Cooking can be a chore. It requires all that chopping and stirring and boiling and waiting. But there are several ways to make it better — namely, drinking a bottle of wine and wearing a super-cute apron while doing it. MargoBelle, a local company that also makes skirts, belts and handbags, hand-sews some of the cutest aprons around. By matching bold floral prints with polka dots and gingham, they make even the tipsiest chef look the part.

Fancy Tiger

My, how Fancy Tiger's annual holiday market has grown! What started out a few years ago as a seasonal craft sale in the confines of the DIY supply shop's own digs (before moving on each year to bigger and bigger venues) truly spread out and sparkled last December in its spectacular new home: the Sherman Street Event Center, with its wooden-floored ballroom and ornate balconies. The quality of the work has also stepped up incrementally over the years, to the point where it represents a balanced, unique and very talented mix of vendors, selling rag dolls and jewelry and bike bags and cards and more. We could have spent the whole day wandering through.

Dollhouse Cilhouette

You can rent a tuxedo — why not a dress? Dollhouse Cilhouette goes one step further and even offers date-night makeovers with their new and used party duds, available to buy or to rent. Geared toward bridesmaids and other women finding themselves in the situation of needing a glitzy dress that they might never wear again, this Berkeley District shop takes the nail-biting over an unnecessary expense out of the shopping process. And the looks? Think Bebe, Guess, Nicole Miller, BCBG Max Azria and the like: short, sizzling and sexy. Dollhouse Cilhouette will also host makeover parties for prom night or a wedding entourage, by appointment. Go ahead, play a little.

Scarlet Ranch

Denver's most notorious swingers' club is roomy and loud and full of sweaty sexual "explorers," as its website says, dancing, drinking (their own liquor), lounging on couches and, well, doing it — either in semi-private cubbies outfitted with curtains and beds, in the hot tub or in the exhibitionist shower. But don't worry: The friendly Scarlet Ranch staff changes the sheets and replenishes the condom supply on a frequent basis.

The Streets at Southglenn

Indoor or outdoor, your typical mall is practically interchangeable with the rest: the same stores and the same layouts in slightly differing combinations, ho hum. But the redeveloped town-center-style SouthGlenn is bucking the trend by welcoming independent boutiques and shops to its fold, many of them successful transplants from regional neighborhood shopping districts like Highlands Square and downtown Littleton, as well as lesser-known specialty chains. If names like Kismet, Sous le Lit, the Blues Jean Bar and Rejuvanest sound familiar, that's because you've known and loved them elsewhere. Even in the suburbs, it's cool to be unique.

Burnzwell

As the medical marijuana industry matures in Colorado, dispensary names are moving away from the ubiquitous titles with some combination of "green," "herb," "chronic," "wellness," "health," "high" and "care" and toward more creative monikers to describe the place you go to get your pot. BurnzWell stands out among them. For starters, they're no pansies when it comes to describing what they do: You will purchase their medical products and you will burn them. End of story. Be sure check out the company's logo: a red snake wrapped around a smoking joint, a play on the medical industry's caduceus.

College students or people who partied with Charlie Sheen and the goddesses for an evening now have a way to bypass one of the worst parts of partying: the morning after. Hangover Helpers, a business started by two University of Colorado graduates, can't un-drink all that booze or erase the three-way proposal you texted to your girlfriend's roommate, but it will clean your house and bring food and drink. As students, Alex Vere-Nicoll and Marc Simons realized that they liked partying but hated cleaning up afterward. Assuming other undergrads had the same sensibilities, they started charging $15 per roommate to clean houses after parties. They also bring Gatorade and a panini press to prepare freshly grilled breakfast burritos for their customers. Sure beats a handful of Advil.

City Plantscaping specializes in decorating the insides of homes and businesses with plants — even the edible kind. The company will install moveable walls called TerraScreens, made of wire brackets and filled to the top with potted herbs and vegetables. Part decoration and part garden, you can find green walls at a variety of businesses like Total Longterm Care, which uses one to grow tropical plants on one side for visual appeal and parsley, rosemary, thyme, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and bell peppers on the other side for gastronomical satiation. In fact, employees at Total Longterm Care pick herbs and veggies off the wall to complement their lunches. And that, we're sure, is better than something from the vending machine.

Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

You're not supposed to think about shopping when you visit an art museum — and at most of the museums in the metro area, that's easy. But the Denver Art Museum put as much care into its new shop as it did its exhibit galleries, installing a veritable department store of books, cards, jewelry, glass and pottery on the first floor of the Hamilton Building. Not only are the selections in every category superb, but the shop emphatically cured the doldrums of the formerly dead space that had been a badly conceived lobby.

All of the best shopping districts reflect the neighborhoods they serve, and on that merit alone, Tennyson Street really shines: It's neighborly, funky, friendly, semi-gentrified and built on a solid foundation of community values; each shop, gallery and restaurant seems to smile and wave "hey" when you walk in the door. A leisurely stroll down the stretch of Tennyson between 38th and 44th avenues will lead you from handmade glass demonstrations at Shackman Glass to a scratch-made pay-what-you-can meal at the Comfort Cafe, books to the ceiling at the Bookery Nook, a cuppa joe at Tenn Street Coffee, bacon-doughnuts and beer at the Hole and mid-century kitsch at Mid, Mod and More. Welcome to the neighborhood.

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