From bourbons to vodkas, this quaint store holds a well-priced selection of all your boozing needs. But the thing that makes it so great is the incredibly knowledgeable staff. It doesn't matter if you think you know more about drinking than Jack Daniel. Or maybe you just turned 21 and are still trying to figure out how to pour rum into your flask without spilling it all over the place. These guys can answer the most random questions about being a modern-day drunkard. They're kind of like the Yodas of the alcohol world.

So it's two days before Mother's Day and, like an idiot, you forgot all about it again. All the good flowers are probably gone — you need to get her something sweet, and you need it quick. Then you remember: What about that dual vibrating flexidong Mom's always hinting about? And as soon as you think of that, you remember that Dad's birthday is right around the corner, and you know he's always going on about how his old cock-and-ball harness has been broken for months. But where can you get a vibrating flexidong and a space-age cock-and-ball harness? Carmen's, my friend. And that's just for starters: They have so many different toys, apparel, videos and bondage play sets, you'll think you died and went to pervert heaven. And Mom and Dad will never be happier!

Lai won "Best Psychic" two years ago, so it's no cowinky-dink that she'd move on to animals once she got people down. Whether she's working with two-, four- or no-legged creatures, she has a freaky way about her, seemingly bridging three worlds — past, present and future. While any pet owner — or, shall we say, anyone owned by a pet — develops a psychic connection with the creature, Lai seems to connect with animals she has no day-to-day contact with. Need proof? Check out her book Celebrity Pets Tell All, published last year by a division of Simon & Schuster. Despite its cutesy cover, it's actually a tender take on what various animals are ruminating on, whether they're pets of celebrities or celebrity animals themselves, such as Lassie. Maybe Lai has the inside scoop because her Swedish husband is named "Lasse." Whatever — the book's a fun half-hour read and purrfect stocking stuffer for a young friend, metaphysician or ­celebrity-watcher.

Sig's Lagoon

The perfect bricks-and-mortar store to buy local CDs does not exist. If you wanted to stock everything this city has come up with and continues to churn out — folk, zydeco, hip-hop, blues, rock, jazz, punk, R&B and country — you'd need a store as big as the Astrodome. (Hmm, now there's an idea...) In the absence of that H-Town music pleasure dome, Sig's will do nicely. Not only do owners Thomas and Jennifer Escalante stock a wide variety of historical Houston music in both LP and CD format, but they also have a generous policy of taking in product from the locals of today. "They bring it in, we put it on consignment," Thomas Escalante says. "Our policy is real simple." What's more, Sig's is one of the only stores that attempts to brand Houston's image — it takes its name from a book by Sig Byrd, the legendary chronicler of gritty Bayou City street life from the old daily Houston Press.

The Purple Turtle Coffee Company

Lots of places in the city offer good cups of coffee, but how many offer you a cup or a bag of beans that were roasted that very morning? Take a drive out to La Porte and visit the Purple Turtle Coffee Company, where they roast coffee beans daily. From Ethiopian Genuine Longberry Harrar to Colombian Supremo Huila, this little place has something for all lovers of Joe, including the exotic Kopi Luwak, made when a weasel-like creature called a civet eats coffee berries, which are then harvested after they pass through its system. At $75 for a half-pound, it's the most expensive cup of coffee you'll ever have in your life.

Central Market

Are you a fool for flounder? A sucker for salmon? A cuckoo for cod? Ah, well, you probably see where we're going. And that's straight to Central Market, where seafood is delivered fresh six days a week and you'll find one of the biggest selections in the city. And if you're stuck in the same old rut, menuwise, you can exercise your seafood palate, 'cause the Market has 100 varieties of saltwater and freshwater fish. Plus, their profishional experts will prepare your selection to your liking while you see what else the store has to offer. Now you have an excuse to go mad for mahi-mahi, to go wild for whitefish...

Southern Importers

Want to throw a grog-soaked debauch that would do Blackbeard proud, or a teetotaling little pirates' bash? Either way, Southern Importers has you covered. There, you can not only pick up pirate guy stuff like eye patches, hook hands, sashes, cutlasses and ruffled shirts but also bonny "pirate wench" attire. They'll even hook you up with skull-and-­crossbones tableware, glittering doubloons, treasure chests and wall hangings. (Check out the "Pirate's Cove" link on their Web site.) And on top of all that, they'll help you transform your living room into a pirate's lair with freebooter "insta-themes" to attach to your walls.

Whether you've been quilting for years or are just starting out, It's A Stitch is the place to go. The three Houston-area locations offer the best selection of materials, patterns and threads, not to mention instructional books, movies and loads of fun accessories. The stores also offer classes for every experience level, attracting quilters of all ages.

For collectors of new and old vinyl, regardless of what genres of music one collects, making the voyage out to this giant music cache near 1960 is like going on a Haj to record Mecca. The first time one visits, it can be more than overwhelming. Cardboard boxes of the most recent store acquisitions cover the majority of the floor. With a stock of thousands and such a constant flow of records, you never know what you will find. For those who love to scrounge through piles upon piles of records, it doesn't get any better than this.

Wear It Again Sam

If used threads are your bag, baby, then you should know why we're so happy to see Wear It Again Sam...again. The store once graced the vintage strip on Westheimer, but after a dispute with the landlord, owner Sam Van Bibber had to shut it down. These days it's on W. 19th St. in the Heights — the latest hipster hot spot. Guys, gals, kids and furniture shoppers can all find items from the '40s through the '80s. Clothes are moderately priced, with the quality making each well worth the dollars on the tag. Sam and Co. keep the racks updated, and you'll usually find new selections every month in the 50-percent-off sale room. Here's to hoping this landlord isn't as crazy as the last.

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