Friday, August 28, 2009

Duped!

For a few years now, we've been buying Weight Watchers yogurt at our local Coop grocery store. The reason we bought it was because it was labeled as 1.5 points per serving, thus making it easy for us to calculate it into our point total for the day.

On a whim, a couple of weeks ago, we were at Manor and decided to try Nestle's Hirz 0.1% yogurt. The verdict? It tastes much better than the Weight Watchers stuff, and secondly, after using my handy-dandy WW point calculator, we found out that it contains only ONE POINT per serving - half a point LESS than WW!

So, it tastes better, it has fewer points, AND... I get to call it My Dick Hirz yogurt!

SCORE!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pleasant Dinner Conversation...

A couple of things relating to toilets and plumbing...

Earlier this week, I called my folks. When I told my dad that our toilet had broken, he actually thought that I had sat on it, it had pulled off the wall, and then shattered into a million pieces on the floor. I told Mrs. TBF about it at dinner, and we both laughed. But then, we kind of began wondering how often this actually happens here. You see, toilets do not rest on the floor here like they usually do in N. America - they're bolted into the wall and just hover above the floor. In fact, I don't remember EVER seeing a toilet resting on the floor in Europe. Is there some kind of weight limit I should be aware of?

Gonna have to start paying more attention to this...

Seeing how the vision of me lying on the bathroom floor on top of a pile of reading material, fecal matter, and the shattered remains of a toilet hadn't ruined our appetites, I guided the dinner conversation to a related yet equally inappropriate topic.

TBF: Do you know one of the things I'm going to miss the most about Switzerland someday when we move?

Mrs. TBF: What?

TBF: Swiss toilet paper!

Mrs. TBF: Oh yeah, it IS good! American toilet paper SUCKS!

And you know what? Mrs. TBF is right! American toilet paper DOES suck! The Swiss TP is thick, absorbent, a pleasure to use, and generally far superior to its American counterpart. Just don't buy the recycled TP. I did that once... NEVER AGAIN!

I read in an article not too long ago about how much forestland could be saved if people would just switch to using toilet paper made with recycled paper. I figured I'd do my part, and I went next door to the grocery store and bought an "experimental" eight-pack. BIG MISTAKE! That stuff is awful. Just...don't...buy...it!

And finally...

Why is water pressure so much better here than in America. Toilets flush better, the water pressure in the shower is much better... I definitely prefer life in America to life in Switzerland, but I just wish the entire Swiss bathroom experience could be replicated in America.

Hmmm...

Maybe it can.

like: the Swiss bathroom experience and Swiss toilet paper

no like: Today? nothing!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stare-Worthy

The Swiss love to stare. If it weren't for the need to sleep, I'm guessing that staring at things (along with cleanliness and safety) could become a 24/7 pursuit.

Cleanliness, Safety, and... Curiosity*. They should put it on the Swiss flag right under the white cross.

I, as a 6'5" foreigner with no visible signs of a care in the world, am often the subject of their collective gaze.

Yesterday, I was particularly stare-worthy because I was wearing my Kerry Wood t-shirt. Every seat was taken (school had just let out) when I got on the tram to go to they gym, so I stood at the front of the tram facing the back. It wasn't long until I noticed about thirty pairs of eyes (young and old alike) staring bullets at my chest. They'd stare at my chest, confused looks would ensue, then they'd whisper amongst themselves. Stare again... confusion... whispers...

THAT'S ENOUGH!

I finally had to just turn my back to the whole car. I don't mind some staring, but too much is just too much.

I was thinking of wearing this t-shirt today. I don't know... The words are in Finnish, and the print is pretty small so they'll have to strain. Perhaps it'll be too much for the locals (and me) to handle.

Maybe I'll just wear it next week instead and give us all a little break.

*That's me being nice. I'd vote for nosiness, but I don't think it would go over too well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Home Repairs...

The weather was absolutely beautiful this past weekend. We hardly saw a cloud all weekend, it wasn't too hot, and there was a nice breeze - the way summer should be. We went out for dinner with friends on Friday night, and then we took the train to Baden (by Z├╝rich) on Saturday night for a "Sommerfest" at our friends' house. On Sunday morning, Mrs. TBF played tennis with Dr. Rammy, then we enjoyed a nice impromptu brunch at Dr. Rammy & Dr. John's house, and finally we went home to just laze around. Shortly after returning home, a small problem stuck...

The toilet in our main bathroom wouldn't flush.

I took the panel off the wall, tinkered around with the mechanism a bit, realized that it was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and then just resigned myself to the fact that a plumber would have to be called. I called our rental office on Monday morning, relayed the problem through a combination of English and German, and then just waited for a call from a plumber.

That call (fortunately) came this morning, and the toilet is now repaired.

It's when things go wrong that I really dislike living here. If I get a non-English speaker at the rental office, I always wonder if they truly understand what I'm talking about. Plus, I often don't fully understand what they are telling me. Things usually work out in the end, but I often end up sitting around the apartment waiting for a call that I'm not sure will even be coming. If I leave the apartment, and the call comes, the repairman will often hang up after hearing our English-speaking answering machine message instead of leaving a message. Aggravating!

But... all's well that ends well.

Now, I'll just wait for the bill. You see, in Switzerland, we're responsible for all repairs up to 2% of our annual rent. Can you believe it??? We pay NYC-level rent, and we have to pay for repairs up to a certain point... even if something breaks down due to no fault of our own. For example:

About four years ago, not long after moving in and while we were out of town, a torrential rainstorm came through town, and rainwater seeped into one of the covered outdoor outlets. The circuit shorted, the power to our rooftop garden was cut off, and the outlet needed to be replaced. This ended up costing something like $100. So, to recap: we weren't home, the problem had been caused by an act of nature and/or faulty construction when the building was built ten years earlier, it was an outlet we had never even used, and...

WE HAD TO PAY FOR THE REPAIR!!! It says so right in our standard Swiss rental contract.

SHEESH!!!

TBF like: our apartment!

TBF no like: standard Swiss rental contract!!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sweet Relief!

Today's high is supposed to be 35˚C/95˚F. Tomorrow's high is only supposed to be 26˚C (high-70s), and on Saturday it's only supposed to get up to 23˚C (low 70s)!!

Maybe, by tomorrow, I'll even begin wearing a shirt again! Woo-HOO!!!

Yeah, it's been pretty hot this week. But this past week doesn't even come close to comparing to the summer of 2003 here in Basel. That summer was absolute hell. Temperatures regularly approached 40˚C (over 100˚F) for what seemed like three full months, and we had very little rain. Mrs. TBF has "air conditioning" at her office, but I remember her telling me that it pretty much just cooled the office down to the point where I would have been just sweating rather than sweating profusely.

Speaking of sweating profusely...

Here's a self-portrait taken after riding my bike back from the gym on August 6, 2003. I would ride my bike to the gym, change out of my soaking wet bike riding clothes, and then I'd change into fresh workout clothes. After my workout, I'd just stand under a cold shower, dry off, and then change into fresh clothes for the bike ride home. By the time I was at home, those clothes would be soaked through.

Lots of laundry that summer!

We were miserable (along with all of the neighbors), and the pets were miserable too. But hey, life goes on!

God bless "too cold" (as all the Europeans call it) American air conditioning!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Got Nothin'

There is ABSOLUTELY nothing going on right now... other than the fact that it's hot outside.

The highs this week are around 33˚C/low 90s˚F, but the humidity isn't too bad, so it's tolerable. Plus it cools down significantly at night, so sleeping is no problem at all.

Would I use air conditioning this week if we had it? Yes. Do we need air conditioning? No. But hey, sometimes life is about having more than just what you need, right? I guess it would be nice to have the option of cooling off the entire apartment with the flick of a switch.

I've heard Swiss people say many times that "...air cone-dissoneeng ees completely unnecessary becuss you only neet it for two veeks per year heer in Sveetzerlant!" To which I respond: "Oh yeah? If you lived in a warm climate where you only needed heat for two weeks of the year, would you do without a heating source in your home?"

Anyway, I'll be leaving for the gym in a few minutes. Oddly enough, that's one of the few places I go to that has air conditioning. After my workout, I always sit in the hot sauna, and then I follow that with a plunge into the ice-cold dipping pool.

After that, all is well with my boring world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Ok, so I haven't reduced or reused anything today. But I did recycle!!

Every three months or so, we receive a couple of recycling bags in our mailbox - one for shoes, and one for clothes. I love it! It's easy, free of hassle, and the frequency of pickups encourages us to go through our wardrobes on a regular basis. I go through my wardrobes, pick out a few things I no longer want, throw them in the bag, and VOILA! Out they go to the curb on the designated day. TODAY was that day.

Mrs. TBF is pretty good about it too. At first, it was like pulling teeth to get her to go through her wardrobes. But now, she just kind of snarls a little bit and then gets it over with.

I like recycling here. It's not quite as easy as it was in Chicago where we could just put everything in one container, drag it out to the curb once per week, and that was that. Instead, we have to bring our plastic bottles, batteries, light bulbs, and Brita filters (you read that correctly) back to the grocery store. But that's really not a problem. Bottles and cans have to be brought to community recycling bins, but that's not really a problem either (for us at least) because there is a recycling area right in front of our building. Bundled newspapers and cardboard are set out on the curb and picked up once per month, and there are also regularly schedules pickup days for larger household items, metal items, and garden waste - just about everything. In fact, as is evidenced by the large list/schedule we receive from the town hall at the start of the year, it seems like just about everything can be recycled here in Switzerland.

Here are some of the things, with instructions regarding where/when/how:

medicine, used motor and cooking oil, electrical appliances, refrigerators, wine corks, stones and construction waste, mirrors and windows, tree stumps, kitty litter sand, and last but not least...

ANIMAL CADAVERS (at the main municipal services area on Monday from 13:30 - 17:00, and on Fridays from 13:30 to 16:00!).

The municipal services area is about a three minute walk from our apartment. Ummm... remind me to avoid it on Monday and Friday afternoons - especially Friday afternoons!

That would really put a damper on my Friday evening T.G.I.F. cocktail!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Lazy Days Of Summer...

Since the kids will all be back in school soon, I figured it would be fitting if I got back to blogging on a regular basis. I guess the main reason I haven't blogged for the past few weeks is that not much has been going on.

Give me a minute, and I'm sure I can think of something.

...

...

Ok... here we go.

My parents are back in Canada now. If you'll recall, they were here back in June, then they went to Finland (where I met up with them) for several weeks, and then they came back to Basel for a few days before heading back to North America during the first week of August. We had pretty good weather, got to enjoy meals on the balcony and rooftop, and had a relaxing time. They partied with a bunch of our friends during our August 1st/Swiss National Day BBQ and also got a chance to experience Dale...

We've been cat-sitting Dale for nearly three weeks now while Canadian-Swiss and Orange-X (whom he obviously misses very much) have been on vacation. At his own home, he seems like a totally laid-back cat. Here at our apartment??? He's been...well...a challenge!!! He howls all night (had to confine him to the non-bedroom side of the apartment during the night) and sleeps all day, basically shows us no attention unless he's hungry (which is most of the time when he's not sleeping), has had several not-using-the-litter-box incidents even though I am constantly checking to make sure it is clean, and has pretty much helped us make the decision that we will be a cat-free household from here on out. After King died, we kind of talked about never having a cat again, but now???

Definitely never!

We're taking good care of him, but he's just not returning the love. What makes it worse is that Mrs. TBF is in the U.S. right now, and I'm having to deal with the beast on my own. Yaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!

BEAST!!!

Dear C.S. and O.X.: Please hurry home, and safe travels. We look forward to visiting the well-behaved, calm Dale AT YOUR HOUSE.

Other than that: grocery shopping, watering the garden, gym, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, etc., etc.

ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!