We were forced--we repeat, forced--to watch the wretched, saccharine You've Got Mail the other night on HBO, and in light of that, we want to be clear about one thing: We've got no problem with big ol' bookstore chains. Love 'em. We want our latte with our magazines and our Oprah Book Club. But we also dig the smaller bookstores, the personal service, having Meg Ryan ask us, "Finding everything you need?" This is especially true when the munchkins are concerned, because so much of children's literature is complete doggie poo. Enchanted Forest Books for Children offers 45,000-plus titles, it has great story-time reading sessions, the staff is helpful, and they'll order books not in stock for you. Plus, if you leave craving a java fix, there's a Starbucks downstairs, so quit whining.

Good Records
The name says it all. Located on the edge of Deep Ellum, this young store stocks local releases, the catalogs of several independent labels, and some major releases. (Don't expect to find Britney Spears albums, but Built to Spill and Billy Bragg/Wilco are on the top-selling lists.) The yellow wooden shelves with the colored light bulbs house well-kept rows of CDs marked with placards, making it even easier to find that CD you always meant to buy or that one your friend's brother's drummer recommended. Good Records also carries imports and does special orders. Plus, with several band members on staff (Tripping Daisy's--make that Polyphonic Spree's--Tim DeLaughter and Mark Pirro are two of the owners), staff recommendations are always one step ahead of everyone else.

Half Price Books
The new Half Price Books location on Northwest Highway, across the street from their older, smaller location, is the mecca of cut-rate book buying. If you don't know what you want, you're bound to find 10 other books you didn't think of before. The music and arts sections are especially edifying, if not comprehensive, and they also boast a solid used-CD and LP inventory. If war is your thing, they have rows of Civil War and World War II books. You like mysteries? They've got tons of those. Political nonfiction your bag? It, too, has its own special section. A national company born in Dallas, Half Price Books should be commended for its strong continuing commitment here.

There are other four-minute $20 dates, but this is the only quickie you can tell your mom about. Only available on Sundays, a little metroplex flyover is a far more impressive date trick than another mimosa-heavy brunch.
It's pricey and there's generally a waiting list, but little Westminster, with its accredited early-childhood learning program, has been serving Dallas youngsters well for 35 years. It's a parent's dream, with small classes and a qualified staff that loves to teach, offering classes for children ages 12 months through kindergarten.

Beefaroni. Canned ravioli. Chunky Soup. These are the mainstays of the diet of the contemporary citizen on the go. Or at least the easy fixin's of the broke and lazy. The best place to pick up these indigestible treats is Fiesta Mart, home of the dollar-can-of-soup and Franco American clearance sales. Look for the routine three-for-a-dollar specials and "family size" aluminum cans the size of Tomahawk missile warheads. Don't forget to pick up some antacids on the way to the checkout counter.

These guys do it right and fast. This is a quick turn-around stop that provides high-quality custom lab results that the real photographer demands. The staff is experienced, knowledgeable, and eager to help. They also do magic in the field of photograph restoration and repair.

Shelves lined with tins of olive oil, glass cases full of Turkish confection, racks to the ceiling crammed with Arabic-language videotapes, the scents and sounds of Istanbul all around you: This is the place (across the street from Whole Foods) to come if you have a serious hankering for the Middle East.

Even if you've never had the nerve to set foot in the pricey Galleria department store with the Seattle cachet, don't worry, you can now hightail it to The Rack. It's Nordstrom's on the cheap. The store gets daily shipments of goods that aren't moving quickly enough among the well-heeled crowd that haunts the department store, and the company offers them for us, les miserables, to buy. Who's complaining? High-quality shoes, women's sports wear, dresses, men's clothes--it's all available here. One word of caution: Avoid weekend shopping days. The crowds can be off-putting.

Technology is often a good thing, but not always. Because so many Web sites are designed for obtaining airfares at a good price, we get confused navigating them. Sometimes the fares were not guaranteed, other times the Web site was too slow to book anything. Web sites of the major airlines were not any more user-friendly. That's why we were happy to call up a good, old-fashioned travel agency like The Travel Bureau and let them do all the leg work. The happy surprise was that they were able to obtain tickets for various destinations in the United States that were cheaper than anything we found on the Web.

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