For Meredith McCord, looking at a piece of pottery brings back decades worth of memories. McCord started The Mad Potter in 1998, and since those early days, she's used her kiln to immortalize countless special moments. She traveled to hospitals to capture the footprints of newborns, helped a young man create a dessert plate with the words "Will you marry me?" emblazoned across it, and auctioned off items for charity. Yet some of her fondest memories center on the day-to-day interactions with customers, specifically when they return to pick up their fired pieces and utter three words of amazement: "I did that?"
The Mad Potter has since expanded into three Houston-area locations, where children and adults come to paint their own works of art or create replicas of their ancient ancestors' garden gnomes. More than 500 bisqueware items line the shelves of each studio, including coffee mugs, plates, and figurines. Staffers then help visitors select from more than 54 available colors of paint and supply them with everything else they might need, including brushes and stencils. The staff can even take things over and create more intricate designs—while still consulting closely with the customer. Whatever route a person chooses, there's always time for a sip of wine or beer; the River Oaks location sells wine and beer while Bellaire and Woodway maintain a BYOB policy.
For nearly a decade, Camargo Trading Company owner Meggan Sulfsted has sought out designer jewelry, hand-poured candles, and other little luxuries that infuse a home or an outfit with personal style. But she isn’t only shopping for herself—she stocks these items in her boutique, which she operates out of a charming, multi-storied structure in Madeira. There, shoppers can take a look at the store’s aromatic bath products and its Longchamp and Botkier handbags, then decide whether they should buy something for themselves or get a gift for their future alter-egos. They can also find plush toys, chenille blankets, and children’s clothing.
Eight bags. Two platforms. Two six-inch holes. One distinctly American game. The origins of cornhole are shrouded in mystery. Some say it derives from a German game, while others claim it is a descendent of a similar sport played by Native Americans. But one thing is certain—it's serious business. That's why the American Cornhole Organization was formed in 2005. By setting the rules, establishing annual tournaments and competitions, and firmly banning the practice of using trained birds to dunk bags, these referees have codified the sport and elevate it to a professional level.
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The clothing connoisseurs at Silly Bean clad youngsters from newborns to 14-year-olds in fashion-forward frocks from big-name European and American designers. Swaddle shuffling toddlers in a Le Top Hop to It romper (rompers $36+), which shrouds teetering tykes in stripes of cerulean blue and lime green, is made from 100 percent cotton, and is adorned with a leaping-frog pocket useful for storing small toys or the keys to the cozy coupe. An Ooh! La, La! Couture pink-and-black pettiskirt dress (dresses $39+) adorns diminutive dames in fuchsia frills, and an Appaman reef ship tee (shirts $22+) adds nautical whimsy to boys 2T–10 with a layered vintage ship screen. Top tops and protect delicate heads from torrential sunshine with a Le Top Bee Happy hat ($16), garlanded in delicate pale-yellow blooms, or peruse a selection of boys' and girls' swimwear ($29+) to prep for poolside play or übercasual preschool proms.
Bishop's Bicycles has becycled Cincinnatians for more than a century, offering two-wheeled steeds suitable for both slow, lazy glides and high-velocity speed trials. Whether using a soothingly saddled comfort bike with cruiser-style handlebars or a road bike built for rapid rides, daylong rentals include a helmet as well as a bike trail map upon request, ensuring renters can do more with their cycles than just watch game shows together.