It's pretty much guaranteed that when you first visit "the Pig," you'll immediately make a plan to introduce the shop to someone else. The sign says "Home, Garden, Gifts, Stationery," and while all those things are there, what it really should say is, "We have a gift for most anyone." Co-owners (and sisters) Mona Kanther and Laura Robbins have stocked their store with an impressive variety. They offer bath goodies such as the Bella line; garden statues, arches, fencing embellishments and planters; a room full of very sweet baby things; our favorite Circle E candles that burn forever; and handcrafted jewelry, some of which is made by local artists. Stationery? Got it. Unusual bird feeders? Got 'em. Outlandish prices? Nope, don't got 'em. So the lowdown is basically this: Their stuff is awesome, there's something for every style and we've never seen better prices.
We never walk out of Lula B's without something. We may find it in a booth near the doors; we may find it in the back corner with all the farmhouse-looking kitchen gadgets. It could be a 1950s aluminum pitcher with a Bakelite handle, or it could be an E.T. night-light. But it's there, and only many, many minutes of walking slowly and craning your neck into the cramped booths will find it. Sure, you could save some time on eBay or by shopping at a department store for stuff you actually need. But this is like a safari, and a safari without effort is just a zoo.

Whether you were born a woman or paid thousands of dollars to become one, Electrique Boutique has shoes in your size. Likewise, whether you need new kicks for dancing to jazz at the Samba Room or to Kid Rock tunes onstage at Baby Dolls, this store can hook you up. You'll find SMU girls trying on platform sandals with beaded straps sitting next to drag queens squishing their tootsies into thigh-high, five-inch, red patent leather boots. At Electrique Boutique, you can break a new trend or pick up some heels that would break a lesser woman's ankles. Just know that if you ask for thongs, you're not going to be handed a pair of rubber flip-flops.
This little puppy has survived the Petco invasion and is doing just fine, thank you, mostly because of the array of treats and specialty foods, combined with good service and other benefits (like top-notch dog grooming), you can find here. If you're not in East Dallas, it's a bit of a jaunt, but your widdle puppy wuppy is worf it, ain't he, ain't he now, good boy, good boy, yes you are, yes you are...

Nothing's too good for our newborn, which is why we're willing to spend a small fortune on small clothes that'll be good for a short amount of time--a few weeks, maybe a couple of months if we're lucky. This Lakewood store is the place to shop for those who want to pamper their Pampers-wearer: The racks are lined with beautiful import clothing (Petit Bateau, especially, which costs a fortune but lasts forever, or until Junior can hold his head up unassisted), the shelves are stacked with blankets so soft and sumptuous you'll fight the kiddo for 'em and the walls are decorated with the kinds of accessories and knickknacks you read about in those British baby magazines in which Damon Albarn and David Beckham are always pictured looking like the coolest dads that side of the Atlantic. Mostly we shop here so one day we can tell our boy, "We bought all your clothes at Bebe Grand, and look at the thanks we got." Guilt, it's priceless.

Best Independent/Amateur Photographer Resource

Dallas Darkroom

In college, we'd lock ourselves in the journalism department's darkroom, crank up the classic rock station and print black-and-white photos until the wee hours of the morning. While the other students were doing beer bongs, we were inhaling the sweet aroma of developer, toner and Photo-Flo. Nowadays, the cost of setting up a personal darkroom--and the recurring nightmare of our dog plundering the boxes of photo papers--is prohibitive. That's why we were glad to hear about Dallas Darkroom, a photo studio and darkroom that's open to the public. You can drop by to print some photos or develop a roll of B&W, or you can call to reserve the photo studio and lighting equipment (all at hourly rates). The staff also offers classes for beginners and advanced photography students.

Not sure how so many brand-new, still-shrinkwrapped, kick-ass discs end up in the "used" bin at CD Source. And guess what? We don't really care. Even with Universal's recent decision to drop CD prices, you can't beat getting a $9 copy of the latest, say, Mary J. Blige disc the same week it's out. You can't. Seriously. Don't even try. Wait, what're you doing? What'd we just say? Don't make us get out of this chair. It won't be pretty.
Don't want to take our word on it? Fine, then take Allure magazine's, which recently named colorist J.T. Osgood one of the best colorists around. This is no surprise, as this tony, 'spensive (but worth it) salon in Snider Plaza has long been known as one of the best of its kind in town. As well, The Dallas Morning News' Alan Peppard recently named Bruce Osgood one of the 10 best-dressed men in Dallas. So you get to see that, too.

We have a friend who has tried out all the dating services. She is professional, mid-30s and has had a varied degree of success with each. Most of the time the dates turn out OK, sometimes not so much. But she and others we've talked to have nothing but good things to say about the hard-asses at It's Just Lunch. The service, which helps set up professionals on low-risk dates (lunch or early drinks after work, never dinner), does a lot of prescreening, which helps them know who needs to be matched up with whom. When you're payin' to find a mate, the least you can ask of the folks is to thoroughly grill the meat you might eat.

Best Place to Buy Hockey Equipment

Players Bench

Taking a high school hockey team into the Players Bench is asking for trouble. As their eyes go wide and they take in their surroundings, it's likely that a few might begin to drool, and after a few seconds, all pretense of decorum is abandoned. Players race through the store trying on every piece of equipment that isn't stapled to a display dummy, and that's a lot of equipment to get thrown around. Players Bench, one of the largest hockey-equipment retailers in the Dallas area, can outfit entire teams in helmets, gloves, pants, jock straps...well, maybe not those, but the point is they have a plethora of equipment in different colors, sizes and brands. You want the new Easton Synergy? Forget the expensive rink pro shops and take a trip to Richardson to get the best equipment on the market for a great price.

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