Karsh's Bakery
Whenever we walk into Karsh's, we immediately think of Jerry Seinfeld. Partly because the place feels more Manhattan than Phoenix, but also because they have the best black-and-white cookies this side of NYC. (And if you don't remember that episode, you better start catching up on the ubiquitous Seinfeld reruns. That show's on more than Sex and the City.)

Ah, but we digress. This is all about the rugelach, the mondel bread, the doughy hamantaschen with thick, sweet poppyseed filling. Karsh's has it all, along with challah and bagels. The place is even kosher — blessed-by-a-rabbi-kosher — so you can indulge without Jewish guilt. The day we were there, we didn't notice chocolate babka, but oy vey, we're in Phoenix. You can't have everything.

Cathy's Rum Cake Caterers
Cathy's Rum Cake has been around for 30 years. That's a long time. Cathy was popular here before people had even heard of another woman who goes by her first name (we're talking about Martha, not Madonna), a woman who made that fondant icing so popular.

Now, we love the look of fondant, and there are some local cake purveyors who do it so well, they put M.S. to shame. But have you ever tried to bite into a hunk of the stuff? Gross. It tastes like grout. (Well, we imagine it does. We've never actually tasted construction supplies.)

Give us Cathy's cake any time. The frosting is whipped and sweet, and you don't have to get a shot of rum in the cake — although we highly recommend it. (The amaretto version's not bad, either, and you teetotalers can get it alcohol-free.) Festooned with shimmery ribbons, we'd put Cathy's cakes up against Martha's any old day. Just let us eat cake!

Tammie Coe Cakes
High-style bakeries and designer cupcakes are all the rage these days — but dessert diva Tammie Coe has long been ahead of the pack, working her magic with batter and frosting for years now. And although we've dabbled in other kinds of cupcakes around town, the ones we keep coming back to are Tammie's. Available at La Grande Orange Grocery, as well as her own tiny storefront downtown, they come in several flavors, from chocolate to toffee to an ethereal coconut version. We adore them all, although there's definitely a reason why her signature Ooey Gooey Cupcakes are the Valley's most craveable. Made with moist, just-dense-enough chocolate cake, and slathered in at least an inch of smooth, decadent buttercream icing, these babies totally live up to their name.
With all the specialty cupcake shops popping up around the Valley, you'd think we'd be psyched to get our fix at so many new places. Well, yeah, we're glad the trend's reached critical mass, but even that's not enough to satisfy us. Honestly, we've been spoiled ever since we discovered Sweet 'N Dough, pastry chef Ichha Sethi's made-to-order cupcake delivery service. That's right, we don't even need to leave the house anymore. Why risk dropping our precious cargo, or worse, having it melt before our car's A/C kicks in? All it takes to get a big pink box full of huge, from-scratch cupcakes is a couple of clicks on the Sweet 'N Dough Web site, or a quick phone call. With any combination of cake and frosting flavors, Sethi's "Better Than Grandma's" cupcakes really do rival the best homemade sweets we've ever had. When we needed some treats for a friend's birthday, we ordered a dozen of the chocolate Double Gooey — moist chocolate cake filled with cream cheese, coconut, chocolate chunks, and nuts, topped with a thick swirl of rich, whipped chocolate ganache — and everyone loved 'em. Nobody mentioned Grandma, but more than one friend raved that they were better than crack. And guess what? The box was empty in less than a minute.
Gluten Free Creations
This little cupcake outpost is so sweet, it'll give you a sugar rush even before you've downed a Blonde Bombshell (vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream) or a Tantrum Tamer (chocolate buttercream on vanilla cake). The walls are shades of the palest pink and seafoam green, the logo's super-duper cute (check out the Web site to see for yourself) and even the sprinkles are color-coordinated. Here's the conundrum: Do you bite into a D-Cupcake (the daily special — the day we stopped by, it was a marble cupcake with chocolate/vanilla frosting) and risk growing D-Cups (along with a D-cup butt) or do you suck it up and buy one of the pink tanks with the adorable Lulu cupcake on it? We vote for the merch, because this cupcake trend is too much fun to skip, but we don't really want it living on our hips for the next decade.

BEST WAY TO HAVE YOUR CAKE AND LOSE THE BABY FAT, TOO

Babycakes

We have a question. Why is it that as soon as you have a baby, all your friends come over with steaming trays of lasagna and iced sugar cookies the size of salad plates? Bitches. Your stomach's hanging to your knees, your boobs are the size of watermelons, and your butt — well, thank goodness you lack the dexterity or the energy to get a good glimpse of that.

You don't want to eat. After nine months, you want to drink. In lieu of a big bottle of Three Olives vodka (grape flavor, please), we'll take one of those "cakes" they make at Babycakes of Scottsdale. These smart folks obviously understand the challenges of new mothers: All you really need, to go with your cocktail, is a crapload of blankets, onesies and socks, since Junior will go through a basket of laundry faster than you can say, "Make mine a double!" And because you'll be weepy (after catching a glimpse of yourself in the mirror), your own personal "babycake" will distract you, constructed of useful baby accessories but covered with flowers and jewels, festooned to look just like that cake you wouldn't dare touch a bite of. Ah, but a girl can dream. And a good visual never hurts.

Lollilocks
It's not easy, being a 21st-century mom. You want to give little Annabelle all the best, but you don't want her turning into a whore.

No, really, we mean it. Have you been to the mall lately, walked by a certain shop that offers your 6-year-old the chance to romp like Christina and Britney, complete with long wig, platforms and micro-mini? And the makeup? Oh, it's enough to make us want to home school. (Well, not quite.)

But we don't want to push Annabelle toward a nunnery, either. If we've learned one thing, it's that as soon as you forbid your kid another M&M, you've created a chocoholic.

What's a mom to do? Head to Lollilocks, our favorite new kiddy salon. The kid haircut concept is nothing new, and those other spots are cute, sure. The kids can watch videos so their bangs won't come out too crooked, but we needed a little pizzazz. That's where the "Spa Buddies" package comes in. For just a little too much money, Annabelle and Kate got an afternoon of pampering — a seat in a teeny-tiny hot pink spa chair, feet soaked, toes painted, flower decal applied. Same for the fingers. The girls were delighted, and we all loved the candy-themed décor, the yummy line of marshmallow- and orange-scented lotions and bath products, the cute hair accessories.

The girls felt like princesses, we were out of there for under $50, and no one looked like a streetwalker.

Muffy is badly in need of a new dog collar, dahling, but there's no way in hell we're going to wrap one of those neon nylon jobs from PetSmart around her precious little throat. She's much better off with the rhinestone-encrusted patent leather neckbands we can get from the Diva Dogs Boutique, an absolutely fabulous ritzy pet shop located in North Phoenix. In addition to offering other bow-wow blingage (such as glittering pearl drop necklaces and ornate chokers), the store specializes in posh pet supplies and groovy canine couture. If you're like us and consider your doggies to be your very own children, try spoiling them rotten with some chic New York Dog pet furniture, some indestructible Orbee-Tuff toys, or DVDs designed for them to watch on TV when you're away from home. They've also got bathrobes, adorable outfits, and a selection of gourmet treats like Zen Puppy Energy Treats and DoggieSprings Vitamin Dog Water. It'll run you a pretty penny to take it all home, but the happier your pooch is, the less likely he'll leave you little "surprises" inside your shoes.
These days, it seems like you can't be a true diva unless you've got a pint-size pup peeking out of your purse, particularly a Chihuahua. Songstress Katharine McPhee owns a cutie-pie named Nena, while Demi Moore dotes on Vida Blue, and Paris Hilton has both Tinkerbell and Hendrix.

But before you beat feet to the closest pet store and purchase your own tiny tail-wagger, we recommend perusing the bundles of spastic joy available through Arizona Puppies. Unlike many of the so-called "puppy mills" stationed in malls throughout the Valley, this cooperative of "ethical toy dog breeders" ensures the AKC-certified Chihuahuas they're selling are completely disease free and are bred in a humane manner. Their selection is also quite staggering, offering a variety of different Chihuahua breeds and sizes, including longhairs, shorthairs, deer types, appleheads, and teacups. (A sister site, www.aztoydogs.com, offers such other breeds as Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, and Papillons).

Pricing is a little steep, starting at $500 and going as high as $1,650. But, hey, no one said living the sweet life was gonna be cheap.

Women who've spent their entire lives planning their perfect weddings likely won't consider deviating from the "formula" — conservative gown, staid church, standard-issue vows. Those you can find all over town. But the playfully slinky designs of Jennyvi Dizon are designed for more open-minded and impulsive ladies who can't be caged inside stuffy cathedrals, who like to get their hems wet frolicking in dewy grass, who opt to read from the lyrics of Coldplay. (She will do a formal, too, on demand, if you're that uptight.)

Dizon, daughter of a Filipino tailor, moved to Phoenix with her family when she was 5. After graduating from Phoenix College's fashion-design program, it's been nothing but award after award for Dizon, culminating in 2006 with a couple of fashionista biggies: Designer of the Year honors from both the Arizona Fashion Foundation and LabelHorde. While Jenny's still something of a regional phenomenon, don't be shocked when you see her beguiling creations bust a move onto the national scene. We think you'll be delightfully surprised. Well, most of you.

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