Friday, March 31, 2006

Out With The Old...

...and in with the new!
The old Jura coffee machine finally bit the dust this past week. I made the drive to the local dump (a.k.a known as "the tip" to our British friends) and handed it over to the rather ripe-smelling dump employee so that he could put it into the dumpster (a.k.a. "the skip" to our British friends...good grief!) with the rest of the electronic home appliances for recycling. About thirty seconds later, two young men garbage picked my old Jura machine out of the dumpster and promptly stowed it away in their van. HA! SUCKERS!!! I have news for you - the aggravation won't be worth it! But, some things you just have to find out for yourself!
Anyway, after using our French press and little metal espresso maker for a few days, we quickly realized that we were slaves to the automated coffee perfection days of old and decided that we needed to quickly replace the old Jura. Jura had offered us a credit toward the purchase of a new Jura machine, but it was only if we bought one of the three most expensive models. We liked the coffee, but neither Mrs. TBF nor I relished the thought of spending 2,000 CHF ($1,500 U.S.) on a coffee machine. Plus, we kind of had a bad taste in our mouths (so to speak) due to all the mechanical problems we had had with the Jura machine. So, what to do? WHAT TO DO?
I'll tell you what we did. After learning that our neighbors Corey and Suzanne were pleased with their Nespresso machine, we decided to check out the Nespresso store in Basel.
Mrs. TBF and I met outside of the store at lunchtime, checked out the line of machines at the back of the store, sampled some of the coffee, and thirty minutes later we walked out of the store buzzed on caffeine with a new coffee machine, a little gizmo that froths milk, and a bunch of coffee.
SCREW YOU JURA! We're Nespresso people now!

Swiss Tax Money Hard At Work!

Swiss federal income taxes are due today! We paid ours two days ago, and the return has already been mailed in - thank you very much! Something that people in America and Canada might find interesting is that since we are "C permit" holders, Mrs. TBF has no withholding tax taken out of her monthly pay. That means we pay our federal taxes by March 31st, and we pay our kantonal/gemeinde taxes (kind of like state and city taxes) in one lump sum by September 30th. You read that correctly - we pay the bulk of our taxes in one payment in September! If you pay them early - you receive 1.5% interest. If you pay them late - you pay 4% interest. I find this to be absolutely amazing. What do you think would happen if the U.S. decided to stop withholding taxes while trusting the entire working population to begin keeping the tax money in their own account so that they could pay the entire amount all at once? I say that 90% of the population would have some "like...really awesome cars and plasma T.V.s", but then the government would go belly up within about a month because nobody would have money left over to pay their taxes. I guess it would be kind of difficult to fund the Iraq War and a manned spacecraft to Mars....(hmmm...on second thought...).
Although paying taxes isn't one of my favorite things in the world to do, it is nice to see that tax money is being put to use right in front of our apartment.
I, like my friends the Expatters, have noticed that Basel is suddenly inundated with road construction projects. Why? I have no idea. All I know is that we are the proud receipients of this road construction project which is clearly visible from our balcony.
I've noticed similar projects taking place all over town, and I have to admit that I'm a little perplexed. What EXACTLY is the point? Here's how I see this particular project:
1. Men begin jackhammering a perfect square around a sewer hole cover around 7:30 a.m.
2. Men exacavate the just jackhammered rubble out of the square.
3. Men take two-hour lunch break.
4. Men fill in the recently excavated square with fresh asphalt.
5. Men leave cones around freshly paved area creating traffic mayhem and complete chaos in front of our building for days.
I still can't figure out exactly what has been accomplished. But, then again, who cares?
At least it's better than nothing!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Major Award...

That's right people....A MAJOR FREAKIN' AWARD!!!! to the first person who guesses what is pictured to the left!

I'm doin' nothin'...

That's right - this weekend - I'm doing nothing!!! TBF and I have been very busy lately having fun...and while I enjoy having fun (who doesn't?), sometimes it takes a lot of energy. So, other than a birthday dinner Saturday night for a couple of special ladies in our lives, I intend to do a whole lot o' nothing!!! Ok...maybe I need to do a little shopping in order to keep up with TBF's new wardrobe, and maybe I need to do a little menu planning for the next dinner - our annual Easter dinner with Dx and Stilts. But...otherwise I'm doin' nothing...but sleeping. Here's me sleeping in Siena - no I was not on the phone...TBF just thought it would be funny to put my mobile in my hand while I was sleeping heavily and trying not to be affected by losing an hour (ie springing ahead) on a night when I least wanted to lose an hour. Happy Friday and Happy weekend...doin' whatever you want to do! Ciao!!!

Well, Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse Me!

So I'm standing in the Duomo in Siena, Italy minding my own business...
I set up my camera with the Gorilla Pod to take a low-light picture without a flash since flash pictures were forbidden. Unfortunately, I didn't notice on the sign that tripods were also forbidden. I set up the pod on a marble column, snapped the panoramic view of the church, and then this total bitch-a-rini came over and started ranting something about "no tripods!!!!" "I'm not using my flash!", I said. "No tripods...NO TRIPODS!!!!!!!!!!!!!" What the Hell is that??? I'm only allowed to take pictures in dim lighting, without a flash, and without a tripod??? In other words, I'm only allowed to take pictures that will end up being blurry?
Well fine! You say NO TRIPOD!!!!??? Then, no tripod it will be!
I took off the tripod, set the camera flat on it's back, and took a picture of the dome!
That'll show that strunzoni!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Un momento per favore...

We're back from our very quick (too quick!) weekend in Siena, Italy. Our friend Ronny turned fifty, and a bunch of people converged on Tuscany from all over the place to celebrate the big occasion. The drive took a little longer than expected because of massive traffic around Florence on the way there and Luzern on the way back. But, we survived.
As usual, we ate and drank very well. We also managed to squeeze in some sightseeing and shopping. Once again, I planned on buying NOTHING and ended up coming home with quite a haul. Saturday afternoon:
Mrs. TBF: "Are YOU going to buy anything?"

TBF: "I need absolutely NOTHING!"
A few minutes later, I saw some crazy looking Italian, seersucker pants in the window of a store called Cortecci. One hour later, not only did I walk out with the pants, but I also had two shirts (one of them...very Chav!), one cotton sweater, two pairs of jeans, one belt, and one pair of "goldenrod" suede shoes. I was in sales for fifteen years, and let me tell you, the salesman at the store had some serious sales talent. "Mister...let me show you one more thing..." was his big line. worked. I finally put a stop to things when he brought out a suit. I kind of think Mrs. TBF wanted me to buy it, but it ended up being a good thing that I held back because we were barely able to fit all our stuff in the trunk of the car for the return trip to Basel.
I just loaded the pictures into the computer, but I have some things to do this afternoon - so I'll post some of them a bit later. Ciao!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

On The Road Again...

Tomorrow morning, we will be heading off to Siena, Italy for a 50th birthday party extravaganza with our neighbors Corey and Suzanne. They picked up a rental car (I think it's a VW Passat station wagon) at the office, and the four of us will be cruisin' on down the highway starting at about 8:00 tomorrow morning. Mrs. TBF is boarding her flight in Nice, France right now as I type, so she won't be back in Basel until about 11:30 p.m. I'm sure she'll be missing all the nice scenery for at least part of the seven-hour drive while she's catching up on sleep.
I'm looking forward to this trip. It'll only be the third major driving trip we've done in the time we've lived in Switzerland - Basel to Madrid in late 2001, Basel to Burgundy last spring, and now Basel to Siena.
The maps are ready. I'm packed. Talk to you early next week!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I Have Gas...Finally!

No, it's not what you think. What I'm actually talking about is the gas that's in a bottle of San Pellegrino water. Has anybody else noticed lately that the San Pellegrino has been a bit...flat? I sure have.
Yes, San Pellegrino is my water of choice at dinner. I like it cold with a slice of lemon. But most of all - I like it REALLY FIZZY ! Mrs. TBF, on the other hand, usually drinks still water (Volvic) with dinner (although she also likes S.P.) - also with a slice of lemon, but at room temperature. Hmm...I guess opposites really do attract.
During the day, I usually drink water either from the tap ( the gym I drink it from the hose that the cleaning lady uses to spray down the shower area!) or from a pitcher with a Brita filter (A lot of the bottled water sold in stores is just filtered tap water anyway.). I read an article recently that all the bottled water we're drinking is causing huge amounts of garbage, so I try to be a good citizen of the environment by only drinking bottled water with dinner. Plus, I always recycle the plastic bottles at the grocery store. Gee...aren't I swell? Actually, I don't really give a shit about plastic bottles piling up in landfills. That's your great-grandkid's problem. Gee...aren't I a prick? Yup...I think so too!
By the way, I just want to go on record as saying that I don't believe all that marketing tripe about it being important to drink mineral water in order to get all the minerals our bodies need. The purpose of drinking water is hydration...PERIOD! If you wan't to make sure you're getting all your supposedly essential trace minerals, take a friggin' multi-vitamin.
So gettin' back to the San Pellegrino...
About two or three months ago, I noticed that S.P.'s bottles suddenly had labels that showed we were now drinking the "Winter Edition" - whatever that means. Around the same time, I noticed that the water was suddenly very flat. And, if the S.P.'s not fizzy, WTF is the point?
At first, I thought that maybe we just had a faulty bottle or two. Mrs. TBF thought that we should buy smaller bottles (HOORAY, MORE GARBAGE!!! SCREW THE FUTURE GENERATIONS!!). I bought the 1 liter bottles instead of the 1.5 liter bottles, but the water was still kind of flat. Then, I even tried a couple of 1/2 liter bottles. Yup, you guessed it...still flat. This problem went on and on until this past weekend. I bought 1.5 liter bottles for our dinner party, and I noticed that the water was once again super fizzy. I happened to look at the label this evening, and I noticed that we are no longer being blessed with the "Winter Edition". Coincidence? Maybe...maybe not. Perhaps the carbonation is reduced for the "Winter Edition". Why our Italian friends at S.P. would think we would want this done is beyond me, and probably not the case.
A more likely reason, in my opinion, is that the temperature has suddenly risen in the past week or so and the S.P. is not freezing up in the back of the delivery trucks. Could freezing and thawing of my acqua minerale naturale frizzante be to blame? I'm not a chemist, so I don't know and I don't care. All I know is that I once again have fizzy water, and I'm happy about it.
Got gas? Si!

Monday, March 20, 2006

While Mrs. TBF is Away...

...TBF does whatever the Hell he wants!!!

Mrs. TBF is in...get this...Monte Carlo for four days for a bunch of meetings. PUH-LEEEEEEEZ!!! We actually talked about me going along on this trip, but since I'm not much of a gambler (the last time I was there I lost 200 Euros in about the first 14 seconds of gambling!), AND since there's not really much else to do in Monte Carlo in March, I decided to stay at home. Besides, we're going to be leaving for Siena this Friday and King thought it might be nice if we didn't both abandon him again for days on end like we tend to do from time to time. So this evening, I celebrated my four days of bachelorhood by making 2112 chicken.
Well...2112 chicken is a staple in our household. I make it just about every week. I call it 2112 chicken because you sprinkle chicken breasts with black pepper, paprika, Italian seasoning, onion powder, and garlic powder, throw it into a 190˚C oven for 21 minutes, turn it over, sprinkle the other side with the aforementioned spices, and bake it for 12 minutes more. After much experimentation, I found that the 21-12 combination was the perfect combo - tender and juicy chicken every...damn...time! I guarantee it!
While Mrs. TBF likes the chicken, she hates that I call it 2112 chicken. You see, "2112" (in case you're not into Canadian rock trivia) is the name of the 1976 masterwork album by the Canadian power trio - Rush.
Mrs. TBF HATES Rush!!!
As a matter of fact, if Rush comes up on the iPod during dinner (we just shuffle the songs), I pretty much have to lunge for the remote control to keep Mrs. TBF from switching to the next song. Come "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" really such bad dinner music? Come on!
So while Mrs. TBF enjoys some hoity-toity business dinner in Monte Carlo, yours truly was enjoying 2112 chicken while...listening to the entire "2112" album. Then, I listened to a live version of "2112". But that's not all...
I used LOADS of garlic powder. Yeah, that's right! And, there's nothing she can do about it!!! Normally, Mrs. TBF's iron fist slams down hard when it comes to garlic powder during the week (What kind of Italian is she for Cris'sake?..). But, since she's gone...I'm gonna smell like a whole head of garlic if I damn well please!
What else...oh yeah...tomorrow, I'm going drums on the steering wheel and dash board while I drive around. WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE...goin' ape-shit here!!!
You know what? That last thought just inspired me to go slip my "Rush in Rio" DVD into the trusty DVD player and watch the Neil Peart drum solo a few times.
It's midnight...and NOBODY CAN STOP ME!!!
HA! Ha, haha! Hahahahahahahahahahaha, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.....


We had a very international dinner party this past Saturday night:
1 American, 1 Aussie, 2 Canadians (we win!!), 1 Dutchman, 1 Frenchy, and 1 Swissy (listed in alphabetical order)
It was like the stinkin' U.N.
First off, let me say that Mrs. TBF LOVES hosting dinner parties. She invites the people over, and then the next several weeks are spent pouring over her multitude of cookbooks while asking me questions that begin with "What do you think of...?" I learned very early on that "you decide..." wasn't an appropriate answer (Damn, those rolling pins hurt!), so now I add my two cents worth.
I'm not going to get into the details of what was served (Canadian-Swiss already did a pretty good job of that), but I will say that Mrs. TBF certainly had us all strap on the usual. And, damn fine feedbags they were. They had better have been - I FREAKIN' GROCERY SHOPPED FOR FIVE DAYS STRAIGHT!!! Not only did we eat very well, but we all also drank very well - as was evidenced by the amount of bottles I recycled this morning.

Since Canadian-Swiss posted so many photos, I'll just post a few. First, I managed to finally bring the camera out around midnight for a group photo (Orange-X and TBF looking like a couple of fish in the back row, ...and Charlotte, Canadian-Swiss, Peter, and Chris in the front row...and, minus Mrs. TBF for some reason!). Then, the camera came back out when Charlotte was leaving at around 3 a.m., and again shortly before Canadian-Swiss and Orange-X caught their taxi home at 4:15 a.m.! I have a feeling that the TBF abode is becoming a landmark for the taxi drivers of the greater Basel area. As an added bonus, Peter (...since he's Swiss) was able to speak to the dispatcher in proper Swiss-German as opposed to our usual guests who tend to speak in slurred, broken-German.
You's amazing that Mrs. TBF and I have managed to keep off the weight with all the eating we've been doing. Last Friday, a bunch of us went to Gundeldingerhof for a multicourse dinner. Then, the next night, we went to a restaurant in Flüh called Säge (our new favorite Basel area restaurant) with Kirk and Gretchen. Next weekend, we'll be in Siena, Italy at a friend's 50th birthday bash.
...It's celery and water this week!

Friday, March 17, 2006

It Ain't Easy Being Green...In Switzerland!

St. Patrick's Day definitely is not the same event here in Switzerland that it is in Chicago. I'm sure the Irish Pub in Basel (Paddy Reilly's) is going gangbusters right about now - but that's about it. I'm sure that as I'm typing, the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade is getting underway. Here in Basel...nothing. I guess I could go out and dump some green dye into the Birsig River next to the apartment (like they do in the Chicago River), but the current is so strong that the dye would disappear into the Rhein in a matter of minutes and be in Rotterdam within twenty-four hours. So...what's the point?

What to do? WHAT TO DO????'s what I did: instead of turning a river green, I decided to turn "the workbench" green. I'm not really sure why, but we have bed linens galore. I went through the inventory, and I was finally able to come up with a nearly totally green combo.'s not really that big of deal, but Mrs. TBF seemed to think that it was "cute".

Although cabbage is widely available, I've never seen a big corned beef for sale in Switzerland, France, or Germany. That meant that corned beef and cabbage was out, and cabbage on its own doesn't really cut it. So, I ended up just settling for wearing a green shirt and drinking a Guinness on the balcony at sunset. it wasn't much, but at least I tried.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mrs TBF's Roma...

TBF may have written his last post on Rome, but I must add my own thoughts on our trip.

25 years ago, almost to the day, I was in Rome with my classmates from Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, IL. I was 17 years old and it was my first time in Europe. We were all giggly girls with equally immature chapperones who were supposed to be keeping us out of trouble. The chapperones were moms and teachers from the school. The trip was one week long starting in Milan and then moving to Venice, Pisa, Rome and ending up in Florence. We saw all the major sites back then, but on a very tight budget. It was fun, and I'll cherish the memories (and there are some that the chapperones don't know about), but what a difference 25 years makes!! I looked forward to this trip for months since TBF and I started planning it back in September of last year, thinking it would be a good way to get out of Basel for Fasnacht. Little did we know that mom (Jo-Mima), Perry and Renee would actually join us as we started discussing together back in October on our trip to Chicago. Well...the trip lived up tp my expectations. More than anything, I wanted to be just as awed by Rome as I was 25 years ago, and I really wanted TBF to love it too.

The day we left didn't start well for me - I was hit by a strange and swift flu bug, and let's just say the bidet positioned next to the toilet was used unexpectedly at 7:30AM by yours truly after a tossing and turning early AM feeling nauseated. TBF walked into the bathroom to find me sitting on the throne, an ugly mess in the bidet and me looking a bit pale/green...but relieved. I bucked up, packed my bag and with strong determination made it to the airport without another incident (fast forward 2 days and Perry was hit with the bug...but not as badly as I was).

Anticipation...our EasyJet flight from Basel was delayed by one hour...excrutiatingly for me - I hate waiting and especially for something I've been looking forward to for so long.

Arrival...pretty painless, driver waiting for us after baggage claim and off we go to...

Hotel Majestic...very nice, meeting all my hotel diva needs. We were all upgraded to nicer rooms than we reserved and the staff was wonderful. Granted it's not a large hotel, but I find it so charming when they remember your room number at reception automatically every time you pick up your key. I highly recommend the hotel and the location which is a 10 minute walk to the top of the Spanish Steps, 15-20 minutes walk from the Trevi fountain or Pantheon.

Restaurants...there's tons of them, and the ones we chose ahead of time were ok, not great. One was very good and a repeater. But, with so many to choose from I think we need to make better choices next time.

The sites...WOW! 25 years later and I appreciate this city so much more. It's an amazing combination of contemporary, modern, medieval and ancient - all in one place. TBF has given you his highlights, but I have a much more difficult time discriminating what I enjoyed best because there were so many wonderful things. Somehow we managed to get to what I would consider the majors in the 4 days we were there, and if I had to choose the most special events for me, I would have to say it was visting St. Peters and the Vatican museums and visiting the colosseum and it's ancient surrounding area.

Arrivaderci Roma...for now...but I don't plan to stay away for 25 years again. TBF and I are thinking it might be a nice place for us to spend our Christmas holiday this year and I am busy researching it already.

PS: I gave TBF our guide's telephone number. And, I do have to admit he had nice hair, and a charming Italian accent.

One Last Fleeting Memory From Rome...

It's been well over a week since we made it back from our little mini-vacation in Rome. Now that I think of it, not only did we have a great time in Rome, but we also managed to completely miss the snowstorm of the century that began clobbering Basel only a few hours after our EasyJet flight took off for Ciampino Airport. Imagine my surprise when, while stuffing my face with scrambled eggs and sausages at our "American breakfast" on Monday morning at the Hotel Majestic, I read in the IHT that Basel Airport had been completely shut down on Saturday and Sunday.
Mrs. TBF: "I hope you have a snowbrush."
TBF: "Well...I have good news and bad news. The good news is: yes, I have a snowbrush. The bad news is: it's in the storage locker at our apartment."
But hey, no problem. On arrival at Basel Airport, I walked out to the parking lot and found it to be pretty well cleared of snow. When I arrived at the Jeep, I found that it was covered with about a foot of melting snow. No problem. I just cleared the snow off the car Chicago-style which means that I went from 0 to 60 in about three seconds and then slammed on the brakes. Most of the snow slid onto the asphalt, I "four-wheeled it" over the mound of snow, and drove out of the parking lot to go pick up the rest of the gang at the arrival area. It was a piece of cake. However, special recognition and kudos have to go to DxDave who basically risked life and limb to drive over to our apartment during the storm to feed our cat.

Anyhow...getting back to Rome. Sure, I have pictures galore of Roman sights. However, these two pictures quite possibly are my favorite pictures of the whole lot.
We were standing in Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon. Suddenly, my dear sister-in-law Renee decided to get all cerebral on my ass and she began reading historical/architectural/informational stuff about the Pantheon out of her guide. Now, it's a well documented fact that I have, as my ex-coworker Ed used to say, the "...attention span of a circus flea". So, I decided that it was a perfect time for a self-portrait.
You'll notice in the first picture, that everybody is oblivious to my shenanigans. However, in the second photo, while Renee is still oblivious to what I'm doing, Perry has begun to crack up, and Mrs. beginning to give me the stink eye!!! It wasn't until I looked through the photos a few times that I noticed that I had captured "photographic gold".

So here are my top five Rome moments:
1. Speaking to the Swiss Guard in Swiss German.
2. Photo of Mrs. TBF giving me the stink eye.
3. Being excused from Church for the rest of my life by the Pope.
4. Reading in the IHT that we completely missed the snowstorm of the century.
5. The Colosseum, Vatican, Roman Forum, Pantheon, and all that other old stuff.

Roman reflections are officially over!

Am I Becoming...A Swissy?

First, I spoke to the Swiss Guard in Swiss German at the Vatican City. Then, yesterday, I found myself surrounded by old Swiss men staring (as the Baslers like to do) trance-like at tram repairs in downtown Basel. Today? I found myself in line at U.B.S. at 8:58 a.m. with about half a dozen other Swiss people waiting for the automatic doors to open at precisely 9:00 a.m. This was after earlier this morning when Mrs. TBF called me a Swissy when I draped our duvet outside over a balcony chair for a little frisch luft (as the Swiss are also inclined to do!). Mein Gott! What is happening to me?
I realized that I needed to take immediate action to, if not stop, at least slow down my metamorphosis. So, after walking out of U.B.S. at 9:02 a.m., I noticed a Starbucks kitty-corner across the street from the bank. "Aahhhh...a little shot of Americana - exactly what I need", I thought. I walked in, ordered my grosses tages kaffee mit platz für milch (help!), and then walked directly to a chocolate shop to buy a box of Swiss chocolates (ok...I might as well begin filling out the Swiss citizenship papers!).
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it...), the large Starbucks coffee went right through me and the imminent "green apple quick-step" put an end to yet another morning of aimless Swiss wandering.
Fortunately, I knew that the next tram to take me home would arrive in exactly one minute (Swissy!!!!).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Just Rambling On and On...

Mrs. TBF has begun taking the bus to work instead of the tram. The bus line that runs by our house is considerably less crowded than the tram which means that she's able to get a seat instead of standing the whole time. Since I ususally walk with her to the tram in the morning, I've begun walking with her to the bus stop.
On Monday, I had to pick up some dry cleaning at our new Swiss dry cleaner, so I joined Mrs. TBF for part of her bus ride. I've been bringing our very sporadic dry cleaning to the dry cleaner in France because it costs less than half the amount of dry cleaning in Basel, but Mrs. TBF has developed a mistrust of the French dry cleaner - maybe it's because they lost a couple of our things. Who knows?
It's been a few years since we used a Swiss dry cleaner, and I forgot how incredibly expensive it is. How expensive, you ask?
Mrs. TBF's suit + Mrs. TBF's dress + 1 pair of TBF's trousers = 64 CHF (about $50 U.S.)!!!!
Then, when I picked it up, the lady seemed a bit perturbed that I actually wanted her to wrap the clothes in plastic. I told her that I was walking home, and I didn't want the stuff to get all dusty. She cared not!
On Tuesday, I rode the bus with Mrs. TBF again. There's a Migros grocery store a couple of stops into the journey, and I told Mrs. TBF that I'd ride with her, and then pick up a couple of things at the store.
We live right next door to a Migros. But, the one next to our house SUCKS!!! I'm tellin' ya, that produce worker is stocking the produce with his butt cheeks or something because I've never seen such bad produce in my life. The one along the bus route is much, much better.
So, Monday/dry cleaner, Tuesday/Migros, Wednesday/???? I decided this morning to take a longer ride with Mrs. TBF. I told her I'd ride the bus with her to the point where she has to make a transfer to the tram. This is several stops into the route.
Mrs. TBF: "Why are you going to do that?"
TBF: "Because...I can!"
Mrs. TBF: "Sassy!!!"
I remember that I had to pick up something at a store in downtown Basel, and I decided to just take the bus to a stop called Schifflände. Mrs. TBF said she'd ride with me to that stop, and we thought that would be the point where she'd "give me some sugar" and then we'd go our separate ways.
About half way into the route, an announcement was made over the intercom. Naturally, it was in Swiss German, so I understood about 4% of what was said. I heard something about having to walk between two tram stops, but I couldn't really figure out what the problem was. It wasn't until later...too late...that we found out that a huge chunk of the Basel tram system was comletely effed up!
I waited with Mrs. TBF, and her tram never came. Finally, she decided to hoof it. Who knows when she finally made it to work? I went to my store, picked up what I was there to pick up, and then made my way to the tram stop to take the tram back home.
On the way to the tram stop, I finally saw what the problem was. It appeared to me, at least, that a tram car had derailed right at a main intersection which resulted in a total disruption of several lines. I mean, to a Swiss person, this is a disaster of epic proportions. I'm's nearly call the Swiss Guard time.

We interrupt this ramble for more stream of consciousness rambling...
Oh...mentioning the Swiss Guard just reminded me of something. While we were in the Vatican City a little while back, I gave a couple of members of the Vatican's finest, a.k.a. the Pope's Swiss Guard, a "grüezi mitenand" and they gave a "grüezi" right back at me. How cool is that? It was THE highlight of my trip to Rome. How many people can say they've spoken with members of the Swiss Guard!

Back to the first rambling...
I stood at the scene of the accident for about five minutes just staring at the workers doing their thing. Then, I realized that I was being incredibly Bebbi (nickname for people from Basel). Baslers are AMAZING starers. I guess they're just a curious people, and they'll stare at anything endlessly. On many occasions, I've been the subject of the Basler stare (I guess a very tall bald man without a care in the world is stare-worthy), and I've had to just basically shrug my shoulders after a couple of minutes and say "Was?!?!?!" to get them to stop.
I snapped out of my hypnotic stare, saw that I was surrounded by old Basler men doing the same thing I was doing, and slinked off to a tram stop that seemed to be functioning normally.
I finally made it home at 9:45 a.m. Ninety minutes of aimless wandering.

...Because I can!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

2,000 DAYS!!!

Another milestone has been reached. It was 2,000 days ago today - September 21, 2000 - that I walked out of the sales office of American Freightways (now FedEx Freight) for the last time. That was the last day I traded my time for dollars...hopefully forever!
I've now been retired (thanks to Mrs. TBF) for over 12.5% of my life. Wow!!! The golden years are flying by!

On This Day (Mrs. TBF: Don't Read This At Work!)...

I subscribe to a daily e-mail from It's one of those "On This Day" type of e-mails which satisfies my daily need for useless trivia. You know the that happened on this day in history.

Today's e-mail is missing a major event in our lives that happened one year ago today. It was the saddest day of my life - the day our beautiful dog Dominique went to heaven.
I'm keeping this post short because I don't want my tears to short-circuit the laptop. We'll always have her remains and about a zillion great memories.

Time heals all wounds - still waiting!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Gorillas In The Sist (ine Chapel)...

God...that's awful! It's a play on "Gorillas in the Mist"....oh...never mind. Let me explain.
A little while back, Michael recommended a handy little gadget called a Gorilla Pod. I checked out his link, liked what I saw, and (being a guy who likes gadgets) ordered one. I had it sent to Perry and Renee's house, and then they brought it along when they came for their little visit (thanks!).

I have to say that the Gorilla Pod comes in really handy because it will attach to just about anything, and it let's you take photos that would otherwise not be possible. Here are a couple I took in St. Peter's Basilica without a flash. I always laugh to myself when I see people taking a picture of something huge like St. Peter's with a flash. I have news for you people: THE PICTURE IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE CRAP!!! Turn off your flash, put the camera on your new Gorilla Pod, set the self timer for 2 or 10 seconds so that the camera is absolutely still when the shutter clicks, and voila! Oh...and if you're in the picture, stand still so that you're not all blurry. That's my photography tip for the day. No charge!

We ended up hiring a private guide to tour the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel. He was highly recommended by our hotel concierge, spoke excellent English, knew everything there is to know about the Vatican/popes/etc., pointed out the best place to buy souvenirs, etc. He had only one fault as far as I'm concerned. I don't me crazy...but about 20 minutes into the tour, I began to notice that he was spending about 95% of his time speaking directly to Mrs. TBF!!! Mrs. TBF says it's because she was paying the most attention and acting the most interested. OK...I admit I have a very short attention span, and after a while I was becoming more interested in trying to find out if the Gorilla Pod would attach to a marble statue, etc. But, I still say there was a hint of "workin' it" goin' on there. Toward the end of the tour, he even GAVE HIS CELLPHONE NUMBER to Mrs. TBF in case we (HA!) would want a "special tour" of assorted papal regalia, etc. He asked if we (HA!) were going to be in town on Wednesday so that he could get us (HA!) tickets to be in the Pope's audience.
TBF: "OK...the tour's over! Here's your money, arrivederci!"

I guess I may be guilty of a little writer's embellishment here. He really was an excellent guide. Afterall, he didn't even yell at me when I set up the Gorilla Pod and took this illegal picture of Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. I'm not using the guide's name here because I didn't want to embarass him in case he does a Google search on his own name, or finds my blog while trying to find Mrs. TBF (...just kidding!). If you're going to be in Rome and you'd like a private Vatican guide, just let me know and I'll give you the guide's cellphone number. Mrs. TBF keeps the number in her wallet.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

My "Get Out of Church Free" Card...

I've never really been too excited about going to church.
Seeing that something like 95% of Finns are Lutheran, I was raised as a Lutheran and "guided" (read: forced) by my parents to attend Sunday school and confirmation class at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Prospect Heights, IL. I hated it! To make matters worse, my dad would torment me by saying that if I slept past 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, then I wouldn't have to go to church. So, being the good Christian soldier I was, I trained myself to be absolutely motionless upon waking up because I knew that my dad would be peeking into my bedroom looking for the slightest sign of movement. I'm not kidding - I would wake up, not move, and then I'd hear my dad snickering in the doorway. Considering it a lost cause, I'd wipe the sleep from my eyes and see "8:58" on the clock radio. DAMN!!! I still say he was using a feather on a long stick or something like it to wake me up - NOT FAIR!!!
This Sunday morning struggle continued pretty much until 1978 when I had my confirmation. I walked out of the church in my green polyester suit with the aftertaste of the wine and wafer in my mouth, and I made the commitment to living my life observant of good Christian values (do unto others..., no killing, coveting, etc., etc.) but without the beauty-sleep depriving attendance of church.
Here I am, nearly thirty years later, and I must say that I HAVE actually been to church a good number of times since 1978. I've attended countless weddings and baptisms, AND I've visited many European cathedrals as a tourist. Those all count as going to church - right???
Let's now move the clock hands quickly ahead to one week ago! It was one week ago right at this very moment that we were standing in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City, and as far as I'm concerned, I received the ultimate Christian booster shot! You see...Mrs. TBF, Jo, Perry, Renee, and I (along with several thousand other people) were on hand to receive the Pope's blessing (sorry...the zoom on my old camera isn't too good and I ended up taking a picture through my binoculars). While my dear Catholic family members only were able to understand the Pope's message in English, I had the advantage of understanding his blessing auf Deutsch. Here is what he said in German (translated and paraphrased into English):
For you extraordinary Lutheran pilgrims who have overcome life's ever present hardships and obstacles to stand before me at this moment, I guarantee you entry into heaven even if you do not attend another church service in your life, as long as you continue living a life a kindness and goodness toward your fellow man!

So...I've got that goin' for me...which is nice! Now...I'm going back to bed!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tartufo di Roma

I took this picture of Mrs. TBF and Jo Mama (who we began calling Jo Mime-a because of her fascination with street mimes) during a short sitting break while soaking in the sunshine at the Roman Forum. The weather forecast called for rain, but we ended up having a good amount of sunshine. Roman weather forecasters must go to same meteorological school as Chicago weather forecasters.

Later in the day, we went to Piazza Navona and stopped at the famous Tre Scalini - home of what our "Top 10 Rome" book describes as: "Rome's most sinful tartufo (truffle) ice cream ball...Dark chocolate shavings cover the outer layer of chocolate ice cream, with a heart of fudge and cherries."
TBF: "Hey Jo do you say 'I bet it looks the same way when it's coming out' in Italian?"

Jo Mime-a: ...rolls her eyes up in disgust!

TBF: "By the I have anything in my teeth?"

Jo Mime-a: "No."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

We Had a Trevi-ific Time... brother-in-law Perry came up with that one!
Here are a couple of pictures from our first night in Rome. The first picture was of the whole gang in front of the Trevi Fountain. Since you can't actually see the Trevi Fountain in the picture, I thought I'd also post a picture of the fountain without the whole gang.
Keepin' the posts short and to the point because I'm still busy entertaining the guests...Mrs. TBF's Pot au Feu for dinner tonight!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Please Stand By...

We're back from Rome. I just loaded the pictures into the Mac, and I'll be posting some pictures soon - hopefully tomorrow. We stayed at a very nice hotel, ate well, toured the colosseum/forum/pantheon/Vatican, saw the Pope give his Sunday blessing, etc., etc.
I'll get into more details later. But right now, Limoncello beckons...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sorry Folks...

I've been very busy taking care of Jo the mother-in-law this past week, so blogging has been on the back burner. Now, Perry (bro-in-law) and Renee (sis-in-law) are also here. Mrs. TBF, yours truly, and the whole gang will be heading to Rome later this afternoon for a four-day getaway, so I'm sorry to say that there won't be any blog posts until at least next Wednesday (I'm not bringing the Bozo-puter along). However, I promise to take lots-o-pictures and I'll begin posting them as soon as we're back in die Schweiz!