Monday, October 30, 2006

Burning The Candle At Both Ends...

I'm in Chicago. Actually, I'm at my sister's house in Barrington, Illinois. As you can see from the time, I woke up kind of early this morning (4:40 a.m. to be exact). Since I made it last night to the end of Monday Night Football and didn't go to sleep until about 11:00 p.m., I thought I'd sleep-in a bit later than I did. I guess it wasn't to be.

Our trip from Basel to Chicago went like clockwork. I say "our" because I flew here with my parents. Mrs. TBF dropped us all off at Basel Airport for a 7:00 a.m. flight to London, and then she went home to prepare for her own flight to Kuala Lumpur. We're pretty far apart right now, and I don't like it.

We flew American Airlines from London to Chicago. I was a little concerned while I was in the departure area; not only because I was flying in coach, but also because I was concerned that I'd be seated next to one of the many grossly overweight people that I saw waiting with me for the flight. My parents had the two seats side by side on one side of the aisle, and then I had the aisle seat across from them in the section of five seats. Fortunately, there was no need for concern because the only people in my section were me on the aisle, and an old man four seats away. I had room to stretch out, and I slept for about 90 minutes during the flight (thank you gin & tonic and French wine) - a rarity for me on a flight from Europe to the U.S. Oh...and before you go saying what a good son I am for having chosen to fly with my parents in economy class: I pretty much listened to the iPod, read, and...ignored them for most of the trip. I know...I'm a jerk!

Let me clear my head of jet lag, and I'll post some things here and there during the week. I'm not using my own computer, so I'll probably not post any pictures until I get back to Basel.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friday...Ummm...Saturday Flashback: Boo!

Trick or treat!!!!!!

Back in 1965, my mom decided that a bunny outfit would be the perfect Halloween costume for me. Oh, the horror! Dad: Couldn't you have stepped in and demanded a more masculine costume? It's amazing that I made it through that Halloween without a lifetime's worth of emotional scarring. And, look at the size of that trick or treat bag. How much candy/sugar would that thing hold? I'm thinking about ten pounds worth. The fact that I overcame that sugar overload and ended up with good teeth must be a miracle of a combination of genetics, good oral hygiene, and self-discipline.

I'll be leaving for Chicago with my parents this Monday morning which means I'll get to see my nieces' and nephew's Halloween costumes in person. I'm going to have to check out upon arrival how my nephew's dressing up for Halloween.

If there's any hint of androgyny...I'm hopping...umm..stepping in!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Nothing Hits The Spot Like...

...pork knee.

After wandering around Prague semi-aimlessly for hours, we needed some food. When I told the hotel concierge that I wanted to eat some "real" Czech food, he pointed down the street and told us to walk about 200 meters to a place called Bredovsky dvur. Heck...he hadn't steered us wrong the night before, so we took his advice once again.

The verdict? Bredovsky dvur = carnivore nirvana!

I could go on forever about how much I enjoyed my pig knee meal. I really could! However, I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

The next morning, I woke up with the taste of pig knee in my mouth, showered, and then...we made our way down, once again, to the buffet breakfast. After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and hopped into the car for the return trip to the airport. I think we all smelled of garlic.

How Czech of us!

Prague: Our Dogs Were Barkin'...

Three essentials in Prague: a good breakfast for energy, a good map for navigating the twisting and turning streets, and a good pair of walking shoes. Let me tell you - we walked...for hours...on cobblestones...up and down stairs...

Despite the unpronounceable street names, we managed to navigate Prague fairly easily - thank you very much - and I think I only got us lost one time (yes, I'm a man and I refused to ask for directions...).

Sure the architecture is impressive...but look at those damn sewer hole covers! Now that's something you don't see in the tour books!!! Hey...what the heck were those passers-by staring at? Can't we admire sewer hole covers in private?

We checked out the shops, stopped for a drink and a snack at a tiny restaurant, climbed a zillion steps up to the castle where we took in the scenic (albeit a little hazy) view, and then crossed the Charles Bridge. I was amazed at the huge number of tourists. My God...what is it like during the peak summer tourist months?

A lot of calories were burned walking around that Saturday afternoon. It was time to refuel...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

There's Something Very Comforting...

...about a hotel that devotes an entire floor to breakfast. I slept like a baby having gone to bed knowing that in a few hours breakfast would be prepared directly under us as we slept on the 3rd floor.

As you probably already know, there are very few things that give me more pleasure in life than hotel buffet breakfasts. You can keep your yogurt, fruit, and all the other healthy things that normally start off my eating day. When we travel, I'm looking for the creamy scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes, lox, pasta, chicken, and...most importantly...bacon.

If I owned Hotel Palace Praha, I would just name the second floor...BACON!!!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Prague: We Have Returned...

I was in Prague six months ago. Mrs. TBF was in Prague a couple of years ago for a meeting. My mother? This was her first time in Prague.

We arrived in Prague early on Friday afternoon. During our flight, I proposed a little competition: Who would be the first person to smell garlic breath/B.O.?

Let me explain...

The last time I was in Prague, I noticed that many Czechs had an overwhelming, although not totally unpleasant, odor of garlic emanating from their beings. This trip would not disappoint... We walked through Customs, saw the man holding the "Mr. & Mrs. TBF" sign, followed him to his car, and climbed in. After he climbed behind the wheel, my mom immediately said "valko sipuli". "Mitä?" (What?), I said. Mrs. TBF chimed in with a "knoblauch" (garlic in German). A split second later, the smell of garlic slapped me in the face. Mom and Mrs. TBF had won the garlic-smelling competition.

About thirty minutes later, we arrived at our hotel. The outside of the hotel was ever-so-slightly dingy. However, the inside did not disappoint. We had ordered an extra bed in our room for my mom, but the hotel had upgraded us to adjoining rooms. Nice!

Unfortunately, Mrs. TBF had a conference call for work in which she had to participate. I won't post a picture of her on her conference call. Let's just say that I'll add them to my personal collection of vacation/conference call pictures I have from Paris...Helsinki...etc... Since Mrs. TBF was going to be busy for a couple of hours, my mom and I set off on foot.

We walked to the main square in old town, checked out the fantastic sights, and then slogged on to the Charles Bridge. After a quick snack, we made our way back to the hotel.

I was excited to find out, when we made it back to our room, that Mrs. TBF was done with her conference call. After enjoying our complimentary "Welcome" drinks in the bar, we made the five-minute walk to a restaurant - Restaurant Zvonice - the concierge had recommended for dinner.

Zvonice was nice. It was on the eighth floor of a bell tower, and the restaurant itself is in the actual belfry. I snapped this picture of Mom and Mrs. TBF. Come on! You can do better than that! Look like you're having fun! That's better...


My parents arrived one week ago today, and I haven't really been making time to blog. I'll try to squeeze some blogging in a little bit later today.

My dad left for Finland last Thursday for a few days of visiting relatives. He returns to Basel tonight. Last weekend, my mom, Mrs. TBF, and I took a weekend trip to Prague.

More words and pictures...later.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ish Ya Berfday...

Lots o' special days to celebrate in TBF world right now...


My MOM turned 60-something. She and my dad are on their way to Basel right now as I type. American Airlines called my sister's house just before they were all set to leave her house for the airport at 1:00 p.m. in order to catch a 4:55 flight from O'Hare to London. The flight ended up being changed to 8:00 p.m., so they'll be here at 4:20 this afternoon instead of 11:15 this morning. I slept until 9:00 a.m., and I feel good. They won't!

JOHN turned fiddy something. Yes John, it was YOUR birthday yesterday. Sorry, majority rules!

DIANA and COLM (sister and bro-in-law) celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary. DAMN! We buy gifts for each other for 5-year celebrations which means we have to buy them an anniversary gift next year. Now that I think about it, my sister turns forty this December...which means I have to buy her a gift this December...DOH!

THE JEEP was purchase seven years ago yesterday, and its not looking too shabby since it barely has over 40,000 miles on it.


Jo the mom-in-law turns 70-something today. She's not looking too shabby either!

GETTIN' OLD! Um...the Jeep, that is.

updated later: I just saw that it's Kirk and Gretchen's anniversary TODAY! Too much excitement for TBF. Something's gotta go...I guess I'll have to get rid of the Jeep!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Flashback: Meet The Parents Edition...

We're going WAAAAAAY back for this week's Friday Flashback - back to 1966, to be exact.

This picture
was taken during a family summer vacation in Finland. My dad, sporting an Elvis-like hairdo, is doing the typical not-looking-at-the-camera picture pose that Finns tend to do. Why didn't I end up with hair like that??? I think I was already balding in this picture!

Speaking of hair, I know my mom is not going to be happy that I posted this picture because of the (shall we say?) frazzled look of her hair. However, we have to cut her some slack because she was about four-months pregnant with my sister in this picture and had probably been napping in the car with the window open when my dad decided that a photo stop was necessary.

There are many unknowns: I don't know who took the picture, I don't know exactly where the picture was taken, and I don't know from whom we borrowed the car (are those "suicide" doors?). What I do know is that I was a couple of months shy of four-years-old, and I was already over half my father's height (5'11"/180 cm) and two-thirds of my mother's height (she's 5'7"/170 cm). Look at the size of my head as compared to my skinny body for God's sake. It's amazing that I was able to walk in an upright position.

I just happened upon this picture this past week while looking through a box of random photos. I'm not really sure why I have this old photo (most of the old photos are at my parents' house), but it was a timely discovery because it celebrates the fact that my parents will be arriving in Basel on Tuesday for a two-week stay. They haven't been here since February, 2003.

What's on the agenda? You'll just have to wait and see...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Injun Summer...

Apparently the Chicago Tribune no longer publishes the poem and this illustration called "Injun Summer" by John T. McCutcheon every year because some readers felt that it "advocated the genocide of Native Americans and other minorities..." (you can read about it here if you feel like it). WTF???? Does everything always have to be so politically correct? Sheesh!

Anyway, the past few days have been really nice (hence, the lack of posts) and about as close to Indian Summer as it's going to get around here - temperatures of 21˚C/70˚F and mostly sunny. As far as I'm concerned, Indian Summer means any "warm" days after the first frost. We haven't had frost here yet, but I doubt we'll have any warm days after the first frost here, so I'm celebrating Redskin...oops...Indian Summer right now.

Yes, the nights are suddenly "fresh" as the Swiss call it, local restaurants are serving wild game (I had some wild boar filet last night), we've visited the local pumpkin farm, and the leaves are changing color. Fall is definitely here!

One thing I've noticed here in Basel is a definite lack of red leaves during the fall. There's a lot of yellow and brown, some orange, but hardly any red in the local fall landscape. Maybe the reason is that one doesn't see too many maple trees around here. Who knows? However, I decided to tackle the lack of red issue by taking matters into my own hands this afternoon with a visit to the local nursery.

I knew what I was looking for, and with the help of one of the local nursery employees, I found it - Euonymus alatus (a.k.a. the Burning Bush). It was a beautiful, reasonably priced, 15-year old specimen, which was good because it was the only one they had. I went inside and paid, pulled the Jeep around to the gate, and loaded the bush into the Jeep by myself while the nursery employee stood there watching me struggle...all the while telling me what a great bush it is. Ummm...thanks for the help...wouldn't want you to get your hands dirty.

Getting it out of the Jeep was a bit of an ordeal, as was cramming it into the elevator, and carrying it up the final spiral staircase that leads to "the fishbowl". Then, I had to go back and sweep up a trail of a zillion tiny little red leaves stretching from our garage up to the roof. By the time I finally got to sit down and enjoy the stinkin' bush, I was sweating like pig!

Jeez, that was a bitch! Damn this Indian Summer! Winter...bring it on!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Flashback: October 6, 2000...

Yes friends, it's been six years....SIX FREAKIN' YEARS!!!...since I landed in Switzerland with Dominique and King and joined Mrs. TBF (who had arrived in mid-July) for our Swiss adventure. Although I wrote about it last year, what I didn't do was include pictures. So for your viewing pleasure (sorry about the blurriness...they're scanned), here are a couple of pictures.

The first picture was actually taken by The Medium Swede in the driveway of our old house on October 5th just before we left for the airport. King (you can see his glowing eye between the girls' heads) was already packed in his crate, and I was saying goodbye to my (VERY pregnant with Finn) sister Diana, and a very sad looking Kiera and Fiona. I tried to get Dominique to pose, but she was too excited about going for a ride. Little did she know what the next twelve hours would hold in store for her. Since the picture makes me feel sad, I don't really like to look at it too often.

This second picture was taken six years ago today, and it is the first picture ever taken at our house in Reinach. Our furniture hadn't arrived yet, so we ate sausages and tomato/mozzarella salad off of paper plates. An upside down cardboard box was our dinner table which Mrs. TBF had decorated with some votive candles on a paper plate. Dominique, the airplane ride already a distant memory, was 100% focused on my sausages while King, semi-traumatized by the trip, was hiding in the basement behind the water heater. Yes, we had no furniture...but we had a Swiffer dammit!! I'm not really sure what was going on with the unzipped fleece/Tom Jones look. Perhaps being so close to Mrs. TBF after being apart for so long was making me warm, or maybe it was from the constant struggle of keeping Dominique from snarfing up my sausages in one gulp - who knows? It's all one big hazy memory. I was exhausted from all the last minute stuff one has to do when moving overseas, and I was delirious from jet lag.

We originally thought we'd be in Switzerland for two to three years and then return to Chicago. We never would have guessed that we'd be here for six years. How much longer will we be in Switzerland? Where will we go next? We don't really know. However, I'll tell you one thing (and I've already told Mrs. TBF)...

We're beginning our seventh year in Switzerland...and I'm beginning to itch!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Total Clarity...

I now realize why I've been disappointed lately by the food at fancy, gourmet restaurants. It's because Mrs. TBF is such a great cook, and her cooking is the standard by which I compare all other cuisine.

She came home Saturday morning from a three-day trip to the U.S. If it had been me, I would have been totally jet-lagged for at least...oh...three days. Mrs. TBF? Nope! She asked me what I wanted for dinner, she prepared a shopping list, and off into town we went...

Sure, Mrs. TBF had a short afternoon nap after we returned home, but by 8:00 we were sitting down to a great cioppino dinner. As per usual, I felt something rubbing my leg.

For the record: King likes cioppino too.

Going Solo...

Since Mrs. TBF was out of town, I tagged along with Corey, Suzanne, John, and Rammy as "the fifth wheel" for the "Vega Scilia Wine & Dine" at the Restaurant Bruderholz this past Friday night.

Am I jaded, or what?

Once again, I left a restaurant (this one is considered one of the best in Basel) thinking that the food did not meet my expectations. Was it due to the fact that it was a rather large group and we were served banquet style? ...not sure. Maybe I'll need to go back with Mrs. TBF someday (it's only five minutes away from our apartment) and give the "real" menu a try. However, my first impression of this restaurant was one of mediocrity.

I did, however, have a really good time even though I was without my better half. The five of us ended up sitting at a table with a Swiss couple with whom we chatted away (fortunately, for us, in English) for hours. I had my first taste of wild (game) this fall, listened to a Spanish lady from Bodegas Vega Scilia speak in German about the various wines, watched with some amusement as a Swiss lady semi-heckled her about previous not-so-great experiences with the wine, and then proceeded to enjoy said wines (but not enough to actually buy any of them).

After dinner was over, the five of us made the five minute walk over to John and Rammy's house where we enjoyed more wine and - after I pointed out that I was still hungry - a bit of cheese.

At the stroke of midnight, I snapped this picture of Corey and John. Guess which one wishes to be reincarnated as an Italian man?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Needin' Some Translation Help...

I found an advertising flier in our mailbox a few days ago - it was for an Oktoberfest that took place yesterday at a restaurant in Binningen.

The thought of an Oktoberfest is very appealing to me. However, since most of the words were in Swiss-German, I found that I was only able to understand the fact that it actually was an Oktoberfest, the date and time, and the location. My German dictionary was no help whatsoever.

So, could somebody (maybe Canadian-Swiss?) please tell me what the following words mean?


I'm noticing a definite absence of any words that look like "beer" and "sausages". Maybe that's why the place seemed a bit dead as Mrs. TBF and I passed by on the No. 10 tram late yesterday afternoon.

...2+ years of German lessons. What was the point of that?