Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If It Ain't Broke...

...don't fix it!

When will I ever learn?

I've been wearing Jockey underwear for as long as I can remember. I noticed a few months ago that some of my old tighty whities were starting to look a little worn, so I decided that I'd pick up a new supply during my last trip to Chicago. For whatever reason, when I went to the department store, I decided to get all fancy and buy a bunch of different brands - none of them Jockey. I bought some Polo/Ralph Lauren, 2(x)ist, and Emporio Armani.

The Armani underwear is great. Of course, at $25 each, THEY SHOULD BE!! Am I stuck in about 1977? I think men's briefs should still be something like 3 for $10. The Polo underwear is not bad either. However...

The 2(x)ist underwear has got to be the worst underwear ever made. I'm not sure what body type they've designed this underwear for, but it seems to me that it would fit me much better if I were lacking a rear end AND a scrotum. Sheesh! Talk about uncomfortable! Naturally, that's the underwear I bought the most of. Double-sheesh! I just threw it all in the garbage. That's right! I don't even want to look at it!!!

Next time, I'm just going to do what I've always done: I'm going to order Jockey underwear on the internet, have it sent to my mother-in-law's house, and have it waiting for me when I get to Chicago. Unfortunately, I won't be back in Chicago until October which means that I'm hoping my current supply holds up until then. Either that, or...

I'm gonna be goin' commando!

Yard Bird

There are few foods I enjoy more than BBQ chicken. In fact, it just may be my favorite food. If you ever want to distract me for a good hour or so, just grill a chicken, put the whole thing on my plate, and I won't look up until the carcass is gnawed clean. I'll eat all of the skin, meat, the pope's nose, the bloody blobs inside, and even some of the bones. Don't believe me? Just ask Mrs. TBF... she'll tell ya!

This past Sunday, we went to the home of Orange-X and Canadian-Swiss for some BBQ. When I saw that we were having rotisserie chicken, I started to get all tingly inside. Even better, they kept brushing them with butter and then let the butter and chicken drippings drip into a pan filled with potatoes.


The smell drove me so insane that I almost began chomping on Dale. Instead, I took a little bite out of C-S as she carved up the beautiful, brown birds. She kind of tasted a little bit like a combination of Canadian maple syrup and Swiss chocolate. I would have taken a bite out of Orange-X too, but, fortunately for him, C-S served up the food just in time. I kind of imagine that he'd taste like a combo of rijsttafel and bitterballen. Hmmm... maybe next time!

I'm happy to report that I got some pope's nose. Also, I ate most of the skin that Mrs. TBF had pulled off her yard bird and put on the side of her plate (Jeez! What's the matter with her?!?!?), PLUS I grabbed some of her bones and gnawed on them just like I do at home. I think I also enjoyed the potatoes.

...can't remember exactly. I was in the yard bird zone!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TD F 90-22.1

Do you have a foreign bank or securities account? If you're an American person living abroad, then you probably do.

Did you know that you're required to file IRS form TD F 90-22.1 by June 30, 2009. That's the "Report Of Foreign Bank And Financial Accounts". On this form, you have to report all of the foreign bank/securities accounts you held in 2008. This year, the form has been revised from previous years. On the current form, you have to list all sorts of details such as: Maxiumum value of account during calender year reported. You didn't have to report that on the previous forms.

The penalty for not reporting your accounts to the IRS? $100,000!!! Of course, our accountants told us that they have not heard of one fine being levied... YET!

I can understand the U.S. government wanting to keep track of Americans with foreign assets. I mean, there are a lot of tax cheats out there. However, do they really think that somebody attempting to avoid paying U.S. taxes by hiding millions of dollars in an offshore account is really going to file this form - OR, even worry about a $100,000 fine??? Instead, I end up filling out the forms, spending $7.00 (twice) on sending them with a proof of mailing from Switzerland because I have to send my forms and Mrs. TBF's forms separately just to make sure that at least one set gets to the IRS (...kind of anal that way!), and all this just so some IRS clerk on the taxpayers' tab can just sit there entering numbers into a datafile that will probably never be used anyway?

What a waste of time and resources!

Isn't it about time the U.S. adopted a better method of taxation???? Anyhoo... Our forms are on there way to the IRS as we speak.

The forms must be postmarked one week from today. You better sharpen those pencils.

** UPDATED ON JUNE 24, 2009: Apparently there are a lot of people finally getting around to filing this form - 7 hits resulting from "TD F 90-22.1" in the last 12 hours.

Two Milestones

In all the excitement preceding last week's parental visit, I completely missed two major TBF milestones :

June 16th marked the 25th anniversary of my graduation from Northwestern University, and...

June 17th marked the 5th anniversary of my first blog post.

Having blogged for five years is no big deal, but JEE-ZUS! I graduated from college over 25 years ago! YIKES!!!

Time flies!

Out With The Old-New...

... and in with the New-New!!!

Our Nespresso machine bit the dust this weekend. It had a two year warranty, and it lasted just over three years. I consider it a personal victory that the thing lasted 50% longer than the warranty period: perhaps a new record for a product made in Switzerland.

Actually, the thing did break - and was repaired free of charge - one time during the warranty period. So, in all fairness, the fine people at Nespresso did take care of us. However, I STILL SAY...

Swiss Quality: HA! RUBBISH!!!

Seeing how the fine people at Nespresso pretty much had me by MY coffee beans since I had ordered about 500 Nespresso coffee capsules the previous week, I had basically no choice but to go out and buy another Nespresso machine. And, that I did.

We are now the proud owners of the latest (and greatest?) Citiz Nespresso machine. It's sleeker, has nice little features that our previous machine didn't have, and the coffee seems to come out hotter than before: all good! Plus, we have a brand new zwei Jahre Garantie! That means that IT WILL BE THE LAST COFFEE MACHINE WE EVER BUY IN SWITZERLAND!!!!!!!!

And now for an installment of like/no like:

LIKE: The Swiss certainly know how to make machines that make a great cup of coffee.

NO LIKE: Swiss Quality is a sham! The coffee machines should last, in my opinion, AT LEAST five years!

Came And Went...

My parents arrived in Basel this past Friday. This morning, I drove them to the airport (at 4:45 a.m.!!!!), and now they're gone. But no worries because they're going to spend a few weeks in Finland visiting friends and relatives, and then they'll be coming back to Basel at the end of July.

We didn't really do too much this past weekend. The folks adjusted to the time zone with a few naps, ventured into Basel a couple of times, and we had a few drinks (and enjoyed a fire) on the rooftop. That's about it.

Who knows? Maybe we'll actually venture out of the Basel area when they return at the end of next month.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


This is me wondering how much bigger our bougainvillea (one of the true stars of our rooftop garden) will actually get this year if it's already this big by the middle of June.

Last fall, for the first time, I sent "Bogie" (and other plants) to a greenhouse to spend the winter - he (yes, he's a he!) came back home the first week of May ready to explode with flowers. In prior years, I had him winter-over in our stairwell. While the stairwell is warm, it's also very dry. Bogie would go dormant, lose all his leaves, and have to start from scratch when I'd bring him outside in May.

Although I have yet to receive a bill, I think sending him to a greenhouse was a good decision. Don't cha think?

Another thing...

I took this picture earlier this evening at 8:50 p.m. just before the sun set. The late setting summer sun, along with the fact that we have VERY FEW mosquitoes here which permits us to actually enjoy the sunset outdoors are two of my favorite things about living in Basel. I know (because my friends often tell me) that I can sometimes be very anti-Switzerland, but I think I'll start to balance it out by sometimes reporting on the things I actually like about living here. In fact, whenever I write about something I dislike about Switzerland, I'm going to (try to) balance it out by writing about something I like about living in Switzerland within the same post.

This post?

Like: 2
No like: 0

Just A Thought

What ever happened to postage stamps?

I rarely use them any more. Way back when we lived in the U.S., I used to have a roll in the car's glove box, a roll in the desk in the home office, and a few extras tucked into the checkbook. Nowadays... NONE!

That's right... I don't have any postage stamps in the apartment at all.

Today, I had to actually mail a letter. So, I went to the post office that is conveniently located about a one minute walk from our apartment, bought ONE stamp, and mailed the letter there. Yes, I guess I could have bought a book of stamps then and there, but...

I didn't.

Nope... didn't need 'em.

I started thinking about it, and the last time I actually mailed something was when I mailed our U.S. tax return back in April. Before that? Who knows? Maybe a few Christmas cards back in December???

I do all of our banking/paying of bills electronically, and all correspondence is done via e-mail, so there's just no need for me to keep postage around the house.

Hmmm... how things change! It's no wonder the postal service is hurting.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

One Of My Favorite Things...

...is to watch people falling asleep in public. I find few things funnier than a person nodding off, suddenly jerking awake, and then looking up at everybody and wondering why they're all staring at him.

I'm even chuckling right now thinking about it.

The 2+ hour train ride from Lausanne to Basel last month provided a worthy subject. First, the guy spent about ten minutes "digging for gold" - that, I tried to ignore. However, soon the eyes grew heavy, and the head began to nod.

I got my camera ready.

A couple of minutes later, Mrs. TBF said: "NOW!"

Snap! Photographic gold!

Another one for the "falling asleep in public" collection. They go into the file with this one from somewhere over the Atlantic in January 2007, and this one from Tokyo in October 2007.

Maybe one day I'll publish them all in a coffee table book

I Forgot To Mention...

In early May, Mrs. TBF and I celebrated the 25th anniversary of our first date. Since the anniversary fell right before my trip to Chicago and Mrs. TBF's trip to New York, we decided to celebrate the anniversary later in the month - in Lausanne.

Lausanne was actually the first place we traveled to (other than day trips) after moving to Switzerland. We took the train to Lausanne, checked into the same hotel we stayed in eight years ago, unpacked our overnight bags, and... then I watched Mrs. TBF break out the laptop so that she could take care of some important work e-mails.

But hey... no worries! That just took a few minutes.

We went down to the spa, swam in the pool, went in the sauna and hammam, and just plain relaxed. Afterwards, we had a drink in one of the hotel bars before heading out to dinner at a restaurant called Hôtel de Ville in nearby Crissier.

The restaurant was FANTASTIC! Perhaps the best meal I've ever eaten: definitely in the top five. Waiters in tuxedos... 11 courses... great wines... etc. I even wore a suit... and a tie! Of course, I could go on and on, but I won't. Just go check it out for yourself if you're ever in the Lausanne area. It's expensive, but worth it!

The next day, we woke up still full from the night before, but we managed to make it downstairs for breakfast anyway. After breakfast, we tried to burn off a few calories by walking along Lac Léman a bit, and then it was back to Basel. Short... but sweet!

Kind of like Mrs. TBF.

Getting All Spruced Up...

...inside and out!

Our next-door neighbor, the Migros grocery store, is being overhauled (it's about time!!) The interior is being rearranged and modernized, and the outside is getting a fresh coat of paint (a.k.a. an empty canvas for the local graffiti artists).

I think it was around the time we went to Amsterdam that I first noticed that something was going on inside. Stuff was being moved around, and then new shelves started going in. Then, late last month, the scaffolding started going up. In fact, they even began working on it AT 5:37 one Saturday MORNING! That's right... 5:37 A.M.!

So let me get this right...

I can't make noise between noon and 2 p.m. during "quiet time", but workers can hammer pieces of scaffolding together right next to our apartment building before 6 o'clock on a Saturday morning??? clank...Clank...CLANK!!!!!!



Although it's been open during the entire renovation, there's going to be a grand re-opening on June 18th. With the new layout, it seems like there's a lot more shelving which means a lot more room for new products.

Fritos? Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing?

Fat chance!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Eight Eyes

I experienced a major life milestone while I was in Chicago.

On May 7th, at 3 p.m., I showed up at my cousin Greg's office for an eye exam - don't worry... he's an opthamologist. In fact, I arrived fifteen minutes early. God, I'm such a Swissy! Even he wasn't there yet!!!

First of all, I'd like to say that I successfully took public transportation from my sister's town in the northwest suburbs to my cousin's office on the nort'side of Chicago. So, who says you can't get anywhere using public transportation in America? It only took about 30 minutes longer than it would have if I had gone by car (assuming absolutely no traffic), so it wasn't too bad at all.

After Dr. Greg examined me, my suspicions were confirmed: I now need glasses for reading!

Greg told me that my distance vision was perfect, and that I should just pick up some cheap reading glasses (the lowest magnification possible) at a drug store. So, that's what I did. Kind of...

Never being one to pass up an opportunity to go to Costco, I did just that and picked up a three-pack of reading glasses for about $20. Oh, and by the way, I checked out the price last week at our local grocery store in Basel, and...

$25 for ONE pair of glasses!

My glasses are now positioned on the bidet/magazine rack in our "library", in the TV room for when I want to read instead of watching yet another one of Mrs. TBF's cooking programs, and on the desk in our office to be used when blogging or surfing the net.

That is... when they're not all on my head simultaneously for display purposes only.

I actually thought I was being very frugal by getting three pairs of glasses for $20. However, my dad one-upped me.

While I was in Sudbury, my dad told me that he had to get a new pair of prescription glasses. Apparently he had to wait a week before getting them, so he went to the drugstore to buy a pair of cheap reading glasses. Oh, and here's the best part...


That's my dad - the master of frugality!

What A Difference...

...a couple of months makes.

The rooftop garden: the first week of April.

The rooftop garden: the first week of June.

They Grow Up So Fast...

This our niece (and goddaughter) Fiona. She's going to be 14 in July, and this picture was taken while we were in Chicago on the eve of her 8th grade dance. She's something like 5'7" or 5'8" now - a little taller than my sister, and half a head taller than Mrs. TBF. It's hard to believe that she and her sister Kiera looked like this when we moved to Switzerland.

Man, we've been here a long time!

I took this picture of the entire clan after going out for breakfast on the Sunday morning (May 17th) before returning to Basel. I tried a couple of times to get a picture where everyone's eyes were open.

No such luck...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Back In Chicagoland...

The three of us drove up to Sudbury on a Friday. On Tuesday, we made the 12.5 hour drive back to Chicago. Let me tell you, there's nothing like discovering you have a big zit on the back of your neck at the beginning of a 12.5 hour drive - it really makes the time fly by.

Man, I miss puberty!

The day after arriving back in Chicago, Mrs. TBF joined me. She had been on a business trip in NYC, and she was able to take a couple of vacation days (although she was on the phone with work for a good chunk of them) and come out to Chicago for the weekend. She snapped this photo of me (after she had been on the phone with the home office for 30 minutes) standing in front of Bed Bath and Beyond leaning against my rented Impala.**

I LOVE B-Bab (as I call it), and I LOVE driving an Impala. Let me tell you... when we win the big lotto, NO Rolls Royce for me. NO sir! I'm buying an Impala. Maybe I'll just buy a new one every month so I always have that new car smell.

After B-Bab, it was Mrs. TBF's turn. Ugh... shoe shopping at Nordstrom.


I guess you have to take the good with the bad.

**For the record: I washed the shirt between wearing it in Sudbury and wearing it in Chicago.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sudbury Relatives...

We managed to see quite a few relatives while we were in Sudbury. I always had my little camera on my belt when we were together with the relatives. Unfortunately, I pretty much always forgot about the camera on my belt until I was undressing to go to bed at night. DOH!

You're just going to have to take my word for it - we saw a lot of relatives.

Fortunately, I did manage to remember the camera when we were visiting my Aunt Astrid and Uncle Elmer. They live about 30 minutes outside of Sudbury, and we went out to their place one sunny morning for some coffee and cake.

I also remembered to take a picture of the trees that morning. Why, you ask? Well, look at those trees! Do you notice anything unusual? That's right... barely any leaves at all. May 11th, and it still felt like late winter or VERY early spring to me.

Summer comes late and ends early in Northern Ontario. My Uncle Erik told me that he doesn't know why anybody bothers to plant flowers there during the summer. You can't put them out until June, and they're pretty much on their way out by the beginning of September.


It's just what brothers do.

I've got loads of 'em!

Mother's Day 2009...

Aren't we just the best kids in the world?

We drove to visit our mom on Mother's Day, and then we made her cook a big meal for us and assorted relatives on her special day.

I can't remember the last time I had had double-baked potatoes. They were awesome!

Sudbury In May...

No visit to Sudbury is complete without at least one trip to Canadian Tire. My dad and I braved the mob of Saturday shoppers just so I could pick up a spare Get Lost Wasp.

They really work!

Later on, my parents took us to Kings Buffet (no apostrophe!) for the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Oddly enough, there weren't too many Asian things on the buffet. And... I didn't find the food to be very good. Perhaps I'll have to take Kings Buffet off the things-to-do-while-in-Sudbury list.

More May Moments...

We - me, my sister, and my little niece - had an early start on the morning of Friday, May 8th. How early? VERY early!

At 3:50 a.m., we pulled out of my sister's suburban Chicago driveway and began the long drive to my parents' "summer" home in Sudbury, Ontario.

By 6:50 a.m., my niece was taking a nap. At 11:50, my niece was wide-awake and enjoying her lunch at Burger King in Manistique, Michigan which has got to be in the running for the highest average weight per employee of pretty much any business establishment in Michigan. Hmmmm... maybe the entire U.S.? NO! Maybe... the entire world! My advice to the Manistique BK employees: stop taking advantage of the employee food discount! WHOA!!!

A couple of hours later, we were approaching the Canadian border. I multi-tasked by simultaneously driving while taking unflattering pictures of my sister sleeping.

That's just what brothers do!

About 12.5 hours after our early morning departure, we arrived in one piece at my parents' place. I felt a little sluggish from the day's junk food diet, but, other than that, none the worse for wear. And...

I'm proud to report that even in my road weary and jet lagged state, I somehow managed to construct this architectural masterpiece for my niece.

TBF the architect. Maybe I missed my calling.