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2007CriticsServices

Best (Nontoxic) Hand Job
All This by Hand

If all that stands between you and a clean house is a complete and utter aversion to all things chemical and chemically scented, then All This by Hand's holistic housecleaning is the ticket for you. Run by husband-and-wife team Brandon and Kimberly Littleton, All This by Hand uses only natural cleaning products that leave your house clean and smelling fresh. Imagine: lavender instead of bleach, lemon instead of ammonia. What a treat – and, amazingly, for prices that are hard to beat!

All This by Hand, 512/773-6131

Best A-List-iest PR Firm
Blanton Public Relations

You may have heard the name "Blanton" before, but you've never met a Blanton like powerhouse Pam. Blanton Public Relations has handled Ray Benson’s annual birthday bash benefiting the Austin Music Foundation, the Austin City Limits Music Festival VIP Grove, Coldplay’s end of U.S. tour party, and the Austin Film Festival. Current clients include Lamberts, Dale Watson, Bob "Daddy O" Wade, Ranch 616, Lake Austin Spa Resort, C3 Presents' Big State Festival, and Houston's fabulous Bistro Moderne and Hotel Derek. Among their achievements, BPR has developed a niche market launching and promoting luxury destination and resort spas.

Blanton Public Relations, 502 Oakland Ave. Ste. C, 512/469-0702, www.blantonpr.com

Best Apple Computer Repair
Shane Utley and the Crew at MacTronics

Aside from car troubles and a medical emergency, there is nothing more discombobulating than a computer meltdown. The near absolute fact that a computer meltdown will occur at the most inconvenient moment only adds to the anxiety. Enter Shane Utley and his small but helpful crew at MacTronics. Professional, friendly, and Apple-certified, Utley will assess your problem, suggest various options, and if it’s necessary to leave your beloved computer behind for repair, you can be more than assured it's in capable hands. No sneering, “you are at my mercy” attitude. Just clear, informed, honest advice and occasional hand-patting from a team that thinks that just because your computer goes zonkers doesn’t mean you have to.

MacTronics, 611 S. Congress #508, 512/445-9699, www.applerepair.com

Best Flood Rescuers
TIE: Austin Fire Department, Texas Parks & Wildlife Game Wardens

Forget the names: The Austin Fire Department isn’t just there for fires, and the game wardens don’t just count squirrels. During this year’s unprecedented summer floods, both of these services rescued swimmers, boaters, and even unlucky hikers around Austin from the torrents. It came with a tragic cost, with the loss of Texas Game Warden Teyran "Ty" Patterson during a rescue operation on the Paluxy River in May. Sadly, he was not the first but the fifth warden to die in flood waters since 1919. But when the waters rise, they are there to save the day.

Austin Fire Department Headquarters, 4201 Ed Bluestein, 512/974-0130, www.cityofaustin.org/fire

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Rd., 512/389-4800, www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Austin Fire Department, 92 Red River, www.cityofaustin.org/fire

Austin Fire Department Station #7, 201 Chicon, www.cityofaustin.org/fire

Fire Station #11, 1605 Kinney

South Austin Fire Station, 1705 S. Congress, 512/442-6822

Fire Station #1, Fifth & Trinity, 512/974-4100

Best Free Thermal Massage
Migun of Austin

Jade balls heated with far infrared waves roll up and down your entire body as you recline, prone, on a Migun bed. In the demonstration center, you are welcome to lie down and let your woes melt away. Come every day of the week if you like free massages (around 20 minutes each), noon-7pm. The beds are for sale, but the only charge for visiting the center is listening to an infomercial. The benefits – like improved flexibility, bye-bye to back pain, and an energy increase – are a bonus.

Migun of Austin, 3736 Bee Caves Rd. #5, 512/306-9933, www.migunworld.com

Best Immensely Talented Stylist in a Minuscule Salon
Robyn Zepeda, Good to Go Studio

Though North Loop's Good to Go Studio is likely smaller than some Westlake walk-in closets, it's apparently enough room for stylist Robyn Zepeda to work magic with her customers' uninspired mops. From nostalgic 1950s cuts to the edgiest styles you can conjure, the ever-upbeat Robyn has the skills to make it a reality on your noggin. She can also artfully color your hair any hue under the sun and exhibits her quaff-pimping skills alongside Good to Go's equally gifted studio owner, Portia Fono, who founded the studio on North Loop eight years ago.

Good to Go Studio, 207 E. 53rd Ste. D, 512/407-9930

Best Instant Gratification Massage
Massage Harmony

Everyone feels better after a good rubdown, but not everyone can afford a secluded, art-deco-inspired spa. And finding a "cheap massage" leaves you vulnerable to unlicensed and unhealthy massaging or the fear of ending up in one of those joints where the Austin Police Department decides to kick down the door. Here to alleviate these fears (and pains) is Massage Harmony, located in the Westgate shopping center beside Central Market. Hourlong sessions range from $34 to $44, and you can pick from six different types of massage from their professional therapists. Relaxed mind, relaxed muscles, relaxed wallet.

Massage Harmony, 4477 S. Lamar #410, 512/358-9300, www.massageharmony.com

Massage Harmony, 3300 Bee Caves Rd. Ste. 100, 512/306-0900

Massage Harmony, 4477 South Lamar Blvd. Ste. 410, 512/358-9300

Best Realtor for People Who Are Afraid of Realtors
Lisa Muñoz, Hindsite 20/20 Real Estate

Even before she sold our farmhouse in the suburban hinterlands, guided us through a difficult first investment, and humored our subsequent airs of expertise, we knew Lisa Muñoz was the real estate pro for us. It's not just the absence of big hair and balloon bouquets: Muñoz knows her market and gets the creative-class aesthetic; she's down-to-earth and up-front, encourages without pressuring, and forgos hyperactive, euphemistic bluster for generous attention and clear-eyed analysis. While her clients run the gamut, she and her staff never forget what it's like to be a skittish naif in the real estate wilds; whether it's your first purchase or your zillionth, she's got your back.

Lisa Munoz, Hindsite 20/20, 2007 W. Koenig, www.hindsiteaustin.com

Best Relocated Duck-Billed Hairdresser
Kelly Behrends, Platypus Hair Salon

Don't worry. Kelly's not duck-billed, but his incredibly cozy, one-sink, two-chair salon, which recently moved to the Drag from East Fifth, is our favorite spot to have a glass of wine and a head massage while watching magic performed atop our very own heads. Kelly's turning wheels are evident through his mischievous eyes, and when he gets inspired, watch out. Over the last few years, his prices have raised a bit (now a paltry $55 for women's cuts and $40 for men's, no tips accepted), his location became more central (now upstairs behind the old Little City), and just after South by Southwest, he became eternally hitched to the woman of his dreams. It was a sad day for the ladies, but Kelly's one in a million. And we'd pay for that head massage any day.

Kelly Behrends, Platypus Hair Salon, 2604 Guadalupe, www.platypusplanet.com

Best Rescue of a Grooming Tradition
Avenue Barber Shop

Most folks acquiring an old barber shop nowadays would strip out the striped pole and go all salon on the joint. But when Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer and Kevin Lemoine bought George's Barber Shop from longtime owner George Jaeger this year, they embraced the past, turning the clock back to the early Sixties with a vintage Coke machine, retro signage, a rack full of men's magazines, and, of course, classic cuts from barbers in black ties and crisp white jackets. When those scissors start to snip, you'd swear JFK was still in the White House. The move reflects the new owners' old-school tastes (both are classic car enthusiasts), but it's also a loving nod to history, the site having been home to a barber shop since FDR's first term. On the street the hip call SoCo, how refreshing to see someone remember that first it was "the Avenue."

Avenue Barber Shop, 1710 S. Congress, 512/441-2467, www.avenuebarbershop.com

Best Wall-to-Wallers
Carpet Stop

Every time we walk into Carpet Stop, we notice a buzz of activity, with just about every salesperson engaged in a thorough consultation with a customer, asking all the requisite questions: Traffic? Kids? Pets? They carry all the brands you'd expect – Stainmaster, Alladin, Mohawk, etc. – and have more than 250,000 square feet in stock. The installation is expert, polite, professional, and in our experience, we didn't even have to ask them to stretch the roll out before hammering it down. The most fabulous aspect about this "mill direct outlet" is the prices. We did our research, and we keep coming back. The rug stops here.

Carpet Stop, 1542 W. Anderson, 512/419-1144, www.carpetstop.com

Best Way to Keep on Rollin'
Leal's Tire Shop

Welcome to East Austin's institution of affordable expediency. Get your tires balanced, rotated, or patched – or break down and buy a quality used one to replace the one you've patched to tire heaven. Keeping the business in the familia, Leal's banks its Austin cred with more than 20 years of keeping us rolling. Trustworthy, fast, and reliable – the exact recipe for tire goodness. The most notable of the two locations is its hard-to-miss brightly painted shop on East Cesar Chavez: an Aztec mural in glorious orange flames. ¡Viva la yanta!

Leal's Tire Shop, 1900 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/477-6180, www.lealstireshop.com

Most Exacting House Painter
Eve Pettyjohn, Steadyhand Painting

Big, strappin' tall drink of water Eve Pettyjohn is a gem, obviously for her precise, perfectionist takes on freehanding your cut-ins; of course for the care she takes in making sure that the color you want is really the color you want once it is surrounding you on all four walls; and most certainly for the fact that she is efficient, professional, and (yeah, this should go without saying, but you'd be amazed) cleans up after herself. But the thing we like best about this eager brush-master is that she is so danged pleasant to have around your space, and she'll stay until your project looks like something out of a design magazine.

Steadyhand Painting, 512/743-7220

Most Glamorous Event Planner
Suzanne Court

Her catering company delivers the most stylish food to the most stylish parties, but event planner Suzanne Court herself is a real addition to any occasion. The fashion-friendly, sparkling-eyed beauty is a perfect fit with her clients, providing glamorous food in high style, inventive cuisine, and impeccable service. Offering services such as floral design, invitations, and grand entertainment, Court is the whole catering package.

Suzanne Court Catering & Events, 512/762-5447

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