Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Flashback: Back To Copenhagen...

We're off to Copenhagen this weekend. It'll be our first time back in a little over eight years.

What makes Copenhagen special for us is that it was our first "real" trip after moving to Switzerland in October 2000. For the first ten months, we pretty much just stuck to traveling around Switzerland by car or train, or we'd drive into the Alsace or the Black Forest (which I despised!). Having found a good kennel for Dominique, and a couple of neighbors who were willing to stop by and throw some food down for King, we decided that it was time to actually jump on a plane for a weekend getaway outside of the clean and safe confines of Switzerland and our immediate neighbors. I looked online, booked a last-minute trip, and off we went.

The highlight of that trip eight years ago was probably the canal boat cruise where I took this self-portrait. The weather was hot and sunny, a waitress served ice cold beer on the boat, and we just relaxed and watched the Danish scenery pass us by. We also visited Tivoli Garden, and enjoyed a couple of really nice meals in Nyhavn.

This time, we're going with friends who used to live in Copenhagen. Not much is planned (other than dinner at a nice restaurant on Saturday evening), but I have no problem with that.

What will we do?

You'll just have to check back next week to find out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A New Workbench!

After 22 YEARS, we FINALLY have a new mattress!

I'm not sure if you remember or not, but I first spoke about our mattress woes in early 2007. If you like, you can refresh your memory by reading about it HERE.

So, going back to that trip to Chicago in early-2007...

We actually went to IKEA, looked at the mattress, and decided that it wasn't packaged well enough to survive trans-Atlantic transport to Basel. Sure, we could have gone about the trouble of getting extra packaging, but neither one of us felt like going to all the trouble, so we just decided to explore other options.

After returning to Basel, we went to a local furniture store to see if we could actually order a custom-made American size mattress. It turned out that we could. However, the store quoted us a price of CHF 3800 which is currently about $3,700 (How about that weak American dollar, huh?). I was all prepared to just go ahead, bite the bullet, and order the stinkin' thing, but then I made a HUGE mistake...

I went online to see how much the exact same memory foam mattress would cost in the U.S. As it turned out... $1,600!!! There was NO WAY I was going to pay more than double for the stupid thing in Switzerland. Just wasn't! Nope! NO... WAY!

Zip ahead a couple of years...

Now, it's Spring 2009, and Mrs. TBF and I are waking up every morning with stiff backs. Our mattress has developed a big lump in the middle which we have affectionately begun calling "the terp" after hearing the term during our weekend trip to Amsterdam, and something needs to be done... SOON! But what???

That's where pure luck comes into the picture...

One evening a couple of months back, while dining with friends, I began talking about our bed woes and how much the local furniture store wanted to charge us for a custom made, American queen size, memory foam mattress. Suddenly, like the voice of an angel, I heard our friend say: "Our company makes a competing product. I'm sure I could get one for you for much less. Let's see what I can do."

Oh... and by the way... in order to avoid getting in trouble at work, our friend will remain anonymous.

Anyway...

It turns out that he did indeed get us the proper size mattress, for about EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT less than what the furniture store quoted us, and he delivered it to us last week. In fact, he even hauled away the cardboard.

How's that for service???

Since then...

WE'VE BEEN SLEEPING LIKE ROCKS!!

Mrs. TBF says that she can barely wake up because she's in such a deep coma. Me? I don't even hear Mrs. TBF's alarm go off. We've been going to bed early because we can't wait to get into bed. In the morning, about a minute after waking up from my coma, I feel completely wide awake and refreshed! Our lives have been significantly changed for the better!

Anonymous friend... YOU ARE OUR HERO!!!!

I emptied and threw out all the water bed tubes last Friday. Tomorrow, I'll be going to the dump to throw out the mattress cover/etc. that's all wrapped up with duct tape in our storage area.

Good riddance!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Late Forties...

By turning 47 last weekend, I officially entered (as far as I'm concerned) my late forties. We celebrated with friends (Drs. John/Rammy/Andy/Di & kids) at Drs. John and Rammy's house.

Knowing my fierce opposition to wearing the "Over The Hill" hat - not because I object to being called "over the hill," but rather because it's really hot and makes me sweat profusely - the gang opted to place the hat on top of a large yellow balloon on which they had drawn my likeness. I've now discovered that my friends think I possess the nose of a pig.

Damn friends!

Mrs. TBF To The Rescue....

...again!

I'm happy to report that the "issues" concerning my Chicago itinerary have been resolved.

To make a long story short...

I tell Mrs. TBF that it will cost over CHF 1,000 to change my itinerary so that I can leave Chicago on October 28th instead of the 25th...

Mrs. TBF calls her special-double-secret-probabtion, Executive Club Gold/Platinum/any other precious metals phone number and speaks with a representative...

Mrs. TBF has "words" with said representative and asks to speak with her manager...

Unlike the underling, the manager THINKS OUTSIDE THE BOX and says "...let's see if there's something else we can do."

Instead of paying CHF 1,096/"nothing else we can do" to switch my return flight from Chicago, the manager says Mrs. TBF can use 25,000 miles to upgrade me from Business Class to First Class, plus no change fee.

TBF is happy he gets to stay in Chicago an extra three days, and, more importantly for British Airways...

Mrs. TBF is happy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Lesson Learned!

I called British Airways a little while ago to see if I could change the date of my end-of-October return flight from Chicago to Basel. When I booked the flight in August, I made the reservation so that it would coincide with one of Mrs. TBF's many business trips to the U.S. This way, we could sit together on our flights to and from the U.S.

Awwwwwwwwww... Aren't we cute??

Naturally, as often happens in the world of bidness, Mrs. TBF's itinerary has changed due to factors beyond her control. We'll still be flying to the U.S. together, but her schedule change now necessitates her remaining in the U.S. for a couple of days after my scheduled return. But, no problem, right? I just figured I'd call BA and change my ticket and stay in Chicago a few extra days. Right?

Wrong!

Yes, I could change my ticket. However, coming back three days later would cost an extra 1,000 bucks, and I'm just not willing to pay the extra money. So, my trip to Chicago will stay at ten nights instead of thirteen. Oh well... lesson learned.

From now on, I book my trips to Chicago based on when I want to go and return.

It Could Have Been Worse...

MUCH worse!

I walk Mrs. TBF to either the tram or the bus every morning. This morning was no exception. However, there was one notable difference this morning from the past 100+ mornings: it was 10˚C/50˚F, I could see my breath, and I had to wear a jacket. After returning home, needing a warm-up, I decided to check the weather forecast for Amalfi.

Were we lucky, or what? We had blue skies, sun, and not a drop of rain for our entire stay last week. This week in Amalfi? Rain nearly every day!

Timing is everything!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back From Paradiso...

One last lick...



One last leap...



One last gaze...

Just like that, our trip to Amalfi is over. But no problema... Next year, we're planning on going there TWICE: at the end of May, and again in September.

We're back in Basel now. Most of the vacation laundry is done, Mrs. TBF is back at work, and I'm getting ready to go to the gym. Unlike Amalfi, everybody is speaking Swiss-German, it's cool and cloudy outside, and there's no little bowl of those beautiful Amalfi olives next to me for me to nibble on. But that's ok. We do have several other trips coming up in the near future that should help keep our minds occupied.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mastro Lindo Returns To Amalfi...

Mrs. TBF and I are spending the week in Amalfi, Italy. This is our fourth time in Amalfi, and we're staying at the same place we always stay - Hotel Santa Caterina.

We just LOVE it.

We're not sure if they treat all repeat guests the same way, but WE certainly receive the hero's welcome. We BOTH received the double-kiss-on-the-cheek greetings from multiple members of the staff upon arrival, and gladly accepted our upgrade to a junior suite.

It wasn't long until we were in TOTAL relaxation mode.

The days have mostly been spent in a reclined position, but we do occasionally jump into the sea where I swim, and Mrs. TBF rides the noodle. The bar/pool guys (who refer to me as Mastro Lindo - the Italian version of Mr. Clean) take good care of us by delivering drinks and snacks whenever we want. Around 9 p.m., we head out for dinner at some of our favorite places, and then we come back to the hotel where we sleep like babies. Hey... you know what???

It kind of sounds like every other time we've been here!

There is one difference, however...

No Russians this year! Well, at least, not many. We've seen one Russian couple with a small child, and that's it! Last year, the hotel was just crawling with Russians. This year, it's mostly Americans, some Brits, and some Italians. But, who cares?

When we're here, it's pretty much just us and the hotel staff, as far as we're concerned.

Happy... relaxed... tan... well-fed... LIVING THE DREAM!!!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

40 YEARS!!!!

This is my friend Carl. We were talking on Skype today about the fact that we met right around now... 40 YEARS AGO!!! And for the record: I WANT his AWESOME man-chair that you can see a little bit of in the background!!

I had just moved to Wheeling, Illinois a couple of months earlier in June 1969. My neighbor, Bob Nuenfeldt, and I were talking on walkie-talkies when all of a sudden we heard this voice cut in to our conversation...

"Who is this?"

It was Carl, who just happened to have his walkie-talkie on. See? He was even an electronic gadget guy back then!

It turned out that Bob and Carl knew each other from first grade, so Bob and I ended up walking to Carl's house which was one street over from my house. I was just shy of seven years old.

And isn't it a small world? Carl's mom is from Finland! What are the odds??

Oh, and in case you're curious... this is how we looked a couple of months later when we were well into the second grade. Carl's the guy in the fourth row/second from the right with the Colonel Sanders tie. I'm in the bottom row on the far left. If I remember correctly, I'm smiling with my mouth closed because one of my front teeth was just hanging on by a thread and I didn't fall for my dad's I-won't-pull-it-out-I-just-want-to-see-how-loose-it-is trick until the next day.

You think that's bad? A few years later, my sister actually fell for my dad's just-let-me-tie-this-piece-of-thread-around-your-tooth-and-this-doorknob-no-I-won't-do-anything...

SLAM!

God, she was a dork back then!!

Today, Carl told me that his father, Bruce (greetings to you, Bruce!), checks out my blog on a regular basis.

Who knew?

Well, certainly not me since Bruce has never left a comment. For that matter... neither has Carl.

Come on, guys. Leave a comment.

I dare ya!

Good To The Last Drop...

Horror of horrors, we nearly ran out of coffee!!!! Fortunately, in the nick of time, I ordered/and received my new supply of 600 Nespresso capsules!!

That should hold us for a couple of months!!

Ok... let me preface what I'm going to say next by saying: I'm not complaining, I absolutely DON'T mind, and... you DO NOT need to compensate me in any way, but...

We sure went through a lot of coffee recently while my parents were visiting. Sheesh!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though, seeing how we Finns tend to be rather large consumers of coffee. Plus, having to buy a little extra coffee is a small price to pay for the joy that a visit from my parents brings. In fact, it's been nearly a month since they were here... How about one more picture?

Well, what do you know? Drinking coffee! What a surprise!!!!! Not!

Hmmm... Now that I think about it...

We kind of went through a lot of gin too!

Lost And Found...

Is anybody missing a diamond?

I found this "diamond" while cleaning under the sofa last week. I'm not sure if it's real or not, but I AM sure it doesn't belong to either one of us. In any case, let me know whether or not it belongs to you. If I don't hear from anybody by October 1st...

... it's going in the garbage!

Road Warriors...

Dr. Andy, Dr. Di, and the kids came over for some grilled flesh (clearing assorted meats out of the freezer) this past Saturday evening. They come over fairly often, so no big deal... right? What made this evening different was that Dr. Andy returned from a business trip and came directly from the train station to our apartment where he met the rest of his family.

Still no big deal???

Well... then how about these facts? Dr. Andy had in the past week flown to South Africa, the plane had to make a quasi-not-quite-an-emergency landing in Rome due to a door that didn't seal up properly, had to return (flying "...at low altitude, but high enough to get over the Alps") to Z├╝rich where he spent the night, flew out to South Africa the next day, then flew to South America a couple of days later, spent a few days in South America (where he might have taken another flight...not sure), had a three hour delay in Sao Paulo which resulted in him being switched to a flight to FRANKFURT, and then had to take a three hour train ride from Frankfurt to Basel.

Who says business travel is glamorous?

Even after this debacle, Dr. Andy still seemed none the worse for wear, and he and Dr. Di ("Yes, I'm wearing a down vest in August! What about it?") managed to stay at our place until 1:30 a.m.!

Yesterday morning, it was Mrs. TBF's turn to jump into a taxi and become a "junior" road warrior. I say "junior" because her flight to Munich was delayed by only one hour, and it was spared the need for any quasi-not-quite-an-emergency landings. However, she gets full road warrior credit for staying at some dinky hotel in Holzkirchen (about 30 minutes outside of Munich) in a room with a toilet that trickled all night, and construction that began right across the street at 6 a.m.!

I guess that's why they get paid the big bucks!