Under what other roof in town would you find contemporary rocker Bryan Adams, Texas picker Jerry Horn and Queer Eye guru Kyan Douglas? All were special event guests at Dallas' newest Borders bookstore. Surrounded by the ultra-hip venues of the West Village, this store tried to do a story time for children but had to call it off because there weren't enough kids in the neighborhood. No kids! A book-lover's dream come true. Maybe in the future they'll consider an R-rated story time for 20-somethings. Bring your own blankies.

Readers' Pick
Barnes & Noble Multiple locations
Paperbacks Plus
OK, nobody really beats Half Price Books for selection, location, price, service--if that's the kind of stuff you care about. But don't you ever want to go into a place that just feels like an old ex-hippie East Dallas bookworm hang-out? Paperbacks Plus has been at or near its La Vista Court location for pretty close to 30 years, and it still offers the same intimate ambience--handmade signs, faint aroma of yellowed paper, poetry readings upstairs, sections like "Drugs, Alcohol, Recovery" and "Peace Studies." There's a wonderful hideaway cubbyhole at the back of the kids' room, and if you're not an egg-head, they've got used Harlequin Romances like you won't believe. It's a used bookstore in the tradition of used bookstores.

Readers' Pick
Half Price Books Multiple locations
Tight bunches of bright, sturdy, long-lasting flowers packed in fine glass or pottery vases--the hallmark of the Cebolla arrangement is its dramatic brilliance, and it won't droop before your dinner guests arrive. Cebolla (pronounced se-BOY-yah) also does elegant hatbands, head wreaths and chokers, if you're in an especially "horti" mood. Owners Luit and Jaime Huizenga can create door wreaths and other decorations for occasions festive or somber, at prices ranging from $15 to many thousands (if you've got that much green to spend on posies). And Cebolla sells a full line of gifts, from art glass to candles. It's a great place to turn your money into elegant compost.

Readers' Pick
Dr Delphinium Designs 5806 W. Lovers Lane 214-522-9911 400 NorthPark Center 214-346-9525
You think you're organic? You have no idea what organic is till you come here. Do you wear earth-friendly clothes? Sleep on organic bedding? Use hemp hair care products, aluminum-free deodorant, recycled toilet paper, culture preservation tablecloths, an all-natural oven, buckwheat pillowcases, natural rubber mattresses? Do you have a green baby? Are your sisal baskets from a women's cooperative in Kenya? We rest our case. All the products here reflect the philosophy of owners Michael Johnson and Kate Macauley, who stock consumer products that are biodegradable, recycled, organic, or produced by "socially aware" manufacturers. They offer information about local environmental resources as well. They even have registries for weddings (organic cotton sheets and recycled glassware) and pregnant moms, like "Bummis," cloth diaper covers for that new little environmentalist on the way.
You'd have to be socially responsible to the point of obsession to do your everyday grocery shopping at Whole Foods. Unbleached, recycled coffee filters that cost twice as much as the other kind probably aren't that appealing to fans of, say, a free, not to mention witty and urbane, weekly newspaper. But while organic may not be an everyday necessity, the fact is that sometimes it just tastes better. That's where Whole Foods gets the nod, because if it's possible to make, raise or grow an organic version of a product, they've got it. And vitamins? You can make a meal just from the allegedly essential compounds offered at Whole Foods. They've got multiple varieties of homeopathic remedies for everything from the common cold to poison ivy. Show up on weekends and you can graze your way to a pretty fine free lunch, too. If that's not socially responsible, what is?

Readers' Pick
Whole Foods Market
OK, look, we know. Richardson Bike Mart is bigger, and the prices on bikes and accessories are pretty much the same everywhere, so why not go with the perennial favorite? Here's why: We traded in our old Trek 1400 this year for a sleek new Specialized beauty. We shopped both places and found the prices were identical. The difference? At Richardson Bike Mart we were waited on by some kid who called us "bro," who kept looking over our shoulder at the customers in the $3,000-plus bike racks and who tried to up-sell us to a more expensive bike. At Plano Cycling & Fitness, the sales help was friendly, attentive, professional and actually provided us useful information on a number of bikes--without once calling us "bro." (They also understood that $900 was plenty to spend for a bike when you have $2 legs.) Same bikes, better service--the nod goes to Plano.

Readers' Pick
Richardson Bike Mart Multiple locations
To block out the sound of a noisy neighborhood or nearby highway, there's nothing like a water feature. And to help you realize those fantasies about turning your backyard into a pond paradise, there's no place like Creative Water Gardens. The store stocks pumps, koi food and water additives, while the grounds offer a neat stroll through several pond set-ups complete with waterfalls, lily pads and live fishies. Give your kids a few quarters to buy food from the vending machine and they can feed the koi while you discuss your water garden dreams (and realities) with the friendly salesfolk. Our dream: the $9,000-plus dual-level koi pond. Our reality: a freestanding piece of pottery and a goldfish.
It's kind of a mystery why intricately detailed dollhouses and elaborately laid-out train sets hold such fascination, but there's no doubt that people love things in miniature. Combine the unfathomable love of wee things with hipster America's general obsession with Eastern culture, and you'll understand why bonsai trees are simply adorable. Sunshine Miniature Trees has hundreds, possibly thousands, crowding their shop. From banyans to fukien teas, tiny trees are available in all price ranges. So whether you're looking for a way to cultivate a Mr. Miyagi-like state of Zen or just need something to coordinate with your Urban Outfitters placemats, you'll squeal with delight (of course, in a calm, Zen-like way) over Sunshine's selection.
You want two things from your tree-trimmin' folks: your limbs cut and your cut limbs hauled away. Simple as that. And if you can get it done at a reasonable price, so much the better, though we've been known to pay a little more to get a little more. Turns out with AP Professional Tree Care, you need not go out on a limb (ugh, pardon) to find great service at a great price. For three years we've used Henry Peeples and his peeps to do our dirty work. He's always brought in the best bid and matched it with topnotch work. From the folks who answer the phones back at the office to the guys wielding blades up in the trees, they're all about making you happy. How delighted we've been to leave the house in the morning to return in the evening to find our jungle's been hacked to bits and hauled away, as though it never even existed.
"Make yourself at home," said a Walton's employee as we wandered through the humid, verdant outdoor plant display. And that's just what is so charming about Walton's--a feeling you can't get at a big-box garden center. It's like you're walking through a friend's garden, and boy, does your friend have an amazing selection of plants. From flowers to fruit frees, Walton's is well-stocked. You can get a hibiscus, crape myrtle and grapevine all in one spot. And it's not just plants. Walton's also has a nice selection of fountains, statues, pots, gardening supplies and gifts. Every gardener needs a friend like this.

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