For many crafty folks, bead parties have replaced paint-your-own-pottery as the creative outlet du jour. If you're looking for materials, head to Beads Galore International, Inc.

Tucked into a small industrial park, Beads Galore is easy to miss -- and easy to skip, you might think as you enter the cramped foyer and are asked to hand over your purse to a clerk as a security precaution. But step inside to a mesmerizing beader's paradise, with every color and touch from inexpensive glass to moderate crystal and ceramic to pricey semiprecious garnets, tourmaline and topaz. Beads Galore also has trappings such as trays and clamps to help you bead properly, and jewelers pliers, cutters, wire and clasps to turn your strands into bona fide jewelry. The friendly staff will assist befuddled beginners. Bead happy!

We've been to enough weddings to know that finding the perfect present for a bride and groom can be excruciating, far worse than buying an elusive Christmas gift for the "person who has everything." We've also seen the pained expressions of newlyweds as they unwrap some God-awful gift that they don't need or want. ("Oh, what a lovely set of crocheted doilies!") Crate & Barrel offers a fresh, modern take on household basics like dishes, linens, silverware and kitchen appliances -- cups and saucers fit for a French cafe, or a Japanese-inspired lamp to give the honeymooners a sexy bedroom glow. And couples can register for enough gorgeous matching furniture and accessories to outfit an entire house.
If such names as Knoll, Herman Miller and Thonet weaken your knees, this Scottsdale franchise of the Seattle store offers plenty of swank seats and remakes of classic modern furnishings to swoon on. It's all posh, with prices to match -- chairs can run you anywhere from $350 for a molded, laminated wood-and-steel one by Arne Jacobsen to $2,300 for Eero Saarinen's womb chair. Owner David Cline, a graduate of the design program at ASU, will feed you the tales behind the designs, like the fact that Charles and Ray Eames first began their patented process of molding compound curves in plywood to supply the Army with wooden splints during World War II. In fact, Cline can sell you one of those splints -- but we recommend something cozier, like the Eames lounge chair and ottoman. And Cline makes house calls, to help you decide which kind of design should go where.
You say your idea of home entertaining doesn't go any further than a keg, a large bag of Cheez Doodles, and a mop? Well, thanks for asking but, uh, we're busy that night. If, on the other hand, you shop at Party City, consider this an RSVP. Where else in town will you find everything (okay, so you will have to hit the liquor store, too) from invitations and tableware to canisters of helium and luau kits -- more than 30,000 party items in all, at discount prices, no less?

And even if you're one of those folks who thinks no social gathering is complete without a rubber mask of WWF honcho Vince McMahon, you're in luck here. But can we take a rain check on that invitation? On second thought, we're busy that night, too.

Let's be clear: The operative word here is hardware. Not gardening supplies, power tools, bathroom fixtures or wallpaper; there are stores that specialize in each of these. But when you really need honest-to-God hardware -- nuts, bolts, machine screws, ball bearings, nails and so on -- you could do no better than to go to Paradise True Value, with its impressive and thoughtful selection. The woman-owned (and mostly woman-staffed) establishment carries hardware in every possible size and material. (Try finding stainless hex cap screws at most places -- go ahead, try.) But the best part is that everything is in little drawers, just the way it should be, and you can buy as many or as few items as you need. The staff is extremely helpful and knowledgeable, but won't insult your intelligence if you know what you're doing and want to be left alone, either.
HTC Body Piercing
Nowadays, HTC owner Steve Haworth is better known as a "3-D Modification Artist," famous for epidermis-pushing experiments in extreme body modification such as subdermal implants and penis beads. But Haworth originally established his reputation as a pioneer of safe, sane and sterile piercing techniques. The instruments used at HTC were personally designed by Haworth to be less painful and more accurate, ensuring a relatively non-agonizing experience for your targeted navel, septum, nipple, or whatever. Though HTC tends to be a bit expensive compared to tattoo parlors that offer piercing as a side-order item, wise men opt for spending a little more when what they're paying for includes a guy pointing a sharp instrument in their direction. Think about it.
Plenty of print shops have color copiers out on the floor, but if you're looking for lifelike skin tones, Lena Flores will be happy to do your bidding. She's Alphagraphics' assistant manager and, when she isn't busy answering stupid questions ("Will your color copier make my black-and-white photos come out in color?"), she'll be delighted to assist you with your custom enlarging, photo Christmas card, or wedding invitation design. Lena has improved more than one commercial artist's portfolio with her skillful assistance, and proves that a fancy $40,000 color copy machine is only as good as its operator. Tired of being waited on by bored, surly college students at your neighborhood copy house? Lean on Lena.
Three Dog Bakery
Toys, dog accessories, books and novelty items fill this smartly appointed store, where our four-legged friends are always welcome to sniff barrels of bulk treats and sampler gift boxes. But it's Three Dog's baked goods that get your doggy drooling. They look so yummy, we want to taste them, too. The most endearing feature of Three Dog Bakery is the weekly Yappy Hour, in which man's best friends (many of whom arrive at this Biltmore shop stuffed into the Louis Vuitton handbags of society ladies) and their owners gather to swap stories, enjoy fresh-from-the-oven goodies, and listen to canine-themed comedians and speakers. Occasionally, a certified pet psychic is on hand to assist in better reading the inner workings of your dog's psyche -- although it won't take a professional to tell you what Rover's thinking: "I'll take a dozen rawhide chews to go!"
Delicious Deliveries
Sure, most newspaper food sections will tell you that you can make a great meal in 10 minutes or less using what "everyone" already has in the kitchen. But we can't figure out how to make five-star fettuccine with leftover ketchup packets from our McDonald's Happy Meal. So we just let the experts do their thing: We call Delicious Deliveries, which has contracted with participating restaurants to deliver a fine meal, for menu prices, plus $4.49 per order within a four-mile radius of the restaurant, and tip. Just a few of the participating restaurants include Bamboo Club, Royal Barge Thai, Avanti's, Don and Charlie's, Jewel of the Crown, Malee's on Main, Mr. C's Chinese, Miracle Mile Deli and George and Dragon English Pub. With service like this, you'd have to be a ding-dong to fire up the stove. The only ding-dong we want is the sound of the doorbell.

Hippie Gypsy
It's hard to get good incense now that Jerry Garcia is gone and the Grateful Dead aren't touring. We used to pick up a year's supply of our favorite cones and sticks from Deadhead parking-lot vendors, but those days are over. Well, almost. We've found a swell, smelly stash at Hippie Gypsy, an upscale head shop busting at the seams with black-light posters and clove cigarettes and water pipes. Entire walls of this fragrant shop are devoted to displaying incense and sages, along with a vast array of paraphernalia for safe burning. The store's homemade incense is of superior quality, and the commercial versions aren't bad, either. (There's even a line called Liquid Blue Grateful Dead Incense with fragrances like "Campfire Jam" and "Fractal Steal Your Face.") And unlike the Dead show vendors, the clerks at Hippie Gypsy can actually make correct change and focus on their clientele without seeing double. Whoa, dude!

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