We love candles. All shapes, colors and sizes. The one factor we're not so good with is scent. Rosemary and vanilla--those are fine, but give us any candle with a strong botanical (read: flowery) scent and our nose goes on a rampage of sneeze. It was purely by accident that we discovered a candle heaven when wandering the aisles of Fiesta looking for a paddleball. Almost an entire aisle held all possible options of votives, perfect for creating an exhibit of Catholic idolatry right in our own home. Tall red, Lotería themed, St. Luke, La Virgen de Guadalupe, short white, rainbow striped, they have them all. Most of them are a dollar or less...and many are scent-free. We turned our dining room into a flickering altar of flaming saints for less than 10 bucks. And the best part is, since they come in glass containers, there's no need for candle dishes and no messy trails of wax. Amen!

After visiting this establishment, the smell of chicken wings and dust will conjure memories of digging through piles of military decorations, some with mysterious Cyrillic letters, making us wonder if we'd just awarded ourselves the Russian equivalent of the Medal of Honor. This shoebox of a shop is crammed with souvenirs of wars from all over the world, including lots of World War II memorabilia. The selection of uniform pieces (helmets, jackets, patches) is extensive and even includes some non-military outfits, such as vintage Boy Scout shirts.

Actually, this oughta be called "Best Kids Clothing Store That Sells Clothes Adults Would Wear If They Made These Clothes In Our Size." Or something. We'd never been in this place, in its Stonebriar location, till a few weeks ago, but what we saw delighted and amazed us--clothes for a 1-year-old boy that didn't have trucks or teddy bears or footballs or Rangers logos on them, anywhere. No, what lined the racks was this wondrous selection of canvas utility pants and button-down twill shirts and cable-knit sweaters--and nothing more than $26, with most of the stuff even on sale. What really amazed us, and warmed our Gen-X hearts that still beat to a new-wave soundtrack, were the retro ringer tees with robots and rocket ships emblazoned upon the chests and the long-sleeve cotton shirts displaying merit badges like something sold in the back of an old copy of Boys' Life. The clothes go from 0 to 4, for boys and girls, and if there's not a location near you, try the Web site (www.janieandjack.com). How's this for an ad slogan? Clothes worth having a kid for. Really, they can have it. Least we could do.

Readers' Pick

GapKids

Various locations

Someday, when those Lotto numbers finally hit, we'll do more than buy a throw pillow or just ogle the shimmering fabrics in this NorthPark shop. Maybe by then we'll have developed enough good taste to do justice to Silk Trading Co.'s vast collection of materials--they offer a selection of 2,400, from embroidered silks to cotton and linen, as well as paint and other goodies to fix up your mansion. More than simply a drapery store, they also do custom bedding and furniture; you pick the cloth, they cut and stitch it or use it to upholster couches and chairs sold at the shop. (Prices vary depending on the fabric. The cost of one style couch, for example, can range between $1,600 and $5,000.) Just the thing to dress up the trailer when that lottery ship comes sailing in, which we don't doubt will be any day now.

We're not giving this award because Sayre got us some sweet deal on a high-value property. In fact, he didn't even sell our house (we ended up renting it out), and our first two deals on the homes we wanted to buy fell through. We're giving this to him because he's everything you'd want in a real estate agent: fair, considerate, tough when he needs to be, honest and knowledgeable. We were the lowest-priced property in his portfolio (hey, we're in journalism), yet he never let us feel second-rate. He attended to every detail, he was always positive and he never got angry, even when we pulled out of two deals at the last possible minute over details some agents would consider minor. He never pressured us. "You do what you feel is necessary," he said an hour before an option deadline. "It's your house, not mine, and you need to know you're doing the right thing." Because of his decency, the home we finally bought was the right one. What else could you want in your real estate agent?

Movie Trading Company

This is another one of those gimme categories, unless you like paying retail at Tower Records or still think renting at Blockbuster is the way to go, in which case we can't help ya. This place is a nirvana for the videophile who still has a laser-disc player or hasn't yet tossed out the VCR; the racks are loaded with cheap tapes and even cheaper discs, all of which sell for considerably higher among eBay collectors without access to a wonderland like this. And the DVD selection is amazing, from the boxed sets to the Criterion titles to the used stuff that sells for about 25 percent off the list price, or thereabouts. But be warned: It's like Half Price Books, meaning you won't always find what you need but will usually leave with a bag of stuff you merely want, even if you didn't know what you wanted when you walked in.

Readers' Pick

Movie Trading Co.

Various locations

Whole Earth Provision Co.

OK, you can't get shoes here for job interviews at law firms. But this is where to go for the best collection of shoes for active stuff, from walking to trekking, cross-training to motocross. You'll find a full array of brands--Vasque, Salomon, Montrail, Tecnica, Merrell, Clarks, Born, Dansko, Ecco, Blundstone and more. Great sales help. And the most important thing: the world's biggest collection of flip-flops. The flip-flops here range from slaps you could wear in the shower to finely crafted leather models you actually might be able to wear to that law firm interview, provided your mom owns the firm.

Readers' Pick

DSW Shoe Warehouse

8335 Westchester Drive

214-696-2305

Architectural salvage always makes trash-picking or dump-diving sound so hip, doesn't it? It's a great way to spend a Saturday, and Dallas has a few very good places to scrounge when you're in the mood for a trash-to-treasure moment. The caveat, though, is that for something essential--claw feet for a cast iron tub come to mind--where weight-bearing and fit must be precise, you might be better off looking for reproductions of antique hardware or fixtures. Bring your measurements and any portable piece of your project to Elliott's Hardware, Dallas' reliable old standby of an independent hardware store. Near the center of the store is a specialty department with bathroom fixtures--including tubs with claw feet, faucet and drain hardware--and several hundred samples of drawer pulls, doorknobs, handles, towel bars and the gamut of stuff from roughly the end of the 19th century through the 1960s. Knowledgeable people staff the area, as if to remind you that Elliott's other major specialty is service. They'll look at samples with you and pull out catalogs until the sun goes down. If they don't have your first choice for style or exactly what you need, they know where to get it for you or where to send you to get it for yourself.

The name says it all. What, besides a great cut and color, do we want from our salon? Gossip. We don't care if it's celebrity slag, local politics or bar tales--we just want saucy spouting while someone works our lifeless mop into a brilliant work of art (that is also easy to manage, of course). Behind the counter, in that classic Diane Von Furstenberg, is Nicole, and she can make or break appointments--so kiss her ass. Todd, the big man on Gossip campus, is devastatingly skilled and a known Dallas hair guru. Bastien, our cut-and-color magician, works our locks into a frenzy while making great conversation (how we love the good ol' three-c stylist). Vivid art for sale, first-rate product and a salon full of amazing stylists...now we just need a drink and we're set. Oh, wait, they usually have those, too. Complimentary, of course.

Readers' Pick

Sweet 200

2550 Elm St.

214-742-2500

Named after a Hindu mantric word, Om Imports is sort of like Sam Moon Lite: fewer crowds, less merchandise, lower prices. This smaller version of the monster shopping complex known as Sam Moon Trading Co. opened this year not far from its more famous predecessor. Om has similar sparkly jewelry and hair doodads, and there's a smattering of purses and other trinkets as well. But comparing Om to Sam Moon may not be quite fair, because Om has something the giant discount metropolis doesn't: friendly faces. A trip to Om's checkout counter is rather pleasant; sometimes they even give you a coupon and a free gift with purchase, which is a far cry from the usual scowl and rush job you get at Sam What's-his-name's. We're not really into meditation, but it feels like Om has some pretty good karma.

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