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Taste of Refinement: Sister’s Courtyard Tea Room

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The skies were clear and the heat of Pueblo threatened to burn all those in the wake of its rays. Finding solace in the shade of a building or the shade of a tree can be a most wonderful pleasure during these summer days, but as I was about to discover, finding a cup of tea proved to be an even more wonderful pleasure.

I quickly picked up my friend, Sheela, from her home, and we raced the heat of the day to make it to Sister’s Courtyard, located on 5th Street, in time to meet my mom for lunch.

We arrived, stepping lightly into the coolness of the indoors and over the threshold of elegance. At a glance, tables were set with crystal glasses, a fluffy folded napkin nestled neatly inside them, and various patterned china to mark a seat at the table.

My mother had arrived before us, she was poised in a corner next to the window staring out and watching the world. With her eyes glowing and the flecks of glitter sparkling on her cheeks, she had her fingertips at her lips, bangles loosely clinging to her wrist, and was dressed in a black and green floral dress that stopped at her knees, she was fit for a tea party.

We found our places around the small table decorated with a crisp white linen. Above us was a cream-colored umbrella hanging upside down with flowers overflowing from it. Teapots lined where the wall meets the ceiling. Small photos of dainty things vacated the wallspace and there was a ledge stuffed with various books. Beside me, a ladybug traveled on the window, trying to find it’s way to the outside.

A gentleman approached our table, a bright plaid button up, and a bow tie complimented his horn-rimmed glasses. He inquired what teas we desired. We each picked one. White Ginger Pear. Serene Green. Southern Pecan. Within several minutes, the gentleman returned carrying a fresh pot of tea placing a silver votive holder underneath each one to keep them warm.

He filled each of our cups, but only three quarters full, the rest of the room left for our emotions.

He returned several more times, providing a small pitcher of milk and a large scoop filled with raw sugar. Then came the scones, clotted cream and lemon curd. Handling the spoons delicately, we scooped small portions, placing them onto the fine china. The soft clinks of china, and the sound of a spoon swirling sugar and milk into a fresh cup of tea was a most relaxing sound.

The lightly-sweetened scones crumbled on my tongue mixing with the heavenly smoothness of the clotted cream. The scones are meant to be eaten slowly, taking sips of tea in between, but before a dainty eyelash bats and somehow at the most perfect time, another course is being set on the table and another cup of tea is poured.

A fluffy quiche lorraine and a light vegetable medley soup was next. This savory course wasn’t too savory, but just enough to leave me wanting much, much more. We glanced around the table with that, “holy crap, this is delicious” thought in mind, because this was a fancy place and we simply couldn’t say it out loud.

Just when the quiche and soup had filled us up, the last and final course, before dessert, was added to our table as other plates were removed.

This was two tiers worth of delectable goodies, complete with turkey swiss pinwheels, cucumber sandwiches, roast beef and red-pepper on rye, chicken salad triangle sandwiches, multigrain crackers topped with cream cheese, a walnut and a grape. There was also chocolate covered strawberries, cinnamon chocolate cake and cherry and lemon bars.

Dessert was a creamy and smooth cherry cheesecake. Chocolate sauce danced across the China. We took our bites of the scrumptious cheesecake but simply could not finish.

It was three years ago in March 2011, that Beth Gladney opened this little place called Sister’s Courtyard. The name itself was inspired by a restaurant favorite of hers in New Orleans also of the same name.

Ultimately, she named her tea room Sister’s Courtyard as a way to honor the many feminine bonds that run in her family. But all names aside, in Southern Colorado, tea shops are not as popular and the next nearest one is located in Canon City.

I asked her why she opened her business here and what inspired her to open a tea shop, since Pueblo doesn’t seem to suit a tea culture. Being a Pueblo resident for many years, and spending much time at a tea room that used to be open on Union Ave., Tivoli’s Tea Room,  with her girlfriends in her teen years, she expressed her great love for tea and her even greater love for Pueblo.

“I love Pueblo,” Gladney said. “I want people to stay here instead of having to go Denver or somewhere else (for tea).”

Gladney had first experienced the splendor of the tea culture during her travel abroad in Europe, more specifically, London.A traditional tea service in London is an afternoon ritual designed by the 7th Duchess of Bedford who was frustrated with the hunger pangs she got in the middle of the day. The duchess scheduled afternoon snack and tea for each day and thus the afternoon tea service was born.

Gladney found her love for tea in London but learned how to make it a business in Kentucky at the Perryville Inn. She learned the history of tea, how to be the tea connoisseur, how to perfect the art of making tea and how to successfully run a tea room.

Her own personal love for tea and desire to bring tea to the community, motivated her to open one of the most unique tea rooms by far.

“I love the pomp and circumstance of tea and how you have to wait for it. My favorite part is the setting of tea and how you become reflective and conducive during the experience,” she said.

Looking around Sister’s Courtyard, I could feel the pensive atmosphere she was aiming for. The feeling was in between the books, it filled all the pots on the wall and it hung with the curtains.

Sister’s Courtyard, carries Elmwood Inn and Tea Forte brands of up to 40 different teas, from blacks to whites to greens to oolongs. Her staff contributes in all areas of their customer service, whether it be cooking or serving.

Gladney admits she occasionally jumps back in the kitchen, even though she didn’t come from a food background, and makes scones and quiches, but she prefers being out and about talking to her guests.

“I want people to be able to experience a quaint tea room, to escape the hustle and bustle of life and just relax. They don’t have to leave right away, but they can just sit and enjoy their time,” she said.

Gladney said she would like to be able to expand her business so that she could stay open later and offer people the same relaxation but with wine.  Currently, she said she’s working to bring the Royal Tea Service to Sister’s Courtyard, which allows guests to drink champagne with afternoon tea.

“There is a market for tea in Pueblo, not just coffee. Tea is good for your health, your digestive system, and the culture is catching on,” Gladney said.

Those things may all be true, but after experiencing Sister’s Courtyard it becomes clear that above all, a hot cup of tea, even in the blistering Southern Colorado heat, is good for the soul.

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Arts & Culture

Art is Hard with Pueblo illustrator Riki Takaoka

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Takoka, Riki (web)

“I’ve almost quit doing art so many times.”

I’m at a coffee place downtown talking shop with Pueblo artist and illustrator Riki Takaoka. With works currently on display at the Q Pop gallery in Los Angeles, and a recent addition for possible contribution to nationally syndicated contemporary arts magazine Hi-Fructose, (not to mention freelance nominations from Paramount Animation Studios), I figured he and I were in for a quick convo about brushes or pen techniques. I wasn’t expecting that one of the quickest and most accurate caricature artists I’ve ever seen in my life would say he is quitting something he’s clearly great at.

But I was shocked to hear that come from his lips.

Shocked, but sadly not at all surprised. Talk to almost anyone in the so-called creative class, and they’ll tell you a similarly dismal story that usually goes as such;

1) Find something creative you love to do.

2) Take years and years honing and perfecting your craft.

3) Get good enough to be recognized for your art.

4) Ask for compensation for your art.

5) Get chided for daring to ask for said compensation.

image by Riki Takaoka

 

The worst part about hearing that from him is that the illustration work of Takaoka is flat out phenomenal. Blending playfully bold caricatures with a jagged surrealistic quality, Takaoka has developed a signature style and skill set that stands on its own. A style that he points out he has been brewing since childhood.

“When i was a kid, I would draw and redraw the same cover of PSM (PlayStation Magazine) over and over. I was just obsessed with it. I’ve stayed in my room for days sometimes, just trying to push myselfto do better,” Takaoka said.

But all the talent and hard work in the word can’t guarantee financial success in the art world.

When the topic shifts to art as a means of income comes up, Takaoka offers, “Art is hard. Not hard for me to make. It’s easy to make and I love it. Just hard for me to deal with. Or, I guess live off. Deal with trying to live off it. And it’s frustrating to spend hours making a commission piece for someone and then have to beg them to pay for it.”

Unfair doesn’t seem to do it justice. In no other profession other than the creative field will you hear of such a thing. I’ve never once heard of my food service friends offered to be paid by a future profit share, or my wife the hairdresser and stylist proposed exposure for their work as an alternative to actual money. But every day in creative lines of work, artists are at odds with clientele who want assets for nothing or damn near.

“I get that almost every time, everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I’ve been. I’ve lived in Hawaii, in Texas, here in Colorado.” he said. “Unless you’re a well known artist, people constantly try to get out of paying you for your work.”

“There’s been times where I haven’t drawn for three months straight,” he added, sounding a bit dejected. “Because sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it. But it’s one of the only things I know how to do well.”

I asked him about his experience living and working out of Pueblo.

“It’s a nice place to live. It’s affordable. I can walk around and not feel stressed out about having to have two jobs to survive,” Takaoka said. “But the problem is no one wants to work with each other. Not everybody, but too many.”

Even though the art scene here is by no means perfect, he was quick to add, “but it is getting better I guess. And bigger. People doing more. Taking chances.”

In any other line of work, the odds of failure facing people would break most people. But not Riki.  At the end of our conversation, I asked if he considered quitting forever, which got a sly grin. “I can’t quit, I guess. Maybe I’ll just stop for a while. But not completely. At this point it’s like handwriting to me. Period. It’s almost subconscious. It’s the way I see the world. And deal with it.”

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Arts & Culture

Land Lines : PULP Artist of the Month

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Denver’s Land Lines occupy a truly unique headspace upon listening, which can only be described as “Fresh off the boat from Chilligan’s Island”. The Mile High trio, comprised of Martina Grbac (cello/vocals), Ross Harada (drums) and James Han (electric piano/organ), seamlessly meld vintage-modern baroque music with pop shimmer and gloss, like having a dance party at the symphony. Musically, Land Lines is at times is sparse and introspective, with clever and brooding lyricism, only to then turn that right on its’ ear as with bursts and blooms of  thundering pop force, (which contains equally clever and brooding lyricism). On their newest album “Natural World”, dark and moody synthesizer tones playfully buzz and pulsate to and fro over drums that are the audio equivalent of a saunter and sashay. But the lively pluck and eerie hum of the cello (compliments of Martina Grbac) is what sets this band apart from the pack, providing an melodic orchestral punch that cuts through the dense sonic layers like a Hattori Hanzo sword.

 

for fans of /// Portishead • Lady Lamb the Beekeeper • Beach Fossils

hellolandlines.bandcamp.com

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Music

The Local : BRIDGES

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BRIDGES may easily (and quite erroneously) get lumped in with every other current metal/hardcore band playing out today, but this does them no justice. Shifting between the audible snarl and massive attack of hardcore and metal to delicate and downright pretty alternative minded exalt on a dime, BRIDGES, in a very big sense, play simply heavy music. Not heavy in the classic metal distorted-and-detuned-riffs kind of way, but heavy in perhaps an emotive sense. There are elements of hardcore and modern metal, yes, but the real strength behind this band is that their music largely defies any easy categorization, instead using the 60+ years of combined innovation to bring about one of the most well versed and original bands currently in Colorado.   

On a whim, I asked them to quickly list the bands that they had played in or currently part of. They easily listed over a dozen, with some being short tenures in young acts fresh out of high school with others spanning for multiple years, tours, and record label heat.

But what really amazes me about BRIDGES is their reverence for each other. In all my time spent hanging out with bands (both my own and other), I have never encountered a band which seems to enjoy the presence of each other more. They bring the act of playing music back to a core that often falls by the wayside; Simply enjoying it.

I spoke with BRIDGES on a dimly lit porch, beers flowing, on a windy night Tuesday, November 10th 2015.

PULP/ Your previous bands all kind of sound like a lineage tree of Pueblo metal and hardcore. After hearing all that, how does it feel?

 

Matt (Herrera/guitar) / I think it’s really cool. I’ve always been fortunate that with all of the bands I’ve been in were with friends. Just playing together, getting along outside of music. And now, we’ve all been in other bands when we were younger. I met Joe and Adam when they were both probably like 14 o4 15, and now I’m playing in a band with them? I never would of thought.

 

Tyler (Boyce/Vocals) / But I can say that out of all the bands I’ve been in, this has been the most fun to be a part of. On a writing level and on a friendship level. It’s just always good.

 

In some of your previous bands, there was some label heat and contracts and business stuff. Are you dealing with any of that stuff now?

 

Tyler/ It’s definitely a lot easier with BRIDGES. With my old band, some of the guys got so sucked into wanting to “make it” that we were writing too fast and putting out stuff that wasn’t ready, and wasn’t as good as it should have been.

 

Matt /  Well with (previous band) Son of Man, it ended the way it did because by the end of it, it wasn’t any fun. It was all business. I want to try and take a more organic approach with this band. I want to still be busy, but not push anything that isn’t ready or right. Instead of worrying about obligations and the business of it, I want to focus on writing the best music we possibly can. Everything is so saturated right now in our genre. I don’t know exactly what our genre is, but it’s hard to stick out. I’d like to push our own thing, and not falling into a mold. My favorite bands have always been ones that are heavy, bot not in the usual way, you know?

 

How do you feel like BRIDGES differentiates from other acts out now?

 

Matt/ Well. Bands have started to, and I even hate saying this, but using dance moves and choreography.  It’s so stupid.

 

What does that mean? Like dancing with guitars?

 

Matt /  Yeah, like head banging and spins and stuff. It used to be, when a band was getting into the music, it was just something that happened naturally. In Son of Man, really we were all just trying to keep up with (SOM bandmate) Mo. But I get it, when I was younger and in a band, we did tons of stupid shit. I mean, it was the late 90’s. We all loved Korn and Limp Bizkit, so use your imagination. (laughs) But it totally sucks when people and bands are more worried about a dance move or a look than what they are writing.

 

Josh (Ewing/bass) / Every time we jam, it’s all organic. (laughs) When you start choreographing it, it seems fake and more like going through the motions than having fun.

 

BRIDGES has always been a more sonically adventurous band to me. You’re heavy, but it’s more in layers rather than in riffs. Is that something you try to do on purpose?

 

Matt/ We’ve always made it a point to not write the same way twice.We all love different things; Clean parts, and having melodies and parts that go places, rather than just the same riff over and over. There’s no point in having two guitar players who are playing the exact same thing. We even talked about writing a pretty and clean (guitar tone) song at some point. It’s always better to try and work toward something new. It’s exciting.

 

Tyler/  And that’s one of the thing that initially interested me about trying out for the band. Like you said, there are layers to it. And it’s very intricate. You can dissect it, and you can find so many different types of music in it.

 

Joe (Johnson/Guitar)/ It’s just nice to have the people to do it. We’re all open minded.

 

Do you think Pueblo is hurting for an all ages place to play?

 

Matt/ Oh, totally. I think it has taken Phil’s (Radiator) being gone, and kind of ripped out without a choice, for people to realize that it is hurting. Sure, they’ve re-opened now, but they’re not all ages. It feels like there’s this big gap, but it’s slowly being filled back up. We played a show at the Daily Grind a while back, and we got to play for a bunch of kids who wouldn’t have otherwise got to see us. There’s an untapped youth market here in town, but there’s nowhere for them to go see bands play.

 

Tyler/ Another thing, is there are now finally young bands still in high school that are starting to pop up. But this scene isn’t what it used to be. Everyone we know now is older, and no one really kept going. Where are these new bands supposed to go?

 

Matt/ It’s a bummer because I’ve never even heard of these guys, and there’s nowhere to check them out. We’ve only played Pueblo twice in the last year.

 

Any reason for that?

 

Tyler/ It’s hard to find places where you can play. It’s hard when no one wants to invest in Pueblo. Everyone thinks that Pueblo is this s— hole, and it is a small town, but I love it here. I’ve seen and met a lot of cool people, and there’s a lot of cool things happening here. But nobody chooses to get up off the couch to see them. and yet everyone complains that there’s nothing to do. That’s the saddest part.

 

Josh/ There’s a lot of great stuff here that fails due to lack of support.

 

Matt/ There’s so much negative stuff being said and reported about our city, it’s just nice when people can get out there to other places and show them that we’re not all gang bangers and drug addicts. I mean, we all make jokes sometimes, but I want to share that there are good people and good things going on here. When bands come down here to play, they all say it’s great, you know?

 

With the band all coming from such different musical styles, is writing the way you do more difficult?

 

Tyler/  When we write stuff, we all kind of write with it too. Someone has an idea, and we all try to make it fit with how we see it, and still make it into something we’re all looking for. We all compensate for each others’ styles in that way. It’s a team effort.

 

Josh/ I think it helps that we all try to have an open mindset with writing. No one ever comes in and says “I have an idea and it has to go exactly like this.”

 

Do you feel like it makes it more unique that way?

 

Matt/ It makes it more real, and definitely gives it a more unique identity. It’s great. It makes it so that we can’t make anything cookie cutter. It’s good to be able to do that. More rewarding that way.

 

Tyler/ I also think it’s maybe why we all get along so well too. There’s never anyone jumping down someone’s throat about not playing something the “right” way. We just want to make something that we like a lot and can be proud to show people. We put a lot of time into it, and when we get any kind of good feedback about it, to say that it gave them some sort of feeling or emotion, that’s the coolest thing about making music. And makes us happy.

 

Josh/ And it’s totally applicable to anyone doing any kind of art. If you’re doing it the way you want, not under anyone else’s guidelines, and attain results that they’re proud of, especially if it’s someone telling you they love it, definitely makes it way more rewarding.

 

Is that part of the reason you guys play music to begin with? For that feeling?

 

Josh/ Oh, definitely. The core factor of it comes down to I love to do it for myself. I love playing music and playing it with my best friends.

 

Tyler/ Exactly. The best part, is you get to show up, hang out with your best friends, and make music that hopefully you can all enjoy and get behind. If not, why are you doing it?

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