Things are cooking at Sur la Table, and not just for you. This kitchenware, cookbook and gadget place caters to kids by carrying mini cooking and baking sets that look just like the grownup versions, dinosaur cookie cutters, clever rookie chopsticks, Mickey Mouse cookbooks, froggy aprons and tiny double-breasted chef's coats for gourmets-in-training. The crowning touch? A classic chef's chapeau, scaled down to size. Let's eat!

Dolls, with their staring eyes and stiff, painted-on features, have a creepy reputation with almost everyone except kids and collectors. But one way to get over it is to make one yourself. Next time you need a nice eyeball, drop by the Doll House. Doll lady Rose Rismanchi stocks everything you need to build a cutie three-foot-two with eyes of blue, from custom clothing to curly locks, in her showroom full of doe-eyed dollies, dressed down in overalls and straw hats or to the nines in lacy pinafores and stockings. Be sure to sign up for classes, offered at various times daily except Sundays, where you'll learn to hand-pour your baby doll's bod in a mold, attach her head and give her a beautiful smile that will help you get over the creeps.

Adorable and little enough to fit in your hand, this human take on the sock monkey (now overtaken by a whole cottage industry of sock moose and hippos and God-knows-whats) harks back to the days when toys were simpler and sweeter. No one's going to gasp in awe when they see one of Marcia's Kids, but they're something anyone -- from a newborn to a grandma -- would be happy to grasp. Give 'em a hand.
Mountain-dweller Susan Lee Danaher makes her five-inch sweeties, named Konvalinka after the Slovak word for lily of the valley, from scratch: The tiny, delicate fairies are hand-poured and -painted before being festooned with ribbons, flowers, lace and angels and, sometimes, Danaher admits, tiny tattoos. They come in hues inspired by the colors of wildflowers and other garden denizens.

These tiny felt dolls, which come in a rainbow of pastel shades, are barely there, but they're perfect to tie on a bouquet or poke into a basket. You can buy the entire ensemble at the Tended Thicket, an agreeable flower and gift shop that starts in a nook and turns into a cranny and specializes in magnificent floral arrangements. They also sell flower-fairy cards and gift tags.

They're he-e-e-e-re.
A tiny South Broadway storefront with a unique idea, Clayhouse is both a handmade-pottery collective and a purveyor of antiques and collectibles. So you can buy a Tiffany-lamp reproduction or a fat, orange-scented candle embedded with potpourri. But what's really out of this world are co-owner Lisa Neeper's little green mugs and flying-saucer teapots. They're positively extraterrestrial.

Hello Kitty may just be another one of Japan's attempts to take over the world, but don't be quick to catalogue it next to Panasonic, Toyota or Pokémon. The cutesy kitty remains mysteriously Japanese and -- we admit -- utterly inane, but it still manages to capture our fancies, as well as that of collector Ashley Chang, who's allowed her obsession to flow over into her family's Chinese restaurant, Min Min, where she has everything Hello Kitty for sale. From pens and tablets to earmuffs to undies, she's got it all, along with a few collector's items of her own that aren't for sale, right there in the corner, a stone's throw from the Moo Goo Gai Pan.
Colorado began its first major plate replacement since the late 1970s this year, and by December 31, 2003, all 4.5 million plates should have the new designs. Although most people will get the standard white plate with green numbers and letters (which takes the place of green plates with white letters), there are actually 74 different kinds of plates, almost all of them showing the signature mountain range in the background: Military plates have a blue background, firefighter plates have a red background, Knights of Columbus plates have a yellow background, pioneer plates have a maroon background, etc. There was almost a Columbine High School remembrance plate that would have read "Respect Life," but many people thought it sounded too much like an anti-abortion slogan, and the state legislature voted it down. The sportiest new plates, however, are the designer version (formerly called "denim"). Featuring a blue sky, a snowcapped purple mountain range, a grassy green foreground and the state's symbolic red and yellow "C," the designer plates cost $25 a year -- but they sure are pretty. See them all online at www.mv.state.co.us/titlereg/registration/plates/alphalist.html.

Readers' choice: The old green and white plates

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