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.

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.

We always coveted the clothing machine on The Jetsons. You know, the one they could step into and it would put clothes on them that fit, and they could even change the color and design. Here's something that comes close. At Casa Loco, you can make your own T-shirts. Go to the store, choose a color, choose the correct size and then choose an iron-on design, and a staff member will press it right then and there. So, if you ever wanted a yellow Mr. T shirt or a lavender one with the Planet of the Apes logo, here's your chance. Or just go with Elvis Costello or David Bowie. They look good with every color.

Following another marathon of TLC's essential Trading Spaces, we've continually found ourselves full of enthusiasm and...not much else while nursing a grand homeowner "vision." It's the kind of scheme that works perfectly within the old gray matter, but if it were to be realistically applied, a catastrophe of Fawlty Towers proportions inevitably would occur. Quality programming or no, Lesson No. 1 is "Don't get delusions of grandeur from a reality show." Still, if While You Were Out has you as wrapped-up as it does us, then proceed directly to our best of choice at hand and visit the kind employees of Lakewood Hardware. To the casual eye, this store looks just like any other of its ilk: Well-lit, adequate room and efficient displays rule the day. Still, it's the expert knowledge and advice from the staff that make a trip somewhat off the beaten path worthwhile. Yes, we know that homemade gazebo complete with Francis Bacon-inspired gargoyles will look fabulous in your back yard, but please, talk logistics with the folks at Lakewood Hardware first.

Whenever the runway fashions turn back to the looks of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, while the others are running to NorthPark for reproductions created with rayon and machine-made lace, go instead to Ahab Bowen. This is where the originals come to live again. The small rooms in the old house where the store is located have vintage dresses in a variety of colors and sizes, and beneath them are shoes of the same era. Everything is of high quality. No ripped seams or moth holes here. Hats, jackets, cardigans, purses, earrings and necklaces can be found (though some of the accessories are repros). There's even men's clothing, but it's more James Dean than Cary Grant.

You don't actually get charged for the dust. It comes free, a gift with purchase, you could say. We like to think it makes our finds even more authentic. Not only did some kid transport his bologna sandwiches in this Fall Guy lunch box, someone else's dust is still on it. It's history, man. But to look inside Millennium is to understand. It's one big room on a corner in Expo Park, and it's crammed with stuff. Paintings of butterflies and kids with huge eyes are stacked against couches covered with serving trays holding ashtrays, snow globes and other knickknacks. It's a pack rat's heaven and an obsessive-compulsive's nightmare. We bet Antiques Roadshow would love it as much as we do.

Not only does Plano Cycling & Fitness have the brands--Felt, Trek, Specialized, Cannondale--it's equipped with a knowledgeable staff dedicated to a perfect marriage between body and spoked wheel. Plus the service staff is trained and certified to work on all makes and models, not just the ones the shop hawks. And Plano Cycling supports the sport, sponsoring the Plano Athletic Cycling Club as well as various races and events throughout North Texas.

Most doctors rush through the obligatory two-minute head-nodding, note-scribbling, no-eye-contact exam before turning patients over to a nurse practitioner for treatment. And then they berate you for the few little things that bring meaning and substance to an otherwise miserable existence. You know, drinking, smoking, sexual escapades and big hunks of nearly raw red meat. Well, Dr. Lyla Blake-Gumbs won't let you off the hook for life-threatening habits either. She does, however, spend time with each patient, listening to their stories, making eye contact, asking questions and the like. It's the kind of thing that makes other doctors look ineffective, and if her unique approach to health-care delivery ever reaches the American Medical Association, they'll likely send goons out to lean on her a little, help her see the error of her ways. Until then, she's the closest thing in the Dallas area to a good old-fashioned country doctor.

Retro sportswear is what the fashionable are sporting these days, but it can be expensive keeping up with what NBA lottery picks and bling-blinging rappers are wearing. Not everyone can drop a few hundred on a 1970s-era Dr. J replica jersey. If you've got a spare $20, however, you can jump on the bandwagon, thanks to Classic Sports Logos, the 3-year-old brainchild of SMU alum Chris Anderson. Through its Web site, the local company sells T-shirts bearing the logos of defunct teams from defunct leagues (American Basketball Association, United States Football League, World Team Tennis and more), each one sweeter than the next. Just browsing the site, we salivated over at least a dozen tees, so maybe you'll end up breaking the bank anyway. Consider yourself warned and possibly better-dressed.

Your house is going to hell and you can't even find your handbasket, whatever that is. The gate to the fence won't close, the garbage disposal won't dispose of anything and your back bedroom could use a serious coat of paint. George Miller is without doubt the guy for you. He is a pest-exterminating, ceiling-fan-installing, door-jamb-adjusting, light-fixture-replacing, house-paint-applying, gizmo/gadget-fixing jack-of-all-trades. A kind-hearted soul, he will attempt to fit you into his busy schedule if he possibly can. If you must be at work when he is scheduled to arrive, rest assured you will be able to trust him with your home and your possessions. If only you felt the same way about the cable guy.

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