Aspiring gardeners who don't know the difference between a weed and a seed pod will find plenty to dig into on Colorado State University's Master Gardener website. So will those looking for specific information on delightfully dirty subjects like composting and mealworms. The site is an exhaustive font of information for both the seasoned and the stupefied, with tips on everything from lawn care and pest control to plant selection and keeping your window fern alive. Visitors can also ask questions directly of those earthy wizards known as master gardeners. It isn't easy being a green thumb, but CSU's site makes it a little less mind-boggling.


Face it: Parking downtown will always be a pain. But the Tabor Center parking garage is an oasis in a desert of parking meters. It costs twelve bucks to park there all day, but the garage is much more than just an auto warehouse. Different services are available on different levels of the structure: Leave your car on Level E, and Center Line Detailing Car Wash will clean it ($15 to $25) while you shop. On Level C is same-day dry-cleaning and auto repair: Midas Auto Service Experts will pick up your vehicle, change the oil or whatever else you need and return it to the garage. Speedy Auto Glass will even come and fix windshields. What parking meter can do all that?


Best Way to Reduce Your Parking Fine by 37 Cents

www.denverpvb.com

Yeah, parking tickets suck. What makes them even worse is writing a check to cover the cost, tracking down an envelope and a stamp, and remembering to put the hateful package in the mail. While the Denver Parking Violations Bureau's website doesn't entirely take the sting out of the process, it does eliminate some of the additional tasks. By clicking the "Pay-By-Web" button on the home page and following along step by step, users can charge a ticket to their Visa or MasterCard, saving a few pennies and some additional frustration in the process.


The Germans took things to the extreme for years, allowing their beloved hounds to eat at the table in public restaurants. And while nobody here is advocating that (at least not openly), there are folks who like to take their favorite pup out for a round of relaxing shopping. If they visit Aspen Grove, they won't be in the doghouse: While there are a few dog-dissers (hello, Starbucks) at the outdoor mall, most stores post signs welcoming their four-legged friends.


Cherry Creek got a much-needed boost of flava with Urban Outfitters, a welcome outpost of urbanity in the shopping center's rarefied air. The only store in the mall to display its goods in plywood crates, the chain retailer is both outlandish and practical. A pop-up version of the Kama Sutra sits next to a book on how to build an outdoor shed; rugs made of shredded T-shirts share space with teapot lamps and Snoop Dogg action figures. Urban Outfitters is a relatively inexpensive and fun place to find a book of vintage Playboy centerfolds, Day-Glo jewelry and a T-shirt collection that's worth a visit on its own; one top features a pig bearing flowers and pleading, "Please don't eat me...I love you." We'll oink to that.


The Far East Center is more of a vicarious travel experience than a shopping mall -- an exotic otherworld seated at the corner of Federal Boulevard and Alameda Avenue. The double-decker complex boasts a Vietnamese bakery, a couple of hair and nail salons and two well-stocked Asian grocery stores that traffic in fresh, live fish, cookware, tea and spices. At Truong An, you'll find unique and affordable gifts such as bamboo plants, paper lanterns and cute Korean stationery. The center's always-packed parking lot's a pickle, but the prices are right and the offerings endlessly interesting. And when the shopping weakens your knees, there's plenty to eat: We'll take the Far East noodle joints over the food court any day. Celebrate the Year of the Monkey: Go East.


Artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy and collector Barbara Pooler recently changed the location of Pod from a spot within the Andenken Gallery to new digs on Santa Fe Drive, in a space that once housed the ILK Gallery as well as Murphy's own studio. But Pod's purpose remains the same: to support artists by selling the one-of-a-kind things they make. And what things they are! Pod swells with Murphy's own Sugarpuss bags made of recycled fur coats and wig hair; Chinese-print brocade bustiers; beadwork; small framed works; tiny signed prints sold in vending-machine eggs; and a huge selection of local Squid Works comics. Overhead flies a creepy-cute brigade of ceiling-hung angels, complete with felted human hair and tea-stained teeth. (According to Murphy, they're made by a Danish artist who smuggles them into the States.) Pod may soon expand further into the storefront space and offer workshops and other activities; in the meantime, it's a place where you can shop without feeling vacuously shallow about it. It's for art, after all.


The Tattered Cover revolves around language. So why is it so hard to find words to adequately praise it? Not content to simply be the region's finest bookstore, the Denver landmark became a symbol of our times in 2000, when owner Joyce Meskis refused to turn over buyer info to police, a move that made her a hero among booksellers and civil libertarians alike. On a less grand scale, her stores are comfy, community-oriented and pleasantly stuffed with a vast stock of new and used titles. The LoDo store's activity calendar is exhaustive, as well, with near-nightly readings by authors both obscure and internationally known. But wait -- there's more! The store's coffee is yummy and cheap! And this year, the TC began carrying parking-meter keys, available for purchase in any amount -- which makes so much sense, we wonder why every LoDo business doesn't do it. Then again, if every business operated like the Tattered Cover, we'd never run out of interesting things to look at, think about, participate in, discuss, admire and, yes, buy. And what fun would that be?


Best Store in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Anthropologie

Chain-store, shmain-store. Complain all you like, but if you're gonna shop at the mall, you'd better get used to it. Anthropologie -- the frou-frou Parisian-style sister of the trendy, all-American Urban Outfitters across the way -- helps take away the sting of homogeneity. The boutique takes modern retro dressing to the edge by reviving the studied detail of old clothes: the memorable colors, vintage prints, unique trims and ornamentation such as pleats, eyelet and lace. The ultra-soft modern fabrics stretch, cling, cohere and gracefully follow the figure (assuming you still have one). A true concept store, Anthropologie also stocks accessories and home decor to match its clothes, so load up your shopping bags and take home a perfectly coordinated lifestyle.


Opened in October 2001, Colorado Mills has yet to catch the retail fire its developers had hoped for. We don't quite understand why. It's an easy distance outside of town -- the "scenic" route along Colfax provides a bonus driving tour of Lakewood's finest dive bars -- and its ninety shops are a manageable mix of upscale, stylish and practical, with good deals in every one. (Slightly less scenic but more direct routes along Sixth Avenue and C-470 provide easy access for those in a hurry.) There's a food court with ample seating, a family fun center and, best of all, a Super Target. True, the Outlets in Castle Rock have eight more stores, and bargain shopping at Loveland's outpost of outlets is a tad more picturesque. But Colorado Mills has something its competitors don't: an As Seen on TV store!

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