REI

OK, a few caveats here. First, UV-protective clothing is what you do AFTER you do sunblock. Sunblock protects the skin that isn't protected by clothing, and that's where you have the greater risk for cancer. Second, all clothing helps, and people with darker skin or people who just don't burn very easily probably don't need special clothes. Just don't be naked. Last caveat, REI is not the only place where you can buy good UV clothing. But if you want a really big selection and you want to talk to sales people trained in this stuff, you will never be disappointed at REI. Plus, their stuff looks good. If all we cared about was cancer and we never even thought about how we looked, we'd all be wearing our bedsheets to work.

It was Newflower, and then it was Sunflower, and then at some point recently their bags suddenly read "Sprouts," featuring a bucolic little outdoor scene replete with frolicking cows. The grocery store on North Henderson Avenue has apparently changed opaque corporate owners once again (Sprouts is an Arizona-based natural foods chain), but honestly, we don't much care. It remains one of the only grocery stores in town that actually feels like a place to stock up on food, rather than a wallet-gouging, crowd-dodging, emotionally taxing obstacle course filled with infuriatingly slow-moving yuppies. Sprouts is always manageable and uncrowded, with excellent selections of organic produce and meat. We'll readily admit that they don't have as many varieties of fresh bread as we'd like, but those bulk candy bins a few steps away always help to ease the pain.

Do you need something for your yard or balcony that just stops people dead in their tracks and makes their eyes go googly? The garden ornaments (and indoor ornaments, for that matter) at Big Mango Trading Company are just the right combination of drama and taste, all imported from Bali and Java, all made of natural elements. Bowls, urns and benches made of wood, lava stone and glass, basalt columns and megaliths, garden table-and-chair sets made of petrified wood and wonderful teak-root sculptures that look like petrified rays of the sun: Owner Lori Smith says you can drop five bucks here or 20 grand. It's up to you.

Toys Unique

The building that used to house the Toys 'R' Us on Central Expressway is now a liquor store. The old tenant just moved down the street, but it's a symbol of what's happened to the specialty toy store in the age of Walmart and Target: They've disappeared. Not Toys Unique. The family owned retailer has been holding down the corner of Lovers Lane and Inwood Road for more than 30 years, and stepping inside is a bit like walking back a few decades. There's no secret to its longevity. It has a wide selection for an independent toy store and an old-fashioned commitment to customer service. Have a question? Just ask. Want something ordered? Done. Of course, being in the Park Cities doesn't hurt either.

Whole Foods Market Highland Park

Any upscale grocery store is bound to have a higher ratio of beautiful women than the city as a whole. And grocery stores in affluent areas also seem to draw a lot of good-looking ladies as well. So this Whole Foods location, with its pricey produce and absurd health products (we once espied gluten-free plates — plates!), tends to draw ladies (and men, we suppose) who are not only health-conscious and therefore usually in great shape, but also affluent enough to have no need for a job or, with their live-in nannies, the time-waste of parenting to keep them from spending plenty of time with personal trainers, hairdressers, nail salons, tanning booths and the makeup counter. Paying out the nose for a cut of meat is a small price to pay for a visual buffet of snug-fitting yoga pants and top-of-the-line silicone enhancements.

DSW

For some members of the human species — not that we're gender stereotyping here — the selection of footwear is a pretty simple choice: black, brown or sneakers. Others pore over the slightest variations in color, heel height and style like a diamond merchant. In other words, picking the "best" shoe store for all sexes and tastes is impossible, so we'll settle for a happy median and give DSW the nod based on the size of its selection and price. Particularly price. DSW's Dallas outlets offer rank upon rank of footwear in every fashion imaginable for men, women and kids. The styles might not always be fresh off the fashion catwalk, but with their wide selection, you're almost certain to find something that's pretty close, and to the casual observer, a cubic zirconium is just as good as a diamond, without requiring a second mortgage.

Vintage Car Wash

You hand the man some money and your car keys. You shop among the scented air fresheners, license-plate holders and humorous greeting cards while workers clean the accumulated crud off your car. It's a car wash. There is not, truthfully, a lot of variety in the experience. So, why this one? The staff's pretty friendly. They're pretty quick. The prices are about the same as everywhere else, and they do an exceptional job on the interior if you go for the mid-level detailing. The real reason? It's in University Park, and we just love seeing our humble domestic car get exactly the same pampering as all those fancy-shmancy imported ego-mobiles. Don't think of it as just a pretty good car wash. Think of it as an exercise in democracy.

The Luxury of Leather

So much furniture in the world, so many styles, prices and functions, so let's limit the scope here a bit and talk about what really matters to us when it comes to furniture: a big, soft, comfy place to plop our butts while we watch our ridiculously large flat-screen TV. Ah, Luxury of Leather, how we bless your name at the end of the working day as we settle into our customized throne of comfort crafted by your ... er ... craftsmen. Styles range from sleek and mod to our guilty favorite, the recliner, plus all points in between. Their friendly sales staff will walk you through their choice of leathers in a wide variety of colors, finish and price. The chairs and sofas are then made to your specs and delivered to your door in just a few days. Sure, some might say you also need things like dining tables, lamps, bookcases and all that other stuff. We say focus on the important things first: keeping your ass happy.

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