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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best free service

Ever wonder why it's so hard to keep grass green in Denver? Erratic weather, freezing winters, burning summers, high winds, bad soil and a miniscule amount of rainfall may have something to do with it. Enter Xeriscape, a word that was invented and trademarked by the Denver Water Department in 1981 to help frustrated Denver gardeners save water and keep the areas around their homes lovely without having to fight Colorado's naturally dry climate. The key is to let go of the American ideal of a green lawn. Just try it for a moment: It's not easy, but it helps to have some direction, which is why the folks at the water department run a series of seminars in the late winter and early spring to teach people the principles of Xeriscaping and give them ideas of what to plant and how to landscape. They also have a ton of free pamphlets and other information, a hotline and a demonstration garden located at department headquarters. And if they sometimes sound a little defensive, it's hard to blame them. Many people have the wrong idea about Xeriscape. "[It] is NOT ugly, brown, rocks and cactus. A properly-designed Xeriscape is lush, colorful and easy to care for," according to departmental information. "It's good to bring attention to the fact that we basically live in a semi-arid desert," adds Liz Gardener, conservation manager for the water department. "Especially this year. We've been lucky for the last decade, but I don't think it's going to stay like that."

And, yes, that is her real last name. Gardener says that after a divorce, she didn't want to keep her married name and she didn't want to take back her old name, so she chose a new one. "I asked myself, 'What makes sense for me?' I love to plant seeds of thought in people's minds almost as much as I like to plant seeds in my garden," she says, "so it's perfect." And "Xeriscape" just didn't work -- as a last name, that is.

Readers' choice: 16th Street Mall shuttle service

Best place to turn Jagged Little Pillinto a five-dollar bill
Cheapo Discs

Everyone has musical skeletons in their closet: an embarrassing Euro-trash obsession, a long-outgrown affinity for death metal, an Alanis Morissette disc purchased during a particularly weak moment. Don't fret. The curiously friendly counter crew at Cheapo Discs has seen it all, and they pass bills instead of judgment. Here, old, unwanted CDs turn into money -- which one can pocket or spend on the store's impressive and inexpensive inventory of used discs. It all works off the magical and dynamic wheel of musical tastes. After all, the Cheapo people know that we all make mistakes -- and that at any given moment, someone else is ready to make that same mistake again.

2162 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver, 80222
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303-691-3499
Best spa for Gen-X'ers

Now you can get one leg tattooed while the other one is being waxed! No, seriously: The Blue Door does offer tattooing services, along with related applications of permanent cosmetics and henna body painting. But you can also indulge in every bit of new-age massage media, from Reiki to aromatherapy, all provided by experienced women practitioners. Kick back. Take the ring out of your nose. Relax.

Best place to get tattooed, pierced before you get a haircut

One day earlier this year, a young woman arrived in Capitol Hill to get her hair done. Since her regular hairdresser was still snipping the locks of another customer, the woman wandered two doors down, walked into Twisted Sol and got her genitalia pierced. There are many ways to kill time while waiting to get a haircut -- reading a magazine, for instance -- but there's nothing as creative as getting a new piercing or tattoo, and finer tattoo aficionados can spot a Twisted Sol epidermis a mile away. Whether it's Jeff Kopp's pinpoint portraits or Jeramiah Clark's spray-paint style, this place has the finest den of young ink artists in Denver. "We'll work as many hours as there are in the day," says co-owner Alicia Cardenas. Currently, there's a three-month waiting period for any of the five featured tattooists, but that will change soon. This month, Twisted Sol will expand into an adjacent space (the former Majordomos coffee shop) and add two new tattooists and another piercer. Cardenas says the store will also sell tribal art and jewelry. Whatever you decide on, it's sure to go perfectly with your trendy new trim.

Best use for old tires

Imagine Baco-Bits made of yesterday's Firestones, and you're on your way to envisioning Crown Three, a nifty lawn-care product from a company called Jaitire. Sprinkle it on heavily trafficked areas of turf grass -- dog runs, the mailman's shortcut, the path your kids beat to the swingset -- and this tiny rubber carpet will protect the crown of the grass root while conserving water, extending the growing season and insulating your lawn from the winter blues. Keep your car off the lawn, though. Non-recycled tires tend to leave a mark.

Best recycled utopia

Taking its design inspiration from the board game Candy Land, the folks at Can Land Recycling do their damnedest to put the fun back into recycling. Nestled among the modular-home dealerships of north Federal, the entrance to Can Land is marked by candy-cane-striped poles and a huge, festive sculpture of suspended wooden barrels with massive grins and outstretched arms. That welcome alone is worth all the drudgery of rinsing and sorting a truckload of garbage. The grounds are decorated with a profusion of brightly colored paintings of happy homes and grateful cans caught frozen for all eternity in mid-hug. Maybe hope and happiness can live on beyond the confines of a children's game.

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Best free service: The Denver Water Department's Xeriscape seminars, info and demonstration garden

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