Best Craft Kit 2013 | I Heart Denver Picard Needle-Felting Kit | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

"It's really adorable, and it might be the only corgi needle-felting kit that I know of in the world." That's how Fancy Tiger's Amber Corcoran describes the craft kit she designed last fall for I Heart Denver, where shop mascot Denver Picard Schimek (last year's winner of the Best of Denver's award for Best Shop Dog) often holds court with shoppers and his adoring masses. Corcoran cites Denver's beautiful black-ringed eyes as a special inspiration and selling point for the kit, which retails for $14 and features custom packaging. Good dog!

This low-profit, thoroughly crunchy organization, devoted to sustainable agriculture, has two campuses. The Loveland headquarters offers several aquaponic and greenhouse demonstration systems, while the mountain campus hosts alpacas, goats and free-range chickens. Students learn how these models can support viable businesses and entire communities, and free webinars make some of the material available to a much wider audience, as well.

Business at the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses has been booming since medical marijuana centers were added to its task list. But director Tom Downey and his dedicated staff have done their best to make any wait pleasant. In 2011, Downey not only put a Westword rack in the waiting area, but he installed a frozen-margarita machine, too. The latter lasted only a week, but the frozen-yogurt machine he added last December has done much better. There's just one problem: Department employees are so efficient, customers barely have time to pick up their spoon and dig into the treat.

This Longmont-based company makes highly durable, colorful bracelets, lanyards, key chains, pet collars, leashes and more out of high-grade, made-in-USA paracord, a nylon rope favored by the military. Not only outdoorsy-stylish, they double as survival tools: Each item can be unwoven into several feet of cord, for those occasions when you wish you had a lariat, sling or some emergency tie-down gear.

The Havana Health Spa doesn't mess around: $18 gets you in all day and $45 gets you a thirty-minute body scrub that's not for the timid. The discreet, no-frills rejuvenation center in a strip mall has separate men's and women's hot tubs, cold tubs, saunas, steam baths, mud rooms and poolside vanity stations for all your primping needs. Enjoy a clarifying face mask or deep-tissue massage before finishing off your day of beauty with a quiet retreat in a room full of energizing crystals. Or get a protein fix from the hard-boiled eggs cooked fresh in the sauna while you wait. Nudity isn't required, but be prepared: This is an old-school day spa, and the nakedness is abundant.

Passing those ballot measures really works! Rather than having to cut back — something we’ve become increasingly used to — the Denver Public Library was able to extend its hours in 2013 at most branch libraries, including guaranteed weekend and evening hours at several of them. In addition, the central library reinstated its Saturday-morning hours. The reason: the passage of Measure 2A, which increased revenue for DPL. Our libraries are a precious resource; this is the kind of open-door policy we can really get behind.

The San Antonio Mexican bakery's shelves are heavy with panaderia offerings familiar to denizens of the western U.S.: fruit-filled empanadas, shell-shaped conchas and torta-worthy bolillos. But transplants from the American South will gravitate toward the homey pecan-paved tarts, miniature relatives of the familiar holiday pies lovingly baked by grandmothers from Atlanta to Austin. And these are tarts guaranteed to make any granny swoon: The aroma of brown sugar and sweet, toasted pecans is overwhelming from the moment you open the paper bag. In the right hands, the alchemy of butter, sugar and pecans makes for a magical dessert that translates to bliss in any language.

Denver has a surprising number of talented pet sketchers, but the canine portrait work of Robert Gratiot, who teaches at the Art Students League of Denver and has exhibited widely, is in a class of its own. Working in oils from a photograph, Gratiot can produce a study of your best friend that, like his much-praised still lifes, manages to be both hyper-real and painterly — but never cutesy. Framed in oak, the results are doggone marvelous.

Nicole and Simon Woolsey-Neech, a young couple with modern tastes, have created a primer in homey hipster interior design out of this unassuming Tennyson Street storefront that's a little bit cozy cottage and a little bit retro space-age. Inside, you might find a child-sized diner-style table and chairs or a package of wooden chip clips hand-painted with pooch designs; jewelry ranges from recycled bike-chain bangles to bright enameled blossoms by Doozie. And for the beer aficionado in the house? How about one of HandySam's wall-hung bottle openers decorated with vintage beer cans that catch the falling caps? As HandySam Creations crows on its Etsy page, "No man room is complete without one."

More than anything, Mo' Betta's Beverly Grant and her greens-loving son, Reese, want to make fresh foods available in the food desert of Five Points. But they realize that it doesn't hurt to throw in a helping of fun and community spirit alongside the local produce bins and healthy-foods resource tables. Live music and DJs are standard at the twice-monthly market, as are cooking demos and free tastes. This year, in the interest of spreading food justice, Mo' Betta, which partners with the GrowHaus, will be adding a second location, on alternating weeks, in the hospital zone at 20th Avenue and Ogden Street. The Welton market opens on June 15 and the Ogden addition on June 22; both will continue through October.

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