When you and your significant other start arguing about who's more "granola"--as in crunchy, earth-loving, all-is-one non-consumerists--just head to Green Living. There you can bicker over who knows more about ecologically friendly dish soap or who loves hemp bath towels the most. The friendly staff will help solve your disputes over recycled glass decorations vs. soy candles. There's no arguing, though, that Green Living can outfit your home from sustainable flooring to mattresses to reel mowers to organic cotton baby clothes to coffee and back again. But if the choice comes down to your preference for sandalwood or his longing for patchouli, you're on your own.

Operation Kindness

If a specific breed is what you want, go to an appropriate rescue group (Dallas has hundreds). But if you're looking to help a sweet friend and find a furry companion that needs love, Operation Kindness is the place. They may get the occasional pure breed, but most often they get abandoned animals that don't have AKC papers, just a lot of affection to give instead. The no-kill shelter aids more than 200 animals per day and adopts out an average of 2,300 per year. Funds are raised at various adoption events throughout the year and through private donations, and the money benefits the organization in medically treating all four-legged friends waiting for their "forever home." OK also has a helpful Web site (www.operationkindness.org), with tips for pet owners, links to pet-related shopping sites and medical info. They're knowledgeable, friendly and responsible. And they make sure every prospective owner is, too.

Readers' Pick

SPCA Dallas

362 S. Industrial Blvd.

214-651-9611

Tradition says that an engagement ring should cost about two months of one's salary. So shouldn't that piece of jewelry and symbol of unfaltering commitment be exactly what a fiancee wants? Scott Patterson at the Lower Greenville Jewelry Workshop either has that perfect ring or he can create it. Clear, gleaming diamonds (and other stones) in settings of various metals shine in the cases of the small shop. And even more designs live in Patterson's head. The jeweler extraordinaire is also sensitive to budget-restricted lovers. Trade in scrap gold to create a more affordable, but incredibly beautiful, treasure. Engagement rings aren't all the shop specializes in. Original designs in pendant form, rings and earrings are also available, and if a watch needs mending, the shop has you covered. Janet Patterson, operations manager, offers a warm smile and sincere interest in her counter service. Between the two Pattersons, no other jewelry shop has made an inexperienced jewelry shopper feel more welcome.

In our perfect world, furniture filling a living room wouldn't be "vintage-inspired" or "1950s replica." Couches, tables and other accessories would all be true midcentury pieces in excellent original condition or refinished/reupholstered in decade-appropriate fashion. Century Modern doesn't mess around with the small stuff. Their seating options (think iconic low settees with conical wooden legs or a Mies van der Rohe couch) are the real deal from the '50s through the '70s and sit in the company of collectible tables (from Eames to the more affordable Lane). The price of some pieces may seem high, but the quality is worth the dough. Re-covered chairs are pristinely upholstered, and the items have obviously been handled with kid gloves. Even the occasional shag rug looks fresh and new, and as we all know, the only thing fresh about the ones we grew up on was the latest spill. As with all vintage buys, the time to purchase is when you see it. These gems don't wait around.

Readers' Pick

Weirs Furniture Village

3219 Knox St.

214-528-0321

5801 Preston Road, Plano

972-403-7878

No, not those kinds of toys. Yes, we're the paper that once published a giant full-color shot of a dildo on its cover, but sometimes even we think about things other than sex. Television mostly. (Shallow? Us?) When our lusty hearts turn toward things digital, shiny and bright, Sony Style is where we scurry. From sleek VAIO desktop and laptop computers to boom boxes, video games and MP3 players, this sleek Galleria shop has all the goods to inflame our digital desires. Then there are the televisions, super-thin HD plasma models roughly the size of a drive-in movie screen, that cost much more than our first car. Look, we're not saying we like these TVs better than sex. On the other hand, we watch about four hours of tube a day, so we're not saying we don't.

Central Market
Nothing like coming home with a big ol' box of wine. That's the equivalent of four bottles, which means plenty of sophistication for an evening. While most people place boxed wine on the same level as, say, cheap vinegar or water from the dog's dish, some vintners recently began filling the square containers with drinkable product. In other words, it's not just for Franzia anymore. In fact, Central Market carries boxed varietals from Napa Valley, Australia and even France. What makes the snobbish grocery the best place to buy boxed wine, however, is the number of serious shoppers roaming the aisles with wine guides open, intent on finding a bottle mentioned by Robert Parker or prized by Wine Spectator. The mere act of maneuvering through this crowd as they study each label, walking boldly up to a shelf and grabbing a reasonably priced (read: cheap) box of wine as they gape in horror, is sheer fun.

Few smells are as rich and memorable as those of a dog. The smear of guano on his neck, the fetid ear wax built up over summer, the hot stink of pads that tore through the dog park and hit every land mine before diving into an algal creek, bright as a sinus infection. Love your dog but hate the way he smells? Know you'll be filing for divorce if you're caught sneaking him into the jetted tub? Take your pal to Dunking Doggies, a do-it-yourself dog wash. Owner Tommy Sheridan will hook you up to an all-in-one stall that lets you shampoo, condition and blow dry your dog. The shop has assorted shampoos to choose from. Aprons, scrubbers, combs and brushes are provided--not to mention ear wash. Other services such as grooming and nail trimming are provided for an additional charge. And baby can have a biscuit if he behaves. Once inside the sally port, Tommy's dog Zip--a hefty English bulldog--keeps an eye on things. Average cost of a bath is $15. Not picking hair out of the Therma-Jet portals: priceless.

Oh, what fortunate shopaholics, we! We don't have to live in New York City or Los Angeles or Las Vegas to be able to visit venerable American retailers such as Macy's, which has a flagship store at Dallas Galleria, or logo-laden Gianni Versace, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Best of all, we gluttonous purveyors of platinum plastic have two--count 'em, two--Tiffany & Co. stores. Jewelers abound in Dallas, and each seems to have found its niche. We like the dirt-cheap yet fabulous sterling silver at Sam Moon. We love the jewelry department at Stanley Korshak at the Crescent, which always has the best of the hip designers--Tina Chow comes to mind. We swoon at the mostly artist-made baubles and bangles at Mark & Larry's Stuff. Still, for the real deal, the romance, the ambience, the little blue box, we'll spend what little we have left over at Tiffany's. The store's reputation for quality diamonds, staff expertise, platinum and sterling is second to none. A small gift selection, including sterling baby gifts and frou-frou ceramics, offers exquisite stuff. The best bling is pricey, of course, but you have an amazing selection of surprisingly affordable sterling silver jewelry, including rings, at Tiffany's.

Howard Garrett, the plain-talking organic-gardening "Dirt Doctor" of North Texas, is going to tell you something about the nature of this sun-blistered, snake-bit, bad-dirt region that you're just not going to believe. You might be a damn hippie liberal communist or a knuckle-dragging throwback right-wing nutcase: You're still not going to get your mind around Garrett's message when he tells you Dallas is the biggest organic-gardening retail market in America.

"There's about 700 retail stores in this area that sell a full line of organic products for gardeners," Garrett says. Of those, he says, "at least 10 percent are 100 percent organic," meaning they sell no non-organic products.

"That's huge, because you cannot go to California or Colorado or Vermont and find a single one that's totally organic, that sells a full line of organic products and promotes its use.

"It surprises people that that's the case."

Yeah, it does. A lot. And, of course, we have to factor Garrett himself into this formula: A tireless promoter of organics, not to mention himself, an author, newspaper columnist, radio and TV personality, Garrett also mentions himself as a big reason the organic thing has happened here on such a large scale. He says his show, The Dirt Doctor, on WBAP-820 AM has been a major factor in spreading the word.

"I went on air in 1989, and I said Neil Sperry doesn't know what he's talking about, and I'm going to teach you a whole new way to live," Garrett says modestly. "I took the message to people."

The reference is to Neil Sperry of KRLD Radio, whose Texas Gardening Show has been a mainstay of KRLD Radio 1080 for decades. Every installment of Sperry's show is the aural equivalent of a major chemical spill, urging people to do everything short of spoon Diazinon on their Wheaties in the morning--exactly the kind of pro-hydrocarbon 'tude most of us would expect to find here in the heart of Bush/Cheney.

Garrett's claims for this region as the buckle on the Organic Bible Belt are a little hard to pin down, because the numbers on organic-gardening retail commerce are not readily available from the government agencies one might think responsible. But he makes a useful challenge: "Go to Google and start looking up organic-gardening retail centers under different cities," he says.

Hmm. After way too much time noodling Google for this data, one must conclude that Garrett has his hands on at least a piece of something very interesting. Even if his thesis can't be proved conclusively, the Google test does provide an intriguing and very counterintuitive window on this region: Dallas is one heck of an organic-gardening market. Dallas does seem to outstrip all of the other cities and regions a not hugely sophisticated researcher was able to think of before getting bored.

So if this comes as counterintuitive news for Dallas, what would be intuitive? How would one assume most Dallasites would approach husbandry of the soil? Well, first, obviously, you hire an illegal immigrant. You give him a shovel, some instructions in Spanglish and a great big old squirt jug of Roundup. You get yourself well inside the picture window where you can watch him with the AC cranked up, a Cowboys game on television and a six-pack of cold ones in a Styrofoam cooler on the coffee table. You get your loved one in there with you on the sofa. And you sit back and enjoy nature.

Garrett doesn't exactly argue with any of that. He says organic gardening works here because it's compatible with the culture instead of requiring a religious conversion. If anything, his explanation for the popularity of organics here is that he himself has promoted it entirely apart from and without reference to its hippie-dippie ex-post-'60s roots.

Garrett says the best examples of the kind of organic approach people go for here are found not in your typical East Dallas herb garden but at the big corporate campuses in Plano, Southlake and environs of Fort Worth. Garrett, who is also a landscape contractor, manages several corporate headquarters in this area on totally organic regimens--no chemicals, not no-how, not never.

"Frito-Lay has been 100 percent organic under my program for 15 years. That's a big deal. It's a national headquarters of 300 acres. They know in relative terms that economically it's working for them and that if they went back to chemicals, it would cost them at least as much and probably more."

Based on that and other examples, Garrett preaches through his various media forums that organic gardening costs less or the same as chemical gardening and gets you a better garden. And there's no reason why you can't hire the illegal and get up on the sofa with the cold ones and the loved one, etc. Just, instead of Roundup, you give the guy outside a big old bottle of vinegar and tell him in Spanglish to pour it "on el weedos."

Who knew? We're a lot cooler here than people think.

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