Delicious dilemma: Watching my weight with chocolate, chocolate, everywhere in Belgium

So I saw this plug for Candice Bergen’s memoir the other day. The fashion and entertainment icon (why wasn’t she really utilized in the SNL 40-year reunion?) says she’s put on 30 pounds and has no problem being considered fat. Because she lives to eat.

In my heart, I feel the same. But because my concern about my heart outweighs my love of nosh, I just can’t.

If you’re starting to see a pattern in my posts, yes, this has always been a problem. I tried to conquer it at The Biggest Loser Resort. Worked for a few days.

When I was packing for my Eastern & Oriental Express train trip in Asia, I’d also packed on a few. I had two weeks to squeeze into my wardrobe.

Now, I’m going to Belgium on a personal mission: chocolate taste-testing. I’m going for the chocolates and staying for the sights, which look (almost) as enticing.

Of course I’ve been indulging all winter, with a girth faintly resembling that of a snowman. Now’s the time I’d be getting seriously getting in shape for spring. But now this trip’s coming up.

I have exactly one week to get myself somewhat together. (For the record, I don’t do crazy stuff. Just sensible eating and exercising. Believe me, I know how to do it the right way.)

Then heading straight for Candyland and caloric annihilation.

Only if I let it.

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A New Year celebration where you can’t make noise

For those of us in the western hemisphere, this March 21 is merely the big thaw into spring after hibernating all winter. In Bali, Indonesia, it’s New Year’s Day.

But they don’t say Happy New Year there, exactly. They might say Happy Nyepi. Meaning Happy Day of Silence.

Nyepi is a Hindu holiday that generally falls around this time.

It’s a time for solemn self-reflection for those who worship. Nothing requiring a lot of energy or exertion is allowed. That means no lights (maybe a candle or two, depending how observant you are), working, working out, going anywhere, or watching Netflix. Basically, the place shuts down.

I’d been to Bali a long time ago and found myself learning more about Australia than Indonesia. (Bali’s a big Aussie hangout, given the proximity; there’s a wickedly funny song about that.) That trip was a useful introduction to Oz, given that I ended up living there for a time, but it would have been nice to learn about both countries.

Anyway, I was alerted to Nyepi today by Facebook acquaintance Sandra, a lovely woman I’d met traveling on the Eastern & Orient Express train through Southeast Asia.

me on orient expressShe and her equally warm husband said not a word about my lame attempt at channeling Agatha Christie on this sister train of that other, more-famous one through Europe.

They have several homes, one of them in Bali.

oven sandra3

This was how her kitchen looked today. Her explanation: Cooking in the dark@ home. It’s Silence Day in Bali, and it is forbidden to switch on any lights ( except candlelight) in the house, no one is allowed to go out of their house either ( 24 hours from 6am today until 6am tomorrow).

It’s a different story leading up to the New Year, when the days are a frenzied time, filled with all kinds of rituals clearing out the old to make way for the new.

Ogoh Ogoh1

Elaborate effigies are paraded around and then burned to rid the world of so-called evil spirits.

bali cleansing rescue dogs1

This was the scene at Sandra’s house, a “cleansing ceremony” to keep all the bad spirits out. With the newest members of Sandra’s family — two darling adopted dogs — supervising.

candle

My impromptu shrine on my desk in the U.S. Happy Nyepi. 

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Let’s Paws Again: 14 legs, with lots of spring

lancasterdog2You can tell spring is around the corner when you finally start seeing life again on every corner. Of the two- and four-legged kind.

Togetherness, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 3.13.15.

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Let’s Paws: Sidetracked on way to ‘House of Cards’ casting call

dog and house of cardsA dilemma as I made my way to a House of Cards casting call for extras last year.

I met this guy just as I was trying to decide if I really wanted to stand on line all day in Bel Air, Md., in the same general neighborhood where much of the show is shot.

It was tempting to hang with him instead, have a leisurely lunch, and call it a nice summer day. And not waste an entire afternoon I’d never get back.

Sure, I’m glad I did the casting call for the experience. Even though this gentleman was clearly much nicer than that dastardly Francis Underwood. Yeah! Take that, ya meanie!

Having binge-watched season 3 like everyone else, I’m even more proud to say I got this close. Granted, the season got off to a slow start with a ridiculous storyline at times. But things got good again by the end, IMO.

Can’t wait for season 4. But I’ll let someone else stand in line this time.

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Trying to be an extra on ‘House of Cards’

Ready for Season 3 of House of Cards? To get you in the mood, here’s my Huffington Post piece on my big chance to be an extra.

More on what it’s like to be in on a casting call.

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Thanks for fighting for me, Ricky Gervais

So there I was, setting out on another journey.

U.S. 30, the highway that links Atlantic City to Oregon, had just turned 100. My travel assignment was to write about the part of it that was in my Pennsylvania back yard. To pan for historic or quirky gold, the kind of neat stuff the average motorist would be too rushed to ever pick up on.

For me it was all fresh. I’d never been down that road before.

Jim Mack's sign

Not that long into the ride, I found myself on a taste trip back to my childhood in the um, 60s. An old-fashioned ice cream shop that took me back to my days at the Jersey Shore boardwalk.

Jim Mack's miniature golf2

The supposed homemade ice cream was so-so. Like the shore, there was miniature golf. But there was no beach. And no rides. The big attraction was an honest-to-goodness caged bear.

Jim Mack's bear1

The sight was so unexpected, it took my breath away. If this had been a real zoo, I still wouldn’t have felt good about it, but she might at least have had some playmates and better digs.

“Little Ricki” wasn’t so little. But her cage with concrete floor was. She barely had room to move.

What was even more shocking was, no one else seemed shocked. A few stopped to look in, on their way to the golf.

Little Ricki

According to the sign on her cage, she had been there for much of her life. (When I met her, she was 16.) Like it or not, she had to be used to it. And the sign was so upfront about it. Was I the only one there who thought this was all wrong? And if not, how could this have gone on for so long?

So I asked her owners what the deal was.

I was told it was perfectly legal. She was born in captivity, they said. It’s all she knows and she has a good life.

Where else could she go? Would she be any happier? What could I do, at this late date? I touched on it in passing in the story and then let it drop.

I’m glad some other folks — like actor Ricky Gervais — didn’t. Because of their efforts, Little Ricki is now out of solitary and at a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado. She’s said to be doing a lot better.

As least she has more of a life for the rest of her days.

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Lets’s Paws/2: Behind scenes of aww-inspiring Super Bowl ad

I’m not one for beer (chocolate’s my vice), and you already know my feelings on the Super Bowl.

But that Budweiser dog-and-pony show — the commercial everyone’s been talking about — sure got my attention, too.

Well, not technically a pony … actually a Clydesdale horse that’s BFF with a Lab who wanders away from home and almost becomes a wolf snack.

Here’s a look at some of the players.

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