Kidd’s fortune—or that of some other pirate. Another says it’s the lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Some say (based apparently on that one tiny piece of parchment) that it’s Shakespeare’s original manuscripts. Others say it must be the Holy Grail. Although proponents of each of these theories make persuasive arguments as to why they must be correct, a recurring theme is that any treasure hidden so carefully and protected so elaborately as to defy two centuries’ worth of determined treasure hunters must be unfathomably important.

Except that it apparently wasn’t important enough for whoever hid it to come back for it—or pass on information of its whereabouts to anyone else.

And that assumes there’s something hidden there in the first place. There might not be. There is some evidence to suggest that the original “pit,” as well as the tunnels that fed water into it, were actually natural formations, and that the wooden “platforms” found at various points were nothing more than dead trees that had fallen into a hole once upon a time. What of the tackle block? And the gold chain? And the parchment? And the stone with the mysterious message? Well, all these artifacts have disappeared, and even if someone produced them, it would be impossible to prove they came from the pit. They could have been planted; they could also have been imagined. At no point in the last 200 years was work on the site controlled or documented carefully as an archeological dig would have been. All we truly have are the reports of people who wanted desperately to believe they were about to find a fabulous treasure.

Perhaps some day, when the best technology has been brought to bear on the problem (or there’s nothing left of the island but a gigantic hole), the Oak Island Mystery will be resolved once and for all. But we may ultimately find that the only real money on Oak Island came from a TV show.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Interesting Thing of the Day on March 23, 2005.

Image credit: Richard McCully [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Go to Source
Author: Joe Kissell

National Croissant Day


That quintessential French pastry, the croissant, likely originated in Austria and may even have been intended to represent the Islamic crescent. But over the centuries, the true history of the croissant has flaked away into legend. Indeed, many modern croissants are straight, not curved, making the name a misnomer. In any case—whatever the shape; whether made with real butter or a substitute; and filled with chocolate, almond paste, other ingredients, or not—croissants are delicious! Fattening, for sure, but then a properly made croissant is so light and airy that the low density makes up for the high calories. Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself. I hope you’ll celebrate National Croissant Day today with a freshly baked croissant. That makes all the difference—I speak from extensive personal experience!

Image credit: Pixabay

Go to Source
Author: Joe Kissell

All About Our Recent Family Trip

I posted before about our planned family trip and now that we’re home, recovered, and back to normal life (or at least as normal as can be when one kid has a broken finger and stitches), I wanted to share how wonderful our trip was.

When planning our family trip, my first goal was looking for a place that was bus accessible and had things to do indoors in case there was bad weather, and was

Go to Source
Author: Penniless Parenting

Top 10 Affordable Vacation Destination Trips for the Spring – Fun Tips

Planning a vacation this spring? Here’s some budget friendly suggestions from a reader.

Planning a spring destination escape, whether for a week or just a few days is easy especially with tips on affordable destinations with cool weather. Here are 10 affordable spring to-go destinations for you to consider.

1. Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta offers more than just a coastal resort

Go to Source
Author: Penniless Parenting