Best en Español 2014 | Spanish House Immersion School | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

That software you bought last year so you could learn a little conversational Spanish held so much promise, but here you are ... still struggling to figure out how to gender nouns and when to roll your Rs. That's because language acquisition doesn't really work that way. A computer can help you with rote repetition and memorization, but can never take the place of interaction. Full immersion in a foreign language is how you really get the bilingual ball rolling. It's a lot like diving into a pool to learn to swim, with context and social cues as your life preservers. Spanish House is a full-immersion language school founded locally by a pair of teachers. It offers nine graduated levels of group and individual classes so you can aprender Español on the double. Classes are small and informal and teachers are trained educators and native Spanish speakers. Spanish House also offers weekly lessons for children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, plus a day care, preschool and elementary school — we know little ones that deftly back-talk in two languages after just a few semesters of Spanish House instruction.

Remember that time you thought you'd pay someone to address your wedding invitations in fancy calligraphy just like you saw on Pinterest and then HOLY MOTHER OF GOD it was, like, Uptown money? There's a reason: That shit's kind of hard. There's a whole science behind it, like the angle you need to hold the pen and the exact place you should place your blotting papers to avoid dreaded smearing. Lauren Essl's Blue Eye Brown Eye (named in honor of her dog's different colored irises) offers calligraphy classes in both Dallas and Fort Worth that show you all those things in about three hours — she cheerfully teaches beginner classes (the basics related to lower-case calligraphy), and the advanced class adds colors and uppercase letters. Basic supplies are included too, all for $165, which is about how much you'd pay for someone to address three of your shower invitations. With Essl's guidance and a little bit of practice, you'll be creating Etsy-worthy décor and stationary in no time.

The only thing better than this Goody Goody's booze selection is the welcoming and knowledgeable staff. Not sure what you're looking for? The Oak Lawn liquor store employees are more than eager to lead customers through the wide-ranging selection of liquor, wine and beer. Goody Goody also boasts some of the lowest prices in town.

All the way up in Carrollton, Lonestar is an incredible place for beer nerds, with regular tastings, and it's one of the most reliable places to pick up the rarest beers around. Owner Sam Ali has an incredible knowledge of his stock and is amazingly friendly, and they lean heavily on the Texas beer scene so you get the best local flavor. While all these big liquor store chains might be developing their big national craft beer ranges, the best place for those hard-to-find Texas bottles is undoubtedly secreted all the way up in the northern 'burbs.

Whether you're looking to adopt a cat, buy a bag of organic cat food or both, Pet Supermarket has got you covered. This pet supply store stocks every type of pet necessity imaginable. There's even a section exclusively for dressing up your fur-baby (what's cuter than a tiny dog in a chiffon tutu?). Don't have a pet? They have bunnies, hamsters, colorful birds, cats, guinea pigs and fish for adoption.

She's dropped the gardening know-how on WFAA's Good Morning, Texas and has a new book (Best Garden Plants for Texas) slated for spring, but for now, it's her free green advice on the web that Dallasites should be following. Leslie Halleck is the self-described plant geek behind Halleck Horticultural. As she explains, she provides technical horticultural consulting and business strategy consulting for industry, but "much of [her] time is spent generating horticultural content for green industry companies so they can better educate their audience." Impressive to be sure, but it's the byproduct that benefits Dallas' brown and wannabe green thumbs most — the free gardening advice Halleck shares on the Halleck Horticultural blog, Facebook page, Pinterest, and Instagram account. From her East Dallas hub, Halleck and crew provide peeks inside the industry as well as more intimate scenes from her own garden. She offers suggestions, like what to do with an overabundance of tomatoes or alternatives to planting tulips in a row; a series called Cocktail Gardening, complete with recipes; portraits of garden critters (including her own pets); a glimpse at urban homesteading; and seasonal planting tips.

If 2014's ice storms were anything to go on, tree pruning and maintenance aren't matters to ignore. Power outages, blocked roads and home repairs caused by fallen trees were big news. That's when homeowners new and old started learning and re-learning the importance of keeping trees trimmed. According to the certified arborists of Preservation Tree, not only does pruning create "aesthetically pleasing" trees, but also ones that are "structurally sound." Reducing the weight of the canopy "reduces incidences of breakage" when windy and icy times put stress on branches. And that's a good thing. But the peace of mind from choosing Preservation comes from the fact that their degreed arborists are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. They don't just saw branches; they get up high, close and personal with limbs, studying them for crowding and disease. With three-story trees and oak wilt no stranger to Dallas, that's major. And they're thorough. Dead tree? Not only can they remove it, they'll make it like a tree so it leaves. There's no pile of stumps waiting for bulk trash day. It's gone to a mulch pile far away. While tree maintenance seems expensive at first consult, that's just it — the first time is the worst. Preservation becomes cost-effective when it achieves its eponymous goal.

Orange alerts and haze and gross. Dallas has seen it all this year. Anything to breathe better and cleaner is welcome, if not passionately celebrated. This falls under passionately celebrated. Oncor and the Arbor Day Foundation, once again, offered two free trees for qualifying homeowners this fall. By just filling out a simple survey — OK, maybe the dragging of the house map lines required a steadier hand than expected — one could apply for and see ideal planting location and potential savings from 8,000 available trees including burr oak, cedar elm, Chinkapin oak, Mexican white oak, pecan and Texas redbud. The decision was difficult with such a nice variety to choose from, but there was no wrong answer (except maybe that redbud). While the potential energy savings was the primary focus of the offer, the secondary improvement to air quality (thanks to HVAC savings and, well, more trees) really is an exiting bonus to come.

We've shopped high-end eyewear shops, one-hour mall chains and small, locally owned discount stores on the cheap. One thing they've all had in common is that no matter what sort of frames we've bought, from fancy lightweight titanium gems to standard plastic Buddy Holly types, once the person behind the counter gets done adding up all the add-ons and special mystery lens gewgaws, our reaction is the same: "How much?!" (We swear we once bought anti-rust undercoating on a pair of plastic lenses once.) Glasses are damned expensive no matter where you go, it seems, but the truth is we've always been happier with snazzy, high-tech, fashionable specs — within reason. We'll drive a cheap car, wear cheap clothes and drink cheap booze (lots), but for the stuff we hang on our faces and use to see, we'll indulge. Vision City offers eye exams on-site, one-hour turnaround for basic lenses and accepts vision insurance. But they also sell glasses from designers such as Tom Ford, Fendi and our fave, Silhouette. (The shop has tons of rimless.) The prices are about what you'd expect from anywhere else, but what the heck. Steel yourself with some cheap booze and indulge. This is your face we're talking about, and frankly, some of us can use all the help we can get.

Rock N Roll Vapes offers a vaping experience enhanced with a rock 'n' roll theme. By turning a broken guitar into a work of art and broken records into seat covers, owner John Smith infuses his passion for music in every aspect of his store. Offering signature e-juice flavors with heavy metal monikers like School's Out, Stand & Deliver and Summer Breeze, Rock N Roll Vapes blazes past its corporate contemporaries.

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