No one tells you when you buy a house that it doesn't come with a manual. And despite what shows on HGTV and DIY may lead you to believe, most problems require professional fixes. Finding a contractor who is trustworthy and willing to do a job smaller than an entire remodel isn't easy, but we have good news: Swinging Hammer provides honest, reliable and reasonably priced contractor services for jobs big and small. So, instead of trying to patch that drywall yourself armed only with a hacksaw and a YouTube video, stick with pros like Swinging Hammer.

Mayor Sylvester Turner was not messing around when he promised during his campaign to do something about the city's annoying, car-killing pothole problem. Immediately upon taking office, in January, Turner launched his pothole repair initiative, which required Public Works to fill potholes by the next business day when citizens reported them to 311. Since then Public Works has filled 3,951 potholes called in by Houstonians — and an additional 39,779 proactively on its own. The crews are working so hard that, during Turner's first State of the City address, he called a bunch of workers up to the stage to pay them special thanks.

The Briar Shoppe

Legend has it that the Briar Shoppe was founded in 1962 when single mother Alice Amason got Richard "Racehorse" Haynes to give her a $500 loan to start her own tobacco store. From there, Amason created a tobacco mecca that today offers a walk-in humidor you have to see to believe and about 100 different labels. The staff are renowned for being both friendly and knowledgeable. When you consult with them, you know you're talking to the kind of people who will make sure you've found the right cigar for you, whether you're a novice or you've been chomping on cigars like Winston Churchill every day for the past 40 years.

CityCentre

In a city seemingly built for hardcore shoppers, CityCentre is perfect for folks who don't treat buying like a contact sport. The vibe at CityCentre is just a lot more chill than at other malls, which makes it a fun place to kill a few hours. You can look in stores, grab dinner or dessert, or just enjoy some time outside without having to worry about getting run over. As CityCentre proves, there's more to a positive shopping experience than just the number of stores or square acreage.

MD Anderson's network of hospitals and other cancer-treatment facilities, originally established by the Texas Legislature in 1941, welcomes patients from all over the world, enough that its International Center offers full-time interpreters in Arabic, Mandarin, Russian and several other languages. Even eating in the cafeteria can feel like stepping inside a model UN. MD Anderson sees more than 135,000 patients per year, a staggering number eclipsed only by the lengths the staff goes to in making sure none of them ever feel like part of the medical-industrial complex. It takes doctors, nurses, techs, administrators, researchers, social workers and dozens of other dedicated professionals working in concert to create as comfortable an environment as possible. Considering what its patients are up against, the people of MD Anderson understand that little things can make all the difference.

READERS' CHOICE: Memorial Hermann

Heights Station Antiques

There are plenty of antique meccas in Houston, but when you want a true variety of very old things to dig through, Heights Station Antiques is just the place to look. Housed on Heights Boulevard just south of the railroad tracks, the old carriage barn, built in 1895, has 5,000 square feet of booths packed with all sorts of junk and hidden treasures. The place features tons of vendors so there's always a good variety to pick over. If you don't find that perfect 1920s-era velvet chair or a Sholes and Glidden typewriter to clatter out your first novel on, the odds are high you'll still find something else just as satisfyingly old and in need of a new home.

For months, workers' advocates had decried the city's practice of giving tax breaks to huge companies like Walmart and Landry's without requiring them to pay a living wage, which resulted in workers' still needing to lean on the government for help. In March, though, City Council passed new guidelines that now encourage companies applying for millions in tax breaks to pay better wages to workers, offer affordable or workforce housing assistance, provide paid internships to low-income students and jobs to ex-cons, and create midskilled jobs that don't require a college degree. While the criteria aren't required, Mayor Sylvester Turner said this would give companies an idea of what the city was looking for. Advocates considered it a victory for workers' rights and a step closer to mandatory tax-break rules.

Two steps inside Fuller's and it smells like some rock-and-roll-loving woodworker could be sanding down the face of a brand-new acoustic in the back room, so distinct is the scent wafting throughout the store. Fuller's offers everything for the aspiring guitar hero, from a custom-made double-neck acoustic to a star-shaped, fire-truck-red electric that looks like a weapon. The staff is eager to help you find exactly what you need, whether that's a mandolin, a bass, a violin or a colorful ukulele. Just starting out? Sign up for lessons.

Grocery shopping can be a pain, but the Bunker Hill H-E-B has all the big problems conquered. Lack of selection? This store is massive, the type of place where you could play a soccer game if the shelves weren't in the way, and the stockers make the most of the space when it comes to loading up those shelves. Parking? This H-E-B has ample parking in a wide lot that won't get you trapped in a maze of random turns and trees. Other people? Thanks to a new program from the chain, you don't even have to go inside to get your groceries; you just order them ahead of time and pick them up in a special side parking lot. If hell is other people, this H-E-B is grocery store heaven.

A great manicure looks flawless, lasts for ages and — most important — won't break your budget. By those standards, CC Nails is the hands-down best nail spot in town. Sitting in a painfully average-looking strip center, the space is beautifully lit and scrupulously clean. You can almost always walk in and immediately plop yourself down in one of the electronic massage chairs to begin your treatment. The manicurists don't try to rush anyone out the door either. They encourage you to sit back and enjoy having your nails prettied up while taking in the serenity of the space. Turn up the experience to an 11 and get your toes done too.

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