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Colorado cool stuff: wine racks, chalk fun and natural caskets



After working "90 hours a week" in grocery merchandising on the I-70 corridor, Kendall VonFeldt wanted to work for herself. Inspired by the dead trees on land she bought north of Steamboat, she quit and launched Backwoods Art in 2007. Today she makes wine racks and log "mini-bars" from wood she sources from public lands in northern Colorado. "I only use dead standing trees," VonFeldt says. "I hand-select each log. The contours of the tree guide the design." The end products range from a two-bottle tabletop wine rack to "a big huge pillar that holds 28 bottles and looks like a massive tree." $30 to $2,000 retail.

Made by Backwoods Art LLC, Longmont, (720) 438-8430, www.backwoodsart.com.  Also available at numerous festivals, including Taste of Colorado in Denver, Sept. 5-7.


In 2008, Chris Hume was designing indoor and outdoor play-spaces and raising a young son and came up with a creative diversion that also improved hand-to-eye coordination: the Chalk Spinner. "I came up with it out of a need: a need to distract kids," Hume says. "It's basically just a big rotating chalkboard." Hume soon moved on from play-spaces to making and marketing the Chalk Spinner full-time to preschools, then expanded the line last year to include like-minded kids; products like the sandbox-friendly Slurry Chutes and cardboard-hideaway Cozy Cubbies. "Everything we do we try to keep as open-ended as possible," Hume says. "Kids can use them in many different ways to explore their environment." Chalk Spinner: $99 to $220 retail.

Made by Kodo Kids LLLP, Lafayette, www.kodokids.com.


Luc Nadeau first came up with the idea of making environmentally friendly caskets from recycled wood pallets in 2005. He was running a house-painting business by day at the time, so the idea went on the back burner until 2009 when he heard of blue-stained beetle-kill pine and realized it was the perfect match for the ultimate green casket. "The green burial movement has really grown in the U.S. recently," says Nadeau, who says business has been "fairly steady" for the first year. Nadeau keeps himself plenty busy: Beyond Nature's Casket, he still has the house-painting biz plus other companies that make recycled greeting cards and electric vehicle components. $375 to $775 retail.

Made by Nature's Casket (a DBA for PaintScape Inc.), Longmont, (720) 373-7613, www.naturescasket.com.


Dr. Kristen Race has taught parenting classes for some time, but it wasn't until she had her own kids that she truly understood the magnitude of the "bedtime battles" of the 21st century. "Kids today are facing unprecedented levels of stress," says Race, citing more distractions and less structured schedules than decades past. "Role models - their parents - are constantly attached to their gadgets." So Race launched Smart Dreamzzz last fall to produce nature-themed soundtracks "to teach kids relaxation skills so they can go to sleep more easily." Now available on CD or via download are Animal Dreamzzz, Dino Dreamzzz, and the daytime-oriented Rocky Mountain Daydreamzzz. But it's not just for little ones, adds Race. "It works as well for adults as it does for kids." $9.99 to $12.99 retail.

Made by Smart Dreamzzz LLC, Steamboat Springs, (970) 846-5101, www.smartdreamzzz.com. Available at numerous stores in Colorado, including the Tattered Cover and Timbuk Toys.
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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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