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…

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.

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.

Hello fellow cookie lovers, and happy new year!

As any of you who have read Cherries in Winter or visit this blog know, butter cookies have been my business card for months now. I’ve made the cookies for people who’ve read the book, who have reviewed it, for people who might read or review or even think about looking at the book, the tireless folks at Doubleday who published the book… Oh, and a few friends and relatives, too.

Then kind strangers started sharing their cookie recipes with me, and visitors to this blog were treated to Cookie Month recipes all during December. Yes, living la vida cookie has been wonderful, but I confess: My pants are tight. The ones that still fit, that is.

One recent morning, when I rolled (quite literally) out of bed, I had a thought that was rather foreign to me: I’m going to train for the More Magazine Half-Marathon. For those of you not addicted to running, as I was not, a half-marathon is 13.2 miles. Participants can walk or run or do any combination thereof, but they must do whatever it is they’re doing to cross that finish line in three hours or less. Before I had a chance to think this through–that is, before I had my morning tea–I told More Magazine I’d blog about training for their half-marathon. As if that wasn’t enough Krazy Glue on my sneakers, I registered for the event. Now I had to do it.

I started training a few weeks ago, and here’s the good news: I love it. I’ve already cut five minutes off my time and lost two-and-a-half pounds of cookies off the truck. I’m still enjoying sweets and baked goods, but in moderation, and I’m burning them off.

Have any of you ever run or walked a race? What was your strategy? This beginner needs your help! And, of course, if you have any cookie recipes to share, now I’m even happier to post those too… And if any of you want in on the action, read about it here!

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions every year, and they were so typical I won’t even bother boring you with any details. Let’s just say I hit all the classics involving self-improvement, and let’s just not say how the gym membership attendance would lapse severely by the end of February.

A few years ago, I made a different kind of New Year’s Resolution: no more resolutions that took place at the end of a December or the beginning of a January. This relieved quite a bit of pressure as I stopped setting goals that were way too high and destined for failure. It also cured my procrastination: Why wait until January to do something good for myself? What, I should go to hell in a handbag all through December?

Last week, I started training for the More Magazine Half-Marathon, which takes place in New York City on April 25, 2010. (I’ll be blogging about it on more.com.) Training doesn’t officially begin until January 4, but what, I asked, was wrong with good ol’ December 21 to start getting in the best shape of my life? Nothing–especially since I got a major current-Recession, pre-Resolution deal on a gym membership.

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Have you already started them, or are you beginning on, say, February 3? I’d love to hear about them. In the meantime, hope your holidays are lovely!