Friday, June 29, 2007

Been tagged...

I've been tagged by dear Canadian-Swiss, and TBF had to 'splain the concept to me! Ok, so here we go:

6 Weird things I do while getting ready to sleep or while sleeping:

1. Unlike Canadian-Swiss, I always fall asleep on my right side, which means I am facing away from TBF. I sleep on the left side of the bed (if you are standing at the foot of it and looking at us). Once, due to the placement of window/breeze in the bedroom, we attempted to switch sides. This didn't work because TBF kept rolling over and crushing me!
2. I will often rub my right foot against something - TBF for example! I usually only do this in the winter, ie cold weather. Then I fall asleep.
3. Do I snore? TBF says that I sometimes snore, but this is usually after drinking too much or if I have cold. (Reading over my shoulder he just told me I snore every night - I'm horrified!)
4. Another "unlike C-S", when I get up in the middle of the night to go for a pee, I ALWAYS look at the clock so that I can take comfort in how many hours/minutes of blissful sleep await.
5. Here's one for the getting ready for bed category - every night I flick my used daily wear contact lenses into the toilet bowl...sometimes TBF is sitting on the toilet seat and has to spread his legs!
6. I have never gotten used to sleeping "in the buff" (sorry TBF), and my pajama of choice is a very un-sexy LL Bean two piece t-shirt/shorts ensemble. TBF says this is better than the "chastity nightgown" I used to wear when we first got married - this was a flannel nightie with a t-neck top for those cold Chicago winters!)

Hopefully, I have fulfilled my tagged responsibility. By the way C-S, TBF says that I emit incredible amounts of heat - I guess just like O-X!
Ciao!

There's Nothing Like Going Back To Chicago...

...and consuming more calories in one meal than I'd normally consume in a week in Switzerland!

First of all, let me say that...I'VE GOT TO GET ME ONE OF THESE!!! Of course, I'm thinking that there probably isn't a hope in hell of finding a martini bar supplier in Switzerland - not to mention the hopelessness of finding a supplier of crushed ice (maybe one of those melting glaciers???) - so I'll probably have to hold off on the home version of Gridley's martini bar for at least a couple more years.

I actually skipped the martini (didn't need to compound the jet lag), but I did go for the 24 oz. porterhouse with a few jumbo shrimp. Oh...and I had it the way I like to eat steak: with a BIG knob of butter melted on top of it. Naturally, I had to consider my health, so I also ate all of my vegetables.

But the calories didn't stop there.....NO!!! I also ordered a slice of cheesecake the size of a brick. I wanted to share my dessert with Jo Mama the mama-in-law, but she said she didn't want any. Since I was unsuccessful trying to force-feed her, I was "forced" to eat the whole thing myself. Yup! The whole...damn...thing!!! What choice did I have?

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurp!

The bro/sis-in-law were there too. What? You thought I was there alone with Jo Mama and sitting on the same side of the booth with her? Wow...that's sick!

After dinner, I rode home with Jo Mama and then collapsed in the guest bed in a snoring, drooling, and farting heap.

God Bless America!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Y'awright?

Greetings from the Holideck Lounge at Heathrow. Mrs. TBF is sleeping soundly (hopefully!) in Atlanta after a long delay at Newark Airport while I sit here at Heathrow blowing the diet (a few bags of "crisps", one latte, one cappucino, one diet coke, one flapjack, and...yes...one London Pride...at 10:30 a.m. local time!).

Plus...free internet access...who knew?

I made it here without incident, despite the fact that I ordered a wake-up call from my sister at 4:00 a.m. (9 p.m. Chicago time), and she called me at...5:00 a.m. Thanks, Diana! Fortunately, Mrs. TBF called me at 3:57 a.m. while she was being held "hostage" on the tarmac at Newark. Isn't she sweet?

If all goes as planned, I should leave for Chicago at 12:55 p.m., and I'll arrive in Chicago at 3:15 p.m. Worried? Na! However, I did notice that the earlier flight to Chicago was delayed by 45 minutes.

I guess that means I'll have time for another morning pint!

Cheers!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Soon They'll Come Crawling On Their Hands And Knees!

According to swissinfo: "The future of Switzerland's favorite sausage (Cervelat) is hanging on, quite literally, but the skin of its teeth after an import ban of a key ingredient from Brazil." Yup...turns out that Switzerland has joined the EU in banning certain Brazilian beef products. Unfortunately, one of these ingredients (Brazilian cow intestines) is a critical ingredient for the Cervelat's skin. How critical? According to what I read, the sausage manufacturers have yet to find anything...ANYTHING...that works as well as Brazilian cow intestines, or, for that matter, even works at all.

Quite frankly, I don't know what the big deal is. In my opinion Cervelats aren't really that great, but...whatever! It's like my old neighbor Dr. John (I've known two Dr. Johns in Switzerland. What are the odds?) said a few years back:

"For a country that eats a lot of sausage...Switzerland sure doesn't know how to make very good sausage!"

Hey...John's words, not mine! Please... NO hate mail!

Anyway...

The existing stock of this sausage will apparently run out by September unless an alternate ingredient for Cervelat's skin is found. But hey...no need to worry!

Guess who just happens to be stocking up on this sausage? That's right! TBF's Cervelats will be opening for business on October 1st! I'll be pulling the Weber out onto the sidewalk in front of the apartment, and I'll be selling grilled sausages for CHF 20 a pop!

Maybe I'll give a few out for free, and...then see who comes back for more. You know how that sort of thing works!

In October, the price doubles to CHF 40 per sausage. Then...

Wait a minute! This all sounds too much like a job. Awwwww f*** it! I'll just eat the sausages myself!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Geezers!

The next time I mention that I'm thinking of buying tickets to some band's reunion tour...just take away my credit card...and whack me upside the head with the stupid stick.

We went to see Genesis at the Stade de Suisse in Bern last night, and...

...it was the concert experience from HELL!!!

First of all, the tickets were expensive (over CHF 300/$250 for two tickets)...

Google Maps gave us a driving time of just over an hour, and the drive ended up taking us nearly THREE HOURS because of the horrific concert traffic!!!

Once we got to the stadium, traffic bottle-necked to two lanes, and then the lady directing traffic allowed about ten cars from one lane into the parking lot, stopped that lane, and then allowed ten cars from the other lane to enter the lot. Some of the Euro 2008 games are going to take place at this stadium next year. If last night's concert is any indication of how the Swiss authorities handle large crowds, then my advice is to...AVOID GOING TO EURO 2008!

The concert started at 7:30 p.m., and we arrived in the lot at about 8:15 p.m. (after paying our CHF 10 parking fee). Then, we had to walk about a mile (in the rain) to the stadium.

Upon arriving at our entrance gate, the security lady checked Mrs. TBF's purse and told her that she could not bring our umbrellas into the stadium. We told her that we had reserved, covered seats, and that we would not be using our umbrellas. Cut to the chase: the umbrellas went into a big pile outside the entrance, and then we retrieved them on our way out (amazingly!).

We eventually almost made it to our seats (stood in the vestibule), and saw that the band members looked like ants. The stage was at one end of the field, and we were at the other end.

We watched giant video screens for a couple of songs to see that the band members appeared to be glued to the stage. I'm talking ZERO movement, and ZERO excitement. GEEZERS!!! Hell...I could buy a DVD of their concert and create a lot more excitement watching it with Mrs. TBF on our sofa!

We started thinking about the Hell we had gone through getting to the stadium, and then we realized that it would be double-Hell leaving the stadium right after the concert. So, we each decided to make a quick trip to the bathroom and...get the HELL OUTTA THERE! Total time in the stadium? 15 minutes, or so! I told Mrs. TBF that they were the most expensive pees we had ever taken.

The drive home only took about an hour. We had a light, late dinner, popped in a DVD (The Big Lebowski), and watched it in bed. At some point, I turned off the DVD player and went to sleep. It was a short sleep - I had to drive Mrs. TBF to the airport this morning at 5:30 a.m.

Here's my advice if you're contemplating going to see Genesis in some other city: DON'T!!! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIINNNNNNGGGG! BORING!!! There was absolutely no excitement, the band seemed to be going through the motions, most of the songs were done in a medley format so that they could squeeze in all of their hits, the light/stage set-up was gimmicky, and...probably a zillion other negative things I would have noticed if I had managed to tough it out for more than fifteen minutes.

And...I'm a Genesis fan!

Phil Collins said they weren't doing it for the money...because they are all already loaded.

My opinion? They're doing it for the money!

Save YOUR money! By the DVD (that they're not putting out just for the money) when it comes out, and save yourself a hundred bucks.

What a disappointment!

In order to not sound totally negative, I guess I should try to come up with something positive....

.....

.....

.....

OK...the stadium was really nice - very clean and safe!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Flashback: June 15, 2005

Let The Bidding War Begin!

Art Basel is in town once again. I've read a couple of articles on Swiss Info about how the value of artwork is exploding. One article said that the art market is "...estimated to have grown by 25% [in 2006] - and the boom is expected to continue." However, it was a quote from another article that really caught my eye:

"There is no control over the prices, which can double from year to the next, even if the artist never had a personal exhibition or a real career...It's dangerous for youngsters with no experience who might [go] off in directions they might have never taken without financial success."


Danger...Schmanger! I'm gettin' in on the action, and you're welcome to be a part of it. However, ya better act quickly...because my prices are going up, up, UP!!!

If you'll recall, I went to Art Basel two years ago today. After viewing a lot of the artwork, I decided to improve on a piece that I had seen at the show. At that time, I set the price of this work at CHF 7,500 (Sorry, I had to cut off my signature from the bottom of the masterpiece because I want to avoid identity theft.). Now, if the price doubled from 2005 to 2006, and then doubled again this past year, I guess that puts the current price at CHF 30,000 (approaching $25,000 U.S.). Of course, the price is negotiable...but not much. I mean, Mrs. TBF and I have gotten used to it sitting in a prominent place in our living room, and we'd kind of hate seeing it go.

I still haven't done the "all black" painting like I wrote about in my post from two years ago, but I think that'll have to wait because...

I saw this painting in the article about Art Basel 2007, and...I kind of like it. I think I'll get out the old paints and go about duplicating this one too. Naturally, with some of my own improvements.

You know how you look at things at an art exhibit and say: "I could do that!"

One of the differences between me and you?

You COULD, and I...DID!

Spawn Of Satan MUST Die!

A couple of evenings ago, Mrs. TBF (a.k.a. the Road Warrior) asked me what was eating the basil in our herb garden. Why the Road Warrior? I'll tell you why: last week she was in NJ/Chicago/NYC, this week she left for NYC on Monday at around noon and was back in Basel on Wednesday evening, and next week she leaves for NJ (or NYC...not sure) and Atlanta on Monday and returns on Friday...SHEESH!!!

Where was I? Oh yeah, what's eating the basil???

I told her that it was probably nothing and that the basil was probably just lagging a little behind this year. Apparently not convinced of my gardening expertise, she decided to have a closer look. That's when I heard her say the words that gardeners dread:

"Is that a...SLUG?"
It was...I mean...THEY were!

How's this possible? Our herb garden is on the roof of our building?

I'm guessing that the little "effers" came in on one of the plants I bought at the local nursery, and then began multiplying exponentially. Regardless of how they made it to the rooftop, they HAD to go.

We spent the next hour or so getting rid of about thirty slugs. Mrs. TBF would find them with a flashlight, and I'd pick up the slimey Satanic spawn and flick them over the side of the building. Oh, by the way neighbors who live two floors below us: Sorry! I didn't know you were down there on your patio enjoying an after-dinner drink until I heard your voices...right after flicking about fifteen slugs right in your direction. I hope none of them landed on you.

After getting rid of all the slugs we could by hand, we then set beer traps. In case you don't know, beer traps are a great way of getting rid of slugs. Just sink a little bowl into the soil so that the lip is at ground level. Then, fill the bowl up with beer. The slugs are drawn to the beer like steel to a magnet, they begin drinking, get drunk, and fall in. MWAAAAAH-HA-HAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Of course, wasting good beer on these little bastards is almost as bad as having the slugs in the first place, so I went out the next morning and bought slug poison. And...King was happy to find out that I spent twice the money for the slug poison that won't harm dogs, cats, or...hedgehogs if they eat the dead slugs.

Wait a second...hedgehogs?

Yup...hedgehogs! God forbid you should harm hedgehogs in Switzerland. I think killing one of these fleabags results in a fine AND death by hanging, or something like that.

Alls well that ends well...

I just checked the herb garden this morning, and there appears to be no evidence of any remaining members of Satan's brood.

I plan to keep it that way!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Twists Of Fate...

Mrs. TBF and I met while we were both attending Northwestern University in the early- to mid-80s. We began dating right after I had finished my senior year, and while Mrs. TBF was completing her junior year.

I often think about the many, MANY twists of fate that resulted in us meeting each other.

Northwestern, I'm pretty sure, is the only school to which Mrs. TBF applied. She was a great high school student, got super high scores on her ACT and SAT, was accepted as an early admittance applicant, and knew by the middle of her senior year in high school that she was going to be attending NU. I, on the other hand, applied to several good schools (all in Minnesota...for whatever reason) and was accepted to all of them. I was in the top 6% or 7% of my high school class, got decent but not exceptional scores on my college entrance exams, and was involved in tons of extra-curricular activities (probably what tipped me in).

During the winter of my senior year, I went and toured the schools in Minnesota, and...I ended up not really liking any of them. I felt that the schools were too small, too isolated, and too homogeneous. I came back from Minnesota, and decided to apply to Northwestern. I ended up filling out the application in long-hand because I didn't feel like typing it, and I had to totally "ride" my guidance counselor to get my transcripts together because he thought going to Northwestern wasn't a "good match" for me. My counselor, in my opinion, attempted to sabotage my application by handing me my transcripts at the end of the school day on the last day for me to send in my application (mumbling something about me "making a big mistake"). I put them in the envelope with the rest of my application materials, drove to the post office, and watched the postal employee stamp the postmark on the envelope before dropping the envelope in the outgoing mail bin about fifteen minutes before the post office closed.

I had made the application deadline by the skin of my teeth.

A few weeks later, on a Saturday morning, my parents came into the house holding a thick envelope from Northwestern containing my acceptance letter. I met the future Mrs. TBF a couple of years after receiving that letter. A couple of years after meeting each other, Mrs. TBF asked me out (...topic for a future post!), and a few years after that...we got married.

So what's the point of all this?

Well...here's the point. Earlier this evening, I read in our alumni magazine that applications to Northwestern reached an all-time record this year. A total of 21,947 high school students applied for next fall's freshman class. Approximately 5,400 students were accepted for the class of 2011, which is expected to number about 2,025.

When I applied back in 1980, the number of applicants was something in the neighborhood of 12,000. Amazingly, this year's record for number of applicants was set despite the fact that the total costs for the 2007-08 school year for undergraduates at Northwestern will be around $49,000! That's $200,000 for an undergraduate education, people! Oh, and by the way, the median household income in the United States in 2005: $46,326! Ya better start those college funds!

Anyway...

Had I been applying for admission to the class of 2011 instead of the class of 1984, I am almost certain that I wouldn't have been accepted. Hell! I've always contended that I just barely squeaked-in back in 1980!

What if I hadn't put pressure on my guidance counselor? What if my application had been late? What if I hadn't been accepted to NU? What if I had gone to school in Minnesota instead? What if I had never met the future Mrs. TBF?

I don't even want to think about it!

Impervious To Heat...

Do the Swiss possess some kind of gene that makes them completely heat resistant?

Today was a mix of sun and clouds with a high of about 27˚C/80˚F. It wasn't exactly humid by Chicago standards, but I would say that it was a little muggy at times when the breeze died down. Even though I was dressed in shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt, and flip-flops (Hey...what are you wearing??), I still felt a bit "sticky" at various points during the day.

On my way to the gym, I noticed that many of the Swiss were wearing jeans, sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, and jackets. I even saw one guy wearing a puffy, down, ski jacket...with a backpack on his back; he wasn't even breaking the slightest sweat.

I admit that I don't tolerate heat well - and that I'm a heavy sweater (I think it's the Finnish blood) - but, come on people! It was summer-like outside today. What's with the fall clothes???

I guess global warming/climate change doesn't pose that much of a threat to the Swiss. I guess...other than...those darn melting glaciers...and...the lack of snow at the ski resorts during the winter.

Open To Suggestions...

Here are the five, recently purchased CDs that are in heavy rotation on our iPod:

Arcade Fire Neon Bible

I bought this CD when I was in Chicago in April. Having read a lot about this Canadian band, but having never really heard them before, I decided to buy the CD in order to keep in touch with what "the kids are listening to". I liked it immediately. In fact, I liked it so much that I went back to Best Buy and bought the first CD too - Funeral.


Rush
Snakes & Arrows

Rolling Stone magazine gave this album three stars. The reviewer said to take away two stars if you're not a Rush fan, and to add two stars if you are a Rush fan. I've been a Rush fan since the late 70s. I give this CD five stars. I waited to buy it when I was in Sudbury, Ontario last month. Why? So...I could support this Canadian band and the Canadian economy at the same time. Ever a stupid question, eh?


Linkin Park
Minutes To Midnight

I absolutely LOVED Linkin Park's first CD. Their second CD didn't really break any new ground, but I still LIKED it a lot. This CD is a change from the first two. They've dropped the rap metal, and the songs seem more "crafted". Maybe it was Rick Rubin's influence, or maybe it was the fact that the guys in the band have grown up a bit in the last seven years. Who knows? Who cares? The CD rocks!!! I bought it while I was in Chicago last month on the day it was released.


Wilco
Sky Blue Sky

Wilco is a Chicago-area band and also a band that the critics love. The last couple of albums were a bit experimental, but this one kind of has a bit of a country feel to it. I wouldn't call it country music exactly, but I kind of think of the Grateful Dead when I listen to this CD. I'm not a Grateful Dead fan at all, but, surprisingly, this may be my favorite CD of the five listed here.

I always buy at least one CD when I go to Chicago. Next week, I'll be returning to Chicago, and then I'll drive up to Ontario to visit my parents for a few days. I'm thinking of buying Nelly Furtado's (another Canadian) latest CD because I really like that "Say It Right" song, but...we'll see.

What have you all been listening to lately? Any recommendations?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bon-Joor And Mercy Buckets...

We drove to a little town called Lutry this past Friday because Mrs. TBF had a retirement party to go to (spouses weren't invited!). Lutry is located right on Lac LĂ©man between Vevey and Lausanne; about two hours from Basel. Although Mrs. TBF could have taken the train by herself, I told her I wanted to go along, and that I'd drive, because...well...I pretty much look for any excuse to head to the French-speaking party of Switzerland.

Unfortunately, I can't really find anything too exciting to write about. Mrs. TBF and her colleagues left for the retirement party about five minutes after we arrived at our hotel. So, I had a few hours to kill on my own.

First, I walked along the lake front for about half an hour taking in the beautiful scenery. Then, I spent about ten minutes walking along the winding streets in the old part of town. After forty minutes, I figured that I'd burned off enough calories, so I decided to head back to the hotel for some din-din.

I'm proud to say that I managed to get along at dinner without speaking any English. Now, I think I speak what might be the worst French in the world, but I did manage to convey to the hostess that I wanted to eat dinner outdoors, and...amazingly...she sat me at a table on the patio. I ordered a large beer, and...I got a large beer. Since that had been so easy, I even ordered another one. I ordered dinner, and...the waitress brought what I ordered. I asked for salt and pepper, and...I got salt and pepper. She even brought the check when I asked for it.

When it came time to pay the bill, I wanted to tell the waitress to round up the bill to seventy, but I couldn't remember how to say seventy in French. So, I just gave her a 100-franc note, and asked for her to give me 30 francs in change.

I guess my year of French lessons at Berlitz wasn't a total waste! Mercy buckets!

Despite that fact that I dined alone, I still managed to have an enjoyable time listening to and watching the locals enjoying their Friday evenings with their spouses/significant others/families. The French-speaking Swiss (some of them might have actually been French...not sure!) certainly are a livelier bunch than the German-speaking Swiss. I think it's the joie de vivre thing.

After dinner, I went back up to the room to read my Rolling Stone magazine while listening to the iPod. That lasted for all of about five minutes before the magazine fell to the floor simultaneously with my first snore. A little before midnight, there was a knock at the door, and I got up to let in the lady in the French maid uniform that I had ordered from the escort service...

...just checking to see if you were paying attention to this boring post!

I let Mrs. TBF (unfortunately, sans uniform) in, and we went to sleep.

The next morning, we had breakfast with some of Mrs. TBF's colleagues, and then we were on the road, heading back to Basel, by 9:15...

Dormez-vous?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rusty Hooks, Red Balls, And Hairballs...

King da Cat has a lot of toys.

He uses them to torment us through the night.

He has two soft, plush, red balls with a white Swiss cross on them; those are his favorites.

What he likes to do is to pick them up in his mouth, one by one, and carry them around the apartment...while howling. His howling is somewhat reminiscent of a baby crying. The howling is loud...VERY LOUD...

...especially at 4 a.m.!

The neighbors on the floor below haven't said anything, but I'm sure they've heard him. They must have; he's that loud. Maybe they're afraid to say something to us because...

Perhaps they think that Mrs. TBF and I are the ones making all that noise. Who knows?

While Mrs. TBF was away this past week, King would come into the bedroom around 7:00 a.m. (that's after me having usually gone to bed at about 2:30 a.m.) attempting to wake me up so that I would feed him. I'd have heard him scratching in his litter box in the laundry room a few minutes earlier. Then, he would come into the room and give me what I like to call the "rusty hook". The "rusty hook" is when he scratches in the litter box, then runs into our bedroom, jumps on the bed, sticks his claw in my nostril, and...pulls! I'm not sure if the "hook" is really "rusty", but I'm sure that it is his intent to make me believe that it is.

He's very clever.

I've learned to ignore the "rusty hook". I'll just push him away, pull the duvet over my head, and then lie motionless as King marches over the length of my body no less than five times.

TBF: 1 King: 0

About an hour later, when I'm in the midst of the deepest R.E.M. sleep, King will come in carrying his red ball...howling...and he'll drop the ball next to the bed.

HA! Nice try!

TBF: 2 King: 0

A couple of hours later, usually between 10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., King will park himself next to the bed and...cough up a gigantic hairball. I've learned to ignore the "rusty hook" and the howling/red ball show, but the sound of him hacking up a gigantic hairball just...gets to me. I immediately jump out of bed, attempting to avoid the wet hairball, and meet his demand: breakfast.

Victory: King!

His newest method of harassment is to carry his red balls up to the rooftop when we're sitting up there just relaxing. We'll often leave the doors to our apartment AND the rooftop open while we're up there so that King can go up and down (he can't get below our floor to harass the other residents...yet) as he pleases. A couple of evenings ago, I was sitting up there reading a magazine when I suddenly heard the familiar howling echoing in our building's stairwell. I looked up just in time to see King dropping one of his red balls under our bench.

He's nineteen years old! How much longer can this go on??? More importantly...

What's next?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Don't Forget To Brush And Floss...

I was speaking with my mom yesterday (she's doing well!), and she told me that even though she was still under heavy sedation when I showed up at the hospital, I was one of the first visitors she recognized.

TBF: What did you recognize? My face? My bald head?

Mama TBF: No...your white teeth!

Monday, June 04, 2007

London Snippets...

I've been feeling a bit lazy lately (What else is new?), so rather than taking time to put some thought into an interesting and witty (Why start now?) post about our recent trip to London, I'm going to just post some pictures and write the first things that comes to my mind.

Minimal effort with (hopefully) stellar results. Hmmmmm...kind of reminds me of when I had a job...

Fires were successfully lit under the Colon Blows' asses (no explosions!), and we not only met, but exceeded, our goal of leaving the apartment by 5:30 a.m. Kudos to our houseguests! This picture was taken on the way down to the parking garage at 5:22 a.m. The sister-in-law (S.I.L.) and Mrs. TBF are looking fairly chipper, but the B.I.L. is not looking too happy with the fact that he had to wake up at...4 a.m.!!!!

We had, in my opinion, one GREAT and two decent meals in London. This picture was a self-portrait taken right before we went into St. John for dinner.

This was the second time Mrs. TBF and I had been to St. John. We heard so many great things about it, and were a little disappointed when we ate there a year ago. Thinking we might have just hit them on an off night, we decided to give them another try. And??? Good, but not great. Perhaps I was disappointed by the fact that they were out of the roasted bone marrow starter (the best thing I had last year), but I just don't think the restaurant lives up to its hype. We also had a curry dinner at an Indian restaurant called Veeraswamy which was also good, but not worth a return visit.

My recommendation for a GREAT place to eat the next time you're in London? Go to Galvin Bistrot de Luxe at 66 Baker Street for their prix fixe lunch. The food was absolutely great, and at 15 pounds it has to be the bargain of London.


On Friday, the B.I.L. and S.I.L. wanted to see things that Mrs. TBF and I had already seen on previous trips to London. So, while they were checking out the Tower of London, St. Paul's, etc., we took the Underground out to Kew Gardens.

Being a gardening geek, I figured that I'd like Kew...and I did. However, it had the added bonus of being right in the flight path of Heathrow. So, seeing how living a few miles from Basel's airport has turned us both into airplane geeks, we had the best of both worlds: horticulture AND screaming jets coming in for a landing right over our heads about every sixty seconds or so. The weather outside was balmy (especially for London in May), but the Palm House was like a freakin' sauna! I lasted about fifteen seconds in there. It had to be 38˚C/100˚F in there with 100 percent humidity. Being a Finn, I certainly love a good sauna, but...NOT WHEN FULLY CLOTHED. A little while later - with my shirt still clinging to my torso, I managed to take this nice picture of Mrs. TBF in the Waterlily House which was a little more manageable temperature-wise.

Of course, looking at plants can be exhausting. This chap found a nice spot on a bench to catch a few Zs...with his comb-over flapping in the breeze. Naturally, I just HAD to snap a picture so he could have his fifteen minutes of fame in the Blogosphere!


Later that afternoon, Mrs. TBF and I made our way to Westminster Abbey. The last time we were in London, we arrived at Westminster about two minutes after their unreasonably early closing time of 3:45. This time, we knew better and arrived with plenty of time to spare. Once inside, we (rather nervously) disobeyed the "No Photography" signs and snapped this image of us using the timer. Then, a bit later, we took another illegal photo of Mrs. TBF illegally using her mobile phone. HEY!!! Show me in the Bible where it says you can't take a picture or use a mobile phone in a f***ing church!!!

Going to church really worked up a king's thirst for the frosty brew, so we stopped at a pub for a bit of ale. First, let me say that I like English ale. However, I like it colder than English pubs serve it up. I know it's not supposed to be ice-cold, but...is it asking too much that it be served just a little cooler than room temperature? Maybe the cellars were warmer than usual because of the warm temperatures outdoors - I don't know. Whatever the reason, I ended up having to switch to that other "English" beer - Stella Artois. Let me tell ya, the Brits sure love their Stella. Plus, they like to order it in the pub and then take it outside where they just stand around drinking in the street. I guess that's what one does when the weather is nice in a place where it rains all the time (except when we're there, of course!).

On our last day in London, the four of us went to Harrods. I bought some clothes, we bought a couple of mother-of-pearl caviar spoons, I got me a Harrods Rewards card, we visited the Di and Dodi memorial, and I manged to be severely spooked by the VERY life-like wax figure of Al Fayed. I'm telling you, I stood there for several minutes staring at "him" to see if "he" would move - it's THAT life-like.

We liked Harrods...A LOT!!! I'm sure there'll be a new Harrods in Basel soon...NOT!!!

Alas, the time came to head off to Heathrow for our flight back to Basel. We had a last pint at a pub, and then we walked around the corner to our hotel where we found that our taxi was already waiting (five minutes early) with our bags already loaded inside. How's that for service? We said our farewells to the friendly doorman, and then off we went. While we were on our way to the airpot, Mrs. TBF suggested that we should go to London "...at least a couple of times per year."

I couldn't agree more!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Hello from "the road"...

As you all know, I'm on the road again. Due to the need for meetings in NJ or NYC Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday, I elected to spend the weekend in Chicagoland rather than fly back and forth. It saves the company money, saves me extreme time zone swings, and I get to see family. While here, I've noticed I'm becoming more and more like my mother. My thrill yesterday was a trip with my sis-in-law to both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's - Oh my God, I am enjoying grocery stores around the world...just like Jo Mamma does when she visits us!!! Aside from that, the trip to Whole Foods was especially enlightening in that I found that if TBF and I were to relocate back to this area we would be able to buy epoisses from France, and various other stinky gooey yummy imported cheeses! Now all I need is to find a store that sells the much maligned, but oh so delicious foie gras.
Other than grocery store tours yesterday, I accompanied my bro and s-i-l to their church's food pantry for the bi-weekly distribution of food bags to the needy of the surrounding area of their parish. They had originally discouraged me from joining them because 1. we had to leave by 9:15 AM requiring an earlier than desired wake-up on a Saturday AM and 2. they didn't want me to be bored for 2 hours. But, I insisted I wanted to see the operation that they run as I've heard so much about it. You know what - I had a great time! First of all, I enjoyed meeting all the people they work with at the food pantry - a very nice group of people. Secondly they let me help out by making small candy bags for the little children that come with their moms and dads to get the free bag of groceries - a theraputic and mindless task. And thirdly, while giving me a tour of the school and church bro and I ran into Father Bob, the pastor and I was introduced. A hand-shake from a priest has to count a little since I'm not a church-goer - a few extra holy points can never hurt! And, I now realise as I write this that the visit to the food pantry is somehow also connected to my weird fixation with grocery shopping. There are shelves with food (all non-perishables) and bags of groceries! I told TBF that if we relocated to this area I would enjoy voluntering at the food pantry...and I warned my bro that I would need to do some shelf organisation for them. And guess what ...I learned that my bro is also compelled to want to organise the shelves, although he now lacks the time to do it. Could it be we are both becoming grocery geeks???!!!
Moving on to the rest of the weekend...nothing much planned. We'll take Jo Mamma out for lunch today, do a little shopping and then relax before I take off tomorrow AM from O'Hare back to Newark. Tuesday night I fly home from JFK. Now I'm touring airports of the world - I much prefer the grocery stores. Stay tuned for more road trips - I'm back in NYC again next week, and then back in NJ and Atlanta the week after that! All this flying really makes my arms tired.
Ciao for now!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Because I Can!

Mrs. TBF has been out of town since Wednesday. First, she was in New Jersey. Now, she's spending the weekend in Chicago. Next week? I'm not sure; New Jersey, Atlanta? Who knows? She'll be back in Basel this coming Wednesday.

I miss her when she's away, of course!

But...

I have to say that I've been enjoying listening to the new Rush album - Snakes and Arrows - pretty much non-stop since Wednesday afternoon, I woke up at 11:05 this morning (after King woke me up to feed him by sticking his claw in my nostril!), I've been putting raw onions on my salad, AND I've been wearing this shirt for two...no, make that THREE days (luckily it's been cool in Basel this week)!

Because I can, my friends...

Because I can...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Recent Keywords..


Every now and then, I like to look at Blog Patrol to see the keywords that people use to find my blog. Here are some of recent ones from the past couple of days:

finnish mustard
- I'm telling you, this one comes up just about every other day. There are A LOT of people out there who are interested in Finnish mustard. Why? Because it's damn good, that's why!

hooters weight watchers points - I'm going to tell you right now that if you're on the Weight Watchers diet and you're looking up the points AFTER eating at Hooters, then...you just cheated on your diet!

does Gap carry Geox shoes?
- I'm going to take a wild guess here: No.

how long will I have asparagus pee?
- I have no idea; Mrs. TBF is the asparagus pee expert.

breasts like cow udders - I think this probably links to a post I did a couple of years ago regarding the cows in Finland wearing bras to keep them from stepping on their udders when they're full of milk. I feel bad for any woman who has breasts like a cow's udder. I feel even worse if it's a man with udder breasts.

sleep overnight at Basel airport
- I can think of only a few things that would/could be worse than having to sleep overnight at Basel airport.

are Weber Summit grills too expensive?
- I guess it depends on how much you're willing to spend on a grill. I'll say this, though: your steaks will probably taste better on a regular, Weber charcoal grill than they will on the Summit.

What are some of your recent keywords?

Champagne: A Failure To Communicate...

I can't exactly remember the name of the town where this picture was taken, but I DO remember that I specifically requested that we all look disappointed because all the town's champagne house dégustations were already closed for the evening. It looks like everybody understood my request.

Everybody, that is, except my sister-in-law and Rammy.

Sheesh!

Friday Flashback: Ever A Long Drive, Eh?

We've been busy travelers over the past month. So busy, in fact, that blogging has definitely taken a back seat.

Let's change that...

After finding out that my mom and dad had come down with pneumonia in early May, I booked a Basel to Chicago (via London) ticket to visit them. Why Chicago? Well, because my sister lives there, and we decided to drive up together (with the two youngest kids) to Sudbury, Ontario (where my parents live for half of the year).

I have to admit that the beginning of the drive was a bit rough. My 19-month old niece would randomly shriek at eardrum-splitting volume, my little nephew had to pee three times within the first ninety minutes or so, and I was fairly jet-lagged.

Not a good combo...

Eventually things settled down a bit, my "never again!" thoughts subsided, and we ended up making the drive through the night in about fourteen hours; arriving in Sudbury at around 7:30 a.m.

We stopped occasionally to eat, use the bathroom, and fill up the tank with cheap American gas. Otherwise, most of the trip (especially through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) was a long...and lonely...road. Sometimes we'd drive for mile after mile without ever seeing another car; just the eyes of deer reflecting in our headlights along the side of the road.

My nephew did a good job of keeping me awake during the trip by asking me no less than 18,597 questions in rapid succession. He'd nap for thirty minutes, and then the questions would start...

"Uncle [TBF]? Do you think there are bears in this forest? Could you kill a bear? With your bare hands? Have you ever killed an animal? Who would win a fight between a bear and a moose? Could Uncle Elmer kill a bear with his bare hands? If the smartest man in the world fought against the strongest man in the world, who would win the fight? Do any people live underground?"...

On and on...mile after mile.

Around 5:30 a.m., when even the nephew's questions could barely keep us awake, we saw the Blind River, Ontario Tim Horton's (Canada's version of Dunkin' Donuts) in the distance. After a coffee and a couple of donuts (and sleepily trying to pay for it all with British Sterling which looks a lot like Canadian money), we were ready for the final part of the drive.

We arrived, as I said before, at about 7:30 a.m., and we spent the weekend visiting my dad and going to see my mom at the hospital. I'm not going to get into all the details, but I'll just say that I've spoken with my mom a couple of times over the past two days, and she's really doing well now. She's still feeling a little weak, but that's to be expected seeing how sick she was. I have nothing but good things to say about the care she received. As far as I'm concerned, the Canadian national health care system worked like a charm.

On Monday around noon, it was time to head back to Chicago. It was a short trip, but a good one. The drive back was a lot easier, even though I had to answer about 20,000 more of my nephew's questions.

Three weeks from today, I'll be making the drive all over again. This time, however, I'll be doing it alone since my sister and her family are going to be driving up to visit my parents this weekend. When I make the drive in three weeks, instead of driving through the night, I'm going to just go to sleep early on the day I arrive, and then I'm going to try to leave Chicago around 4:00 a.m. I'm thinking that I'll have a better chance of not falling asleep at the wheel.

Besides, I won't have my sister's smelly feet keeping me awake!