For most Inner Loop dwellers, M2 Sports' location way down Westheimer is a hike, but if you are looking for great deals and greater gear for your excursion, then you can't do any better than the locally owned M2 Sports. They carry wakeboarding gear, snowboard stuff and even skateboarding supplies for those of you who never learned how to swim or got used to the snow. Inquire about wake lessons, too.

Looking for pre-Columbian beads? Maybe vintage Chinese enamel? Or the latest trend in glass jewelry? The Bead Shop, in business since 1970, has you covered, offering baubles made from stone, glass, wood and precious metals. The beads come in every color and shape, spilling over their containers like colorful candy. The walls are lined with strands of beads — giant pearls, metal charms, skulls and tiny wooden beads painted in bright, primary colors. Shop staff members are available not only to advise you on your purchases but to string together custom creations. If you need inspiration for what to do with those leftover beads from previous projects, just look at the large mirror hanging in the shop window.

The hands that created the art seen at Las Manos Mágicas might very well have magic in them. The shop has been around since the early '70s and built a solid reputation for itself as the place in Houston for affordable artwork, especially by regional and Latin American artisans, as well as by self-taught and outsider talents. Owner Madeleine Crozat-Williams, an expert on Mexican folk art, makes a couple of big buying trips a year, visiting individual workshops and studios to hand-pick new paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewelry and tinwork. By buying directly from the artists, Crozat-Williams ensures quality and low prices for her customers, as well as a fair price for the artists. Among the works you'll likely see at Manos Mágicas are painted ceramic figures by Josefina Aguilar from Oaxaca, who's world-famous for showing everyday village life and religious scenes. There are also one-of-a-kind garden pots by Doña Dolores Porras, also from Oaxaca, and Día de los Muertos skeletons by Saulo Moreno, from Michoacán. But Manos doesn't focus exclusively on Latin American artists. The shop also carries beadwork from India, baskets from Nigeria and needlework from Uzbekistan, among other treasures. And all of it is at amazingly affordable prices.

Memorial City Mall off I-10 helps you kill two wallet-draining birds with one stone. All your favorite mall staples are here, including an Apple store, The Gap and a plethora of shops to keep you busy on a lazy weekend outing, including a Target. There's even an ice rink, a carousel, a movie theater and a play castle for the kids, so you can shop for bras and underwear in peace. Around Christmas, the mall turns into a magical wonderland of debt, but the kids can at least meet Santa Claus at his posh digs near the main entrance.

Oh, DSW, what would we do without you? We'd run all over town, from store to store, looking for the best prices and a different style of shoe at each store, that's what we'd do. Fortunately, we don't have to endure such a nightmarish existence, because DSW (that's "Designer Shoe Warehouse," for the uninitiated) gives us selection, style and excellent prices, all under the same roof. Yeah, K-Swiss and Bruno Magli, living in harmony, side by side. And while the W stands for "warehouse," there are no cramped, narrow aisles as at some of the other chains, just wide open space for you — a pleasurable podiatric pasture, if you will. Your feet deserve the best and your wallet deserves a rest, so do yourself right and get thee to the warehouse.

In many ways, Braes Heights seems more like Rice Village than Rice Village. First, there's the food: It's home to iconic and storied local eateries in Molina's Cantina, and two Village refugees in Fuzzy's Pizza and one of the last redoubts of the once-sprawling Antone's po-boy empire, not to mention Hunan's, an ­unpretentious time warp to the '80s Chinese-American place much like the closed Fu's Garden in the Village. (And then there are the smoothies at Dan's Vitamin House.) Imagination Toys and Shoes reminds us of the Village's long-gone and much-lamented mainstay World Toy and Gift Shop. There's a good, old-fashioned, honest-to-God, red-white-and-blue-polled barbershop, much like the Village's long-departed Times Barber Shop. Just seeing the name I.W. Marks takes us back to good times in the Astrodome and the late Big Irv Marks's plenitude of TV commercials: "Come see us, come see us and save." All that fun and nostalgia comes in an attractive, two-story, clean-lined Mid-Century mod architectural package. Sure, there's a nail salon in the strip mall itself and a CVS next door — those are required by Harris County ordinance. (Just kidding). But this remains our favorite strip mall in town.

Some 80 years of careful planning and pruning have gone into creating the Bayou Bend gardens we see today. Originally the home of Houston socialite and philanthropist Ima Hogg, the house and grounds were donated to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 1957. By that time, Miss Hogg and her troop of gardeners had carved an oasis out of a dense thicket, planting nine gardens. The formal gardens include classic statues and water fountains among the neatly cultivated grounds, filled with yaupon hedges, azaleas, ferns and rotund pine trees. Located farthest away from the house is the informal white garden, where white tulips, azaleas, gardenias and dogwood abound. The wild ravines and thicket that surround Bayou Bend are a wonderful contrast to the well-tended gardens, both of which managed to survive the recent drought intact.

It's all local, all the time at this enormously popular market that also functions as a full-service butcher shop, coffee bar and bistro. The latter two take up half of the store's small footprint, while the other side is packed with everything from house-made soy sauce to lard-laced pizza crusts (frozen and ready to top) made with fat from owner Morgan Weber's own Mangalitsa pigs. You can get house-cured bacon and farm-fresh produce, Slow Dough bread and Dairy Maids cheese, Bernie's Burger Bus ketchup and Amaya coffee — whatever you need to stock your all-local larders, Revival has it.

There must be this unwritten rule that tailor shops should look like buildings forgotten to time, with faded mannequins in the window and fabric scraps and ripped thread all over the floor. Think of your grandmother's junk room. This makes it hard to distinguish good tailors from bad tailors, so the work really ends up speaking for itself. At Mr. Santos's shop, the work is exquisite and the turnover is quick, but you'll pay a premium for it. If you're taking something in to be altered, expect him to spend a good half hour with you during the fitting. He specializes in wedding dresses, which, with their beading and lace, are often complicated to alter. Most recently for us, he took in a vintage dress with detailed embroidery on the bodice. It took two days (and was ready a day before it was promised).

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