Whether it's "Danny Boy" ye be needin' or simply "Taps," the Michael Collins Pipes and Drums ensemble (named for the father of the Irish Republic) can deliver, and their slogan says it all. Hire them on, whether you need cheerful, morose, danceable or mournful bagpipe music, with or without the rhythm section. As someone once said (we think it was "anon"): "Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter. Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes...that's the Irish for you!"
Cute, reusable coffee-cup sleeves may seem like the next obvious step in our eco-minded, coffee-fueled world, but it took a woman like Marilyn Wells to make it happen. A seamstress with a degree in home economics, Wells worked for years making costumes for Denver-based films like Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. But a couple of years ago, this thrifty single mom was looking for a new project and noticed how much paper she wasted every time she bought a coffee to go. Using a few scraps of fabric and two strips of Velcro, she created a miniature quilt to wrap around her cup, and her company, Cup Cozee, was born. Wells now distributes the sleeves to five Denver shops, including Cafe Europa, Devil's Food and the Tattered Cover. The intricately stitched cozies go for $12 apiece or $20 for two. Sugar, cream and a cozee, please.
When Lawrence Argent's giant blue bear — the piece of public artwork officially known as "I See What You Mean" — first appeared outside the Colorado Convention Center, it inspired all sorts of brainstorms among local boosters. Dressing the people who were pushing the extension of the arts tax in blue bear costumes, for example. Draping the sculpture itself in a giant orange scarf to hype the Broncos' season. There was just one snafu in all these schemes: The city owned the art, but not the rights to Argent's image. Some better-late-than-never legal work took care of that, and so Denver is now able to sell, through city outlets, authorized 12" and 16" high versions of the big blue bear, already Denver's most beloved icon (excluding John Elway). What? Were you expecting miniature models of "The Dancers"?
Church of Cupcakes
Sarah Hill Photography
Lovely Confections is an elegant cupcakery, filled with comfy couches, serving Novo coffee and featuring a bare-bones but scrumptious selection of five basic yet expertly executed cake flavors on weekdays: lemon, carrot, coconut, chocolate and vanilla (the latter two come with chocolate or vanilla frosting). On weekends, owner and head baker Porche Lovely whips up additional flavors, always keeping in mind the green practices of her place, incorporating natural and organic ingredients and using local suppliers. This bakery takes the cake.
YumYums Delights
Cupcakes are the trendiest treat in town. Suddenly, bakeries all over are churning out the loveliest mini-cakes you've ever seen, decorated with sprinkles, dragées and pearlescent dust. In downtown Denver, YumYums Delights rules. Conveniently open until eight every night of the week except Sunday, this is the perfect place to grab something wicked to eat after dinner or before the theater. The cupcakes come in a chorus line of delicious flavors, from pure vanilla, inside and out, to more exotic fluff, including mango tango spice, pink lady, mimosa cream and brown cow. Yum yum!
The Shoppe
The Shoppe's master cupcake baker, Emma Lee Bettina Rose Skala (better known as Emma Rose), earned her BFA from Alfred University and has a background in ceramic art — both of which surely come in handy when she's artfully sculpting her delicious little cakelets. She starts with flavors as scandalously rich as Double Chocolate Kahlua or as hip as Mojito or Strawberry Champagne, then tops that with every custom theme imaginable, from a dinosaur to a lifelike mound of violets. Consider this recent special order: Skala created a dozen Totoro cupcakes, each capped with a paper-thin, bunny-shaped chocolate slab decorated in contrasting white chocolate to resemble Hayao Miyazaki's animated character. Pure genius. And the Shoppe even delivers your custom order, via Cheetah Couriers bike messengers.
Happy Bakeshop
Northwest Denver's premier cupcake bakery will boggle both your imagination and your tastebuds with its daily specials. On Tuesdays, Peanut Butter Cup and Apple Cinnamon cupcakes are featured, along with the staple variations on vanilla, chocolate and red-velvet cake; on Wednesdays, it's Carrot Cake and Cookies & Cream. The daily deals continue through Saturday, offering such unique flavors as a maple-infused French Toast, Orange Creamsicle, Jack & Coke (cola cake with bourbon frosting), Strawberry Pretzel and Root Beer Float. And you just never know what Thursday's Mystery Flavor will turn out to be! Live dangerously, cupcake.
"There's a lot of magic involved with time travel," says Valerie Griffin, who first became entranced with costumery at the age of six, when her grandmother made an opulent southern-belle gown for her cat. As she grew up, Griffin did theater costumes for school plays; later, she worked the Halloween season in a shop in Arvada. Today she dances to her own piper when it comes to costume-making, and her creations usually start with reconstituted thrift-store finds that, with a little of the aforementioned magic and some guidance from antique patterns, she transforms into the Civil War-era, Cleopatra or Sergeant Pepper's garb she sees in her head. Give Griffin some time and space and she'll come up with whatever it is you need — or rent something from her private collection. It's dress-up at its best.
MoonDance Botanicals
It's springtime again, which means it's time for everybody's least-favorite activity: spring cleaning. As if scouring the house from top to bottom weren't daunting and un-fun enough, the cleaning products available in the supermarket tend to not be so great for the environment — or you, for that matter. And if you've got babies crawling around on the floor, using chemical-laden liquids might even be dangerous. That's where the Natural Cleaning Products class at MoonDance Botanicals comes in. For $20, learn to make your own herbal products that will clear your home of just as much dust and dirt as the hard-core grocery-store stuff but will keep you and your family much healthier. The class includes the main ingredients you need to tackle the most difficult cleaning issues, plus you'll create an all-purpose aromatherapeutic cleanser and a softly abrasive scrub. Clean is in.
Brewing coffee smells so good in the morning; the scent alone can take the edge off your sleepiness. And now there's another reason to perk up: Brothers David and Michael Hartkop have created Solar Roast Coffee, which uses patent-pending solar roasters, organic beans and is 100 percent carbon-neutral in its roasting. When the sun isn't shining, Solar Roast uses a standard shop roaster but purchases carbon-offset credits from solar-energy providers around the country. You can purchase the coffee online in sample packs, specially crafted blends, or single-origin organics. Go ahead, have another cup.

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