Sunday, January 29, 2006

Day Trip To Strasbourg

We woke up to a strange sound at 7:00 a.m. yesterday morning. Strange for a Saturday at least - the clock radio playing Bob Seger's "Roll Me Away" (gotta remember to change that CD one of these years!). Normally, the Saturday wake up call is King poking my nose in the neighborhood of 8:30 or so because he wants to be fed. I tell him to F-OFF, and then I squeeze in an extra hour. However, this morning was different. We had to get up to get ready to catch the 9:17 a.m. train to Strasbourg.
For whatever reason, we had decided earlier in the week to do a day trip to Strasbourg which would involve walking around the home of the European Parliament in the dead of winter, freezing our derrieres off. Maybe we were going through travel withdrawl. Who knows? Afterall, it had been over a month since we'd returned from Vienna, and I guess we were looking for something to liven up the winter doldrums.
This was my third time in Strasbourg and Mrs. TBF's second time. She hadn't actually been there since November, 2000. We've only been there during the cold months, and we really do need to check it out sometime when it's warmer outside. I'm sure it's nice during the summer when it's full of flowers and the restaurants have tables set up outdoors. It's actually even very nice during the winter, but...it's COLD!!!! We froze!!! Maybe it has something to do with us both having lost a lot of weight, or maybe it has something to do with us getting older, but...we just can't handle the cold like we used to. For gosh sake - I have 100% Finnish blood, I was born in Canada, I grew up in Chicago, and I can no longer handle temperatures too far below freezing. I'm a wimp!

We arrived at the train station, started walking toward the cathedral, and fifteen minutes later were inside a coffee shop trying to warm up. We eventually made it to the cathedral (which is really impressive on the outside), went inside to warm up a bit (I don't think it's really heated), listened to the organist playing the massive pipe organ for a few minutes, and then we walked out at 11:45 a.m.
I had made a reservation at a restaurant called La Cloche a Fromage earlier in the week. I found it on a Strasbourg website, and it looked good (any excuse to consume mass quantities of French cheese is fine with us). Our reservation was for noon, we arrived at the restaurant at 11:55 a.m., we were greeted at the door by one of the waiters, and he said that we'd have to COME BACK IN FIVE MINUTES! He wasn't mean about it, it was just kind of a rules are rules type of thing (maybe he was Swiss!). So, we went back out into the cold, walked around for five minutes, and then returned to the restaurant.


Fortunately for us, we were seated at a table right next to a radiator, and we sat holding our hands and feet about an inch away so that we could warm up. We continued the dethawing process with some onion soup which warmed us up enough so that we could enjoy the rest of our cheesy meal washed down with a little Alsatian Tokay Pinot Gris. I had a plate with several different cheeses. Mrs. TBF had a baked Vacherin Mont d'Or. As usual, I liked what she ordered better than what I had ordered. And also as usual, I couldn't keep my greedy mitts off of her food!






The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around with frozen feet enjoying the wintery scenery, doing a bit of shopping, and stopping in a cafe for the occasional warm up.
We took the 4:55 p.m. train back to Basel (it only takes about 1 hour 15 minutes) armed with some stinky French cheese from the restaurant's store, some sweets, and a bag full of lingerie that Mrs. TBF bought at Body One (whooo-hooo!).
Like I said, I'd like to go back someday soon. But, the next time we go back has to be when it's warm outside.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Oh Happy Evening & the eyeball

No offense to TBF, but all you working stiffs out there know what I mean when I say Friday night is the best night of the week!!!!! You know when you come home from work on Friday evening that you have 2 glorious weekend days ahead of you and a relaxing Friday evening. Sunday evening, on the other hand, is the exact opposite - yes I get the Sunday night blues, do you?
Anyway, this is also my first rebuttal blog. How many of you out there really wanted to see TBF's eyeball that up close and personal? When I came home he said to me - did you see my blog today and I said no. So, he proceeded to show me, with the caveat, "you're not going to like it", and sure enough, I have to say - he's right. Yuck - what a gross picture. Oh well. Note to the lovely Di - I blame you for this atrocity.
Anyway, have a great Friday evening and a 2 glorious weekend days! And don't even think about Sunday evening now.
Ciao!!!

Now YOU'VE Done It!


After suffering a verbal emasculation this past weekend from my friend Di when she told me that my shoulder muscles were deteriorating, I decided to "wail on my shoulders and biceps" at the gym. What was the result? A broken blood vessel in my eye from the strain, that's what!
Di, I BLAME YOU!

Oh...MY...GOD! Is that an age spot on my left temple?

I need to make an appointment for a facial...and fast! I'm falling apart!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Citizen's A-RAY-EST, Citizen's A-RAY-EST!"

That's "citizens arrest". It's what Gomer yells at Barney Fife in episode #106 of the Andy Griffith Show, but I'm not going to go into detail and start explaining myself. You either know it, or you don't. But, suffice it to say, it's a pretty damn funny classic Americana T.V. moment.
I'm not sure how you say "citizen's arrest" in German, but I'm living in fear of a Swiss citizen arresting me today. You see, I'm about to break the law - or at least I think I am.
If you'll remember, I recently brought the Jeep in for rather expensive service (BTW...which ended up costing close to 2,500 CHF!). At that time, I was told by a technician that the "...profile of your tires is not sufficient for driving in snow."


Well, this is what I'm seeing right now when I look down off the balcony at the "mighty" Birsig River, and I have to drive over to Reinach to walk Sam and George.
If you don't hear from me for the next couple of days, it probably means that I'm in the Basel jail - which, incidentally, I have come to find out is only minutes away from where we live (more about that on a future post!).
Wish me luck!

Do I Have Too Much Time On My Hands?

Our Coopzeitung (the weekly grocery store newspaper) arrives in our mailbox every Wednesday like Swiss clockwork. Not only does it announce what's going to be on Aktion (discounted) during the week, but it also has various articles offering household tips, etc. for the good Swiss hausfrau such as yours truly.
Although I should practice my German by reading the paper from cover to cover, I'm a faul Scheisse and I tend to just zip through the paper looking for the "hidden" coupons. Yes, the Coopzeitung people are a sneaky lot, I tell ya. They print coupons in the strangest spots, I guess, just so that you'll look at the paper from cover to cover and not just look at the sales ads. Once I found an ad for 20% off a purchase of 100 CHF or more. So, I went to the Coop armed with said coupon and ended up spending something like 100.25 CHF. That showed 'em!
Anyway...while I was zipping through the paper yesterday at lunchtime, a strange article caught my eye. It was an article on a cool way to fold dinner napkins. Not only did the article catch my eye, but I decided to plunge into the wonderful world of beautifying the dinner table. Here are the results of my efforts (with paper napkins instead of cloth dinner napkins...) with the instructions that I tore out of the paper:

Now as if this wasn't enough hausfrauery, I also ended up doing a Google search on napkin folding and I found that there is a plethora (about 416,000 hits) of websites devoted to this rather geeky, anal, and underappreciated pursuit. I clicked on the first site and I was sucked in immediately. Who knew that there are so many ways to fold a napkin. I especially like the comments at the bottom of the page where a napkin folding groupie writes:
Dear Robbie: I have been looking [at] several different sites about napkin folding, and I must say that yours is very impressive with actual photos to show what the completed project looks like. Line drawings just don't give a decent impression. Kudos to you! Sincerely, Jan K.

I had to add the [at] because Robbie warns me a few lines down not to reprint, publish, or display content...without permission, and I don't want to be sued. Please also note the section where Robbie states that she? spends 4-6 hours per day maintaining the website and...SOLICITS DONATIONS!!! Wow! I guess the answer to my original question (Do I have too much time on my hands?) is no.
But...it appears that somebody does!

Caught In The Act!!!


See? I told you it was his cup!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

To Di For!

I'm kind of sore today, and I'm blaming my friend Di! You see, she asked me a question this past weekend...a question that I feel should never be asked. She asked me: "Are you still working out?"
We were at a wine tasting party this past Saturday night hosted by our friends Henry and Susan at their home in Ferrette, France. Well into the evening, Di, who was seated directly across the table from me, asked me the question that should never be asked. Not only did she ask the question, but she also told me that my shoulders looked small and implied that my diet had eaten away muscle along with fat. Her comments were strangely reminiscent of comments Mrs. TBF made in August, 2004 when she told me that my biceps could be looking bigger (I'm paraphrasing here!).
Now, I'd like to point out that I was absolutely "wailing" on my biceps at the gym for months. Every few days, the following conversation would take place:

TBF: (flexing biceps) Whadya' think? Huh? HUH???

Mrs. TBF: (rolling her eyes up into her head...) Yeah...really great!


I seem to recall that I eventually coached Mrs. TBF into spontaneously saying something like "...GEEEZ! You're biceps are looking HUGE!" just for purposes of stroking my male ego.
I continued punishing my biceps at the gym until this past August when we were at the gym at our hotel in Capri, and Mrs. TBF saw me doing my arm workout in person for the first time.

Mrs. TBF: "I don't like what I'm seeing!!! You're straining WAY TOO HARD!!!

TBF: "But...how else can I maintain the guns?"


Mrs. TBF won (as usual), and I eased up on my workout, so that she'd "ease up off my back about it!" I decided to go on a diet, ease up a little on my workout, and go for a lean, wiry, and lanky look instead of the man-beast look.
Overall, I'm happy with the decision to lose weight. I'm not getting any younger, and I think I can stave off things like diabetes, knee replacement surgery, etc. by being lighter. But, I will miss the "BIG" days. Especially random comments like when I was standing at the urinals peeing at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu in 1998 during a Northwestern vs. U. of Hawaii football game (when I was pretty close to my largest) and some Hawai'ian dude came in and said, "DAMN!!! You are one big Mother F-----!!!" Moments like that make me wish I had a video camera!
I just can't win! When I weighed 250 lbs. (I've been as high as 275 lbs.!), nobody said boo about my weight. Now, I'm down 32 lbs., and all I hear is "...you're losing weight too quickly!", "...when are you going to stop dieting?", "...are you sick?", "...we're not going to be able to call you The BIG Finn anymore!", "...you didn't need to lose weight to begin with", "...are you still working out?"!!!

EVERYBODY: EASE UP!!!


If you need to reach me, I'll be at the gym...wailing on my biceps AND my shoulders!

Which Came First???

...meeting face to face, or the blog?
Mrs. TBF and I have decided to take a day trip to Strasbourg this Saturday. Why? I don't know. I guess, just because it's there. We're going to have lunch at a restaurant that specializes in cheese, and we'll just walk around and take in the sights.
This will be our first weekend in three weeks without face to face contact (we think) with our fellow bloggers.

THE BLOG: Here's a picture of the Expatters from a couple of Saturdays ago (I stole it from their blog...just ignore the couple sucking face in the background!), when they were at our house for dinner. I just realized that we met the Expatters face to face for the first time one year ago this past Saturday (January 21, 2005) when we met for a drink at Basel's Campari Bar.
I'm not really sure when it was exactly, but I came across the Expatter's blog during the first half of 2004. I sent them an e-mail to tell them that I was enjoying reading their blog, I received a response asking how I had found the blog, etc. We exchanged a couple of e-mails, and that was it for awhile.
Then, one day I was watering the garden of friends who were on vacation. These friends, unbeknownst to me at the time, live right around the block from the Expatters (who actually only live a couple of kilometers or so away from us!). After arriving back at home, I saw that Kirk had sent me an e-mail something to the effect of: "This may be a strange question, but were you watering a garden in the ---- neighborhood earlier this afternoon? I saw somebody watering a garden while I was out walking our dog who looked just like the pictures of you on your website..." As it turns out, it was me. So we kind of e-mailed back and forth, and then the four of us eventually got together a few months later at the Campari Bar.
Yes, we met over the internet (...sounds kind of sleazy, doesn't it?). The blog came first.

Face to face: Here's a picture of yours truly and Canadian-Swiss making an Orange-X sandwich this past Friday evening during an impromptu get together at our place. You can read all about it at The CanadianSwiss Blog!
We used to live two doors away from C.S. and O.X. They moved into their place around August, 2004. Just before they moved in, our dryer broke. The apartment complex caretaker gave me a key to an empty apartment and told me to just go ahead and use the dryer until our dryer was repaired. One Saturday or Sunday, I walked into what I thought was an empty apartment to throw a load of laundry into the dryer. Suddenly, I heard somebody saying something in German. I looked upstairs, and there stood C.S. and O.X. I stuttered and stammered something in incomprehensible German, and fortunately for me, C.S. said "...we speak English!"
So that was the first meeting with C.S. and O.X. - the two of them standing there wondering who was breaking into their apartment, and me standing there with a laundry basket in my hand. Was I even wearing a shirt? I can't remember for sure. In this case, face to face came first.
Maybe we'll have to have a "Bloggers' Convention" one of these days.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Aglio e Olio

That's what you're likely to get when you drop by in the evening, spur of the moment, without having eaten dinner. For those of you who don't know...I am 100% Italian by heritage (50% of which is Sicilian) - second generation Italian-American. So, essential ingredients that were always on hand when I was growing up in Chicago were ...linguine, garlic, olive oil, canned italian tomatoes, canned Italian tuna packed in oil...unheard of these days when everyone eats white tuna in water. Anyway, I too keep most of these ingredients on hand because you never know who might drop by hungry. And, as an Italian woman, you must never let anyone leave your home hungry - it's a disgrace to do so. In the past few days I've had the pleasure of serving up linguine Aglio e olio - linguine with garlic and oil. On Friday evening we started off the weekend with a last minute invitation to CanadianSwiss and Orange-x who, like us, happened to be relaxing at home on a Friday evening after a long week. Before we knew it they were on their way to our place for a visit. When I found out they hadn't eaten dinner...you guessed it...steaming bowls of Aglio e olio were served up. A good time was had by all! Roll forward to this evening. When I arrived home, around 8PM, TBF informed me that our friend Andy was dropping by to see the Denver/Pittsburgh game we taped Sunday night (Andy is from Colorado). When he arrived, around 9:15, I asked him the question all Italian women ask when you arrive at their homes...Have you eaten? His answer was no...and in a flash he had a bowl of steaming aglio e olio in from of him. Now, this is a very versatile meal. I have dabbled with lot's of variations and this evening I happened to have some artichoke hearts which were chopped up and added to the garlic, oil and crushed red chili sauce (I prefer crushed red chili in my aglio e olio). Other variations I've made through the years have included chopped steamed broccoli or chopped steamed asparagus. So, keep these simple things on hand and you and your friends will never go hungry - but you will smell of garlic! Ciao.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign!

Here are some signs I saw in Basel's sunny Bahnhofplatz this past Friday afternoon. Of course, there's what I call the "corner of sin"! And, naturally, I passed this corner right after working out when I was totally running on empty. But I'm happy to report that I didn't negate the benefits of a good workout by being sucked into the Home of the Whopper - Burger King.
Basel's first BK has been open for a couple of months now, and I have yet to pass into the lair of flame-broiled transcendence. Maybe I'll go after I hit my goal weight.
I also skipped the Davidoff cigar shop (...currently 24 cigars in my humidor) and the German version of Starbucks - Tchibo (...had to pee!). Maybe I'll hit the "corner of sin" some lazy afternoon when it's a bit warmer outside.



While waiting for the tram, I noticed these rather appropriate signs o' the times... The first picture (sorry about the lighting...it was really sunny and the lighting was playing tricks on me) is of an ad for a Swiss movie about "...the final days of Swissair". The old Swissair was your classic airline that tried to grow too quickly, refused to recognize changing industry/market trends around them, stopped listening to what customers wanted, were seduced by delusions of grandeur, etc., etc., blah, blah, blaaaaahhhh! They went out of business in 2001, much to the humiliation of the Swiss (Dear Swiss: LET IT GO!!! It happened almost five years ago. MOVE ON!).
After taking the picture of the Grounding sign (Does anybody know whether or not this film has English subtitles? I'd kind of like to see it, but there's no way I'm sitting through two-hours of Swiss-German without English subtitles), I made a 180˚ turn and saw this enormous "scaffolding-ad" for EasyJet.
You know, EasyJet - a low-cost airline that has grown quickly because it has recognized changing industry/market trends, given customers what they want, etc.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Did I Do Something Wrong?

Dear U.S. Department of Justice Employee:
I appreciate the fact that you visited The Big Finn's Big Blog several times yesterday. But, I just have one question: Am I in some kind of trouble? I noticed from my Blogpatrol counter that a visitor with an IP ending in usdoj.gov has been frequenting my blog. I'm happy for the traffic, but I'm beginning to feel a little paranoid.
I can't think of anything too illegal that I've done over the past few years or so. So, if I'm in some kind of trouble, please let me know.
Thanks,
TBF

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Two Stone!

I weighed in at 100.8 kilos, or 222 lbs., last Friday (my weigh-in day). This means that I've lost a total of 28 lbs., or as the Brits say..."two stone." Now, I know I'm probably going to get some flack about this one, but I'm just going to go ahead and say it... "Stone" (14 lbs.) has to be one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. If I say 222 lbs. to a Brit, there's usually about a 30 second pause in the conversation while that person converts it to stone. By the way, 222 lbs. is 15 stone 12 pounds. I've gone on record saying that I feel the whole world should be on the metric system, and I have to give the Brits credit for making a half-assed attempt to convert. But, they refuse to let go of that "bloody" stone thing. It must end...NOW!
For the record, in addition to stone being a stupid form of measurement, I also disagree with Europeans calling the ground floor zero instead of the first floor. You walk into a building, look down, and the floor you see is the first floor you see. First floor...I'm right, you're wrong...no argument. There should be no floor zero in a building, elevator, etc. NEXT!!!
I think it's better to write the date as January 18, 2006 instead of 18 January 2006. I don't think the latter is dumb, but I do think that the former is better. Here's why: If a person was only able to say the first word....ok...let's say a person dies after telling you the first word of the date. If this were the scenario, the North American would dress appropriately for the weather, and the Brit would not. "January..." (person croaks...) The American/Canadian is putting on a winter coat. "Eighteen..." (person croaks...) There's a good chance that the Brit is walking outdoors unprepared for the elements. So I guess the choice is yours - be all nice and toasty, or catch pneumonia. For me, it's a no brainer!
Well then! I feel better. Now...getting back to where I was originally going with this blog entry.
One way of looking thinner is to lose weight. Another way, and probably the easier way, is to surround yourself with big things. This, too, can create a slimming effect. Take, for example, the new pillows I bought yesterday afternoon. Our old pillows were getting a bit old and lumpy, so yours truly jumped into action and rode the tram to Manor. Ok..ok...Mrs. TBF actually said something like, "...when are you going to buy those new pillows?", and I trudged through the drizzle to the tram stop, and rode a couple of trams to the hell that is a January sale at Manor. But, "jumped into action" sounds so much better, doesn't it? While at Manor, I noticed the crazed mob rummaging through linens at the discount table. I took a quick peek, noticed that these linens were discounted for a reason (most looked like a cross between leopard print and a Scottish kilt), and then I went right to the full-price section so that I could shop in peace. I picked out a couple of sets of pillow cases, and two of the largest pillows I have ever seen. They measure out at 65 cm x 100 cm. That's one meter wide (over a yard wide to yous guyses in Chicago!)!!!
Look at Mrs. TBF in this picture. She pretty much disappears under our nice flannel duvet while the enormous pillow envelops her tiny head. Hell! That pillow even makes my immense cranium look svelte!

P.S. Please note the plastic cup of water on the headboard above my pillow. That is not drinking water for me. That is King's drinking water. It used to be mine. That was, until King began using it, and claimed it as his very own, a couple of years ago. Now, I have to keep a full cup of water on the headboard just for him. Most mornings (usually around 5:30 a.m.), he climbs over me onto the headboard and slurps water just above my head for what seems like an eternity.

Gratis???


Imagine my surprise this past Monday when, while shopping at my semi-friendly local Coop, I was handed a gratis token of appreciation for frequenting this textbook example of oligopoly (See? I took economics in college!). Suuuuure it only costs a couple of cents, but it's the thought that counts...right?
What is it, you ask? It's a chip that you insert into your grocery cart. Normally, you have to put a two franc coin into the cart to unlock it from the next cart in line. Then, after you're done shopping and return your cart to the little shopping cart "grotto", you get your two francs back. Pretty neat, huh? So now, instead of having to remember to have a two franc coin in my pocket when I go grocery shopping, now I only have to remember to carry this little "chip" with me.
Now, for you people who do not live in Switzerland, this might seem like it's not that big a deal. But, for us Swiss residents, this random act of kindness is something to write home about. You see, the Swiss don't really like to hand things out for free. Case in point...
Back in 2000, when we first moved here, I went to IKEA to buy a bed for our guest room. I hated these trips to IKEA! I had to try to find somebody who spoke English, I'd have to load all this crap into the car, the stuff's made like shit and you're always worried about chipping it, then I'd have to unload the stuff and carry it up a zillion stairs, assemble it, get rid of mountains of cardboard... Well, you get the picture. So, I buy this guest bed, assemble it, carry the mattress up to our top floor guest room, and...the mattress was the wrong size!!! They gave me the wrong mattress!! Scheisse!!! I ended up lugging this Swedish piece of crap back to IKEA and getting the proper size mattress so I could do the whole process all over again.
So, being fresh "off the boat", so to speak, from America, I did a bit of polite complaining. Now, I get the feeling that the Swiss don't take confrontation too well. I relayed my ordeal to two IKEA customer-service fraus, they delved into a rather muffled conversation in Swiss-German, and then the one lady kind of cocked her head toward a little cabinet. The other lady took out a key, unlocked the door, took out a little metal box, unlocked that box with another key, and took out a little piece of paper. After locking everything back up, the lady came back to me and handed me the piece of paper. "Zat iz fir zee inconvenienze!" I looked down at my palm, and there was a piece of paper that entitled me to...now, are you ready for this???? A free cup of coffee at the IKEA restaurant!!!
The entire way home, I kind of chuckled thinking about what would have happened if this series of events had taken place at the Schaumburg, Illinois IKEA. I'm thinking that complaining would have resulted in...oh...50% off the cost of the bed, or something of that ilk. When I eventually made it home, I told my neighbor Paul about my ordeal. His response? "You got something for free from the Swiss? You must be one hell of a negotiator!"
So, roll the film ahead to January, 2006. The Coop cashier hands me a gratis shopping cart chip, and you better believe that it's a big deal. Afterall, it's not everyday that you get something for free in Switzerland. Actually, it's more like once every five years.
I guess that means I shouldn't expect another gratis thing until about 2010 or so.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Early To Bed...

...and late to rise. That's my take on Swissy's modus vivendi.
I drove Mrs. TBF to the train station this morning at about 6:20 a.m. There was no traffic, very few apartment lights were on, and we made it to the train station in less than five minutes.
When we arrived at the train station at around 6:25 a.m., Mrs. TBF said, "...I wonder what I'm going to do for the next ten minutes to stay warm if my train isn't already at the platform." Ooops! Even though we've lived here for over five years, I still have that Chicagoland frame of mind that dictates that you allow plenty of extra time to get to where you're going in the morning because you're going to hit a wall of traffic as soon as you pull out of your subdivision. I keep forgetting that this is just not the case here in Basel.
We tend to go to bed between midnight and 12:30. By that time, most of the lights in the apartment building across the Birsig River from our building have been out for at least an hour or two. In the morning, when Mrs. TBF is getting ready for work at around 6:30 a.m., there's very little activity going on in the outside world (...except for the two businesses located right next to our apartment building...the only two businesses in Switzerland - Migros and Primus - that feel the need to begin working early in the morning, and exist, I'm convinced, for the sole purpose of waking us up!). In my opinion, the Swiss are a people who are definitely not lacking in sleep.
On a related note, I'm happy to report that my insomnia from the night before last ended up being an isolated incident. Mrs. TBF informed me this morning (...when she woke me up at 5:48 a.m., by the way!), that I was back to my somnambulist sawing of wood during the night.
Yours truly received a rather strong hint at 5:49 a.m. that fetching a cup of coffee would be most appreciated by the better half. I made a somewhat bleary utterance to the effect of "...it's not easy being me!", or some other ill-advised comment closely related to it. Upon returning with said cup of coffee, I was in fact reminded that it IS actually very good to be me.
You know what? It is!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

"One...Two...Three...Four...Five..."

That was me counting sheep last night. I don't what the hell happened, but I was awake last night from about 2:00 a.m. jusqu'a (just had a French lesson) about 6:30 a.m. Why? No idea!
We went out to the Bottmingermühle (about a one-minute walk from our apartment) for dinner last night. Mrs. TBF was invited to go out with several of her work colleagues (including our neighbor Suzanne). Mrs. TBF and Suzanne, in turn, invited me and Corey (Suzanne's husband) to join the group. Originally, we were going to sit at a separate table and just "spy" on the gals, but the "Mule" was hoppin' and we ended up having to sit at the same table with the gals.
Corey and I sat at one end of the table keeping to ourselves with an "invisible wall" between us and the ladies, but eventually we ended up joining in the conversation with the rest of the table and had a pretty good time. The "Mule" isn't anything fancy - just your typical Swiss menu with sausages, rösti, entrecote, wiener schnitzel, etc. - but it is the local "joint", and we like to get over there every now and then. So after dinner, we came home and relaxed a bit, went to bed, and I fell asleep watching "Viva la Bam". At 2:05 a.m., I woke up in my clothes with the lights and T.V. still on, and I went into the bathroom to get ready for bed.
...zip ahead to about 3:15 a.m., and there I was...still wide awake. I grabbed the iPod, listened to three albums, and...nothing. At 6:30 a.m., Mrs. TBF's clock radio alarm went off, I told her that I hadn't slept for several hours, and then...I began to nod off. I remember hearing a couple of traffic noises from outside, and then the next thing I remember was Mrs. TBF leaving for work and telling me that she was going to let me sleep in.
I ended up waking up at about 9:55 a.m. The phone rang a couple of minutes later. It was Mrs. TBF calling me so that I wouldn't sleep in too late. I told her I'd meet her in town during lunch at this store called Merkur which was having a sale, and Mrs. TBF wanted to buy another winter coat. I was there to give her my opinion on which coat to buy, and then I was also given the task of bringing it back home so that she wouldn't have to lug it back to work.


Here she is in Basel's Marktplatz after buying her new camelhair overcoat. A couple of seconds later, the handoff was made. She went back to work, and I ran a couple of errands before heading back home. A short, but sweet, mid-day rendezvous.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Trust me Dx...

This blog goes out to DxDave, who has taken up the challenge to see who blogs more...Mrs. TBF or Dx. But Dx - you need to have more faith in me...that I would never try to cheat. We've known each other now for over 5 years. We've cared for each other's various pets, we've given each other rides to the airport/train station (sacred if you're a Seinfeld fan), we've dined at each other's homes, cried together (or at least I have cried in front of you), and we've cleaned up after each other's elderly dogs. By now Dx, you should know us well enough to know that even if TBF pretended to be me, I would rat him out. Therefore, you can trust me...I would never take credit for a blog I didn't author! By the way, TBF claims that Dx and I turning blogging into a competition ruins a beautiful thing. I say we're just raising the bar of free speech - god bless America, right Dx?
Here are my random thoughts of the day:
...and I'm not going to make a separate entry title even though I'm now done asking Dx to trust me...and TBF told me it would count as another blog entry...see Dx...I'm trustworthy!
...Swiss train riders...I cannot believe how motion sick I now get riding the train. What has SBB done with the old reliable inter-region train that rumbled and bumped around all the way to their destination??? They now have these modern bullety looking trains that go faster but sway in a really sick-making fashion. I spent 2 1/2 hours last night travelling back from Nyon concentrating on not losing my lunch! Let me tell you...that is exhausting! And, SBB have you heard of heat? We're having quite the cold snap here and they can't seem to get the heat up enough on the train, so I had a chilly and nauseating ride home last night.
...speaking of cold snaps...is it my imagination or is winter in Basel colder than it used to be? The first winter TBF and I were here, every morning when I was making coffee for us I'd look at the thermometer on the window and every day it was around 40˚F (about 5˚C) and drizzling. After about a week of this I thought the thermometer was broken...but no it wasn't. That winter it never got much colder and it rained every day until the end of April. I thought this was ok in comparison to the inside-of-your-nose-drying cold of Chicago...TBF on the other hand was unhappy with the grey drizzle. Now that the last couple of winters have been colder (and sunnier), I'm not sure anymore which I prefer - assuming I must choose a winter season at all. Cold - really cold - and sunny, or moderate and drizzly?? Then when I think about the aftermath of both...I guess I'll take the cold and sunny which doesn't end with millions of nasty smelly slugs sliding around the sidewalks. And, since there's a good sale going on at Merkur right now, I think that's a good excuse for me to go out and buy a second winter coat.
...Isn't it amazing how I was just able to blog my way to justifying a new coat? TBF is floating around in the background telling me I'm not allowed to publish this! Forget it TBF - this is about free speech now!
Ciao!



Potpourri...

I was bitten by a 24-hour flu bug. I started feeling a bit not right early Sunday afternoon. On Monday, I took a two-hour nap in the middle of the day which is definitely not normal even though our friend Andy thinks I should make it a daily habit. On Monday evening I was back to normal.
This is the third time I've have the flu in the last year. That's more flu than I've probably had in the past twenty years combined. What gives?


Damn! Having a car in Switzerland is expensive - especially when you don't drive it very often! Not only parking (not included in our rent), insurance (ridiculous...I'm going to shop around for a new policy this year!), gasoline (approaching $5.00/gallon), but also things like the annual license plate fee which I just received yesterday (about $525 U.S./year), and repairs.
Speaking of repairs, I brought our car in for an oil change last week. I received a phone call from the technician at Emil Frey a few hours after dropping it off, and he was speaking to me in Swiss German. I understood part of what he said, but I really don't know how to say certain auto parts in German, and I definitely have a difficult time understanding numbers in Swiss-German (i.e. sieben und dreizig becomes "zeeba-dreetsa", etc.). I broke out in a flop-sweat because I could tell he was rattling off additional repairs, and he was talking some serious money... I ended up speaking with another technician who spoke English very well. The conversation went something like this:

Technician: "The profile of your tires is not suitable for driving in snow. They are ok for driving during the summer, but you may not drive into the mountains with these tires. The cost for new tires is 1200 CHF [$925 U.S.].

TBF: [YES!! A valid excuse for not having to drive into the mountains!!] "Ok...Let's skip the tires for now, and I'll have them replaced later in the year."

Technician: "We are going to put on a new brake assembly that Jeep has come out with. This should reduce the vibration and excessive brake wear that you have been experiencing." [That ended up costing something like $750. NOTE TO JEEP: Your braking system on the 2000 Grand Cherokee Limited, IN MY OPINION, is a piece of shit. This is the third brake job we've had in six years, and we drive our Jeep less than 100 miles per week. You should have done a recall - SHAME ON YOU!]

TBF: "Yeah...go ahead and replace 'em. Ya gotta have good brakes [TBF nervously making small talk trying to break the tension...]

Technician: "Yes...AND you need new front shocks...[I wasn't really listening at this point, and I just began agreeing to everything. I think he somehow managed to hypnotize me over the phone].

TBF: "Wow, this is like having two rent payments this month...heh, heh, heh [nervous laughter...still trying to make small talk].

Technician: "Sorry?"

TBF: "Never mind."

In the end I agreed to new brakes, shocks, an oil change, and "routine service" whatever the hell that means. I guess it's not really that bad though. The car IS over six years old, and I guess it's time we had to put a little money into it.


I'm enjoying Blogpatrol.
They provide the counter that I have on my blog. Plus I can access it to find out who's been looking at my blog (...get back to work all you people at Mrs. TBF's office!), and what "keywords" people use to find my blog when doing internet searches. My favorite keywords so far: "saunas men basel" [must have been that thing I wrote about the cleaning lady walking into my shower at my gym] and four or five searches with the words "finnish mustard" [I wrote about Finnish mustard when I was in Finland this past summer.] Man...there's a lot more interest in Finnish mustard out there than I thought!


It's Chicago-cold out there today! Well, not really, but as close as it gets to Chicago cold around here. It was -7˚C / 19˚F this morning when Mrs. TBF left for work. That only happens a few times a year, and it kind of hit me in the face when I walked outside this morning.
Poor Mrs. TBF...the tram's always so crowded on cold days because some of the Swiss actually opt to ride the tram instead of riding their bikes to work. But, believe me, many still ride their bikes to work in frigid weather. Yesterday, for example, I drove Mrs. TBF to the train station early in the morning, and we saw people riding their bikes. It was dark, -2˚C, and they weren't wearing hats. But, they were saving the tram fare. Nicely done.

Ok...I better stop now because I'm sure you find this blog entry even more boring than I do. Not much has been happening lately, and that's the major reason why I haven't blogged. Hopefully, things will begin getting a bit more exciting around here soon.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Do We Know How To Have Fun, Or What?

After a nice dinner and a couple of glasses of wine/beer, we decided to "push the envelope" a bit by taking our blood pressure. Yes people, we have a sphygmomanometer (jealous?). My blood pressure was an incredibly normal 118/74. Mrs. TBF, on the other hand, was somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep at an anemic 85/55. So, she's taking it again........................oh...oh....ohhhh.......92/65!!!!! She's ALIVE!!!!!
So, after finding out that we didn't have high blood pressure, we decided to celebrate by...booking a trip to Paris.
WE LOVE PARIS!
We'll be flying on Easyjet for a cupla hunnert francs, and we'll be there for the weekend of February 17-20. We're kind of thinking of it as a late Valentines Day gift to ourselves (we've already decided to wear red during the entire weekend!).
We're pretty proud of our efforts on a Friday evening. Bon soirée!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pressure's on...

Wow...the pressure's on...me that is. First of all, I was so overwhelmed to see all those comments from fellow bloggers (now I can really say that) welcoming me to TBF's Big Blog! It's so nice that you are interested in hearing my side of TBF's story. Well, I promise I won't let you down, and hopefully, TBF won't use his adminitrator rights to delete any of my rebuttals. But, before I really get started I have to admit the following:
1. I won't be as active a blogger as TBF since I do have a paying job that takes up a lot of my time. So, expect to hear from me less.
2. I am a terrible speller and I make a lot of typos - please excuse them.
3. I will not blog at all about my work - to protect the innocent.
4. Since I'm at work all day I don't have nearly as many interesting Swiss life experiences as TBF - but now I'll be observing my day to day existence in a different light.
5. I'm afraid I'm not nearly as amusing as TBF, so I will only blog when I really have something to say that will interest or amuse.
6. This is really my first official blog because TBF actually wrote the Isn't he Swell one while I stood over his shoulder.
That's it for now. Ciao.

Monday, January 02, 2006

How Dry I Am...

Note to self: Wait until at least the second week of December to buy the Christmas tree. Our tree is on the verge of spontaneous combustion. I just can't believe how dry it is. I'm not sure if it was just a bit old when I bought it, or if it's because of the radiant heat or what, but...it...is...D-R-Y!
Mrs. TBF and I took off the ornaments and lights this evening, and there were needles everywhere! I don't know how I'm going to get this thing out of the apartment without making a total mess of things.

Better Late Than Never!

We've been home from Vienna for a week now, so I figured that it was time to finally load the rest of the pictures into the computer. Looking back at all the high calorie food and drink (like these coffees) we consumed in Vienna, it's amazing that I managed to only gain one kilo over the entire holiday season. Here are a few of the last pictures from Vienna - short and sweet!

Feeling a bit bloated after a great Christmas Eve dinner, we decided to stretch our legs a bit on Christmas morning by venturing out to the Hundertwasser Haus. These are actually private residences. I'm guessing that the residents aren't really too appreciative of large groups of people congregating outside of their apartments and taking pictures on Christmas Day. But hey, I guess they knew what they were getting into when they signed their leases.

I made the mistake of loading up too much on the appetizer buffet during Christmas Day lunch. By the time the Christmas goose was served, I was about 95% full. However, fear not, I still managed to finish the goose. And...I had some dessert too (oink!).

The last picture from Vienna. I took this picture of our hotel lobby just before we left for the airport. Great hotel...great city...great trip.

Oh, and by the way...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Isn't He Swell???

TBF just made me a full-fledged "Team Member"! Now I can write actual posts on his blog rather than just leaving comments all the time.