The basis for this award is purely anecdotal: We had a framing project a while back that seemed quite simple in our mind--in concept, that is. The work it would require was not so simple; some would even call it tedious. But we wanted it done, and we wanted it done right. After being given the brush-off (and an outrageously high quote) from a local big-box retailer, we felt a little downtrodden. No one seemed to appreciate our vision. Then we found 3 Day Framing. Not only did the person who helped us say no problem of course we can do it thank you very much, she seemed genuinely excited to see the results of our beloved project. It was refreshing and uplifting and downright beautiful. Our visionary frame job now hangs in our dining room, and we swear we've seen it blush at all the compliments it receives.
Stained glass windows, sparkling wind chimes, mosaic tiles, mirrored gazing balls--if it's colorful and glimmers in the sun, Splendor in the Grass has it. This Lakewood gift shop also hosts classes for budding "beading" artists. The two-hour classes in beginning bead-stringing and beginning earrings cost $25, which includes use of tools and beads for the projects. Choose from their selections of semiprecious stones (turquoise, amethyst, onyx), new and antique glass beads and unique pendants. More advanced classes in making multi-strand necklaces and working with "memory" wire are also available.
Sure, you can buy video games almost anywhere these days, and the prices from store to store don't vary much. So, why GameStop? Two reasons: First, if you're just browsing and are wondering whether that game in your hand is any good, the clerks at GameStop most likely have not only played the game, but will give you an honest answer. (Just try to find a clerk at Best Buy, let alone one who's played the game you're considering.) Second, when we called GameStop in late September to ask what our chances were of getting an Xbox 360 before Christmas if we reserved one now, the answer was "high." Those big-box electronic stores sell games--along with refrigerators and stereos. GameStop sells games, from gamers to gamers.

Readers' Pick
GameStop
Yes, we're somewhere between a quarter and half a century old and, no, we'd rather not discuss which we're nearer to. Despite our years of wisdom, our past spent studying tomes of philosophy and other generally impressive things, we love some good time just playing with our toys. Action figures, comics, dolls, you name it. It's just that, well, even though we've got all that wisdom, we don't exactly have the paycheck to prove it. That's why we love the boys over at Zeus for almost always having a bargain bin where we can find a gem or two for around a buck apiece. The clearance comics are also a Marvel-ous (Ha!) idea for unusual and affordable prizes, favors or decorations for kids' parties...or, um, your house. (Not that we'd know anything about that, of course. We're adults, thank you!)
Half Price Books
Don't mind the employees' looks of dismay as a large, excited group of you and your posse come running into the store with a mission. You have to get the next item before the rest of your competition does! The vault that used to hold Sterling Jewelers' exquisite diamonds and pearls has now become Half Price's nostalgic National Geographic collection and a key location for many adolescent sleepovers. But the first thing most people see upon entering the store is the information desk located smack dab in the middle. If you're creating the list, add a specific magazine issue or out-of-print book to the hunt. Average book price: $5.98. Seeing the grimace through the grin: priceless. Now, if only you were there when the group behind yours enters the store.
First, a clarification: If you are one of those people who circles addresses in the classifieds Friday night, gets up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and fights over estate sale items with foam-at-the-mouth antique dealers, stop reading now. We are speaking to folks who simply like to piddle around on weekends in search of a bargain. Stay within the borders of Greenville Avenue, McCommas Boulevard, Abrams Road and Vanderbilt Avenue, and you'll find plenty of 25-cent paperbacks, $1 record albums and maybe even a cute wooden box or two. Caution: Stay away from used underwear, because that's just creepy.
When we drag friends to The Shake Rag on a given weekend, their reaction falls into one of two categories. The first is a squint-eyed "hmm" and a quick perusal of the store, acting as if they'd just gotten a bad sweater from Aunt Ethel. The second is helluva lot more appreciative, combing through the cherry-picked vinyl selection organized by decade, testing out the vintage music instruments and amps, drooling at the music memorabilia strewn across the walls and haggling with the owner over prices. It's not the cheapest place to beef up your musical collection, but just about everything in the tiny shop will whet music snobs' appetites. Even if you fall into the "first reaction" category, stop by this hidden gem off Lower Greenville to find a unique gift for the music snob in your life.
Your Singer getting a little creaky? Can't find your zipper attachment? Perhaps you're just in need of a lube job, if you know what we mean. No, we're not being rude; we just think you need a reliable, honest place to get your sewing machine worked on. The Sew & So, located near the downtown Garland square, is the place for sewing machine repair and reconditioning, as well as collectable machine sales and trade. The storefront may appear nondescript from the street, but within it lies a wealth of knowledge on all things related to those refined beasts that at one time graced every household. Our inherited Singer Portable Electric 221-1 received a new lease on life after a near fatal internal tangle, but this so-and-so got it purring like a kitten--and even offered us a pretty penny for it. We held on to our treasure, and though the good doctor played disappointed well, we suspect we saw a little glint in his eye that such a fine specimen would be well-used and returning, of course, for annual check-ups.

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