Like many boutiques on Yale and Heights, the converted house where Yubos resides probably goes unnoticed by many a driver. Pity. Passers-by are missing out on an eclectic bevy of Latin luxury. Recognized mostly for its gorgeous rustic furnishings, Yubos specializes in custom furniture and can make anything you like. Bring them a picture, some sketches or just your ideas and they can make it happen. There are also plenty of items already in stock, mostly finds from Central and South America, like Talavera pottery from Mexico and myriad religious artifacts, from crucifixes to milagros to gargantuan devotional candles that could probably burn for a week. Other items of interest include hand-painted washbasins and toilets.

Bernard Wolf loves lighting. His store is aglow with table lamps, floor lamps, desk lamps, sconces, chandeliers and ceiling fans. Solid name brands like Artemide, Luceplan and Schonbek are in abundance, with your choice of halogen, fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. Lighting Unlimited offers the widest range of lighting styles in town, from classy to conventional to mod to kitschy. If you're like Mr. Wolf, you'll fall in love with the mood-setting possibilities. Even members of the Rockets have been known to get their illumination on here.

Best Place to Pretend You're Kirstie Alley on a Budget

Pier 1 Clearance Store

If you're living on Cheers royalties, you can afford to buy hundreds of $10 candles. You can wander around Pier 1 dressed like a fairy and say stupid things like "True or false, this whole table setting cost less than my shoes!" But for those of us without the Jimmy Choo shoes, Pier 1's fairly reasonably priced items add up. Fortunately, there's the Pier 1 clearance store, where all the Gerber daisy napkin rings and bamboo candlestick holders that you don't really need but kinda sorta want come to die. Eventually the $10 plates get marked down to $1. Some days, they'll take 75 percent off the lowest price on all wine glasses. Other times it's pillows or bath products or rugs on super-final clearance.

Best Place to Meet People with Large Discretionary Incomes

Neiman Marcus

These are the types who will pay $100 for a pair of socks. There are people in this very store buying $300 T-shirts. The best way to find out who the Richie Riches are is to watch them shop. Now, there is the remote possibility of meeting someone's personal shopper or assistant out doing errands. But chances are, if someone is being fitted for a $17,000 Chanel ball gown or a $7,000 suit, it's for them. Hang out. Sniff the perfumes. Follow people around the store. And find that elusive sugar mama or Daddy Warbucks of your dreams.

Hotel Derek
The new downtown luxury hotels, like the Magnolia and the Sam Houston, could've been contenders in this category if it weren't for one thing: construction. Downtown demolition ruins the luxury. Until the city center is put back together again, the stylish Hotel Derek remains the place to be seen lodging among the elite. Celebrity sightings are commonplace, and the surroundings are chic as ever. The initial hubbub over the Derek has abated somewhat, so you won't feel as if you've walked into a commercial. Houston's only boutique-style hotel has also recently announced that it's okay to bring your dog -- an important feature for the rich and famous who just can't bear to be separated from Fifi for a night.
Trellis is the newest, fanciest day spa in Houston. From the interior float pool to the Mediterranean-style balcony, this 17,000-square-foot spa wraps up luxury and serenity into one nice package. Visitors can relax with a Vichy rainfall shower or a tension relief cocoon body wrap. Those self-conscious about baring their aging bodies before the ultrafit Houstonian crowd can opt for a cellulite or stretch mark treatment. And for couples who can't bear to be separated even for a facial, the Trellis offers treatment rooms and hot tubs for use a deux.

At Mai's Nail Perfection, a converted house on Sunset Boulevard, everything is purple. When you get a pedicure, you sit on a purple throne, surrounded by purple walls. You'll feel like a queen, unless you don't take good care of your feet -- in which case Mai will chastise you and make you feel like a naughty little girl (or boy). The place is best known for its long-lasting French manicures -- it'll be a while before you need a touch-up if you trust yourself to Mai. Although lots of the joint's regulars hail from the surrounding West University and Southampton areas, there's a decidedly laid-back, un-snobby feel to the place. And if you're in the market for costume jewelry, the entrepreneurial Mai has a side biz going right at the salon.
It's December 1, and you're spending the holidays in the Caribbean. Lucky you. Of course, your pale skin hasn't seen the light of day in months, and that could be a problem. If you don't want to spend the first few days of your vacation hiding under an umbrella or nursing the sunburn you got after your 45 SPF washed off in the ocean, get thee to Darque Tan. Yes, we know about skin cancer. But we subscribe to the theory that moderate exposure is better than a burn any day. And the knowledgeable staffers will help you build up your sun tolerance gradually. Think of them as personal trainers for your tan. They'll encourage you to incrementally increase your tanning time and intensity (there are five different levels of beds to choose from) every couple of days, to trick your pigment into working at maximum capacity. Depending on your skin tone, sessions can take less than ten minutes. We like the Midtown location for a quick lunch-hour glow.

Is your biological clock ticking overtime? Are you having trouble conceiving a child? Eastern Harmony treats scores of stressed-out wannabe mothers with caring, compassionate acupuncture treatments in a soothing atmosphere complete with Eastern mood music. Acupuncturists Randine Lewis and Sadhna Singh hold both Western medical degrees and acupuncture certifications. They can use acupuncture alone or as a complement to their patients' other, more traditional infertility treatments. And while you're relaxing like a supine porcupine, have them throw on a few extra needles to cure a sinus headache, backache or other ailment. A peaceful nap is virtually guaranteed.

Patricia Williams has been helping folks cleanse their auras and balance their chakras for 30 years. But that's not all: A gift passed on from her great-grandmother allows her to read palms, tarot cards and crystal balls, as well as assist with something called Tibet meditation, which sounds pretty darn relaxing. She also sells potions, candles and crystals -- even a little mojo sack that she says will let your desires come true. Hot damn! For $20, you get palm and tarot readings with unlimited questions, but the crystal ball service is $125. For a fee, she'll also pray over missing loved ones, and she may even be able to tell you if they'll make it home safely. After all, she says she knew all along that Elizabeth Smart was okay. Bonus: She reads tarot cards over the phone. Get your credit card ready.

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