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.
Walking into Doug & Don's Barber Shop in the Heights is like taking a step back in time. Nostalgic photos and articles line the walls, and the sounds of KPFT, Neil Young or the afternoon news fill the room during conversational lulls. It's a classic barbershop, similar to one you may have seen in television commercials or in the movie Rushmore. Leonard Morgan, who's generally stationed at the fourth chair on the far end of the room, is practicing one of his life's passions the others are softball and vintage cars and cuts each head with deft precision. Don't expect a mall job when you sit in this man's chair, and don't try to see him if you're in a rush. Leonard takes his time with each subject, artfully edging up each customer with a straight razor and taking the time to trim beards and mustaches to match the new coif. Many barbers use electric clippers for everything they can, but this guy prefers to keep it old-school. It takes about 30 minutes for Leonard to get everything just so, but he charges only $8 for a cut. Even his prices are old-fashioned.
In Houston, finding a mechanic you can trust is as important as finding a competent doctor; many people in this town practically live in their vehicles, and chances are that your car will see more time on the operating table than you ever will. That's why it's imperative to find someone who has not only the knowledge to get the job done but also the heart not to rip you off. At Kar Hospital, the small familylike crew attends to your needs like the best nurses and doctors would if it were you lying under the lights. They treat your car like a patient, keeping a detailed chart of what has been done, what needs to be done and what should be done to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. And if you're the type who needs a little extra clarification, they're always willing to sit and explain every detail. They use top-of-the-line parts, guarantee all their work and leave a lollipop on your dash when they're finished. Now, if they'd only accept Gold Cards, we're really be in business.
Seedy strip-mall location? Check. Pale, geeky-yet-arrogant clerks who live up to the stereotype by listening to bands like Rush and Jethro Tull? Yep. Nan's has all of those things. (And best of all for male comic book lovers, they even employ some cute comic-book-loving girls.) Even better than all that is the inventory. While the store is definitely cluttered and disheveled, that's exactly the way you want these places to be. While you're there, pick up an early issue of Wolverine, a few packs of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, a Monty Python and the Holy Grail doll and some gore-dripping figures from the Rob Zombie flick The Devil's Rejects.
Sound Exchange
Sound Exchange might not have the widest selection of local music the place is too small for that but it's still the best spot to buy the stuff. That's because the staff there knows local music like no other salespeople anywhere, and they pretty much stock anything from any band willing to walk in with a consignment. And Sound Ex is where most local rock musicians shop, too, so there's a decent chance you can get your CD autographed while you're there. And on occasion, the store hosts raucous, BYOB in-stores, most often starring local punk, indie rock and metal bands.
Sig's Lagoon
The demise of Cactus Music and Video this year left a huge void in Houston's music scene. Not because of the inventory, mind you, but because of the sense of community and the 100-percent-Houston-proud vibe Cactus had. Good thing Sig's Lagoon opened up shop. Though much smaller than Cactus, Sig's offers the same type of music and gifts and even the same in-stores by touring and local musicians. The store brims with music by local musicians past and present, and you can't get much more Houstonian than naming your record store after the late and legendary local columnist Sig Byrd. Sig's Lagoon is Cactus condensed.

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