One of the only things that make Houston tolerable during the dog days of summer is the gorgeously green trees that embower the city. The soft shade of the live oaks, pecans and crepe myrtles that grow so profusely here can make the unforgiving heat seem almost worthwhile. So it's horrifying to walk through your backyard and discover an ailing tree; buckled bark and a canopy full of browning leaves are downright scary. Thankfully, Kris Bitner and her green thumb can save the day. Educated at A&M, the tree hugger from way back when knows just what to do for a bug-ridden, fungus-filled tree. And if she and her magic potions can't save the one you love, this woman who seems to know just about everything there is to know about dirt, photosynthesis and urban forests can help you plant a whole new miniature jungle to make up for your loss.
Nothing is more crazy-making than remodeling, so finding a carpenter you can count on is the first line of defense against the dread of disappointment. Rosendo Mendez goes way beyond reliable. He will make your fabulous new kitchen/bedroom/great room dreams come true, and he won't break the bank doing it. Cabinets are his specialty, but he can also put in a window, slap on some siding or adjust a creaking door. And he'll do it all with a soft-spoken, easygoing charm that will calm even the most harried homeowner.
Whether you like your walls museum-white or racy red, Marcelo Escobedo is happy to oblige. And it's a good thing, too; he can make any wall into a thing of beauty with his steady hand and Zen-like technique. Once he's done with a room, you can't help but marvel at the clean, straight lines and smooth surfaces. He can also nail up some Sheetrock, strip down antique doors and power-wash your deck, all of which you're likely to want once you've seen how good your house looks with a fresh coat of paint applied by a master.
The booming Houston real estate market makes finding a good agent more important than ever. Dennis Sigut of Keller Williams Realty isn't just good he's one of those rare go-getters who can buy and sell with the best of them and still sleep at night. His dealings are honest, and he doesn't drop his clients off at the doorstep once he's secured the deal. Even after all the papers are signed and Dennis has his commission in the bank, he'll be there if you need him. He'll help you find a decorator or a painter, and he'll hold your hand through the horrors of moving day.
Call her the Color Guru, because Cari Brookbanks can slide her magic gaze over any space and know just what it needs to make it absolutely gorgeous. Whether you're trying to fix up a house to sell, or redo an outdated condo to last you for the next 20 years, Brookbanks will whip out her bag full of color charts and go to town with ideas. She'll also take you shopping and boy, oh boy, does she know all the best places to get fabulous deals on furniture, fabric and accessories. And once she's done with her design sorcery, you'll never want to leave home again.
What's not to love about Chloe Dao? The sixth of eight children from Pakse, Laos, Dao settled in Houston with her family and grew up riveted to CNN's Style with Elsa Klensch. A good daughter, Dao followed her parents' wishes and entered UH's business school, but she soon left to pursue design. She climbed the NYC fashion ladder and, in 2000, returned to Houston to open her boutique, Lot 8 in Rice Village. She quickly became a local media darling, but last year after securing a spot on Bravo's Project Runway she became a TV darling, too. Throughout the series, Dao withstood ber-annoying contestants (Santino: Shut up already!) and consistently wowed judges with her flowing dresses and fresh, hip couture. It was the perfect nice-girls-finish-first story: As other designers preened for the camera and bitched to each other, the charming Dao came off as humble, hardworking, talented and, ultimately, the best. Now a veritable household name, she's $100,000 richer, and she's still keeping it real (and fabulously chic) in her hometown. How very Houston of her. Thanks, Chloe, for making us look so good.
Did someone you know have a birthday, baby, wedding, graduation or simply a bad day? Did someone get promoted? Or die? Elaine's has a great vase or basket bouquet for all those occasions. They've got floral arrangements, bromeliads, silk and dried arrangements and even a cute gift basket selection that includes chocolates, pastries, candles and "pampering products," and their delivery range includes greater Houston, Missouri City, Stafford and Pasadena. Native Houstonian Elaine Ousley-Nevarez has been making things pretty for 14 years, and it's about time you stopped by to see just how pretty she can make things for you and your special someone.
Ahhh, Cindie's, you had us at "butt-plug." Cindie's sells good old-fashioned fun: We're talking body jewelry, oils, vibrators, love kits, body stockings, even educational videos for those in the remedial classes. Their hours are great, too open till midnight Monday through Saturday and until 10 p.m. on the Lord's day! So if you suddenly find yourself in last-minute need of a Squirting Dinger or a Jumbo Jack Man-O-War (in black or ivory), chances are there's a Cindie's not too far away. The stores have a good refund/exchange program, too, in case your Doc Joc Incredible Jack-Off Device didn't deliver the payoff it promised. Whether you and your partner want to spice things up a little, or whether you and, uh, you want to spice things up, Cindie's has the goods.
If there's one thing every dog loves, it's wearing clothes. And in Houston, your best selection is at this venerable chain, which carries a bounty of haute couture for Fluffy and Rex. This summer, why not treat your bitch to a striped tennis dress or a cool zebra-print affair? For your he-dog, try out a fresh velour hoodie or bandanna. And when it's bedtime, have your loved ones curl up in comfy fleece pajamas. T-shirts, vests, lifejackets, sweaters everything a dog or small quadruped child could want. The quality is high, but you won't have to worry about Armani prices. Now there's no excuse to show up to the park with a nekkid pooch!
Rover Oaks Pet Resort
Why not give your special buddy a chance to get footloose and fancy free while you're at work? Take him to Rover Oaks, a company founded on a philosophy of "positive reinforcement, plenty of exercise, and group play' for pets with good social skills," and whose Houston location (there's one in Katy, too) boasts a lakeside campus. Tell us you don't want that for your dog! In addition to day care, Rover Oaks offers training, grooming and boarding. Heck, at Rover Oaks, Duke might even be livin' better than you.

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