One of my dearest friends, Francesco Clark, is a skincare guru. So when he says something, I tend to lean in close and lissen up. Recently, though, he said something kind of shocking, especially for a person who loves chocolate as much as I do: He said sugar is bad for the skin.

Shut. The. Heck. Up.

You can read more of his sacreligious statements here in this column. Initially, I thought, Blasphemer! How many pounds of sugar have you and I ingested together?! But I was a little hyper from eating about 12 macaroons at the time. (Macaroon recipe coming soon.) When I calmed down a bit and re-read the article, I thought, Well…

Hmm….

Maybe–MAYBE–there’s something to this. It wouldn’t hurt to try, would it?

Yes. Yes it would, I thought. Giving up sugar would hurt a lot. I love my sugar. But does it love me back? Not really, when I look closely at my skin, which looks okay but certainly doesn’t get the compliments it used to. Or when I look at my thighs. And let’s not drag my butt into this conversation, because it’s just too heavy to be dragged.

So Fran didn’t exactly lay down a challenge when he gently suggested cutting refined sugar intake down. Diane Chang, the author of the article, is going for two weeks without sugar. WOAH. That sounds like an awful lot of days without a reason to live.

But I do love a challenge. I don’t know why, because I often fail these challenges miserably–stay tuned for my wretched results at the More Magazine Half-Marathon. But I like to try. It’s that darn indomitable spirit of mine. Please remind me to have a doctor take a look at removing that at my next checkup.

So, here I am on Day 1 of not eating refined sugar. How far will I get? And will you join me? Stop laughing, I’m serious…

Nope, I did not make this. But isn't it pretty? Makes me happy just looking at it--and writing about it.

Just a quick note to say hello because you all know I’m on a deadline for the additional chapters for Cherries in Winter: The Paperback. (Don’t worry, that is so not the book’s new official title.) Here’s the latest:

* I’m writing about cake, one of my favorite subjects (see above).

* My Jamie Oliver obsession is reaching new heights. Last night I made his chicken stroganoff recipe from Jamie’s Food Revolution, and I can’t wait to watch the TV show of the same name. Because I was a good girl and got an entire chapter finished this morning, I treated myself to watching the sneak preview here. I was surprised at how hard this show is to watch; people’s strong desire to eat unhealthy food makes me sad.

* My half-marathon training has fallen off the rails, but at least it’s not because I’m being lazy–just trying to meet the aforementioned deadline. I may have to walk the race, but I’ll be in it.

Okay, back to work! But first, some chicken strogie leftovers for lunch…

In December, I announced rather publicly that I was going to do the More Half-Marathon in April. I dutifully (and unusually, for me) printed out the training schedule and started following it to the letter. I discovered that I loved running, got totally high off it, was able to eat more (yay!), and even noticed that my thighs were–merciful heavens, it’s a miracle–getting slimmer.

So you’d think I would’ve stuck with it, right? Erm. Hm. Well.

Monday was supposed to have been a training day; the little calendar square read RUN. I kept staring at it, hoping the word RUN would change into YOGA or, better, REST. But even taking my glasses off did nothing to change the fact that I was supposed to RUN, not BLOW IT OFF. That’s what I did, though; I just couldn’t drag myself to the gym and get on that treadmill. (Lest you think me a complete slug, I practically fell with joy on my yoga mat for a blissful half hour.)

I know that missing one day in my training schedule is no big deal, but it got me thinking (uh oh) about all the projects I start and somehow never finish. I find something, embrace it until both whatever it is and I can’t breathe, and then let it drop, lifeless, to the floor. Here are a few of the Amazing New Things that were going to Totally Change My Life that very well might have, if I’d kept up with them:


The Rosetta Stone Spanish language Level 1 program: Being half Spanish, I figured I should know how to speak the language. (Why is it that, being half Irish, I was never moved to learn Gaelic?) I should tell you that I’ve taken Spanish courses, read Spanish language instruction books, and generally tried really hard to learn Spanish. For a while. Then, like the dogs in Up–“SQUIRREL!”–something distracts me. The Rosetta Stone program was really great and I was doing it for half an hour every day, until I didn’t. Now it sits on the shelf, gathering el polvo.


Running the More Half-Marathon: We already discussed this, and I’m not going to chagrin myself again.


The Artist’s Way: I dug this little gem out because I’ve been writing my next book, and I need something that will get me to the next level of truly honest, this-is-my-heart-these-are-my-guts style writing. This book promises to do just that, and this will be the third–yes, third–time I’ve started to work the program. (This particular copy has a lot of dog-eared pages and highlighted paragraphs because it belongs to the Hubbins, who read the entire book and finished the entire program. That nut.)

I’ve discovered that making a public declaration of my intentions has been really instrumental in motivating me to do what I say I’m going to do. I attribute this to my inordinately large fear of embarrassment and dread of mortification. So, here I am, stating to anyone reading this:

I am going to keep training to run that More Half-Marathon.

I am going to work the Artist’s Way program, all 12 weeks of it, starting this week.

I am…not going to make any promises about that Rosetta Stone thing because between training, writing, Artist’s Way-ing, hopefully getting a new dog (still in progress! News to come soon), hanging out with the beloved Hubbins, and getting through a pile of roughly 100 magazines that need to be read before I’ll let them go to the recycling bin, I just don’t think I have the juice to learn how to habla espanol.

Maybe next year.

If you’re having trouble sticking to those New Year’s Resolutions (and if you said, “What New Year’s Resolutions?” I salute you), maybe you need to rope a friend into whatever crazy scheme you cooked up.

That’s one of my strategies, as you’ll see here. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m training for the More Magazine Half-Marathon, and I didn’t want to take my first foray in to the wonderful world of physical exertion and Port-A-Potties alone.

So, my questions to you are: Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? What are they? And did you enlist an accomplice to do this mission with you? If so, send a photo of you and your buddy doing whatever it is you resolved to do, and I’ll post it here…for the world to see. That way you really have to go through with it.

And no, it doesn’t look like my little friend Isabel is going to be my running partner.

Hey, thanks for coming. Thank you for taking the time to visit this site.

Thank you for reading Cherries in Winter and spending some time with my family, and thank you for telling me about your family stories. Thanks to all of you who wrote in to info@cherriesinwinter.com to share those stories with me.

Thanks for the feedback on Cookie Month, and thank you for sending in recipes. And I’m grateful to all of you who are encouraging me to do this half-marathon thing to burn off the cookies. (Oh, and by the way, thanks for not telling me to skip the cookies in the first place. Ain’t gonna happen.)

I thank you for being here because that little number on my blog dashboard that tells me how many visitors I have each day shows me how many people I have in my corner. And when things don’t go well, you keep me from getting totally KO-ed.

So, in two words: Thank you.

The sleepy, restful holidays are most definitely ovah. Yesterday I got great news that LX New York, NBC’s live-at-five style show, wants me to do a segment on Mom’s Version of Great-Great Grandmother Matilde’s Baked Pork Chops! This is verrrry exciting stuff. I suggested that recipe because it’s hearty for winter and very simple to make (see page 17 of Cherries in Winter), and then I got a crash course in TV Cooking 101 from the show’s producer. Apparently, easy pork chop recipes are suddenly difficult when one is making them on live TV. (Rachel Ray, you make it look so effortless!)

So last night I was practicing my pork chop close-ups when I also heard that a New York Times reporter wants to interview me about Cherries. If excitement could singe pork chops, these were well-done.

That interview is happening today, a few hours before I do another interview with Wisconsin Public Radio (hellooooooo, Wisconsin! I love that chilly, cheeze-crazy state!). And if I can get one more plate spinning in the air, today was one of my training days for the More Magazine Half-Marathon. (Check out my latest blog, an ode to good sports bras, here.) I’m on Week 4 of my training schedule, pacing myself and keeping my knees, feet, and all other body parts in good working order so I don’t become an ibuprofen junkie.

I credit the running (well, at this point it’s more like a spirited jog) with whatever sanity I have during this busy week. I’m so into this running/walking thing, I live to get on that treadmill. If I have a big day full of testing pork chops and talking to lovely interviewers and figuring out what Nathan might like for dinner (chili tonight, Hubby bunny), I get up a little earlier and get that run in. Those 30 or so minutes get all the nuttiness, and some calories, out and make me feel calm, serene, and grateful for a body that can do this.

I’ll let you know when the Times piece will run, and the LX New York segment airs this Monday, January 11 at 5:40 p.m. EST. And you let me know: Are any of you going to run/walk with me at the More Half Marathon on April 25 in Central Park?

My grandparents' farm house in Saratoga Springs, around 1942. This would definitely have been challenging weather for half-marathon training.

As I mentioned the other day, I’m in training to run/walk/shuffle or otherwise move through the More Magazine Half-Marathon this April 25 (just a few–shudder–months away; read about it here). And as I also mentioned, this was a great way to burn off some cookies. A better way for me to bring less weight along for my morning runs would be to ease off a little on the cookies. Hey, one Everest at a time, okay?

As I try valiantly to recover from my holiday overdose of sweets and get this sugar monkey off my back, Gourmet.com, the online version of the stellar food magazine (rest in peace, dear Gourmet), has chosen to feature a timeline of cookies.

With photos.

They open with cookies from the 1940s, which are very reminiscent of Nana’s recipe for butter cookies from Cherries in Winter. They’re full of the good ol’, non-marathon training foods like butter, sugar, and white flour. Oh dear…

If you’re trying to keep your hands out of the cookie jar as one of those despicable but necessary new year’s resolutions, stay away from this link.

If, though, you’ve started a fitness program and are modifying your sugar intake to weekends like yours truly, you’ll enjoy looking at these yumlicious photos…with recipes. Visitor, be warned.