Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude becomes the focus to start the week off with, which for today is for a day trip my partner Chris, our friend Denise, and I recently took to Uniontown, Ohio on a Saturday afternoon.

I want to start this gratitude off by first thanking Denise who has been a very wonderful house and cat sitter for Chris and I a number of times. Our cat Smokey has definitely taken a huge liking to her and always seems to get super excited anytime she comes over. That being said, Chris and I invited Denise to go on this day trip to Uniontown as our way of thanking her for her ongoing help to us.

So what’s in Uniontown, Ohio you may be wondering?

It might sound silly to some, but Uniontown has probably the best miniature golf course in the state of Ohio and one Chris and I love playing. Originally built almost 60 years ago now, Rolling Greens Miniature Golf is an extremely unique course with holes that are both whimsical and extremely challenging, yet also combine the elements of regular golf where one must chip the ball a good distance away to actually reach several of the holes. Unfortunately, the weather this year caused half of the course to be shut down on our last visit there when my friend Cedric was in town, so we decided to go back one more time.

It’s about a 2.5-hour drive from our house to get there and along the way, I must say I had a lot of fun in the car laughing and joking with Chris and Denise, two things I haven’t done much of lately in my life. And while it was indeed incredibly hot when we arrived, I was surely grateful to know that both courses were finally open this time. It really was great watching Denise go through each hole and be challenged by it like Chris and I were the first time we played there. I was pretty proud of her because she got a whole lot better by the middle of the second game! I was also quite stoked that I finally got my first hole in one there, and on one of the most challenging holes at that! Although the heat did its best to dampen the spirit, we were all thankful that it wasn’t crowded and no one was constantly waiting on our heels to keep moving along, which is something that often irritates both Chris and I when playing miniature golf.

Nevertheless, after we were done playing mini golf for the day, I helped Denise find a t-shirt at a local store to replace the drenched one she had worn. We all had gotten pretty soaked from our sweat from the heat. For the life of me, I can’t remember exactly what the slogan on the shirt said, but it was perfect for her personality and totally made me smile! Shortly thereafter, we went to a new place for dinner in the same building as the store where Denise got her t-shirt, a restaurant called Hartville Kitchen Restaurant & Bakery. Known for everything being made from scratch and reminding me a lot of what Cracker Barrell was probably like early on when it wasn’t such a huge chain, I must say we all had an incredible meal, especially my sweet potato casserole and the blue cheese dressing I had on my salad! We have yet to try our homemade desserts we got from the bakery there on our way out, but I’m sure they will only add to my gratefulness from that day.

My last bit of gratitude came on our way home when I got to enjoy getting Denise her very first Frappucino from Starbucks, while my partner had an Iced Dragon fruit Tea, and I of course had my favorite, that being a decaf soy mocha, extra hot.

It’s honestly not often I can say I have good days like this, usually because my pain always seems to affect that, so I’m most certainly grateful to God for a day trip Chris, Denise, and I took to Uniontown, Ohio.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Good day and welcome to another entry of Grateful Heart Monday where gratitude begins each week, which for today is for my recent visit to the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania vicinity for my dear friend Keith’s memorial service.

As I mentioned in an article a few days ago, probably the most important piece of gratitude I took away from this trip was how the memorial service truly was truly a beautiful celebration of Keith’s life. But given I was in the Pittsburgh area for two full days surrounding the funeral, I found a lot more to be grateful for, like even in my actual drive there.

I’m not a normal fan of driving these days, mostly because I get uncomfortable pretty quickly sitting in a car seat with all my physical pain issues, but man, the hills and valleys and all the foliage is simply amazing in Pennsylvania! With Ohio driving being mostly just farmland and flat, it was a welcomed treat to see a lot more of God’s natural creations all around me. I was especially impressed with the rivers I crossed high over and the huge hills that loomed above me as I drove through them. I fondly thought much about all the houses perched way up on top of those hills that looked so serene. I couldn’t imagine how amazing it most likely was to wake up to a cup of coffee and sit out on a porch overlooking such pristine views!

Once arrived at the Springhill Suites I stayed at, which was in a section of the locale called Pittsburgh Mills, the general manager Matt and his assistant manager Jesse were very helpful to offer a number of restaurant suggestions where two proved to be true gems. The first was going to the original “Primanti Bros” in the Strip District of downtown Pittsburgh. There, I got a pretty amazing cup of super spicy chili and followed that with their world-famous grilled pastrami sandwich that was piled high with coleslaw and fries and cheese all within it. The second suggestion was a place called the “Mighty Oak Barrell” in Oakmont, PA, which was unique in that the owners converted their home into a restaurant and began making homemade scratch meals every day for guests. The concept continues many years later there and it almost felt like I was eating with their family during my meal which was rather comforting. There I ate a delicious flatbread pizza filled with homemade sausage, bacon, caramelized onions, eggs, and cheese, as well as some tasty homemade pastries that accompanied it.

Of course, I ate more than twice while I was away on this trip. One of them came through a suggestion from the grill cook at “Primanti Bros.” and was located further into the downtown area. Called “Sierra Mercato”, which was essentially a three-floor building with three separate concepts of restaurants, I dined on the bottom floor that opened up onto the street, mostly because it well-known for being a homemade meatball factory. In all honesty, I’m not normally a big connoisseur of meatballs, but the homemade traditional meatball sub I had with provolone and marinara sauce, along with a side of fried parmesan brushed brussel sprouts, had to have been amongst the best I’ve ever tasted. All of it was so amazing that I actually packaged half of it up and stored it in the cooler I brought to bring home to my partner to try!

Beyond the meals I dined out at, I mustn’t forget mentioning two of the dessert places I visited during my trip as well. Being a huge dessert person, I always look for unique sweet treat places to go to when I’m out of town. The first I found was in Pittsburgh and was a joint called “The Milkshake Factory” which I’ve decided is now at the top of my list as the most incredible milkshake ever. There I had a death by chocolate peanut butter milkshake that was so thick I needed a spoon to finish it! The other dessert place is even more noteworthy to mention and was found in Oakmont, nearby the “Mighty Oak Barrell” I had one of my meals at. “The Oakmont Bakery” is its name and is about a football field long length of just about any delectable treat you could ever imagine, from cakes to cookies to donuts to pastries to chocolates to well, you get the picture. Everything is made fresh and I must admit, I got pretty overwhelmed trying to figure out what to buy and take home with me and what to try there. I ended up gorging on a dark chocolate raspberry mouse cup that was so rich I got a sugar rush and then took home several chocolate donuts, a s’mores cupcake, a slice of chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, and a huge cinnamon roll.

Even though it’s not specifically known for dessert, I should perhaps make another honorable mention of a place I went to for a cup of coffee and a sweet treat the night before I left. It was approximately 4 miles outside downtown Pittsburgh in a section called Lawrenceville. There I grabbed a decaf mocha latte and homemade cookie at The Abbey. What made this place memorable is that it’s formerly a funeral home that was converted into a bar, grill, and coffee shop. Much of the décor was kept from that and the pictures on the wall came from a number of horror movies that carried the funeral home theme, like the picture of Jack Nicholson in The Shining that was on the bathroom wall where he was in the bathroom in that movie talking to the ghost butler.

Last, but not least on this list of gratitude from this trip is how I’m exceptionally grateful for my friend Lee Lampos, who was also a friend of Keith’s and in our old board games group in the Washington D.C. area. He was the only one available to come meet me for the funeral. I was thankful for his company and support during the weekend trip. We shared a lot of great stories and memories after not having seen each other for ten years since I moved away long ago and I know his presence made for much of the blessings and gratitude I experienced.

So, even though this trip away to the Pittsburgh area had a solemn occasion underlying it all, I was able to take away from it far more gratitude than I originally thought I might and am truly grateful to have experienced as many blessings as I did throughout it all…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry of Grateful Heart Monday, which for today, in light of my solemn posting two days ago about the difficulty of revisiting my hometown in Poughkeepsie, New York, I wanted to express my gratitude for my visit there as well.

Just over a week ago now, I completed a trip to the place I grew up at and while it did have its challenges being there, mostly due to a slew of bad memories, there were plenty of experiences I believe are far more important to highlight that I’m extremely grateful for.

Probably the biggest of course is sharing a part of my past with my partner Chris. It was indeed the sole purpose of this trip and I can safely say that he has a much better connection to the life I had growing up, which has helped me to feel closer to him now because of it!

During the visit, besides enjoying driving him pretty much everywhere around town, I got to take him to Milanease, which is a Northern Italian restaurant that’s been there since 1971 and a place I dined at with my family countless times as a kid. Our meal there was absolutely fantastic and so was our waitress! Ironically the owner and his wife are still there running it and I got to spend a little time talking to them as well! Another thing to be grateful for from this trip was visiting the homes and grounds (that included some very pretty gardens) of Roosevelt and Vanderbilt, both being national parks in Hyde Park, which is the next town north of Poughkeepsie. Chris is a history buff and I really was grateful to see his eyes light up during the tours of both properties, places I absolutely enjoyed visiting frequently as a kid. And definitely something not to be forgotten in my gratitude list from this trip was our visit to a sweets shop called Café Aurora. Seeing Chris truly enjoy his blackberry Italian Ice at an establishment where I had tons of Italian Ices during my younger years was most certainly a treat! A few other grateful highlights included dining at an old-fashioned diner called The Palace, a place my father and I used to eat breakfast a lot at, taking a walk across the 1.3-mile railroad bridge that was converted back in 2009 into a state park walkway, and seeing the fireworks shot off from the middle of the Hudson River on July 4th.

While this trip’s focus was mostly on sharing pieces of my hometown with Chris, much of my childhood also included trips into New York City, so we opted to take one of the days to go there too. Riding on the Metro North train out of Beacon station was a lot of fun, as I got to show Chris all the cool things that you get to see along the Hudson River during the 1.5-hour travel time. He also had never seen Grand Central station where the train arrives into, so that quickly became a big highlight as well. From there, after splitting a freshly made croissant at one of my favorite bakeries in Grand Central, I took Chris to one of my preferred New York City pizza joints where we each got a large slice of pepperoni pizza, that was just as tasty as ever! Shortly after that, we headed to the top of World Trade One, something neither of us had ever done yet, even though we had both been up the former towers. I must say that technology has come a long way, as not only were the elevator walls fully digitized, but you’re also given an IPAD to carry around that shows you pretty much anything you are looking at! We made sure to get a few souvenirs to remember our visit as well, like the flattened penny I now have from both the old tower and the new one too. Without a doubt though, the highlight of the day was where we had dinner. For more than a decade, I’ve wanted to dine at Serendipity 3, an eclectic restaurant known for its frozen hot chocolate and huge desserts and for being used during the filming of two movies, that being One Fine Day and Serendipity. Chris and I actually got to sit in the same table used by Kate Beckinsale, John Cusack, and Molly Shannon, which I must say made me totally geek out.

All in all, between our visit to New York City and Poughkeepsie, I was thankful to create a number of positive memories with Chris, ones that certainly overshadow the painful memories from my past. So yes, plenty to be grateful for once again on another Grateful Heart Monday in my life…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson