Been wanting to say to-hell-with-it-all and hit the open road on your Harley? Not a good idea until you've had the Motorcycle Safety Foundation-approved course taught by certified instructors Andy and Doll Long. For $145 you get three hours of classroom instruction on a Thursday evening, then an all-day Saturday and Sunday session in the parking lot of a nearby high school football stadium. "We go from, 'This is what a cycle looks like,' to balance and swerving," says Mrs. Long. Bikes and helmets are furnished, and the classes are held on all weekends except during the Christmas to New Year's holidays. You've got to be at least 15 to enroll. The oldest student taught thus far was a 92-year-old who said he thought being a biker would help him get chicks. (OK, I made up the part about getting chicks.) According to statistics provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety's Motorcycle Bureau, the skill level the course provides is equal to three years of riding experience. And, if you think an advanced course might be a good idea after a few months, it will last nine hours and set you back another $65. Classes are generally booked up two months in advance, so be patient.

North Haven Gardens
The next time an occasion arises, order a basket of plants and blooms from this shop. Neither you nor your recipient will be disappointed. The arrangements offer the most expressive, lasting value for the money.

If you're an organic gardener, Texas-style, a trip to Cedar Hill will be time well spent. Looking for that perfect Abelmoschus moschatus (silk flower) or Rudeckia Herbstsonne (with giant lush leaves like you won't believe)? This is the place. And, if it's a backyard water garden or pond you're wanting to fill with plants, the folks here will tell you whether their lilies or Horsetail or maybe even a little Cork Screw Rush is what you need. They've also got the basics, from cedar mulch to herbs and helpful landscape designing. Even gardening guru Howard Garrett sings this place's praises.
If you've got Scottish blood and find yourself in dire need of the lowland "tuxedo" of your native land, all you need to do is call Barbara and Charlene McGowan and schedule a visit to their in-home shop in Arlington. Their kilts, commissioned from a kilt-maker in Scotland, are the real deal and come with all the accessories--the sporran (leather purse) and the sgian dhu (the small dagger traditionally worn in the sock). The entire outfit can run as high as $1,000, but who's counting? In business since '91, the McGowans annually hold a July 1 bash to commemorate Scotland's repeal of the ban against kilts back in 1782, serving up food from the homeland and a contest to determine which kilt-wearer has shown up with the best knees.
We troll all over town for steals and like this place best because of the high quality of the resale items. The staff is pleasant, un-pushy. The atmosphere is clean. The prices are reasonable. Make sure to negotiate at the front desk, because they'll usually knock off 10 percent just because you had the nerve to barter.
The Ole Moon has some of the most inspired hand-crafted jewelry you're likely to find anywhere. Constructed of silver, gold and semiprecious stones, this collection of bewitching baubles, bangles and chains is designed by skilled artisans with a sharply focused eye toward distinctive display.

From the soft, soothing voices to the plush robes and slippers, scented foot mists and cups of herbal tea, everything in this quiet, peaceful spa is first-class. Offerings include a three-hour aromatherapy "double body treatment" featuring exfoliation, body wrap, scalp treatment and full-body massage, or go for the all-day, six-hour respite that compounds these pleasures with a facial, sports manicure and pedicure and a little spa cuisine for the appetite. Either way, this place dishes out extreme pampering.

Operation Kindness
While bringing home a brand-new kitty or pup is always joyous, the task of finding one usually requires grim trips through various shelters, in which brown and green eyes beckon, "Buy me or I die" from behind steel bars. Of course, the animals at the city's shelter and the SPCA are worthy of saving, but buying a pet there simply opens up a cell for yet another death row inmate. That's why Operation Kindness is the best alternative. It is a "no-kill" shelter, which means that its animals are safe, and, for every one that is bought, a new safe space is open for some other unlikely fella. But the best attribute of this nonprofit shelter is its management: A team of volunteers and employees follows strict policies in handling the animals and, more important, their future owners. Don't be surprised if you go there, only to be turned away because a background check revealed that your landlord doesn't allow cats.

Open to the public, this enthusiastic group of mystery readers gathers on the third Sunday of each month (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) to explore every creepy nook and cranny of the mystery genre. There are visiting authors, book reviewers, collectors, forensic experts and literary agents who drop in to share their expertise and love for a good mystery. The group has been gathering for 10 years and doesn't appear to be anywhere near running out of whodunits to discuss. Admission is free.

They come in more sizes, colors and hairstyles than your average Deep Ellum clubber. Some even sleep in their own custom-designed, hand-woven silk hammocks. Plus, you can teach them to fetch crickets--available by request.

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