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…


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…


I know–“I Heart” week was a while ago. But it helps to indulge in little things I love on days when I’m feeling very much like Bette Davis’s character in Now Voyager (if this reference is unfamiliar, please Netflix this classic, stat).

This was, for those who are still carefully scratching their bouffants about the meaning behind the title of my book, is why Nana bought those cherries in the wintertime. They were a little pricey–fruit out of season in the late 1950s/early ’60s must have been–but it was worth it to spend the money on a small, affordable indulgence. Was this not the entire pre-Recession raison d’etre for Starbucks’ existence–affordable luxuries? Before they started selling cheapo coffee in order to survive, I mean.

You’ll notice I flung about a French phrase, because I’m about to segue into my version of cherries in winter. Sometimes it’s the French raisins from Fairway, but last night it was a lemon tart. I was walking by a small patisserie that had in its window beautiful pastel-colored macarons (as well as coconut macaroons), cookies carefully polka-dotted with chocolate chips, and this lemon tart. This was an extraordinary-looking tart, too–a small pastry of the same sunny, deep yellow as a classic smiley face, which made me happier just by looking at it. It glowed, I tell you, and it was topped by two tiny, artfully arranged chocolate batons. The care that went into making this delicate little thing was evident not only by how beautiful it was, but also by its cost–five dollars and fifty cents. (If that doesn’t sound like much, you must still have a job. Congratulations!) Sensing that the tart would be worth every penny, I gladly handed over the money and thought about Nana enjoying her cherries.

BTdubya, the pastry was sheer perfection. Not too sweet, not too tart–just the way you want life to be. The Hubbins said he had too much fatness from dinner to eat it, but one look at this special thing and he changed his mind. There weren’t but six perfect bites to it anyway.

Usually, a sugary indulgence triggers some caloric guilt in me. But recently, I read a great passage about this in Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. She writes about the joy of quality over quantity: “One of our regulars, Claude, gets a scone every day. He’s lost over fifty pounds since we opened [her fabulous bakery]. I’ve noticed the same kind of conscious consumption at the dwindling small pastry shops around the States. When kids have the experience of choosing something from a pastry case and knowing that the little tart they’re going to take home was baked today, just a few steps from where they’re standing, they’ll savor that small treat, instead of thoughtlessly devouring the entire contents of an economy-sized Acme brand bag of cookies.” Amen, Gesine, because yesterday I was that kid.

(Full disclosure: Gesine and I are represented by the same literary agency, and in fact, I’d recently asked–okay, begged–her to write the foreword for the paperback version of Cherries in Winter. She had to turn me down because she’s working on her next book, so this was not me trying to win her over. I just like the way she thinks.)

What stops you from starring in your own version of Now Voyager?