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An Acrostic for November That Those Of You Who Are Into Cross Stitch/Needle Point Will Want To Make A Sampler Of, I’ll Bet.

Now it starts getting dark early.

Oh yeah, and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it.

Very soon the temperatures will fall.

Embers from the bonfire will dance through the sky (or something poetic like that).

Movember is stupid. Stop it. Y’all look like poster boys for “Stranger Danger” and I don’t want my kids anywhere near you.

Boy, this is harder than I thought it would be.

Everyone is really more focused on Christmas anyway.

Really thought this was going to be a lot better. Sorry guys.

Come back next week when I promise to actually have something decent to write about. Please?

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These Sodas Are Rank(ed)!

Anyone who has ben paying attention over the past few years will have realized that Zero Sugar sodas have become all the rage. The so called “diet colas” have more or less been replaced by these new soft drinks on grocery and convenience store shelves all across America. Upon first glance, this would seem to be a healthier, or, at least a less-bad-for-you alternative to the regular drinks we all know and love. But is it a scam?

Very probably. Diet soda was a scam, so why shouldn’t this be one too? However, this is not the focus of the blog post today. Let’s face it, Americans love our sodas, and if this is a way we can fool ourselves into thinking we are making a better decision for bodies, then this is a scam we’re going to fall for willingly. I know I’m on board.

The real question is, “Are these sodas any good?”, and that is what I am going to attempt to answer here today. Taste is subjective of course, but for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that my opinions are unequivocally correct.

For this experiment, we are sticking only to the major national brands and to the original flavors only. So no cherry, cream, or berry flavors will be included. I am also not going to get into specialty sodas, small batch, or anything like that. I am purposefully keeping it simple.

Okay, so here’s the rundown on the sodas I have personally tasted. It should be noted that all zero sugar sodas have a bit of an aftertaste, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Therefore, aftertaste is not part of the equation.

DAVE RANKS ZERO SUGAR SODAS

8. Mountain Dew Zero:
Actually, I haven’t tried this one. Sorry. I am just offended by its existence. Nobody has ever drank a Mountain Dew in any situation in which they have even remotely been thinking about their health. This is a stupid product that deserves to be dead last.

7. Gold Peak Zero Sugar Sweet Tea:
Come on, Gold Peak, you’re cheating here. This is pretty much the same thing you make at home with Sweet & Low or Splenda or whatever. Look, it actually tastes really good, and I like it, but I can make it myself so it’s back towards the bottom of the list for you.

6. Sprite/7 Up/Sierra Mist Zero:
So, these sodas are all more or less the same anyway (I know, I know, let it go) and they already don’t have caffeine so I just kind of find this to be a fairly useless idea. They’re okay, I suppose, but it just tastes like watered down versions of clear soda. You may as well drink water. Or sparkling water, which is gross, so…meh.

5. Orange Fanta/Sunkist Zero:
Why? Why with this? Both sodas have no caffeine and no sugar. I suppose it’s all right if you have a kid who loves orange sodas but gets a little too hopped up on it and just goes nuts, then yeah, maybe. Otherwise? No. Still, I suppose it’s nice to have a change up in the sugar free soda department now and again so these guys just barely beat out the clear sodas in my ranking. Barely.

4. A&W Zero Root Beer:
I love a good root beer, and when I heard about the A&W I approached it with cautious optimism. It’s okay. Kinda feels like somebody didn’t close the cap properly on a two liter. So it tastes a little flat, even though it’s not. If you’re jonesing for some root beer and need the zero sugar option, it’ll do.

3. Coca Cola Zero:
This kind of surprised me, that of the big three Coke would take third place. I have been a regular Coke drinker for ages, so I expected it to be really good. Turns out it’s just pretty good. They did change the formula a while back to make it taste more like Coke Classic (with nary a Max Headroom sighting to be found!), and that did help quite a bit. It’s good, I like it, and I reach for it often, but it just falls a little short.

2. Pepsi Zero:
Again, a surprise for me, because I have always preferred Coke over Pepsi, but Pepsi just got it right here, man. Their zero version tastes a lot more like Pepsi than Coke’s tastes like Coke. My objection to Pepsi was always that it tasted a little too sweet. Yet they have pretty much managed to mimic that sweetness in the sugar free version. I still don’t buy Pepsi very often, but I have voluntarily had more Pepsi Zero sodas over the past couple of years than I ever drank of the original, so that says something.

  1. Dr. Pepper Zero:
    Admittedly, I am a bit biased here. Dr. Pepper is my favorite soda, but I know a lot of people don’t like it. I get that, it’s not for everyone. However, I truly believe that Dr. Pepper has come closest to making their Zero version taste more like their original flavor than any of their competitors. I’d take them to task if not, trust me. If you used to be a Pepper, but you haven’t been for a while due to giving up sugar, don’t be afraid to try this out. It’s good.

Well, that just about wraps it up for this week. Do you agree with my findings or am I way off? Is there a different flavor I should explore, or a major player in the game that I missed? Let me know in the comments. Just keep it cool and play nice while you’re posting.

See you next week for more MonDAVEs, friends, when I’ll start the October spooky stuff. Bye for now!

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50 For 50

Today is my birthday. I will admit that I am a birthday guy, I love celebrating not only my own but other people’s as well. I am not normally one of those people who downplay birthdays and think that they are only to be celebrated by kids, or even only on the day itself. You want to have a birthday weekend? Go nuts. Birthday week? Sure, go for it. Month? Umm, okay I guess, but maybe reign it in a little.

This year has been a little bit different though. It’s my fiftieth birthday and honestly, it’s not sitting well. I could go on about the insecurities and anxieties attached to all of this, but since this is a blog set up to entertain, I will spare you my existential crisis and focus on something else entirely: gratitude.

I am grateful for my existential crisis.

No! Only kidding.

Since I have been all melancholy about today, my wife suggested that I should make a list of fifty things I am grateful for and that may help me feel a little better. Since she is usually right, I figured I’d give it a shot. So here we go, a stream of consciousness list made in real time. Thanks for sitting in on my therapy session. Let’s get started.

  1. My wife. She is intelligent, kind, patient, a good mother, and the best team mate I could have to walk through this world with.
  2. My kids. They make every day both a challenge and a pleasure, and I am proud of the people they are turning into.
  3. My dad. He is responsible for my sense of humor, love of movies and music, and my sense of social justice. He has always shown support and love.
  4. My brother. I always feel bad for adults who don’t get along with their siblings, because my relationship with my brother is special and deep.
  5. Extended family. Cousins, Uncles, Aunts, all manner of relatives. Most people think theirs are the best-mine actually are. We’re far enough apart that we don’t see each other enough but I love them all.
  6. Old friends. I don’t see them enough either, but we can stay connected through social media, and they are never far from mind.
  7. God. Okay, so I’m not really happy with some of his followers right now, or the churches and politicians who use his name for their own gain, but I can’t hold that against Him.
  8. Dogs. Every dog I have ever had, ever will have, and like 90% of the dogs on the planet except the really barkey or bitey ones.
  9. Turtles. I just think they’re neat.
  10. Rock And Roll Music. Rock encompasses more different styles, genres, and points of view than pretty much any other popular music style. And it’s all pretty great.
  11. Air conditioning/heat. Because comfort is paramount and outside can get weird.
  12. Pizza delivery. One of the greatest ideas of our time.
  13. Barbecue. Meat cooked over an open flame is the best.
  14. Mountains. I’m no mountaineer, but hiking to, around, and on various mountains has given me some great memories and is some of the most beautiful scenery there is.
  15. YouTube. Making it easy to find obscure videos of half remembered television and movies at 12am. This is part of why I don’t sleep.
  16. Television. Let’s face it-TV is amazing. You can watch shows from the 50s to now, educational shows or entertainment, live events, news coverage, the choices are seemingly endless. And that’s before streaming! Good television connects the world.
  17. The Who. My favorite rock band. Also my favorite philosophers and accidental comedy act. No one demanded more from the art form-and in their prime no one could match their intensity and passion.
  18. Movies. At the theater or at home, a good movie can sweep you away and bring thrills, laughter, scares, romance, whatever you want. And sometimes even the bad ones are fun to watch.
  19. Automobiles. Because I love a good road trip. Also, sometimes the commute can be the best part of my day.
  20. Denim. The most comfortable fabric ever.
  21. Waterfalls. Beautiful to look at, and an instant mood lifter. Hard to get to sometimes, but always worth it.
  22. The Sun. Provider of heat, light, and amazingly beautiful when rising or setting.
  23. The Beatles. Apart from writing so many classic songs, they set the template for everything that followed over the next 20 years of popular music, and they are still being listened to and rediscovered today. Impossibly good.
  24. Trees. Sustainers of life, and happy little fellas from what I am told.
  25. Dark chocolate. I mean, all chocolate is good. Dark though, once you get the taste for it, all other types fall short. Rich, complex, and divine.
  26. Books. Moreso than any other artform, books take you away to another world, fictional or otherwise. Children’s books, short stories, novels, and biographies all sit on my shelves and are each treasured items.
  27. Glasses. Both the drinking kind and the seeing kind. So I can drink and see. Duh.
  28. Clothing. Because everybody walking around nekkid all the time is a bad call.
  29. Monty Python. Changes the way I looked at humor and, in a sense, the world.
  30. Paintings. From the great masters to Bob Ross to the local art fair, I love to look at paintings and see the world through the artist’s eye, and also see how it may connect or clash with my own views.
  31. Cookies. Especially chocolate chip-and pert near anything home made.
  32. Modern Medicine. Because living is good.
  33. Quiet Walks. Helps to clear my head.
  34. Air Fresheners. Helps cover up the mystery smells that show up now and again.
  35. Soda. Fizzy goodness.
  36. The Marx Brothers. The original comedy anarchists. Chaos, slapstick, and clever wordplay all rolled up into a great big ball of genius. Still funny today.
  37. The Internet. without which this wouldn’t be happening right now.
  38. Tacos. Because tacos!
  39. Rivers. Beautiful and powerful. Still used for commerce and water supplies, but I can sit at a riverbank for hours watching it roll.
  40. Milk. Though I developed some issues with lactose as I aged, and I have to drink specially filtered milk now, I still love a tall glass full. Especially with cookies or…
  41. Cake. Fluffy, soft, spongey, moist, iced wonderfulness. Also way better than pie. For reals.
  42. Houses. Or. any abode one lives in, really, Because as George Carlin once observed, we all need “a place for our stuff.”
  43. Traditional Country and Folk music. Both Country and Folk have gone through a lot of changes, many of them not for the good. However, when you get down to the original, pure, bare bines of these musical forms they can be magically affecting.
  44. Micro Brewed Beer. Okay so these days I drink non alcoholic micro brews, but that just proves how good micro brews can be. Taste, quality, integrity, and passion go into every sip. With alcohol or without.
  45. The Muppets. Sure, they were part of my childhood and nostalgia is a part of my fandom, I’ll give you. But their best stuff is equal parts sweet and subversive, which makes repeated viewings a treat.
  46. Fish. I think fish are pretty cool to look at. They are also delicious to eat. No conflict, no regrets.
  47. Theme Parks. I’m a big kid. I like the rides, games, shows, food, souvenir shops, all of it. Just do the research to know when to show up to beat most of the crowds, and you’re good. I don’t go as much as I’d like, but I don’t turn down the opportunity either.
  48. Live performances. Be it a concert, theatrical performance, dance, stand-up, what have you, there is nothing like a live show. Nothing.
  49. Taking a nap, in the Spring, with the windows open. Early Fall works too. this isn’t always possible due to allergies, but when the conditions are right it’s the best nap a person can have.
  50. Paprika. People don’t use it enough.

Well. I’m not sure I resolved any issues, but I do feel a little better so that’s some success. Maybe this exercise might help you too if you ever need it.

Take care all, see you next week.

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Happy June!

June is, of course, Pride Month. Here at MonDAVEs we recognize and support our siblings in the LGBTQ+ community. More on this in a future post.

What is less known, however, is that June is also Candy month. Skittles has ingeniously combined these two occasions for years, often being cited as the “gayest candy” due to the whole rainbow thing. Well, we won’t be getting into that debate, but let’s discuss another candy that is a worldwide favorite: Cotton Candy.

While it is not known exactly where Cotton Candy falls in the ranking of gay candies (it’s gotta be up there, right?) it is a candy that has brought enjoyment to many a child and adult at baseball games and state fairs for years. As previously mentioned, this is not just an American phenomenon as Cotton Candy has its origins in China. A version of this sugary treat was said to have been made during the Han Dynasty, somewhere between 206-220 AD. The original name for this candy was “Dragon’s Beard” which is 100% more badass than anything it has been called since.

Speaking of, what we know as Cotton Candy here in the U.S.A. goes by many different names throughout the rest of the world. The following is a list of my favorites.

-Candyfloss (popular throughout most of Europe)
-Sugar Spin (Norwegian for Candy-Floss spelled with a hyphen because it’s fancy I guess)
-Sockervadd (Sweden)
-Wata Cukrowa (Polish for Sugar Cotton, which is probably the most accurate)
-Fairy Floss (Australia)
-Hattara (Finnish for Small Cloud)
-Dad’s Beard (France, which is weird)
-Grandma’s Hair (Greece, which is weirder)

Okay, so most of these are cute and fluffy names, but what’s with the hair comparisons, y’all? Sure, of all the candies it’s probably the most hair-like, but still, why? Why with this? Ew.

Anyway, now that summer is upon us, you’re sure to see this sweet treat sooner or later, and hey, no judgement if you get yourself a big bag of colorful sugary goodness and chow down. Just know that when you do you’ll remember this post and start thinking about your family member’s heads as you eat and then you’ll get all disgusted and throw it away, BUT before you get all mad at MonDAVEs for making you waste that money think about how much sugar is actually in that bag and how it’s obviously super hot outside and besides, who knows, tossing that bag aside might have just prevented a heart attack thus saving your life so you’re welcome.

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Dave’s Take On Kansas City

Our quick trip to Kansas City proved to be a nice little getaway/diversion for our family. While it would have been nice to have a little more time to explore, we enjoyed the time spent in the city. Compared to downtown St. Louis, it is a much cleaner city-not that STL is unclean, but it’s slightly more…not run down, but…used? Older, maybe? At least on the surface it seems that way. I love STL immensely, but we have our problems for sure. KC seems to be a bit more user friendly is all.

The downtown neighborhoods we drove through seemed nice. I also liked that the college seemed to be well integrated into the city landscape. It is a very hill-y city though. Well, the Missouri side is anyway. The Kansas side seemed to flatten out a bit.

Speaking of Kansas, that’s where we stayed. We looked at several hotels and wound up booking one in the suburbs, because it had an indoor pool for the kids. If there’s one thing that kids love while on vacation, it’s a pool. Our hotel of choice was the Homewood Suites by Hilton. Apart from the pool situation, it had rooms that would sleep the five of us comfortably (in one suite as opposed to two rooms-more economical), and had a full breakfast each morning. Very nice hotel, and clean, highly recommended.

Our hotel was in the suburbs, but located just a stones throw from the Kansas Speedway which was of course closed, but looked pretty cool. We were also next to Legends Outlet mall, which had like a bazillion stores in it. There seem to be quite a few functional malls in the area, while most of them are dying out here. To be fair, we didn’t really visit any of them, but they looked to be in good shape.

Okay, so there’s your initial impressions, let’s get to the attractions.

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER
-I’m kind of mixed on this one. Their website makes it seem like it is an attraction for all ages, and while that’s not untrue, it’s really geared more to smaller kids. I think if our kids were two or three years younger they would have absolutely loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it is enjoyable enough. There were some really interesting exhibits of Lego art, and multiple life size figures which were pretty cool, as well as a Lego replica of the downtown KC area itself, and a trip through the Wizard of OZ movie in Lego form. Of the two rides, one was definitely a child’s ride, but the other was a “dark ride” in which you got to blast stuff with a pretend gun and try to save the Princess. We all enjoyed that ride, but WHY SO MANY LEGO SPIDERS? Seriously, they should warn a person! Let’s see, what else…oh, there was a “Ninjago Training course” which I probably got the worst score ever on, and a cute little 3D movie theater. Oh, and an obviously overpriced snack bar that we didn’t go anywhere near. So, there was enough to keep us all entertained, and we did enjoy the experience, but it is aimed at young children (3-8) overall, so keep that in mind if you ever visit.

SEALIFE AQUARIUM
-Right next door to the Discovery Center is the Sealife aquarium which is exactly what you think it is. I always enjoy aquariums. Maybe it takes a certain kind of person, I don’t know, but I could sit and watch fish swim and interact with each other for hours and not get bored. This particular aquarium is nice and puts a little more emphasis on education than some that I have been to, but is not as impressive overall as Ripley’s in Gatlinburg, TN, or the St. Louis aquarium at Union Station, which is REALLY good. That being said, I would recommend Sealife as a quality stop for your next visit to Kansas City.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MINIATURES AND TOYS
-This was the coolest thing we did, hand down. The museum’s first floor is dedicated to fine scale miniatures, usually 1:12 scale. What I thought was going to be just a bunch of doll house furniture wound up being so much more interesting than I imagined. Pretty much anything you can think of is on display in miniature, and the detail is AMAZING. From Victorian mansions to an antique shop, artist studios and more, the scenes are incredible. Not only are the settings impressive, but the detail involved is doubly so. There are hand woven quilts and rugs in these displays, and objects you would swear have been hit by some futuristic shrink ray. Then the upstairs is full of toys from the early 1900s up to today, everything from board games to video consoles, rag dolls to action figures, teddy bears and more. There is something there to bring out the kid in everyone. I absolutely loved it.

Now let’s talk food. Of course, you can’t go to Kansas City without getting some barbecue. I couldn’t get everyone to agree to BBQ for every meal, but I didn’t really think that would fly anyway. Apart from breakfast at the hotel, we ate at Zaxby’s for one lunch because we don’t have them in St. Louis and I like them a lot-way better than Cane’s which we have a lot of around here. We also went to a Tex-Mex restaurant called On The Border which we had a gift card for somehow (?), and since those aren’t in STL either we went ahead and used it. Pretty good actually, I kind of wish we did have them here.

But I digress. The first barbecue restaurant we went to was Famous Dave’s, which I had heard of but didn’t know was a chain. I also didn’t know we had a to-go only location minutes away from where I work until I just googled that info a minute ago. I wanted to see how big a chain they were-and the answer to that is pretty dang big-when I saw a Creve Coeur location I’d never heard of or seen. I can only assume it’s very, very new. Or I need to pay more attention to my life.

ANYWAY, had I known it was a chain I might have opted for something else, since I wanted true KC barbecue. I was not disappointed however, because the food was really good-their burnt ends were excellent, as was the chicken. So, if you’re out and about and you find yourself near a Famous Dave’s, check ’em out. I’ve had better from independent BBQ joints, but this still hit the spot and was quite yummy.

Before we left town, we HAD to go to Gate’s Barbecue and get some ribs. They are famous as some of the best ribs you can get, and I have had many people bring them back for me, and they were always awesome, so it was a no brainer that we should go.

The thing is, nobody warned me about the actual Gate’s experience. As soon as you walk in to the much too dark restaurant, the counter person basically assaults you by shouting “Hi may I help you?”, and you are expected to order immediately. It took me by surprise. That approach works when there is a long line of people, and you are five orders away from the front of the line. You order, and by the time you get to the front your food is ready. I getit, but I don’t like it. Especially since it was our first time in and we had no idea what was happening. There was one group ahead of us and two behind. The lady up front just kept yelling “Hi may I help you” and no one knew who she was talking to. I found it to be abrasive, high pressure, and a little rude, honestly.

Again, I get that they are trying to assembly line your food, and I can see how that would work on a crowded day, but it was just bizarre to me. I know some people like that sort of thing. There are some small restaurants (and at least one chain) that are famous for treating people that way, or worse. Some people think it’s fun, and adds character. I don’t agree.

Oh, and then, to top it off, there is another lady who basically acts like a waitress and takes care of everyone at your table after you sit down. WHAT is that about? Also, why isn’t she bringing the food? I mean, she was super sweet and cool, I guess to make up for the initial abuse? Whatever.

You lost me, Gates, I don’t care for the way you run your business. To be fair the ribs are absolutely amazing, some of the best you’ll ever have, but I don’t think any food is worth that type of treatment. There were at least four other places I could have gone, and probably had a better experience. I know Gate’s has its fans, and if you dig that atmosphere then more power to you, have at it, but I won’t be joining you.

Still, all in all, we did have a nice trip. There is a lot more to see and do than we had time for this trip, so another visit to Kansas City may be in the cards for a later date. In any case, this trip was about getting away as a family and having new experiences together. It was as much about bonding as anything else, and that we surely did. We are blessed that not only do we all get along well and love each other, but we like each other too, which makes any time together good, and our family trips even more so.

Thanks for reading, see you next week.