East of NorthPark is the easy-to-access, fun-to-shop collection of new stores that offer lots of fashion options for the non-petite woman. While the mall's biggest retailers have taken women's sizes 14-up off their selling floors, Nordstrom Rack has a huge selection of curvy-girl couture at markdown prices. The discount arm of the Seattle-based retailer also is the best place to find size 9, 10 and 11 ladies' shoes on deep discount (seriously, new Cole Haans for $40). Directly across the street in this five-block center is ladies' retailer Lane Bryant, which carries sizes into the 20s, plus the Cacique line of lingerie. Coming soon to the $750 million Park Lane project is Old Navy, which also carries a variety of women's sizes. At least in this shop-to-drop arena, it's hip to have hips.

First, you have to get Gardens. Since 1981 the original place on 35th Street in northwest Austin has been a destination in itself--a showcase for high-end outdoor architecture and new wave plants. The Dallas store, which opened only a year ago, is already a point of entry for people interested in modern garden design--the kind that flows easily in and out of a house, binding the indoors with the out. The Dallas store offers far fewer plants than Austin but more and even better garden-related thingies. "Where else can you find both chocolate and dirt?" manager Kevin Brown asks. It's really a showcase for the landscape architectural services offered by Gardens. In the very back of the store, for example, you will see landscape architect Aimee Weber at her drawing board. She's a product of UT in Austin who did extensive work in Tokyo before coming here. The way to consume it all in one gulp is to attend the store's monthly "neighborhood night"--free wine, refreshments and even occasional garden apparel fashion shows.

Sure etsy.com—the online boutique community for crafters, jewelry designers, knitters, tailors, bookbinders, vintage sellers and collectors of everything—is a surefire way to kill an afternoon and build up a wish list, but an Etsy Dallas event is even better. Prices are great, the craftsmanship is fantastic, it feels good to support local crafters and you'll still cover everyone on any gift list you might have for the next two years. But the downside is you'll also empty your bank account with little to no effort without some preventive measures. We have a friend keep us from purchasing on the first lap through the show. We spend only cash (even if a booth takes cards). And we buy no more than we can carry on our own person. It's hard, but, well, you gotta leave something for the rest of the shoppers to look at. On the other hand, screw everyone else, retail therapy rocks! The Etsy Dallas Jingle Bash takes place November 21 at Sons of Hermann Hall. Sharp elbows stimulate the economy, people. 

Organic is the least of it for Tom Spicer. He won't sell a tomato, an onion or a potato if it doesn't have the right terroir, a vintner's term for the flavor and quality imparted to the grape by the place where it is cultivated. Who knew potatoes could have terroir? "I taste things down at the farmers market, and I have a bad taste in my mouth for a week," he said, referring to produce that is quick-grown with chemicals. He chooses only produce that tastes of the good Earth, some of which he grows himself on a plot behind his store. He also develops suppliers among small regional farms. Cool place. Staff includes chef Cole Kelly. Spicer's sister is famous New Orleans chef and author Susan Spicer.

The folks at Hold Fast are simply the best skin pokers in town, developing a stellar reputation for offering a variety of kick-ass bling, a clean environment, a relaxing atmosphere and the always necessary steady hand. Getting your piercing in a naughty place? They have massage tables for your comfort. If you're putting it somewhere stupid, they're not shy about letting you know. And they're also one of the best tattoo parlors in town. So the next time you've had one too many and get impulsive, know that all that honesty, expertise and comfort also comes at a fair price.

Summer is over, and you no longer have to exercise to fit into that itty-bitty bikini or Speedo. Whoa, not so fast. This is Texas, remember? It's pretty much summer up until Thanksgiving, and you still need to look somewhat good in your revealing summer clothing. This is where the trainers at Private Workout come in. These pros are here to help you every step of the way to keep or develop a toned body. Private Workout has individual rooms set up so you don't have to deal with the usual gym noise, or people circling around your machine waiting for you to be done. You actually get to do your crunches in peace. You will be leaving this place out of breath and sweating like you just spent the last hour in a sauna, but it's all for a good cause.

Sundays are usually the day of the week people pick to do around-the-house chores or just be lazy on the couch while watching Lifetime movies. Why not leave your home and stretch your legs before you are stuck in a cubicle for the next five days at work? The Half Price Books off Northwest Highway is the perfect solution for that. Well, of course they have books, being a bookstore and all, but they also have a used records section that you could easily spend hours rummaging through. If you are low on cash or just not feeling the current books you have, then you can sell them back to Half Price for some dinero. Black Forest Coffee is also attached, so you can enjoy an Americano while reading The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger.

Pfft. The Mrs. just doesn't get it. Why would anyone want a ginormous, wooden scale model of HMS Surprise, the ship featured in novelist Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series? she asks. That feather-light, radio-controlled indoor airplane? You'll just break it, she says. Doesn't she know by now that tin soldiers, RC helicopters, model rockets and superfast RC cars...these are not things a man wants. He needs them the way a woman needs shoes. Pleeeeease? Don't you know us by now? Apparently, she does. But never mind. Someday our ship will come in and we'll be here, in the coolest big-boy toy store in DFW, credit card in one hand and a Christmas list as long as our arm in the other. In the meantime, you'll find us here on any given weekend, our face pressed against the Surprise's glass case, a bit of drool leaking from the corner of our mouth as we dream of sailing or flying or zipping away in our model life.

Olympic gold medalist and UT-Austin swim star Ian Crocker and his partners, Olympic and National Champs Neil Walker and James Fike, opened their swim school at the swanky new indoor pool facility in Rockwall this summer. In the first week, they had 150 kids—second-graders to high school students—trying out for club teams and signing up for pre-competitive coaching and one-on-one lessons. These clean-cut swim veterans aren't the whistle-blowing hard-core types. They're gentle with the kids and are dedicated to creating strong young swimmers with great form and a love of the sport. The Crocker Swim School also gives back 5 percent of their earnings to community charities. Way to make a positive splash, guys.

If you're looking to save a few bucks on a haircut, stop reading right now. The Johnny Rodriguez Salon doesn't boast about providing low-cost styles and cuts, instead focusing on being the best while catering to the needs of its upscale Highland Park clientele. Before the snipping begins, a consultant assists in identifying a hairstyle that represents each person's lifestyle, needs and goals. Need some coloring? Colorist Brian Thibodeaux is not only the best in the biz, but his lively conversations will keep you coming back.

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