Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy November!

I just finished reviewing our new rental contract, and I looked up to notice that it's November 1st. That's rental contract. I handed in the notice for our current apartment this past Friday. Our last day here will be January 31, 2005. It's been fun living here, but it's time to move on. We're looking forward to the new place. But I guess not everyone's happy about it. My neighbor Andy has started quoting a line from Zoolander: "Ya' dead to me!"
I actually spent several hours translating the contract from German to English. I was astonished to find out that we're responsible for things like:
Zur Vermeidung von Feuchtigkeitsschäden ist die Wohnung sowohl im Sommer als auch speziell im Winter täglich ca. drei mal während ca. 3-5 Minuten intensiv, am besten mit Durchzug durch vollstäandiges Oeffnen aller Fenster, zu lüften und genügend (ca. 20ºC).
Imagine that! And the Swiss think that Americans waste energy...go figure!
I was happy to see that nowhere in the rental agreement does it state that an outdoor fireplace is not permitted on the rooftop garden. So, we're going to have the 400 kg. fireplace moved to the rooftop, and I'm not going to ask permission because they'll just come up with a reason why we're not allowed to have it. You know the old saying - It's better to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. That is actually an old saying isn't it?
The apartment rules are loaded with lines like: "... Vorschriften sind genau zu befolgen." which means that the rules are to be followed EXACTLY! I think they need to read The Big Finn's rules, the most important of which is to T.A.F.C.P! (take a f---ing chill pill). Maybe I'll invite the owner of the building up for a nice cup of shut the f--- up!, and we'll talk about it!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

1,500 days...and counting!

Today marks 1,500 days of retirement. My last day of work was September 21, 2000. Here are some FAQs along with the answers:

Do you miss working? No.

Will you ever work again? Hopefully not. It would take something like us suddenly taking a turn toward financial ruin for me to go back to work. If this situation ever comes up, I'll go back to work in a minute. Needless to say, I hope we never have to face this situation.

Is there anything you miss about working? I miss getting paid every month, but I don't really think about it too often. Every now and then I think about how much income I've missed out on, but it doesn't really concern me too much.

Don't you get bored? No.

What do you do all day? I go to the gym, take German lessons, grocery shop, walk Dominique, walk Sam and Toby, take care of the yard, write in my web log, update my website, cook, clean house, read, watch T.V., run errands, plan trips, do laundry.

What won't you do? I will NOT iron!

If you had to go back to work and could do anything you wanted to do, what would you do? My dream job would be a freelance restaurant critic, or I wouldn't mind being a butcher.

What's the best part about not working? I no longer have to deal with complaining customers, I have very few demands on my time, and Mrs. TBF and I can enjoy our evenings and weekends because we don't have to run around doing errands during non-business hours.

Is there anything you'd like to get off of your chest? Yes. I have to confess that I didn't really work that hard when I did work - I just had a knack for getting good results (my mantra was always - Work smart, not hard!). Since I was in sales, I figured that the results were much more important than how I went about getting those results. Although my bosses probably thought I was working my butt off, in actuality I was really loafing most of the time. I'd often make no sales calls after having lunch with a customer and go swim laps at a local gym (where I'd see other sales reps working out), read the newspaper in my car, stop at my sister's house and have some coffee and read the newspaper, go home early, or all of the above. Sorry Mike, Nick, Randy, and Larry...I hope this doesn't change the legacy of The Big Finn. Now that I've said all of this, I think I've officially made myself UNEMPLOYABLE. Thanks for letting me get all of this off my chest. I feel a lot better. Whew!!! I think I'll go take a nap!

I highly recommend the Gundeldingerhof Restaurant in Basel!

A group of eleven of us (Mrs. TBF's co-workers and the spouses) went to the Gundeldingerhof last night for dinner. This was the second time I had been there, and I have to say that I just love the place. We all just opted for the 5-course "surprise" menu and a bunch of bottles of wine from the eighteen page wine list. They basically just ask you what you don't like, and then you choose either meat, fish, or vegetarian for the main course. We ended up having smoked salmon with sauce on a bed of parsley sprouts for our starter, pasta with chèvre for the primi piatti, venison with polenta for the main course (the fish option was Seeteufel/monkfish), a cheese course, and then a tiramisu unlike any I've ever had before for dessert. These courses were washed down with several bottles of wine from Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy.
Mrs. TBF kind of starved herself during the day so that she could enjoy a bit of everything. She also shared some of her food with me, so I ended up having about and eight-course dinnner.
We had a great time. I look forward to going back there soon.

One stone gone!

As some of you may know, Mrs. TBF has been doing Weight Watchers on-line for the two months. She had her weigh-in this morning, and she's now lost a total of 14 lbs. - or 1 stone as the Brits would say. I take some of the credit because I've been planning her meals. But, she deserves about 95% of the credit due to the fact that she hasn't cheated on the diet even once in the past two months.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Exactly on time. How Swiss!

Our washing machine broke again, and I had to arrange for a repairman to come out and fix it. He called me this morning at about 7:45 a.m. to tell me that he would be at our house at 11:00 a.m.
At precisely 11:00 a.m., I looked out the window and saw the repairman walking toward our front door. When I opened the door, I heard a church bell ringing in the distance to signal the top of the hour. The repairman took a quick look at the machine and told me it would take about an hour to fix.
I did a couple of things around the house, and at 12:00 he called out to me to let me know that he was done. I thanked him, opened the front door to let him out, and I heard the same church bell ringing again....noon!
I'm sure he probably went to his truck, ate his lunch, drove to his next appointment, and arrived there..exactly on time.

Christmas in...October?

I just came back from OBI. One of the fluorescent bulbs in our bathroom burned out, and I had to go pick up a new one. While I was in the store, I walked past a display of Christmas decorations, artificial trees, etc.
It's October 27th. What the Hell...?

I'm a gambling man!

I had to go to Dr. Buser's (pronounced Boozer) office this morning to pick up some pills for Dominique. She takes one and one-half pills per day for her thyroid. When given the choice of which quantity to buy, I chose the 1000 pill container because it was the lowest cost per pill. Who cares that the 1000 pills will last for 667 days (1 year and 10 months), or until Dominique is fifteen years and four months old. I was inspired by Toby last night. He's fifteen years and two months old, and...still kicking!
I figured that it was a good gamble to take. Plus, I didn't want to think about the alternative...

I took care of a couple of good old boys last night.

Our neighbors Dave and Jane have two old dogs - Sam and Toby. Sam is a Black Lab, and he is 14 years old. Toby is a Golden Retriever, and he's an older than dirt 15 years old. I normally walk them three times per week. However, since Dave and Jane were both in the U.K. last night, I was called into feeding and sleep-over duty. Along with the two old guys, Dave and Jane also have two Siamese cats with attitudes - Schnüffi and Nuni (I think that's how you spell their names), and I was given the task of feeding them also. I'm happy to report that everything went very well. Toby did have to go out at 1:00 a.m. for a quick pee, but that was better than the alternative which would have been me having to clean up a pee accident upon waking up. Actually, I only faced two challenges.
First, I had to kick Schnüffi and Nuni off of my bed that Dave was kind enough to set up for me in the living room. They had no interest in giving up the bed, and they gave me quite a bit of lip when they had to be forcibly removed. Second, Toby parked his old carcass on the floor at the head of my bed right under my pillow, and he proved to be quite the windbag. I can honestly say that prior to last night, to my knowledge, I had never in my life been woken up by a fart smell. I can no longer make that claim. Toby saw to it that I woke up four times. Sam and the cats were nowhere to be seen. So, it was either Toby or me, and I'm blaming Toby.
I woke up at about 6:30 a.m., and neither one of them seemed very interested in going outside. However, fresh air was of utmost importance to me by this point, so I became the militant dog sitter and forced them to leave the comfort of their warm home for a rather crisp morning here in Reinach.
The cats even joined us for our walk. One big happy family!

Monday, October 25, 2004

It's (almost) official. We're (probably) moving!

We've only told a few people so far, but we've decided to move. We put in an application for an apartment in Binningen (which is only about a seven-minute drive from where we live now), and I found out today that our application has been approved. Now, all that remains, is for us to sign the contract. Assuming that the rental contract is in order, we'll be moving into the new place either on February 1st or March 1st. The reason why the date is not certain is because we have to give a three-month notice when moving out of our current place. If the landlord receives our notification letter by this Friday, then we'll be moving out of here by January 31st. However, we still have to receive the rental contract for the new place, look it over (remember, it'll be written in German), sign it, and return it to the new landlord. There's no way we're giving up our current place until we sign the new contract. So...we just have to be patient and wait for the new contract.
We're excited about the new place. The living area is all on one level (easier for our old Hund) instead of the seven levels we currently have, and above us will be a great private rooftop garden that will be all ours! As soon as the contract is signed and our notice is given, then begins the arduous task of moving. Fortunately, we don't have as much stuff as we did before we moved from Chicago to Switzerland. However, it's still going to be a hassle. I'm sure there'll be a lot of frustration that will be well documented in future editions of this blog!

Friday, October 22, 2004

It's a beautiful day...

...because it's sunny, and Mrs. TBF is back from America. She arrived just after noon - minus one suitcase. The baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport displayed their prowess once again by failing to transfer Mrs. TBF's suitcase even though they had three hours to do so. Although, it's not that big of a deal. The next flight from Heathrow comes in at 17:00.
Mrs. TBF came bearing gifts. She brought me a couple of USA Todays (the thick U.S. version as opposed to the dinky European version). Even though I think the USA Today kind of sucks as far as journalism goes, I do enjoy the non-news parts of it. Also in the booty was some Bulgari BLV parfum for me from duty-free, and several CDs. Among the CDs was a Bob Seger's Greatest Hits CD from 1994. Ever since he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I've been coveting that CD, and I've been unable to find it Europe. Actually, I take that back...I did see it at the Virgin Mega Store in Paris, but it was a ridiculous 25 Euros. If you like Bob Seger at all...get it! It's packed with hits!!! Mrs. TBF's missing suitcase also contains a few packages of Snausages for Dominique. Her normal Party-Mix variety, plus a new flavor - Burger and Fries. Our baby's just going to have to be patient.
I'm blowing off the gym today, but I WILL GO TOMORROW MORNING! I only went twice this week, and I must go at least three times in a week or I feel guilty. Also, I experience an interesting phenomenom when I don't work out...I lose weight. When I'm working out four-five times per week, I actually carry a higher weight. Since I had a cold over the past two weeks, I only worked out about twice per week. This resulted in a 2 kilo weight loss. I'm flirting with the 110 kg./242 lb. mark, and that's too light for The Big Finn. The Svelte Finn just does not have the same ring to it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Heat! That's what I'm talkin' about (among other things)!

Our furnace has not worked properly since we moved in. Every now and then it would suddenly go out. Every time this would happen I'd have to go into the basement, press a button, and everything would be hunky-dory. Sometimes it would go out two or three times in a day, and then it wouldn't go out for a month or so. That was, until a couple of days ago. Suddenly, when I'd press the reset button, it would go back on for about thirty minutes, then....nothing. The house wouldn't get cold, but since we have hot water heat, the hot water would eventually disappear, and we'd be taking cold showers.
So, today I called the service company (Rosenmund), and a nice gentleman came out and repaired the furnace. He was in the basement clanking away for about an hour or so between the furnace and King's litter box. Luckily, I had cleaned the litter box right before the guy came, and King didn't feel the need to use it while the man was down there working. Otherwise, the repairman would have experienced a natural gas smell that even he had probably never before encountered. Anyway, the furnace is only temporarily repaired. A part needs to be ordered, and it will be installed next week. After the repairman left, I noticed that it was suddenly too warm in the house. I had to actually adjust the temperature on my thermostat which is a pretty rare thing. If I had to guess, I'd say the thermostat in our living room is adjusted maybe two or three times per winter. This is a far cry from my mother-in-law Jo who adjusts her thermostat two to three times per half-hour sitcom.
Mrs. TBF, as you probably know, was in Chicago last week visiting with family and friends. One of things that drove her crazy when she was staying at Jo's house was that Jo has this irresistable urge to get up from the sofa about every ten minutes to adjust the temperature on her thermostat. Let me tell you, I've witnessed this phenomenon many times, and I have to say that it is pretty high on the annoy-O-meter. No matter how many times you try to tell her that the whole reason for the thermostat's existence (especially a programmable thermostat like she has) is to maintain a fairly constant temperature, she just won't listen to/believe you. Mrs. TBF swears that she heard Jo adjust the thermostat right before she went to bed, DURING THE NIGHT, and first thing in the morning (although Jo claimed that the early morning beeps came from the microwave). Now that I think about it, whenever Jo comes to visit us, she must teeter on the edge of insanity. First of all, every radiator has a dial on it so that you can raise or lower the heat. This dial goes from 1 to 5. I doubt, however, if Jo touches the one in the guest room because...
1) she has no idea what temperature the numbers correspond to 2) she's afraid she'll cause some kind of explosion if she touches the thing. Secondly, the one thermostat in our house that controls the living room is in Celsius. I know for certain that Jo has no clue what 20ºC means, and that she's afraid that if she turns the temperature up to 25ºC she'll...cause some kind of explosion. Fear of explosion, being high on Jo's list of fears, results in her just doing/saying nothing. The end result is that she just stays cold. This in turn, ends up on her post-visit list of complaints.
The list of complaints is never disclosed to us directly by Jo. However, we can always count on her revealing the list to Perry and Renee (my brother-in-law and sister-in-law) upon her return to Chicago. They, in turn, immediately reveal the list to us. What was on last year's list you ask?
1) "The house was too cold!" (I say it's just thermostat-adjustment withdrawl.)
2) "We walked too much." (I did actually make her walk seven minutes to and from the tram a couple of times, but I usually drove her into town and paid exorbitant parking fees.)
3) "We ate dinner too late." (I'm sorry, but I'm just not ready to eat dinner at 3:30 p.m.)
4) "TBF makes fun of me." (Guilty! I have to admit that one time I did hear her go into the guest bathroom, and I couldn't help calling out that I could hear her through the walls and would she please light a match! However, this was an isolated incident, and I think that overall I'm a pretty good son-in-law.)
How the heck did I end up talking about all this? Who knows? What's important is that the furnace is working again, and I probably won't have to touch the thermostat again until Christmas.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Tuesday Night Casserole...on a Monday night!

I am making one of my all-time favorite comfort foods for dinner tonight - Tuesday Night Casserole (a.k.a. T.N.C.). Yes, I realize I'm commiting a slight breach of etiquette by making it on Monday night, but I will be having the leftovers for dinner tomorrow night, so it's legit.
My family called it Tuesday Night Casserole when I was growing up because we'd usually have it on piano lesson nights which were always on Tuesdays. It was the perfect piano lesson night food because: it was quick to make, it contained all major food groups, it tasted good, and it took one-hour and fifteen minutes to bake (enough time to: throw it in the oven, drive five minutes to piano lessons, take two 30-minute piano lessons - one for me and one for my sister, drive home, eat!). It's one of those nice childhood memories that will kind of stick with me forever from growing up in good old Wheeling, IL. Yes, I remember it like it was yesterday...driving with my mom and sister in the 1973 orange Vega to the music store that was next to the liquor store and across the street from the K-mart, squeezing into the tiny practice room with my teacher who always smelled of bourbon and cigarettes, her leaving the room every now and then to refill her "coffee" cup, her gigantic platinum blonde wig, and then...home for some T.N.C.!!!
Well, the piano skills have waned (although I WILL begin playing again someday!). However, T.N.C. lives on! It has to be one of the easiest dinners in the world to prepare. Mrs. TBF claims she isn't crazy about it, but she finally broke down and told me once that she wouldn't mind having it once per month. Now, that Mrs. TBF is on Weight Watchers (she's lost 12.5 pounds so far), T.N.C. is off-limits. So, I tend to make it when she's out of town. Here's the recipe if you want to give it a try:

Preheat your oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Take 2 lbs./1 kilo ground meat (beef, pork, mixed, whatever) and add a couple of eggs, a handful of bread crumbs and whatever things you would add when preparing ground beef for hamburgers (i.e. minced onions, Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, black pepper, parsley, etc.). Mix well and mash into the bottom of a 9" x 14"/23 cm x 36 cm casserole dish. Drain a 28 oz./850 ml. can of green beans and spread evenly over the meat. Drain a 14 oz./425 ml. can of sliced mushrooms and spread evenly over the green beans. Take one can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup (don't add any water) and spread evenly over the mushrooms (if you're reading this in the Basel area, you can buy Campbell's Soup at Globus). Finally, take a bag of frozen Tater Tots (not sure of the size in the U.S....probably about 1 lb.) and spread evenly over the top (In Switzerland, you can use a 600 gram bag of Pommes Duchesse from Coop, or any backofenfertig potatoes.). As the Brits would say...bung it into the oven for one-hour and fifteen-minutes, and....Bob's your uncle!

Another fine weekend of gastronomy...

As you might have read, Mrs. TBF and I were in Paris last weekend where I enjoyed steak tartare, frog legs, pig ears, etc. This weekend, Mrs. TBF was in Chicago visiting with family and friends, and I stayed behind to take care of the beasts and fend for myself. Fortunately, our friends came to the rescue.
On Saturday night, I went to a wine tasting party hosted by John and Rammy. There were 20+ people there, and we sampled many different wines and enjoyed a tasty buffet that Rammy prepared. The wine tasting is actually a competition (you have to guess the country, region, year, price, etc. of each wine) with prizes for the winners and the losers. My partner and I ended up being tied for last (I'm blaming my cold and a general lack of knowledge about wines), but my booby prize ended up being a nice bottle of wine. I had a good time, and I left with a full tummy and a nice wine buzz.
On Sunday, I woke up at about 10:30 a.m. and proceeded to be a sofa spud for most of the day. The highlights of the day were taking Dominique for a couple of walks and staring at (and not doing) my pile of German homework. At 7:00 p.m. I took the 15 second walk over to Dave and Jane's house where I enjoyed a nice dinner featuring steak and kidney pudding. It was my first time enjoying this British fave, and I have to say that I look forward to enjoying it again someday. It's kind of like chicken pot pie, but it's made with steak and kidneys (duh!) and the crust is made of suet. I know people from North America think of suet as something that you feed birds, but I'm thinking that the stuff that I was eating wasn't exactly the same thing. Jane showed it to me, and it comes in a bag and looks like little pellets. If I had to guess, I would say that it's kind of like Crisco shortening in pellet form. But whatever it is, it makes a damn fine steak and kidney pudding! Actually, the suet is what makes it a pudding....otherwise it would be steak and kidney pie. I left Dave and Jane's a little after 10:00 p.m., walked Dominique, sat in front of the T.V., and then suddenly noticed that it was 2:00 a.m. (Mrs. TBF being out of town causes me to return to my natural night-owl ways). I set my alarm for 8:30 a.m. so that I'd be able to make it to my 10:15 a.m. yoga class, and guess what? I slept through the alarm this morning and woke up at 10:12 a.m. I have to say that I had a good happy tummy sleep. It must have been the suet.
That's it for now. I have a pile of German homework to finish so that I'm ready for my lesson tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Here's a thought....

The Bush Administration has lowered taxes and increased spending resulting in a massive deficit. Kerry is being portrayed by Bush as a tax and spend liberal. Here's a thought: How about balancing the budget by increasing taxes a little bit and spending a little bit less. I brought this up to one of my neighbors yesterday, and he told me that this approach can be dangerous for the economy. However, he didn't really give me a convincing reason why this is such a bad idea (he's a scientist, not an economist). I mean, I don't really relish the thought of paying higher taxes since the U.S. government doesn't really have that good of a track record in cutting the fat, but I tend to think in terms of personal finances. If your pay is suddenly reduced, do you go out an spend a ton of extra money? No. If your pay goes up significantly, sure you can start spending a ton of extra money but you're going to have to keep earning more and more so that you can keep feeding the monkey (especially if you have debt). What's that matter with earning more money and paying off your debt. Then, after you've paid off your debt you can start spending the money you were using to pay off your debt to buy some luxuries. As a far as I'm concerned, that just makes financial sense. Am I over-simplifying things, or am I just taking crazy pills or something?

Friday, October 15, 2004

It's time to talk some SMACK!!!

I just received my second e-mail from a Packer fan pointing out that Brett Favre's name is spelled with two "t"s instead of one (referencing an earlier blog entry). So, I misspelled Bert Fart's name...BIG DEAL! How about focusing on the fact that he's about two-thirds of the way down the hill, and the lowly Chicago Bears destroyed Bart and the equally-lowly Fudge Packers earlier this year? At least I admit that the Bears suck as much as, or even possibly more than, the Packers suck (although I do enjoy the fact that the newspapers list the teams with identical records alphabetically putting the Packers at the bottom of the division behind the Bears). Hey Green Bay Packer fans, you're in denial. Welcome to the bottom rung of the NFL. Now there's absolutely nothing worthwhile going on in Green Bay. You don't believe me? Check out the official Green Bay website. Sorry Gretchen, I'm not really this mean....just talkin' some smack!

To France and 8:00 a.m.!

I drove Mrs. TBF to Basel Airport this morning. She is flying to Chicago via London. As I said in yesterday's blog, she's going to spend the weekend with family in Chicago, and then she's going on to NJ next week for work. I dropped her off at about 7:00 a.m., and then I took a quick turn out of Basel Airport and headed to the French border. To my surprise, there were actually three French border crossing guards standing at the border smoking cigarettes. They motioned me to stop, said something to me in French which I didn't understand, and then I just said "Cinq à Sec" (the name of the dry cleaner I go to in France). This seemed to satisfy the guard since he motioned with his cigarette that I was free to enter the country (Or, he was offering me a cigarette. I'm not really sure which one.). I dropped off my clothes and picked up the clothes from last week and was in and out of Cinq à Sec in about three minutes. Let me just point out that dry cleaning in Switzerland is EXTREMELY expensive. And, when you drop off the clothes they tell you that it will be TWO WEEKS (I kid you not!)!!! If you would like "express" service, then it takes about four days and there is a surcharge. Cinq à Sec, on the other hand, is about half the price (except for shirts, which are only a little cheaper than in Switzerland for some reason), and the clothes are ready the NEXT DAY!!! And, it's on the way to the French grocery store I go to, so it's all good! By the way, is it wrong that I don't work, have time to iron, but still bring my shirts to a dry cleaner? Some of the neighbors have given me guff in the past, but I'm sorry - my shirts are big, and I REFUSE to iron them.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Don't you just love free stuff???

I just called Dyson in Zürich to order a replacement part for our vacuum cleaner. I had this one part break about two years ago, and it has broken again. When I called Dyson, she apparently looked at her Caller-ID and immediately had all of my information right in front of her. I told her that I had ordered the same part a couple of years ago, and she asked me if it was the "telescoping wand" before I even had a chance to tell her. Then, she told me that there would be NO CHARGE because it was the second time I had to order the part. Had I known that this would be the case, I would have ordered the part when it broke a year ago instead of holding it together with duct tape. A few weeks ago, my neighbor - Diagnostic Dave - even tried repairing it with some industrial strength epoxy (it held for about four minutes).
By the way, vacuum cleaner in German is Staubsauger. The word Staub is actually dust in English. That means that Rusty Staub - the former Montreal Expo and New York Met - was actually Rusty Dust.
Even worse than that, if you translate my last name from Finnish to English, it becomes Log Hill. You know what my last name would be in German???? Klotzhügel!!! Ah, no thanks!

I've been sick...

I woke up on Monday morning with a sore throat. I ended up going to my yoga class on Monday morning, but I could tell that I was starting to feel worse. Now the sore throat is gone, but I've developed a bad cold. I had to skip going to the gym on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I'll probably skip it today too.
Tomorrow morning, meine Frau leaves for America. She's going to visit her family in Chicago over the weekend, and then she heads for New Jersey (I think) for business. She'll be back next Friday. Hopefully she won't come down with my cold for her trip.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The French definitely got it goin' on!!!

We're back from our little weekend jaunt to Paris. We were only there (together) for two nights, but we managed to cram in quite a bit of sightseeing.
We're not really museum people, but we actually took in three museums over the course of the weekend - the Picasso Museum (excellent!), the Dali Museum (excellent and disturbing at the same time!), and the Pompidou Center (modern, abstract, disturbing art at its finest!).
We also enjoyed some fine dining. On Friday night, we ate at a little bistro called Le Severo which was featured in the International Herald Tribune. The food menu isn't that large, but the wine list features over 200 different types of wine. It was small (only seats 24 people), and the staff consisted of the owner and the chef. Neither one spoke English, but we managed with pointing, rudimentary French, and sign language. I enjoyed steak tartare avec pommes frites, and Mrs. TBF enjoyed a bleu steak (soooo French...I swear they sear it for about 10 seconds per side, and the center is basically purple). The food was washed down with some nice wine. When I think back about it, Friday was about as perfect a day as I can imagine - Paris, Picasso, sauna, cigar, steak tartare, and marital relations all in one day...superb!
On Saturday, after a nice breakfast at the hotel we took the Metro to Montmartre to check out Sacré-Coeur, some artists' booths, and the Dali Museum. We were also suprised to find an excellent farmers' market selling great moldy cheeses, sausages, wine, etc. After Montmartre, we went back to the hotel. I was tired, so I decided to take a nap. Mrs. TBF took this opportunity to do "a little shopping". About two hours or so later, I woke up when I heard our room's doorbell ringing. In came Mrs. TBF toting a bag full of lingerie and a big Louis Vuitton shopping bag with a new handbag inside! I think I'll avoid taking naps in the future.
On Saturday night, we had another sauna, enjoyed a bottle of champagne in our room, and then we went downstairs for dinner. I had frog legs for a my starter, and pig ears for the main course. That's right...pig ears!!! It was kind of like eating a cross between bacon and a fatty pork chop. It was really good! However, I think it's going to take awhile to unclog the arteries, so I think maybe having them about once in my lifetime is about all my heart can handle.
On Sunday, we checked out of our hotel, and then we went to the Pompidou Center to take in more art. Between the Louvre, Orsay, and Pompidou Center, I don't think any other city in the world comes close to Paris when it comes to art! After having our fill of art, we took a taxi to Charles de Gaulle, and then it was back to Basel.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

What's with all the construction?

Over the past few months, I've noticed that the Basel area has become inundated with road construction. I'm not liking it!
This morning, I drove Mrs. TBF to Basel Airport for her flight to Paris. When we made it to a roundabout that's right by the airport, we saw that it was blocked off. There was no warning or anything - just a dead end. I had to circumnavigate, and I eventually made it to the airport at 6:58 a.m. for her 7:30 a.m. flight. She left a message at 7:04 a.m. to tell me that she was checked in and standing at the gate (I guess that's the advantage of Basel Airport being kind of on the small side). She just called (9:05 a.m.) from the baggage claim in Paris to let me know she arrived.
Tomorrow, I'm going to fly out to Paris to meet up with her for a little weekend trip. We've been to Paris a couple of times, but there's still so much we haven't seen. We have a couple of things planned, but nothing etched in stone. All I know for certain is that we are staying at Hotel Lancaster and eating dinner on Friday evening at a bistro called Le Severo that I read about in a restaurant review in the International Herald Tribune. It sounds like it's right up my alley (meat, meat, and more meat!), and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll report on the weekend adventure later.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Four years in Switzerland...and counting!

Just a quick note to point out that it was four years ago today that Dominique, King, and I arrived in Switzerland. Mrs. TBF had already been here for about 2½ months, but I stayed behind to sell the house and take care of loose ends. As a matter of fact, I think it was four years ago at this moment that we were all driving from Zurich Aiport to our home in Reinach. I was totally exhausted. When we made it home, we let King out of his crate and he made a bee-line for the litter box, I walked Dominique so that she could check out the Swiss pee-mail (Mrs. TBF coined that term. Damn! It's so should have been mine!!!), and then Dominique and I collapsed on a futon mattress on the floor (our furniture did not arrive until three days later). Mrs. TBF either went back to the office for a little while, or to the grocery store (or both) - it's all quite hazy now. Later that day we ate some sausages off of paper plates on a cardboard box that was in the middle of our empty living room. Ahhhhh, memories!

Are pimped rides allowed in Switzerland?

It's been Pimp My Ride week on MTV this week, and I told Mrs. TBF this morning that I want my ride (I can legally say my ride. It was her car in America, but when I registered the car in Switzerland, they put the registration in my name only. So, now it's my car!) pimped too. If you haven't seen the show, I highly recommend that you check it out. Rap star - Xzibit - selects people who have just the nastiest cars around. Then he takes these cars to a shop where they are totally rehabbed. I mean, they get $20,000+ overhauls. I can't stop watching it. The makeovers are impressive, but what I really enjoy is hearing the expressions that "the kids" are using these days to express their appreciation after their whips are totally blinged-out. Hey DOG, check it out! Snap!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I am one big happy football fan!

I just read yesterday that Northwestern upset #7 ranked Ohio State this past Saturday afternoon. Along with the Bears having whipped the Packers a few weeks ago, my football season is officially complete. I don't care if either team wins another game. Neither team is really that good, but it's satisfying to know that the Buckeye and Packer fans are seething over this (I know you are!). Especially the Packer fans, like my old neighbor John (a transplanted Wisconsinite). He lived here for two years, and all I ever heard about was how great Bret Favre is and how the Packers had dominated the Bears for the past so-many years. Well, now the Packers suck just like the Bears, and Bret Favre is fading fast. Put that in your cheesehead hat, whatever it is you want to do with it. Now that our SKY satellite is hooked up again, I'll be watching the developments every Sunday night at 7 and 10 p.m.
This talk about John and the Packers just made me think about a story John told me one time that demonstrates his obsession with Bret Favre. One time he was at a bar in Green Bay with some buddies, and all of a sudden he noticed that Bret Favre and his wife (I said: "Are you sure it was his wife?", and John told me I was a blasphemer) were having lunch at a table over in the corner. "Out of respect for Bret", John decided not to hassle his hero. However, when Mr. & Mrs. Favre were finished and left, John noticed that Bret had left some of his French fries on the plate. So what did John do? He went over to the table, sat in Favre's still-warm seat, and....ate some of the leftover fries! He even thought (hopefully) he might have eaten a couple of half-eaten ones. When John told me this story, I was pretty amused (although I told him that I thought he needed psychological counseling).
Even though I grew up in Chicago, I wouldn't say that I'm the biggest Chicago Bears fan. However, it was pounded into my brain over those thirty-seven years I spent in HATE the Packers. Nothing would set John off more than me saying something like: "I think the Packers will win this weekend, but Favre's going to have a career-ending injury." Or, "this is going to be Favre's last year as a Packer. They'll probably try to trade him to the Bears...and the Bears won't want him." John wouldn't admit it, but I could feel the internal seething as he attempted to formulate some kind of comment about the Bears to get back at me.
Now, John, Jane, and the kids are in North Carolina. John's watching the Packers on DirecTV on his NFL Sunday Ticket package, and....the Packers suck!!! Bret Favre is a has-been!!! This will probably be Favre's last season!!!! And, the Bears beat the Packers!!!!!!!!