Ghent, Belgium: What they sell in a castle gift shop

ghent baby clothesEverything that’s positively Medieval for your Little Crusader.

Castle of the Counts, Ghent, Belgium. 4.10.15

ghent assault toy(Been a hectic week in Brussels. Doing regular news job in between all the running around, which included this day trip to Ghent, Belgium, a hip place with a Medieval past.

Moving on to London tomorrow to visit a friend. Will have more time then to catch up on everything.

Did conduct my official Planet Lippstone Belgian Chocolate Taste Test, and I have a winner. I’m officially sick of the stuff and don’t want to see any for at least a few hours.)

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Eats: Memorable Easter Dinner in Brussels

brussels soleil afrique crowd

Just back from a memorable Easter dinner in the Matonge (African) section of Brussels, a few blocks from where I’m staying. Place was absolutely packed. I was parked near a family with a child who insisted on putting her toy in my rice.

brussels me in african restaurant

I see Au Soleil d’Afrique got mixed reviews. I adored my chicken and rice dish, which was flavored with lemon and citrus and had a a bit of a kick. Maybe I loved it because it wasn’t chocolate. (I’m already sick of the stuff.)

brussels viagra africain

The chicken wasn’t the only thing on the menu with a kick. I asked the swamped server what constitutes a Viagra Africain. The only word she said in French that I could make out was rhum.

Speaking of which, I feel drunk after a long but rewarding day that had me haggling at a flea market a little over an hour after I got here from the U.S.and never stopped until now.

Happy Easter from Belgium.

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Big challenge: Tons of chocolate without big weight gain

My quest to lose a few pounds before I headed for Belgium and some heavy-duty chocolate taste-testing didn’t go very well. I blame it on all Easter and Passover goodies floating around. I’m a victim, really.

So as I head off into the land of chocolate, frites and waffles, my goal is to not gain 10 pounds on top of the 10 I already need to lose.

I went to the gym today, and started off with a good old American tuna fish sandwich.

Trying not to put undo pressure on myself. The goal is to enjoy, but not overdo it this time. I will be sampling. And doing my usual walking everywhere.

Honestly, I think the big secret to traveling and watching weight is to do the best you can. And not to beat yourself up beyond that.

Sounds like a plan. Cya in Brussels.


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Let’s Paws: The Dachshund and the Easter Bunny

My honeybunny dachshund Ginger may be going on 85 (here’s a convoluted formula that made my head ache; she’s almost 18 in dog years), but she’s still a pup at heart. Especially when it comes to kid stuff like the Easter Bunny.

ginger bunny:1

I got her this Easter Bunny cookie. She went right for the kill.

gingerbunny:2Round 1: Since she’s barely got any teeth, she only managed to grab a little icing off the tail. Really, a goldfish has a mightier bite.

gingerbunny:3Round 2: Trying, trying, trying to get a grip. Much panting by my sweet girl. No luck.

gingerbunny:4Easter Bunny, 2; Ginger, 0. I resort to breaking it up for her, but she’s giving up for now. Maybe more of the frosting later. Believe me, Gin, I know. It’s no fun getting old.


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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.


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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