Friday, October 9, 2009


On Tuesday of this week, the Box and I set out for New Brighton, Pa., to see Sarah, Cole, and Chloe, and to attend Cole's first-of-twelve Back to School night at New Brighton Elementary School. Susanne stayed home so that she could go to Baltimore on Thursday and Friday to babysit grandchild number three, Ian.

Sarah had prepared her Meemaw's famous and oft-served "Chicken Divan," which I put in the oven when I arrived. It was delicious. We scarfed it down and hurried off to Back to School night, but only after packing the Box into the neighbors' driveway full of vehicles (arranged in order of who leaves for work first). It was street cleaning night in New Brighton!

When we got there, the parking lot was crowded, and there was a long line of people waiting to be admitted. We visited Cole's classroom, saw his desk -- they should bronze it when he's done, and keep it in storage for the Cole A. Darnley Presidential Library -- his papers on the board, and his teacher.

The school is interesting in that it is pretty much an open concept, with four classrooms surrounded by half walls in a "unit." The school is built into a hillside overlooking fashionable downtown New Brighton, so it is on several levels as the hill descends. We saw the library, the music room, and the gym. Up and down the steps!

As a reward for all that hard work, we treated ourselves to some of Hank's famous frozen custard. Hank's is to be featured on the WQED-TV documentary “Eat Pennsylvania 2: The Second Course with Dave and Dave.” So is Café Kolache in Beaver. More on that later.

Speaking of downtown New Brighton, it really is looking good since new sidewalks were installed and trees planted in the main shopping area. There are a number of attractive old commercial buildings, and this new work makes for a pleasant atmosphere. There's lot of free parking available, too.

On Wednesday, Sarah went off to work and the kids to school. I slept in a bit, and then went over to FedEx in Moon Township to see where Sarah works and to take her to lunch. I picked her up, and we went to that gourmet chicken place, Chik-Fill-A, up the hill toward all the malls at Robinson Township. We had a nice meal, talked about Cole's teacher's evaluation, and did some people-watching.

Back at FedEx, I was really impressed with the beautiful plantings outside and the modern architecture of the building. I was photographed for a visitor's pass, and then Sarah took me on a little tour of the building. She showed me the dramatic glass-walled dining area for the employees and endless rows of conference rooms.

I had the pleasure of meeting the team of gorgeous women with whom Sarah works most closely. (They must separate them out from the general population to keep the other women from getting jealous.) They agreed with Sarah that she looks "just like" me. I hope I do not live long enough to see this old mug on her. I visited Sarah's colorful -- and neat -- cubicle, also known as the Cole and Chloe Photo Gallery.

Soon Sarah had to get back to work, so I left, and the Box and I drove over to IKEA to see all the new junk they have for you to assemble. It's always fun to follow the arrows on the floor and see where you'll end up. It was such a long walk that on my way out I bought some foot massage cream. I hope it does not smell like lingenberries!

After work, Sarah picked me up, and we headed for Eat 'n Park in Monaca, where Sarah had the most luscious blueberry pancakes, Chloe had macaroni and cheese, and Cole had spaghetti. I talked the kitchen into making a "Rachel" sandwich from their "Reuben." They had done it before, and it was quite good. The kids each got two Smiley cookies, one regular and one Stillers cookie.

Back home, after baths and pajamas, the kids opened a sack of goodies from their Aunt Rachel, including some cool clothing, a game, and a book. Then it was off to bed.

On Thursday morning, there was the familiar routine of getting the kids ready for school and Sarah ready for work. Once they had all left, I packed my bags, retrieved the Box from its spot at the rear of the driveway, and headed for Beaver, where I had an appointment to see a condominium at Elysium on the Park.

A very nice agent named Karen Lee Hutman showed me three condos, both two- and three-bedroom models, on the park side, and on the court side. They were all beautiful, each with different features I liked. It would be a wonderful place to live, and we think that Beaver is a beautiful town, a real piece of Americana. And, the Box loved the heated underground garage! Not only that, but Karen complimented the Box on its lovely straight-line design. No wonder she is a top seller!

Before leaving town, I stopped at Café Kolache and had a breakast kolache, a somewhat sweet bun filled with sausage, cheese, and egg. They're really delicious, as are the fruit-filled ones we had on another occasion.

Finally, we headed north through Beaver Falls, passing Oram's Donut Shop (so tempted to stop!) to the Pennsylvania Turnpike for the trip home. The Box hummed all the way past Pittsburgh to Irwin, where we exited to make a short visit to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg.

This is a very fine collection of painting and sculpture, as well as some furniture and decorative arts, much of it from western Pennsylvania artists. I enjoyed the permanent exhibits as well as several temporary ones on various themes. The museum store was attractive and tempting.

We braved the fallout from high-speed trucks to stop along the turnpike to take photos of fall foliage in the Laurel Highlands and my favorite farm near Somerset, and then headed home again to Harrisburg.

We're parked in the driveway until Susanne comes home Friday night, when the Box, newly washed by an overnight rain, will be relegated to the street.

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