Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Happens When Husbands Help

I'll tell you what happens — nothing good.

The wrong milk gets purchased; the kids are dressed funny; my iPad's all screwed up.

OK, so he bought me the iPad, he gets major, major props for that. But I pick it up this weekend, and I can't find anything! Where are my sample sale sites? How come Neiman Marcus is not next to Nordstrom (all high-end shopping is grouped together). I thought I was losing my mind.

I start grumbling about how my screens are all whacked when he sheepishly admits he tried to organize them for me.

"See, this is an app and so is this, so it makes sense that they're together," he begins, but then he starts talking technical. So his voice — in my ears — morphs into the adults from "Peanuts." You know, they all sound like this "wah wa wah waaaaaaaaa."

He apologizes and says he thought he was helping, and now I'm trying to move all my critical shopping sites together and shift the magazines near each other, but my head hurts. I need some more Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joes. If no one sees me eat the whole box, do the calories count?

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Super Cool Prize

In what must be the fashion equivalent of the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, I won a blog contest.

Very, very cool.

I entered On the Racks' drawing for a vintage shawl-poncho hybrid. And I won. Woo hoo!

If you're unfamiliar with Laura's blog, go check it out. She oozes style. I felt utmost pressure to do this piece justice. Might have been trying too hard with that Stevie Nicks-ish look (said oldest child, "You look like a witch person.").

The boyfriend jeans/tank combo comes closer to my real-life dressing. Pairing casual with boho works, I think.

Outfit 1 (2010 hippie): Free People tank; Current/Elliott jeans; Harajuku Lovers jelly wedges.
Outfit 2 (the witchie poo): Frenzii tank dress; Forever XXI bra; Daniblack clogs.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Close Enough For Government Work

A funny thing happened in the middle of this posting.

I was all ready to blahdy-blah about how my continuing quest for the out-of-season Alexander Wang skirt led to the purchase of this charcoal-colored, tie-front jersey dress. When lo and behold, I found a substitute for that skirt that I can afford, live with and that really looks cute.

So, here's what I was gonna say:

Normally, I'm a muller.

I don't impulse buy anymore, not after picking up a mortgage and kids. My allowance ain't what it used to be. That old "shop first, ask questions later" mantra doesn't usually apply. Usually. But recently, I was under the gun with a coupon code and there was only one of these dresses left, so I snapped it up. It's from the ever wonderful Revolveclothing.com, which graciously offers free returns.

So, I got this because it reminded me of that Alexander Wang skirt I am lusting after. Yes, it has ties, but, really it is just a jersey dress. I unloaded a bunch of jersey dresses at the last swap party. Do I really need to re-stock?

And, here's the thing that's really bothering me and this may sound weird, but I think the tie hits a little too low, in a TSA-pat-down kind of way. The last thing I need is to draw attention to my junk. I already have three kids.

And yes, I was even going to say that last part, even though it's tasteless because I thought it was funny. So here's the thing, after I write up the post, I go back to half-heartedly leafing through all the sale alerts whizzing into my inbox. The whole day I haven't found anything because I don't hopelessly, desperately need anything (except that skirt). Then this Pixie Market e-mail appears.

I never look at the site, but I signed up for e-mail after hearing about it on a blog. Looked cool enough. So even though I rarely look at the site, I look this time. It must be fate — here's a dress with actual shirt-sleeve ties, like my beloved AW skirt. It was meant to be.

And so the muller just dove in and bought. Cross your fingers with me — and maybe your shirt sleeves, too — that this really, truly is a good substitute.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fun With Shiny Pants

Never in a bazillion years would I have thought silk pants could be so awesome.

Love them. There's something to be said for breaking out of your clothing comfort zone.

Outfit: Splendid moto jacket; random cotton scarf; J Crew tissue tee; J Crew silk cargo pants; Me Too bronze pumps.

Side note: How lame is that that I failed to notice the dogs' rope toy in the background. Sigh. If only I had one of those professional photog significant others like the really cool Bloggers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Shoe Haiku....For the S&M Crowd

Straight from work to date?
Only if you're a madam.
Wear to work? No way.

Now, the backstory to this haiku. I laughed out loud when I came across these pumps, which are actually pretty fierce, on www.shopnastygal.com (btw, don't ever just type "nastygal.com" cuz, well, let's just say that site sure ain't sellin' clothes).... The description reads as follows:

Jana Convertible Pump
($130) Seriously rad black leather pumps featuring a detachable buckled spat and treaded rubber sole. Fully lined interior, cushioned insole. Perfect for those days you have to head straight from work to catch your favorite band! By Messéca.

Seriously? Straight from work? Um, no. I don't think so.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Shopper's Thanksgiving Pet Peeve

My inbox is flooded with sale e-mails. Nothing annoys me more (in the e-mail world) than opening up a missive from a store and seeing that it's just a plain "Happy Thanksgiving" note with no sign of a code. So annoying. Gimme a code, dammit.

Turkey Wear

My family's not especially formal, so dressing up isn't really necessary on Thanksgiving. In fact, I prefer not to do it since I'm serious gravy-spiller.

The requisites for the perfect gobble-day ensemble:

•Machine-washable attire.
•Comfy and toasty warm.
•Elastic waist (most important of all).

Outfit: Splendid knit moto jacket (best jacket ever — soft and chic and so incredibly comfortable); Forever XXI sweatshirt and rhinestone necklace; Old Navy skirt; Plush fleece-lined tights; Stuart Weitzman "Woodstock" booties.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wanted: This Alexander Wang Skirt

Dear A-Dub,

I hope you don't mind the informality of A-Dub, but it just seems like you wouldn't mind that. You're such a young, hip designer that — even though I don't know you — you don't seem like a "Mr. Wang" sort of guy. It doesn't seem right to address you as Alex, either.

I'm writing because I've been asleep at the fashion wheel. You see, I loved — LOVED — this skirt when it came out. But, I'm practical and a mom and I live in Tucson, Ariz., (formal attire = black flip-flops) and so even though I'm sure this was worth every bit of its nearly $400 price tag, I didn't bite when it debuted in May. By the time the price had dropped, it was sold out. Everywhere. I keep it on my Shopbop.com wishlist though, and there it sits, grayed out because it's not in stock, a constant reminder of what I missed out on.

Of course, now that I can't find it anywhere, not even eBay, I lust after it more. My eyes can barely focus because I've been Googling so much this past week, hoping against hope that some site I've never heard of might have gotten a return.

Surely you yourself have experienced this sartorial sorriness, angst over the one that got away. I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, you might have one left around the studio that you would sell to me. I would wear it every day — with a dressy button-down, with a graphic tee, with a loose tank paired with a moto jacket — and make you proud. I would. Promise.

Thank you so much for your time and anything you can do.


Photos from Oaknyc.com, which made me nearly pee my pants because it appeared the site still had the skirt. Alas, it was not so.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Marketing Madness

So, maybe I'm confused, but I thought the point of catalogs was to entice. They're supposed to make people lust after what's pictured on the pages inside, right?

When Anthro catalogs come, I usually want to go run off to an exotic locale, too.

But, for the life of me, I can't figure out why NeedSupply.com even bothered with this mailer. The images are dark or blurry or both. See that pic right there to the left? Can you make out anything except for the plaid shirt? Me neither, yet apparently four different things are for sale.

In some pictures, the models are scrunched over, so you can't even see what they're wearing. This doesn't make me want to buy — it makes me squint. And that causes crow's feet, which I most definitely don't want. Any catalog that gives me wrinkles makes me bitter, not a fan for life.

The website carries lots of hip clothing and accessories, which is actually very well photographed. But ya sure wouldn't know it from this catalog.

Monday, November 22, 2010


A good poncho is a beautiful thing — it drapes nicely hiding any untoned bits and offers warmth. If it's cheap, well, then it's just perfection.

This H&M poncho was all of 20 bucks. It's soft, warm and hangs so well. Love it.

Outfit: H&M poncho; Old Navy long-sleeve v-neck tee; Forever 21 cami; Mossimo Supply Co. Skinny cargos; Daniblack clogs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stupid Stuff I Think I Need.....

....and I can't really explain why.

Alex water bottle ($29.95). OK, actually, this one is probably a legitimate (if pricey) desire. Hydration is important, especially in dry climates, and water bottles with built-in straws skeeve me out. They are just not sanitary. How can you get them clean enough? OCD, a little bit? Yes, I am. I'm not afraid to admit it. Since this has a wider mouth opening and unscrews in the middle, it can be cleaned easily and thoroughly. Plus, it looks cool.
• A cashmere eye mask ($35). I would swaddle my body in cashmere, if I could afford it.
High-heeled PINK sneaker wedges (is your seatbelt buckled? $205). There is no justification for this. I think they look cool. Period.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Just call me Britney 'cuz oops, I did it again.

And, I don't mean get photographed without panties. Or, shave my head. I bought another — ANOTHER — blasted T-shirt. I keep saying I'll stop, but then I just can't help myself. They're just so versatile and comfy and perfect.

This Local Celebrity tee showed up on a sample sale. I choose to believe that wearing your astrological sign is not as geeky as your name on a necklace.

Outfit: Guess tuxedo jacket thrifted by a friend (which is better than actually thrifting yourself, in my opinion. It's like having a personal shopper!); Local Celebrity tee; J Crew boyfriend chinos in a questionable pumpkin color, which knocked several Andrew Jacksons off the price tag and made it only $14.99; Me Too snakeskin flats.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Ssssssshoe Haiku

Snakes freak me out. Ew.
But snakes on a foot are good.
Not snakes on a plane.

Shoe n' Tell: Snakes and sharks give me the heebie jeebies. Sharks aren't so much of a problem in the desert. Snakes on the other hand.....

A friend once pointed out rattlesnake skin that had been shed and left on the rocks IN OUR FRONT YARD. I thought I'd have to move right then. So far, knock on wood, no actual sightings.

I don't have a problem with snakeskin, though. These are Me Too flats, the absolute comfiest you can buy — if you go up half a size.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grease Is The Word

Pumps and skinny capris are so very "Grease." I just wish my ass looked as good as Olivia Newton John's did in those leather pants. But really, there's no way to shoot a butt at a flattering angle — if you're not Cameron Diaz.

But the true point of this post is to show off my newly acquired Patterson J. Kincaid baseball jacket.

I was crushing on it pretty hard months ago when I saw it on a Website, sold out in my size, of course. But — eventually — all things show up on eBay.

The jacket looks stoopid zipped (way too blouson-y on the bottom), but I love it open. And, the mesh inset in the back is the clincher.

Outfit: Patterson J. Kincaid "Malibu" jacket; Tag jeans; Old Navy racerback tank; Me Too "Locket" pumps.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Feel Pretty

Please excuse while I channel Maria from "West Side Story" for just a bit. I feel pretty. Not so much the witty and bright parts, but I do feel pretty.

Though I still get the single PMS pimple right smack on my chin every freakin' month, my skin is quite clear. I just have to use the barest amount of foundation to even things out. The credit goes to my cosmetic detox, which involved tossing allllllll the stuff in my beauty/cleansing arsenal that have yucky chemicals, which was nearly everything. (For the beauty backstory, read here.)

For just over a month, I've been using Evan Healy products, specifically the Rose kit. It uses essential oils (rose geranium and carrot seed) in its products, and this particular kit is designed for combination skin or, ahem, mature skin. I picked up the five-product kit at Whole Foods for $25 a month ago and still have plenty left, except for the serum, which I most definitely will buy again.

The products have the lightest rose scent (generally, I prefer no scent) and just feel good. I'm especially in love with the hydrosol, which is — according to the literature — the water that remains after oils are distilled from their source. It's used like a toner, but you can spritz it on any time for hydration. The spray feels just lovely. The serum, too, is awesome. It doesn't leave your skin feeling slick, just moisturized and dewy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Chunky Ring

The neighborhood scuttlebutt is that the previous owners of our home lost it because of the wife's uncontrollable penchant for shopping those QVC/Home Shopping Network sites. She had a thing for jewelry, apparently.

Perhaps that's why I've never even looked at them because I'm stupidly superstitious and that seemed like bad ju-ju. But, it's amazing how a decent coupon can make you reconsider your convictions. So when the HSN.com discount came my way, I went nosing around.

For months, I've harbored a love of chunky, Sheila Fajl rings — ever since I saw a gorgeous one on a local boutique owner's middle finger. It looked much like this one. Hers was chrysoprase and cost more than $200. This is howlite and, with my discount, was about $30. It's not perfect — you can see where the stone doesn't quite snug up against the setting, but I'm OK with that. It was a pretty inexpensive way to scratch that itch for a chunky ring.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sherpa Goodness

Mmmmmm, sherpa.

The soft, fuzzy stuff has had a hold on me since J Crew first introduced its sherpa-lined hoodies years ago. (Goofy side story: I actually came across a Crew postcard dated from, like, 2003 for a backordered sherpa hoodie. How I managed to save this for so long and yet I misplace my grocery list every week, I don't know.)

Anyway, two Crack hoodies are in my winter arsenal (gray, bright blue), and I love them. Dearly.

Sherpa's popping up all over, and that is a good thing. See for yourself:

Quiksilver's "Foreshadow Jacket"($168) is some pricey pleather. I dunno — are the fumes from synthetic materials affecting my brain? This seems on-the-fence cute. While I love the idea of that swooping shirt-tail hem, it also seems like the very detail that could make the jacket cheap-looking. Must be seen IRL.

And, speaking of pleather....What's happened to jackets in the past year? Doesn't it seem like you used to be able to get a good leather one for under $200? Now, the real stuff is $300-plus, with hot designers going hundreds higher. So, I guess it's not out of line for something that's faux to cost this much. But, it just seems wrong.

Splendid's french terry moto jacket ($128) is perfect for a light cover-up. Tried this on in-store, and it killed — the jacket was sooo amazingly soft. No one beats Splendid when it comes to snuggliness. The best part of the jacket, though, aside from the wooly collar, is the thin, ribbed T-shirt-fitting sleeves. Perfect for chilly weather, which we have more of, than outright, cut-to-the-bone chill.

Gap's sherpa moto sweater ($128) looks awesome in the magazine ads. Just awesome. But, if this piece is like everything else by the Gap that I've crushed on this past year (tuxedo-striped khakis, v-neck T-shirt) then, it will horribly disappoint and look less-than-stellar* in person.

*I'm being kind. What I really want to say, which goes against what my mama taught me, is that this stuff looked completely crappy and cheap in real life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cool Makeup Gizmo: Sephora Retractable Lip Brush

I love the idea of a dainty pot o' lip gloss. Hate the reality.

What starts off as cute packaging ends up dissolving into an unsanitary, sticky-finger situation. This retractable lip brush from Sephora ($10) takes care of that.

It satisfyingly clicks open and snaps shut, like some sort of secret beauty weapon. Ahhh, now I can add gloss pots to my makeup arsenal.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fun With Demographics

In the span of four days, I was invited to a Botox party at a local boutique and a non-invasive liposuction seminar at my derm's office.

I don't like my demographic. Not. One. Bit.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Shoe Haiku: Wanted?

Hot, sassy wedges
Ol' Will got the question wrong
It's 'To buy or not?'

Shoe n' Tell: At Scottsdale Fashion Square last week — cue angels singing — I spotted this woman in the shoe department wearing a very similar pair of sandals. Hers, I'm sure, were by a high-end designer because I know I've seen that open-weave style before. Just can't remember where.

Anyway, these B. Makowsky "Amie" cage sandals give off the same vibe but for under $100. I'm intrigued, but scared. That looks mighty high for 3.5 inches, without much of a platform.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Fall Deboot

Snuggling deeper under the down comforter. Padding across chilly tile floors. Listening to the littles grumble about the weather on the walk to school. "It's so coooooooold. Why is it so cold?"

Let the record show that the temperature is in the 60s.

That's summer in some parts. In the desert, it's a time to rejoice and pull out the long, albeit thin, sleeves and — yay!— boots. My eBayed Stuart Weitzman "Woodstock" boots finally made their debut (or would that be deboot?): Winter Kate silk cardi; Daftbird tee; Forever XXI jeggings; ASOS heart necklace and Target chain necklace.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Style Hero: Taylor Tomasi Hill

Holy chicness, Batman. This chick is amazing.

Taylor Tomasi Hill is Marie Claire's style and accessories director. Never been much of a fan of MC (cheesiest articles ever). I bet I'd like it more if they took TTH out from behind the scenes and slapped her onto the mag's pages. Some blogs have actual sections devoted to her. Rightly so, I might add.

Head over to Moodboard for a smattering of Hill's many cool, doesn't-even-look-like-she's-trying looks. How does she do that — and not a hair out of place?

Photo credits: top: Fashionising.com; bottom, Moodboard.com

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Market T-shirts

A baby-soft, oversized T-shirt is a thing of beauty.

And, it'll do a mighty fine job of hiding a food baby (even twins), too. Which is why I've amassed quite a few but yet am continually on the hunt for the next, best one.

Lately, Market Ts have been mentioned in the fashion mags, which prompted an internet search. Turns out the line is affiliated with Rebecca Beeson. Market has all the basics in lots of yummy colors, and here is where I hit a snag as I was trying to determine which boyfriend tee to buy: I couldn't tell what the colors were.

Beeson apparently subscribes to the J. Crew School of Color Theory, which means use cryptic names and make people guess. Not only was there "Splash" but also "Pool." Ummmm, those both involve water. Wouldn't they be the same?

Market thoughtfully provided color swatches, but they didn't match the available colors.

I did what any obsessive shopper would do — I e-mailed. And called.

Turns out "Splash" and "Pool" are both shades of turquoise, one — can't remember which — more green than the other.

"OK," I asked poor, beleaguered sales guy, "so what's 'Summer Breeze?'"

"Um...Can you hold on a minute?" he said, no doubt off to ask the manager of the Obscure Color Names Department.

Turns out "Summer Breeze" is a light blue. Had it not been a long-distance phone call, I would have messed with sales guy more and really grilled him. "Is it like a powder blue or a pale blue?" "Is it icey or warmer?" "Which celebrity's eyes would it match?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

When Dogs Go Tweet

Twitter is annoying.

It encourages narcissism ("Everyone wants to know what I'm doing!!") and makes people increasingly dependent on being perpetually plugged in, which is a bad, bad thing when one day Hal really does take over the world.

As you can tell, I'm not a fan of the Twitter — and not just because I don't know how to tweet, either. It just seems unnecessary and yet another way to keep people from having actual conversations. I wonder if, one day, we humans might evolve to have no tongues and incredibly enormous thumbs.

You can imagine my horror when my husband sent me an e-mail about Puppy Tweets ($34.99), a gizmo that attaches to your dog's collar and allows him/her to tweet.

I shudder to think what our two dumb dogs would have to say.

Mabel (after pulling a snotty Kleenex out of the trash): "Hey! I don't know what this is, but it's yummy!"
Gertie: "Duuuuuuuuuuuh."

Mabel (after pulling up another tree root to use as a rawhide): "Mmmmmmm, crunchy."
Gertie: "Duuuuuuuuuuuh."

Mabel (after eating yet another crayon): "You have got to see this — my poop is GREEN!"
Gertie: "Duuuuuuuuuuuh."

On the other hand, some dogs (not mine) might have more intelligent things to say than two-legged tweeters like Ashton Kutcher.

Photo IDs: The one in the Mickey Mouse hat is Gertie. She is a rock. The fatter, black one is Mabel. She is only the teensiest bit smarter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Morse Code Dressing

Mixing patterns doesn't come naturally. But I liked how these dots played well with the stripes. Am I wrong? I mean, there is precedent for dots and dashes together — in Morse code.

Well, I hope no one disagrees because I totally went to work like that. The outfit was quickly upstaged, though, by a coworker who came in with a 5-carat marquise-cut engagement ring. Seriously, I have never seen a rock that big that you couldn't climb. The diamond stretched from her first knuckle down to the start of her hand.

Outfit: Minkpink cardi; H&M tank; LNA black pencil skirt; Sweet Life by Dolce Vita boots; Rebecca Minkoff wrap bracelet: Etsy necklace.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

H&M Part 2: The Returned

Alexa Chung has got it goin' on, of that there is no doubt.

Girl's got style, but do we really need to see her, like, everywhere?

Pardon me for a moment while I do a Jan Brady imitation: "Alexa! Alexa! Alexa!"

So at H&M, I picked up this definitively AC dress ($24.95). It's got that school-marm charm, but is short enough to be sassy. I brought it home and decided, "Meh."

This dress offers a similar vibe but looks more flattering, I think.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Shoe Haiku

Not fond of the fruit.
Too messy. The color though?
Summery goodness.

Shoe n' Tell: These Aerosoles came from the last swap party (thanks, Desert Flower!). Because of this freakin' heatwave (high 80s! Uuuuuugh!), they still look weather appropriate. They're very padded and squishy on the bottom. So hopefully that other pair of Aerosoles that I had to give away because they pinched were a footwear fluke.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

H&M Tunic: The Keeper

Shhhh. Quiet for a sec.

Did you hear that? A sound like angels singing? Yeah, that's because I found the most perfect white tunic for $14.95. Thank you, H&M for all your lovely inexpensive goodness.

Aside from being wickedly soft, the tunic has a wide strip — not quite a ruffle — across the bottom that's the wee-est bit shiny. Gives the low-key, casual top a bit of flair. Our H&M also had 'em in a chocolate brown, which looked fab, and a tan. I just love the crispness of white.

Please stay tuned for part two: H&M: The Returned. Not everything is a fashion home run.

Outfit: H&M tunic; Mossimo Supply Co. skinny cargos; purple Report ruffled flats.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Such a Tees

If there's one thing my closet doesn't need, it's another T-shirt.

Stuffed into drawers and dangling from hangers are all kinds — plain, pimped-out, oversized, slim-cut. I pruned out several old-school J Crew crewneck shirts (the neck was just too crew). That must explain why I feel like I need to restock.

High on my list:

Madewell Centerpiece Tee ($48). This silk jersey shirt with cotton/Modal paneling puts an unexpected twist on the staple. It's loose but not baggy, and I really like this olive/blush color combo. Haven't yet purchased a single Madewell item (anyone know about sizing? I've heard it tends to run small). Perhaps this could be the one, when the appropriate free-ship code comes through.

•Urban Outfitters' Kimchi Blue Chiffon Front Tee ($48, must be the new magic price for fancy tees). I love a good fake-out. In this case, it's the faux strapless look. Sexy and practical. The juxtaposition of a cuddly gray T-shirt with a flowing Grecian look is such fun.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

H&M Scouting Report

Inexpensive trend stores are such hit-or-miss places. Some trips, it's all you can do to keep from spending the mortgage. Other trips, you couldn't spend a dime to save your life.

Well, for Be Kind to Kristen Day (Monday for those of you who didn't realize it was an official holiday), I blitzed through our local H&M and it was all I could do to keep from spending my kids' college funds.

A lot of fun holiday stuff was in the store (strapless dresses, fun skirts, sparkly things), many things were on sale, lots of great basics. I was amazingly good and walked out with just three things. One of 'em may well go back. You'll have to help me decide later.

What isn't going back: this rosette clutch, which has a chain shoulder strap ($17.95). It came in red and a gorgeous dusty nude (seen here). I really wanted nude, but the practical side of me won out. This sucka is crazy flat, so stuffing it isn't possible. But hey, it's a goin' out clutch!

OK, so the obvious blog disclaimer is that not every store gets the same merch but seeing as how the Tucson store is the unloved stepchild of the chain and only got 12 of those sweet sherpa bomber jackets featured in all the fashion mags (!!) and won't ever get any high-priced items (sales associate admitted it), I'd say the gettin' will likely be good in a big town. Also, that ruched dress featured in the same post as the rosette clutch, was $50 and gorgeous in real life. In fact, there were many easy-on-the-wallet (but not cheap looking) party frocks. Hurry in.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Give (Storebought) Piece A Chance

I'm a bit of a sweets snob.

Not that I don't appreciate the simplicity of a low-rent s'mores because I do. I just don't do — or get — the boxed thing. Cake mixes have this completely unnatural texture and chemical-y taste while brownie mixes — don't even get me started. It's so easy to make brownies from scratch that there is just no excuse for those nasty boxed things. Try this brownie recipe and see for yourself.

So now that you have the whole baked backstory, you can see why it's so weird that this Trader Joe's "Baker Josef's" Cinnamon Crumb coffee cake mix ($2.99, I think) ended up in the cart.

But, it was being demoed and I was hungry. I tried a bit and was surprised by its goodness. My kids loved it, but they think haute cuisine comes through a sliding glass window. My more discriminating palate loved the light, fluffy cake, which even had specks — and the slight taste — of nutmeg. The cinnamon topping was strewn through the middle of the batter and lavishly coated the top with crunchy sugariness.

Now, I have a killer crumb cake recipe. It is — to put it simply — the biggest pain in the ass. Tastes fabulous, but it involves rolling the buttery crumb topping into uniform pea-sized bits. This takes about a week.

I've made the recipe three times, and each and every time those labor-intensive peas sank straight into the middle of the cake, leaving barely a crunchy bit on top. Now if that isn't a bite, I don't know what it is. A crumb cake must be properly crumby.

The TJ's crumb cake has very modest requirements: an egg; milk or water; butter or oil plus extra butter for the topping. That's it. Use an 8 or 9 inch pan, which isn't especially big, yet the batter seemed spread mighty thin for the 40-60 minute baking time. I ended up at 35 minutes, and it was a touch overcooked. Still tasted downright delicious, though — and I didn't have to do make a single, perfect pea-sized crumb.