Described by one disgruntled along-for-the-ride male acquaintance as a "cosmetics crackhouse," Sephora is an orgy of high-end lip gloss, eye shadow, blush and sundry other forms of pretty-up. For a truly overwhelming experience, venture to Sephora's Galleria location on a Friday or Saturday evening between six and eight and bear witness as scores of young women rotate like a greasepainted volleyball team from one makeup station to the next, applying globs of expensive samples to their facial tabula rasas. They eventually will emerge dateward, sporting garishly seductive mugs that they could never have afforded any other way. Inspiring!
Houston Camera Exchange
Any photog geek will tell you there's really only one camera store in the city worth knowing, and that's the Houston Camera Exchange. A perennial winner in this category, the warehouse-size location on Westheimer is a dream come true for any avid shutterbug. And budding amateurs needn't be shy: The knowledgeable staff will set you on the path to a lifetime of photographic wonderment. The walls are lined with cool vintage cameras and recorders; the display cases are stocked with new and used 35-millimeter automatics and a variety of digital point-and-shoots; the aisles overflow with tripods, camera bags, lights and umbrellas. And for those who are resisting the digital revolution, they even sell film.
Every month, a dozen people gather at the Sugar Land house of psychic Sean Harribance for a potluck lunch and a day of exploring the paranormal. Somehow, with no planning or coordination, it always seems like there's just the right amount and variety of food. Is it the triumph of psychic waves, or mere coincidence? Well, if you believe the former, you'll love Harribance. During a reading he might go into a trancelike state; sometimes he'll snap out of it and immediately start talking like your best friend. Harribance says he's spoken with every living president except the current Bush in the White House and look how things are going for him. Come on down to Sugar Land, Dubya, and get a dose of Harribance! Don't forget to bring a covered dish.
Despite what you might think, life isn't easy for the luscious live models at the Galleria's Abercrombie & Fitch store. Gaggles of preteens constantly swarm with cameras. Lonely types offer lame come-ons. And occasionally mall security is called to haul away a leering creep. Of course, it doesn't help that the store heavily markets images of teenagers in steamy, soft-core-porn scenarios. But give these college-age models credit for taking it all in stride. Two stand at the front of the store a tanned, svelte, leggy chick and a surfer dude with impossibly ripped pecs and abs wearing little more than a smile. They're eye candy. They know they're eye candy. And they're good sports about being eye candy. So don't hate them because they're beautiful.
Traders Village
A visit to Traders Village might tempt you to buy the RV of your dreams and move right in. The open-air flea market, located just outside the beltway in northwest Houston, has great carny food: turkey legs, sausage-on-a-stick and funnel cakes. The entertainment is old-timey: bluegrass bands, chili cookoffs, amusement park rides. And the self-described "largest market on the Texas Gulf Coast" is home to hundreds of dealers hawking everything from ball caps to belt buckles, puppies to pool cues, beer signs to barstools. For many, Traders Village is a fun way to while away an afternoon. We prefer to call it home sweet home.
The sign in front of Texas Junk Company has an offer you just can't refuse: Over 1,000 used cowboy boots under $30. Sure enough, once you step inside, the smell of well-worn leather will guide your nose to the shelves piled high with Tex Ritter's favorite footwear. Aside from the bargain-priced boots, the cavernous warehouse is littered with junk and antique relics from a time when life was simple: dust-covered books and magazines, discarded postcards and photos, metal signs, candy, furniture, light fixtures, trinkets, toys and oddly shaped pieces of die-cast metal used for God knows what. Forget the map Texas Junk Company is where treasure can be found.
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.

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