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Archive for August, 2010

  • Day 188: Meet Me Halfway: Six Months Without Candy

    Date: 2010.08.30 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 1

    In my favorite childhood game, Candyland, you pass by a peppermint forest and an ice cream sea as I kind of did early this morning driving the Grande Corniche from Eze Village down to my current hometown: Nice, France.

    I zoomed past orange, olive and pine trees and a spellbinding panorama stretching west to Monaco, St. Jean Cap Ferrat and so far out into the glittering Mediterranean that you could  fool yourself that you were seeing Corsica.

    With the dry, clear, warm air, this was prime Grace Kelly To Catch a Thief (1955) territory.  (Some of the most famous scenes in the film were filmed along the Grande Corniche. Years later, as Princess Grace, she died in a car accident on the road linking the Grande Corniche to the Moyenne Corniche.)

    But slowly I started to wind down the road and too soon, I was back into the familiar grit and bustle of Nice.

    I had to wait until this morning to make sure I made it halfway through my Year Without Candy.  ( I didn’t want to jinx matters by writing this until the first six months were in the bag.)

    As I wrote in Learn the Ancient Secret to Kicking the Candy Habit, the only reason I’ve been able to go without candy and sweets is the shame I would feel if I fell off the wagon because of this public blog.  What – you thought it was a Higher Power?

    I’m surprised at the results.  Here’s why:

    1.  It was easier than I thought.  I did this once before, in 2002 and 2003, and it seemed to me it was more difficult, that I had more cravings.

    2. I have cravings, but they pass fast. For example, I’ll be walking through my neighborhood in Vieux Nice which is packed with tourists eating fantastic ice cream and sublime gelato and I’ll take a hit.  I’ll want it and be mad I can’t have it.  Then two seconds later my brain focuses on something else.  Having my decision to give up sweets be absolutely black-and-white makes it much easier.  I can’t be trusted to decide how often I’ll eat candy.  I have one choice: tell myself NO.

    3.  While it hasn’t been a big struggle, nor have I had felt some miraculous Tony Robbins-meets-Oprah-Winfrey insta-change.  I haven’t lost a ton of weight or sprung out of bed every morning with whiter eyes and a new lease on life.

    4.  For the first time in my life, I sometimes recoil from food that I think might be too sweet, like breakfast cereal. This is unheard of for me and must be the result of my tastebuds being deprived of sugar and losing interest in it.

    4. The main change was unexpected:  I see things much more clearly.  I’m not sure I’ve lost the rose-colored glasses I’ve always had but I don’t wear them nearly as much.  It’s a bittersweet experience. Sometimes I miss the naivete. But it was as if I came in for a very serious landing after a long flight and my ears suddenly unblocked.

    I have had two quasi-slips in six months.  I say “quasi” because neither time it was my idea nor were they sweets that I ever eat or crave.

    One time was when I was in Singapore in May. I wrote about how a friend there persuaded me to dip a fried banana (no sugar on that) into a sugary sauce and I did. It was a tiny dip!

    The second was just 10 days ago when some houseguests were leaving and another friend spontaneously brought over some almond croissants for everyone.  Plain croissants are fine but these had some sweet almond paste on them.  I just went along with everyone and ate one.  Fortunately, they weren’t that sweet and they’re not something I’d ever buy myself.

    I had a third even tinier slip during this same period when my friend Livia made a tiramisu in the kitchen before a party I was giving. I had to slice the tiramisu in pieces and I completely forgot (yes I did, bitches) not  to lick the knife afterward.

    Those three mini-slips didn’t break the overall covenant though.  I barely thought about them.

    Sometimes people don’t understand what I am giving up but it’s in the ABOUT section of the blog.  I am not like my friend Connie Bennett of who pretty much goes without any sugar.

    I eat things that contain sugar like peanut butter or ketchup or granola cereal but rarely. I don’t crave them so they’re not an issue.  And while I usually have plain yogurt with Stevia instead of sugar, I’ve had sweetened yogurt at times.  What I don’t eat are what I consider treats:  candy, chocolate, ice cream, cookies cakes, pies, cupcakes, milkshakes, lemon tarts etc. – what Americans call “dessert.”  They are what is addictive for me.

    I drink coffee now and then but I’ve trained myself to drink it black or with milk but no sugar. Green tea is my favorite and doesn’t need sugar.

    Interesting what I heard during the last official day of the first six months without sugar.  I was up in Vence, a hill town 45 minutes outside of Nice to listen to a writer-in-residence at the NALL Art Association and Foundation. The writer, Tim Wallace-Murphy, writes books on spiritual themes in the Grail genre. Murphy presents a history of ancient symbolism and talks about secret societies like the Knights Templar. Tim gives talks to provoke more than instruct.

    It was the day after Glenn Beck’s “Restore Honor” dumbtard-o-rama in Washington D.C.   It was refreshing to sit in Nall’s sprawling house on the hill, the mysterious Col de Vence above us, and listen about the men back in the Middle Ages who challenged the church and the burgeoning industry of Christianity.   They believed Jesus was a great teacher with great initiates, not that he was God.    They were hooked into true Christ consciousness, not the Virgin Birth and a shroud.

    Watching the slide show of the symbology revealed on a series of paintings and sculptures was much easier to understand while not under the influence of candy.

    Which is one of many reasons I’m thrilled I had the idea to give up candy for a year and thrilled I’ve lasted this long.  Maybe my story wouldn’t cut it for a O Magazine feature or in Reader’s Digest, but my life has come into such sharper focus that it’s made it a deeper kind of adventure.

    I’d urge anyone reading this to try giving up a vice that doesn’t make you feel good – even for just six months or a year.  You can do it.

    The last thing I’ll say is that as a result of giving up sweets, I feel much less special than I used to. I used to think all my friends were special, my family too, and  just that my life in general was an incredibly unique drama with unlimited possibilities.

    I see the horizon now, but I like what I see because the view is clearer, as it was from the Grande Corniche this morning.

    I no longer feel the need to seek as much as I used to.  I just want to keep working and keep having fun and see if I make it another six months, at least, without candy.

  • Day 184: “Teenage Dream” Smells Like Cotton Candy

    Date: 2010.08.27 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0


    From Kyle Anderson at MTV.Com:

    Of all the news that came out of the build-up to Katy Perry’s new album Teenage Dream (including the ultra-sexy album cover, the list of potential collaborators and early leaks like “Circle the Drain”), the most intriguing (and bizarre) was the fact that the actual packaging was going to smell like cotton candy. When Perry first announced that particular detail, it not only seemed too gimmicky but also impossible. How was she going to pull that off, and what purpose would it actually serve?

    Filled with skepticism, I ducked into a store on Wednesday afternoon (August 25) to test it out for myself. After locating the album in the section reserved for new releases (of which there were few — perhaps a good sign for Perry’s opening week sales), I managed to snag it. It’s rare that I’m even in music stores nowadays (and not for lack of trying — were you aware that New York City doesn’t even have an FYE any more?) and it’s even stranger that I’d be holding a copy of a brand new CD (most of the compact discs I buy are used, and most of my new music comes either digitally or on vinyl), so even the experience of exploring album packaging was strange and unfamiliar. It’s an impressive presentation (I especially like that there’s no writing on the front cover) and made me feel nostalgic for the days when I would pedal my bike to the local Coconuts to pick up Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness or Red Hot Chili Peppers’ One Hot Minute.

    Continue reading the story here…

  • Day 183: Where’d You Go?

    Date: 2010.08.26 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 3

    Where’d you go, I miss you so, seems like it’s been forever that you’ve been gone, please come back home, please come back home

    In two days I’ll be six months without candy.  I’m still off sweets and it hasn’t been that hard.  More about that on the 28th.  But it’s so easy to let the discipline of writing a blog like this slip away. I’ve done that.  My summer has been too much fun; houseguests, parties, adventures, such great times but not enough time to do all the work I want to do. Not  to mention this blog.

    I still have six months left to go of a Year Without Candy and I don’t want to blow it.  The only reason I’ve been able to stop eating candy is because this blog has kept me on the straight and narrow.

    And this summer life got in the way – and I’ve stopped tending to this blog.   I hate the feeling of… letting something go.

    Can you get it back once you let go?  Will you get more and more off track?

    You know when you start to procrastinate it becomes a bit like a bad drug; you don’t want to keep doing it but you do.  Not doing something you want and should be doing begins to weigh on you, you start to feel guilty, then all the joy goes out of it – and you just don’t do it.

    Ugh.  Then what?  I feel bad about not writing the blog and one day I decide, hey maybe I’ll just have that one bag of M&Ms.  Which sounds so good as I write this.

    I remember being at this crazy British, ex-armed forces military fitness camp in Devon, England in October 2008.   They kept us on the run from 5 a.m. when we had to get in formation until 10 at night.  We were jumping off cliffs into the sea off Brixton, mountain biking up and down stone-walled hill roads, boxing, rubbing camouflage on our faces and heading out on military maneuvers with rifles -even playing an exotic British game called netball that I had never heard of.

    But it was playing cricket (the name alone, please) that stood out in my mind. One of the ex-British Navy drill instructors kept laughing at me as I whacked the ball way out in the field but kept dropping the bat when I ran to base as if it was American baseball.  (You’re supposed to keep holding the bat, who knew?)

    My team as a whole was losing badly as I got up to bat (do they even say that in cricket? I can’t remember.)

    Anyway he yelled at me something meant for our entire team and I always keep it in the back of my mind because it’s so true.

    “You can still win!”

  • Day 177: Ear Candy!

    Date: 2010.08.22 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 1

  • Day 165: A Sunny Place for Shady People Gassed While Asleep?

    Date: 2010.08.10 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 1

    It was Somerset Maugham who so memorably  summed up Monaco and the French Riviera by calling it a “sunny place for shady people.”  Read this truly astounding article about his life, the latter part of which was spent in a villa on St Jean Cap Ferrat on the Riviera.

    Life was not sweet for Maugham, it was wildly decadent – filled with hundreds of rent boys and the occasional female lover and wife as well.

    All these years later, I’ve chronicled the less sweet side of the French Riviera myself – minus the constant sex, nonstop parties, bestselling novels, gaming tables etc. of Maugham’s experience. Oh, well.

    However, the story does involve being gassed by burglars whilst asleep…

    This summer, as wide-eyed tourists eat, pray, and love their way from St. Tropez to the Monaco border, a crime wave that sounds like something out of a bad remake of To Catch A Thief has hit the French Riviera.

    Residents, both locals and expats, mull it over in daily conversations: whose apartment got robbed last night? Who got sprayed with sleeping gas when they were asleep? Whose villa was peppered with shots from air rifles?

    For someone who lived in New York City for 15 years without incident, some of what you hear sounds fantastical—until it checks out.

    Read the rest of my story at The Daily Beast by clicking here…

  • Day 162: Sailing with the Ghosts of Ari, Jackie & Callas

    Date: 2010.08.07 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 2

    What can you say about a gorgeous evening spent on the Mediterranean just off Monte Carlo – aboard one of the most famous yachts of all time, the Christina?

    For one, desserts are the last thing on your mind.  Even if you’re a candy addict, it’s so exciting to be on board a ship drenched in the ghosts of legends that’s it not hard say no to the exquisite little truffles-in-a-cup, sorbets, macarons and milles feuilles framboises served on the upper deck.

    That’s me eating some chicken teriyaki above.

    We swept up and down the spiral staircase; the library with the lapis lazuli fireplace; the grand living room where Maria Callas and Frank Sinatra sang and where telegrams from American gossip columnist and Callas confidante Elsa Maxwell are framed next to a display case containing the gold wedding rings worn by Callas and her cuckolded husband.   Where Jackie O came to lick her wounds and make a deal with the devil after Americans murdered her husband and brother-in-law.

    That’s me below in Ari’s bedroom.  What happened here years ago??

    We sat on the barstools in Ari’s below-deck bar where the stools were made of whale foreskin so he could tell Greta Garbo she was sitting on the biggest cock of all time.   A yacht that could be the ultimate symbol of what we’ve lost when it comes to true fame, true scandale and true talent.

    Btw, I say “cuckolded” in reference to Callas’ husband because this is where Maria Callas and Ari Onassis first had sex according to supercool and knowledgeable ship historian Kate Braithwaite who gave us a little tour of the ship.  Braithwaite said that Callas’ husband and Ari’s gorgeous then-wife Tina Niarchos Onassis were on the boat with Ari and Maria when sparks flew and they somehow went ahead and began an affair then and there.

    Anyway, Kate Gosselin and all you reality TV stars currently hogging the covers of American celebrity magazines, eat your insignificant hearts out.

    For me, tonight was heaven.  There is no place on earth I’d rather be than on a boat, preferably a powerboat, even though I’ve crewed on an amazing 100-year old classic sailboat in vintage regattas in the south of France for 5 years.

    But being on the Christina was bittersweet in a way that had nothing to do with confectioner’s sugar.   It’s hard to describe being at sea, with light from “the Rock” (the jutting promontory where the Palace stands) and the Casino/Opera ablaze in the distance.  The air so warm and dry, the ultimate Mediterranean climate.

    I think of Grace Kelly, aged 26, sailing into port here to become Princesse Grace. I think of a world I was never part of which seems so glamorous and exciting compared with the Facebook-ready planet we now inhabit.

    This is my favorite photo of all the ones we saw on the walls of the Christina.

    It’s a photograph of Onassis driving Winston Churchill, a frequent guest, on the Grande Corniche with a remarkably composed Tina Onassis in the back seat next to her husband’s lover, Maria Callas.

    Who were these people?  Who compares to them today?  Some of them actually wore white gloves.  To me, it’s as if we’re going backwards sometimes, not forward.

    What a trip to be right where they all once were.


    Who needs chocolate on a night like this?   (And was that gorgeous but she-male appearing woman who was being photographed every two seconds by her “companion” a “working girl” like someone suggested?)

    This is what I like about this part of the world.  It’s not that everyone has a story, everyone has a story.

    R.I.P. Ari, Maria, Tina and Jackie.  You all knew how to live!

  • Day 160: The High-Fructose Corn Syrup/Cancer Connection

    Date: 2010.08.05 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Reprinted from  (Read original article here.)


    A new study shows that malignant cells love fructose, but the war against the sweetener isn’t really about science

    By Francis Lam

    Not since olestra and its unfortunate propensity to cause “leakage” have we seen an industrial food get smacked around like high-fructose corn syrup. Despite protests that it’s no different than sugar by groups with P.R.-unfriendly names like the Corn Refiners Association, “waning” would be a polite way to describe its popularity. And with the release of a new study that shows that cancer cells find fructose tastier — and more nutritious! — than other sugars, might the bell be finally tolling for the sweetener called, unappealingly, HFCS?

    For years, consumers’ wariness of HFCS’s ubiquity and rumors that it causes anything from obesity to late-stage syphilis have beaten it down like a bag of doorknobs — and food manufacturers have followed suit with products made with sugar instead. Its sales dropped 9 percent in the U.S. from 2007 to 2009, and are sinking fast. You know you have a P.R. problem when sodas tout themselves as healthy because all their empty calories come from sugar, not your cheaper sugar with a funny name.

    All along, HFCS backers (mainly its producers and food manufacturers who like the fact that it’s about one-third the cost of sugar) have maintained that there’s no science to support the notion that it’s any worse for you than sugar. Even Marion Nestle, chairwoman of the Food Studies department at New York University and one of the fiercest and smartest critics of our food system, writes on her blog that the science available now really shows it’s just another form of sugar. And on the new study showing that cancer cells thrive on fructose, she e-mailed to me:

    This is fructose they are talking about, not HFCS specifically. HFCS is not particularly high in fructose compared to table sugar. Both are about 50% fructose and are about equal in their effects. So is honey. Agave has even more. Fructose-containing sugars are best consumed in small amounts but there’s nothing new in that advice. If it is true that the average American consumes 25% of calories from added sugars or even 20%, that means that 10% or more of the calories come from fructose. Not a good idea.

    So this study isn’t a scientific silver bullet against HFCS, but the war against HFCS has never been about science, really. It’s always been about the fact that it’s a backbone of corn subsidies that makes Midwest agriculture a massive corporate monoculture — making it a favorite target of food activists — and the paranoia we have of an ingredient with a distinctly processed-sounding name that we also happen to find in everything that has an ingredient label. It’s always been about perception, not science.

    And from that standpoint, it’s easy to believe that this study damning fructose can, in fact, cream HFCS in the grocery store aisle. Forget the fact that the stuff is only called “high-fructose” because the sugar in corn naturally contains nofructose until it’s processed to have some fructose; all we’ll remember is that fructose is like beer at a cancer party, and the ketchup on the shelf has high-fructose corn syrup listed as the second ingredient. (And we’ll probably really forget that fructose is, in fact, the sugar found in fruit.)

    From an environmental and food policy standpoint, it’s probably for the best that HFCS is going down. But the mechanism by which this battle is being won is a scary one. Our approach to healthy eating too often relies on single buzzwords — demonize this, throw a halo around that. We might be smart in being wary of HFCS, but what that probably means is that we’ll just be eating more sugar in its stead, just like when “healthy” cookie brands like Snackwells took off in the ’90s, when we were happily trading empty fat calories with empty sugar calories. We haven’t gotten any healthier since.

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This American candy addict/journalist in France writes about quitting candy – and all desserts – for at least one year beginning Feb. 28, 2010. Follow my progress – or relapses – as I delete candy corn, moelleux au chocolat, peppermint patties, Carambars, tarte tatin, After Eights, crème brûlée, Nutella, tapioca pudding, mint chocolate chip ice cream, Haribo Polkas, M & Ms and more from my life. Learn about the evils of white sugar and its effects on mood and health from my interviews with experts and friends! Let the sugar fog lift!

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