Friday, December 29, 2006

Gelateria Blue Ice...


What do you put in your gelati that makes me crave it every single day between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m.?

Of course, you're located in a place that requires us to walk by you every time we walk back to our hotel for our afternoon nap. Walk by? HA! How can we pass you up when you offer so many wonderful flavors served up by the young, cheery, Albanian woman who works there - smiling, singing along to Shakira's Illegal (which always seems to be playing on the radio every time we come in), wanting to "practice the English" with us...while she feeds my growing addiction. How many flavors are there? I want, need to...try them all. AND, it seems like each day I order the next larger sized container.

It's the 24th of December, and I'm beginning to dread leaving Rome on the 26th. No...not because I'll be leaving Rome, but because I'll be leaving the frosty, thick, and creamy manna from heaven that I have come to love. Hmmm....we'll have to leave for the airport at 9:30 a.m., and Blue Ice also opens at 9:30 a.m. Will I be able to delay the driver for five minutes so that I can run over for one last taste? Perhaps it's best if I just resign myself to having my last taste tomorrow afternoon - Christmas Day.

What? CLOSED????


A Long Winter's Nap...

I never nap when I'm at home.

I'm tellin' ya...NEVER!!!

However, it's a different story when we go on vacation. I think my first afternoon nap when we were in Rome was over two hours long.

Remember when I said that a breakfast buffet room would be a must-buy if we ever win the big lotto? Here's another one: a person who would put fresh, PRESSED bed sheets on our bed every day. There aren't too many things better than pressed bed linens as far as I'm concerned. I like pressed linens so much that I actually iron our pillow cases at home, although I draw the line at ironing the sheets (takes too long).

Oh...and you know that little card that the hotels put on your nightstand encouraging you to save water by reusing your bed linens and towels during your stay???


When I stay in a hotel, it's fresh sheets for me EVERY SINGLE DAY. Fresh towels? TWICE per day!!

By the way...a nice thing about having a beard?

It keeps the drool from reaching the pillow.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jo - Ho - Ho!

That's what I call Jo, my mother-in-law, during the Christmas holidays.

Oh, and by the way...I wrote "Don't let Jack Frost nose your nips" in her Christmas card. I wonder what she thought of that...

I never got any feedback.

Anyway, we bought Jo-Ho-Ho a postcard in the Vatican giftshop. I could have bought it from a couple of different employees in the shop, but I chose to buy it at the cash register where a nun was working. When she handed me my change, her hand touched my hand...

That's gotta bring me some kind of good fortune...right?

I walked outside and told Mrs. TBF that the "Penguin's" hand had touched mine, and she didn't think it was that big of a deal. Oh well...

Then, we noticed a mailbox right outside the giftshop. I told Mrs. TBF to write out the postcard while I went back inside to get a stamp so that we could mail it from a Vatican mailbox where it would get a Vatican City postmark - I figured Jo-Ho-Ho would like that.

A couple of minutes later I rushed outside all excited and informed Mrs. TBF that "...the Penguin touched my hand again, and I don't care what you say...but...that's gonna bring me some luck...dammit!" At that point, Mrs. TBF reminded me that: ONE - we were at the Vatican and I shouldn't swear, and TWO - she, being a product of Catholic schools, had probably touched a nun...oh...I don't know...a thousand times, or so.

So, getting back to where I was going with this post...

Mrs. TBF being the good daughter that she is, thought it would be nice to send her mom a picture of Pope "Joe" praying at the grave of Pope JP II since JO-HO-HO WALKED RIGHT PAST JP II'S GRAVE LAST MARCH WITHOUT EVEN NOTICING IT...EVEN THOUGH IT WAS PROBABLY ONE OF THE THINGS SHE MOST WANTED TO SEE WHILE IN ROME.

"When are we going to see John Paul's grave?" she asked about twenty minutes after walking past it. I came back with: "What? You're kidding, right? You know it was that big marble slab on the floor, right? You know, the one with the security guards, where the crowd was, where everybody was taking pictures...?"

"Nooooooooooo!" she wailed.

So...I know it's not quite the same as seeing it in person...but a postcard of the gravesite, with the current Pope, and a Vatican postmark is pretty good...right?

AND...I touched a Penguin...


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

One Helluva Nice Crib You Got There, Joe... mean...Your Excellence!

We visited the Vatican when we were in Rome nine months ago. However, it seems that, since Mrs. TBF is Catholic, visiting the Pope's house is mandatory...EVERY SINGLE TIME we go to Rome; so, we went. I actually didn't mind going since it is pretty damn (oops!) impressive, but I agreed to go only under one condition:


Mrs. TBF agreed to my terms, and then suggested that - since it was such a beautiful day - we should head on up to the top to take in the panoramic view of Rome.

After wandering around St. Peters for a few minutes, we finally found the right spot for heading up to the cupola and found out that we had a choice: 4 euros for hoofing-it all the way up a zillion stairs OR 7 euros for the right to take an elevator and then hoofing-it up 330 stairs. NO BRAINER - we chose the latter, paid our 14 euros and jumped into the elevator after waiting only a few minutes in a VERY short line (FYI: This is a great time to go to Rome...very uncrowded!), walked over to the first of 330 stairs, and up we went after I blurted out a rather over-confident "...let me at it!"

"What the hell was I thinking?!?!? I'm afraid of heights!..." I exclaimed (probably echoing through St. Peters) when we reached a point, after going about three-quarters of the way up, where one could look down a few hundred feet to the tourists (who looked like ants) below. Seriously...I was feeling light-headed. However, being the trooper that I am, I somehow managed to snap a (trembling) picture of Mrs. TBF...while keeping my back pressed against the wall.

I have to say that all my workouts on the elliptical trainer have paid off. I made it to the top without breaking a sweat. Yes, I was "dewey", but I wouldn't say that I was sweating. I did have to take off the hat, but there was no mopping of the forehead. Mrs. TBF was in front of me most of the way. I told her it was so that she could take a picture of me as I conquered the summit, but it was really so I could just look at her butt all the way up. a house of worship. I'm definitely going to Hell!

We went outside where we enjoyed the cooling breeze and sunshine. The height wasn't bothering me out there, so we ended up staying outside, enjoying the view, for about ten minutes before heading back down.

It was a lot easier going down than it was going up.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Just The Two Of Us...

We enjoyed a nice Christmas Eve dinner at our hotel last night. Sure, the wine we ordered wasn't the one that was presented to us at the table (...and NO, it's not OK to just substitute another year for the same price). Sure, one of the waiters was apparently Barney Fife's distant Italian relative and kept nervously placing silverware down on our table...and then removing the unused silverware a minute later so that he could replace it with other silverware (...still not sure exactly what was going on there)...then pacing back and forth by the table with his creaky shoes...and finally just standing at attention next to our table staring off into space.

But, those were just minor things...

The traditional Italian fish menu was good, and we enjoyed being together for Christmas Eve...

...just the two of us.

Hit The Road, Giacomo!

Thursday, December 22nd, was our first full day in Rome. Beautiful, sunny weather and mild temperatures meant, at least for me, that a jacket was not needed. I opted for "Ruby Sunshine" - that's what I named my "look" that day. Yes...we often name our looks for the day...

...what about it?!?!?

No...Mrs. TBF did not name her look that day.

After getting fueled up at the breakfast buffet, we hit the road. First, we walked to the Spanish Steps (not far from our hotel). Then, we walked toward Piazza del Popolo; where we checked out a really old church, soaked up some rays on a bench, and fought off the beggars that are the bane of my vacation existence ("Do NOT touch 'Ruby Sunshine' with your dirty hands while holding the doll you are pretending is a baby!").

We walked along the Tiber and made our way toward the Vatican. Along the way, we stopped in front of Castel Sant'Angelo for a self portrait. Please note how Ruby Sunshine picks up the color of Mrs. TBF's sweater. Yes, it was planned...

...what about it?!?!?

Rome: Random Thoughts...

I think that finding good things to eat is one of the best parts about traveling. I always have to resist the temptation to try to plan every single minute of our trips. However, I do usually make dinner reservations in advance of a trip in order to ensure that we'll be able to get a table at the restaurants we want to try. Christmastime can be especially tricky.
This time, we ate at a family-run place called Sora Lella our first night. We liked...!

Whenever we check in at a hotel - especially if it's one we've stayed at before - I ask: "Did we receive an upgrade?" I just ask. What the heck?

We nearly always receive one.

This time was no different. A deluxe room was reserved, and a suite was received. It's nice; a bedroom, a sitting room, and two marble bathrooms. this isn't our room (it's the ballroom), but our room is nice too!

We receive turndown service every night. The maid does a little tidying-up of the room, the bed is folded down, a little mat is placed on each side of the bed so that our tired feet don't have to touch the soft carpet before getting in or out of bed, and a little card with the next day's weather forecast is placed on the bed.

So far, whoever the hotel weatherman is, has predicted rain for each day. This is how each day has looked so far.

Who is this weatherman, anyway?

Is there anything much better than a breakfast buffet? If we ever win the lotto, I'm going to have a house built with a breakfast buffet room.

Mrs. TBF reminds me that we'd have to actually buy a lotto ticket before we could ever win the lotto. I contend that if one is lucky enough to win the lotto, then one will be lucky enough to just find the ticket on the ground somewhere.

In the meantime, the hotel breakfast buffet will do just fine. Mrs. TBF sticks to mostly healthy things like fruit and yogurt while nibbling at the fattier items. I, on the other hand, get my gorge on!

Come to think of it, it's 9:45 a.m. - time to "eat for sport"!!!!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Roman Holiday

Ok, I know I know, I haven't blogged in forever, but ...I'm back, and my New Year's resolution is to blog more.
So, anyway, if you haven't been to Rome, GO! Go now! GO BEFORE YOU DIE!!!!! It is one of the best places in the whole world for EVERYTHING!!!!! What, you ask, is everything? Well, it has history, style, soul, fashion, glamour, religion, great weather, food, etc, It has ancient stuff, and medieval stuff and renaissance stuff and modern stuff!! And it's full of Italians - and they are just plain cool. The Italians just look damn good - no matter what - they are stylin'!
Ok, so here is a picture from our Roman holiday...TBF at the Colosseum ...ancient, historic, great weather and isn't he stylin'?
More to come.
Ciao bellas!!!!

Oh, There's No Place Like...

...ROME for the holidays.

We've been enjoying the blue skies and warm weather for the past couple of days, and now we're enjoying a bottle of pink champagne on ice before we head downstairs to our Christmas Eve dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Merry Christmas to all...

...and to all, a good night.

Monday, December 18, 2006

On The First Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me...

...a fat cat in a Christmas treeeeeeeeee!

Yes folks, King da Cat used to be a tree-sitter. More specifically, he was a Christmas tree sitter - meaning: he literally liked to sit in our Christmas tree. We're talkin' maybe twelve years ago, or so.

Back in the early to mid 90s, we had an artificial Christmas tree. As you may have read a few days ago, I despised the whole going out to buy the Christmas tree thing. So, Mrs. TBF and I thought that maybe an artificial tree would be the solution to my woes.

It wasn't.

First of all, the box that the artificial tree "rests" inside of for eleven months a year takes up A LOT of storage space (think, small sofa). Second, there's the whole ordeal of assembling the blasted thing. Third, they often look like crap after about the second year, and finally...King liked to sit in the tree.

The fake tree's soft fake needles were the problem.

Mrs. TBF and I would go upstairs to bed, and about three minutes later we'd hear ornaments jangling and eventually falling to the hardwood floor. Then, King would settle down for a long winter's nap about two-thirds of the way up the tree on those nice soft, fake needles. I didn't realize what he was doing until I came downstairs early one morning to make some coffee, turned on the kitchen light, and then heard a rustling noise coming from the direction of the Christmas tree. I looked into the family room, and I saw two eyes glowing at me from inside the tree. Then, I watched as "the beast" climbed down from the tree, somehow avoiding becoming entangled in lights and tinsel, and came bounding toward the kitchen for more chow to fill his (back then) 7.5 kilo/16.5 pound frame.

He looked...well rested.

By the end of the second Christmas season, King - with his considerable girth - had bent the branches so badly that the tree no longer looked like anything remotely resembling a pine or fir, so we got rid of the tree. I seem to recall that we gave the tree to charity.

Thus ended the short-lived era of the TBFs having an artificial Christmas tree.

The next year, we began "TBF's own special torture" of driving up to Wisconsin to cut down the tree. As you know, I hated it, but there were two (and ONLY two) elements of the process that I actually enjoyed: eating brunch at The Abbey in Lake Geneva, WI after performing holiday-sanctioned deforestation, AND taking off my glove to touch the branches of each potential tree so that I could pick the one with the sharpest, cat fur piercing needles. If it drew blood on my palm, then it had potential. I didn't care how the trees looked.

They all looked the same to me.

We drove home after brunch that first year - Mrs. TBF glowing with the Christmas spirit, and me with a belly full of corned beef hash, a mouth spewing piss and vinegar, and bloody palms from the sharpest pine needles ever produced by nature.

Another Norman Rockwell painting going up in flames...

The tree was set up in the family room in its usual spot. Shortly thereafter, King entered the room, let out an excited cackle when he saw that season's manger, gave it a poke, hissed, and ran for dear life. Success! The tree-sitting era had ended, and the knock-off-a-low-hanging-ornament-and-roll-it-around-on-the-floor-all-night era had begun. But...I won't bore you with the details.

The years have come and gone, and now King - our big buddy - lives out his twilight years in Switzerland with his tree-sitting days but a distant memory. Although he's still in pretty good health, I doubt he could climb a tree today even if he wanted to. Afterall, he is over eighteen years old. These days, all he pretty much does is sleep, shed on the furniture, eat, puke up hairballs, stink up "da joint" wit' his poop, pee, track litter around the apartment, and drink...

...the water from the Christmas tree stand.

"What the.....?!?!?!?!?!?"

Friday, December 15, 2006

WARNING: This Post Contains Blatantly Phallic Advertising...

Heavenly Holidays...indeed!

I had a sudden craving for Freixenet after reading my weekly Coop Zeitung. However, they seemed to only have the non-angelic bottles left. Who wants to buy that Spanish shite if there's no angelic, mamacita "hood ornament"?

Friday Flashback: Merry !&#^@%#&$! Christmas!

I used to hate the Christmas season.

I hated everything about it; fighting the crowds while Christmas shopping, writing Christmas cards, putting up the Christmas lights, wrapping gifts, cutting down a Christmas tree...

CUTTING DOWN A CHRISTMAS TREE!!!! God, I used to hate that!

When Mrs. TBF and I were first married, we used to go to a tree-lot, like most people, and just pick out a pre-cut tree. Then, we became "yuppies" and decided that "we" could do better than the local tree-lot. The Christmas experience needed to be complicated. Yes - we now needed a tree from a tree "farm" in Wisconsin.

God, I hated that!

I'm not going to name any names, but...a certain person in our house would suddenly appear in the doorway on a weekend morning with a large bow saw and say it was "...time to go!" "Wha'?," I'd say. "Go where?" "Let's just take a ride," she'd say. "Gotta full tank of gas?" "Ummm...yup," was my response as I would be robotically putting on my coat.

About one hour later, I would wake up out of my trance, and the car would be parked in a muddy lot somewhere in southeast Wisconsin. Off we'd go, into the "woods" to pick out the "perfect" tree; it would take (what seemed like) hours.

Onward we'd trudge. One tree would be too big. The next one would be too spindley. The one after that would be...oh...just "wrong."

I'd curse the Christmas season under my breath. 'Next year will be different,' I'd think. 'I'll convert to Judaism...Islam...Kwanzaa! That's it! It'll has to work!'

It...didn't work!

We just kept going back to those lots. Usually, it would be the same lot for a couple of years in a row. Then, there would be word about a "special lot" somewhere in "bumble fark" Wisconsin...just over the border (1 hour!)...not too far from home. Like in this circa 1995 picture - me with my forced smile, hauling the tree back to the car in "Where God lost his Shoes, Wisconsin."

Thank God for Wyss Nursery down the street from us here in Binningen. I got the tree while Mrs. TBF was at work.

I didn't even need my bow saw.

Happy Hanukkah... all my fellow Jews out there.

Ok...I'm not actually Jewish. However, I do light a menorah in memory of my Uncle Cy. Last year, I was having some trouble figuring out the order of the candles, but a Jewish friend set me straight. I know I'm supposed to light it at sundown, but I thought it would be nice to wait until Mrs. TBF gets home from work.

Now...where is she?

By the way...

Does anybody from Chicago remember this one?

A Room Zoom Zoom. A Room Zoom Zoom. Gilly Gilly Gilly Gilly Gilly Ot Zat Za
Come through the magic door with me, just say these words and wondrous things you'll see.

NOTE: I have noticed that several people have found my blog by doing a Google search for "Where can I buy hanukkah candles in Chicago?" Although it's a bit late, you can buy them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or at Pier 1 Imports.

Save The World - Eat Nothing!

I recently read an article in last week's (December 9, 2006) Economist called 'Good food?', and now I'm not sure what the hell I'm supposed to be buying. You have to have a subscription to the magazine in order to see the article online, so I'll just paraphrase it's main points:

Buy organic, destroy the rainforest:
...greater use of chemical fertilizer has tripled grain yields with very little increase in the area of land under cultivation...producing the world's current agricultural output organically would require several times as much land as is currently cultivate.

Fairtrade food: ...designed to raise poor farmers' propping up the price...with a subsidy passed back to the farmer. But prices of agricultural commodities are low because of overproduction...the Fairtrade system encourages farmers to produce more of these commodities rather than diversifying into other crops and so depresses prices - thus achieving, for most farmers, exactly the opposite of what the initiative is intended to do...most of the mark-up goes to the retailer rather than the farmer.

Local food: ...reduces "food miles" and "carbon emissions", right? Surprisingly, no! Most people live closer to a supermarket than a farmer's market which means that there are more "food-vehicle" miles (i.e. miles travelled by vehicles carrying food...from home to the farmer's market and back). Moving food around in big, carefully packed trucks, as supermarkets do, may in fact be the most efficient way to transport the stuff.

The article goes on to say that change must come via government channels - global carbon tax, reform of the world trade system, and abolition of agricultural subsidies. The only real way for consumers to make a difference is by voting at the ballot box instead of with their shopping carts.

So, what did I buy at Géant this morning?

Well, for starters, no organic stuff. I've never felt that I could trust the fact that this stuff is really organic. Plus, the organic produce usually looks like crap. I'll take good-looking, plump, and cheaper non-organic produce over higher-priced, shriveled-up, blemished organic produce any day of the week! As my old neighbor Dr. John used to say: "Better living through chemistry!" With one exception: I like the organic lemons for drinks and grating because the non-organic lemons have too much wax on them.

Fairtrade food? Nope! I just had this feeling that the grocery store was making most of the extra money off of this stuff, and, according to The Economist, I was right. Plus, how often do I need to eat quinoa anyway? Not often.

Yup...drove to the "big-box", French grocery store (after dropping Mrs. TBF off at work...carpooling...huh, Huh?), and loaded up the S.U.V. (doh!) with chemically-laced, non-organic, non-Fairtrade, non-local, good-tasting groceries that'll lead me to an early grave; and since it was a beautiful, seasonably-cold morning, I drove back home with the window cracked open a bit in order to breathe in the cold, clean air. Yes, I was feeling pretty good about myself...

...saving the environment, and all!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Where Will You Be One Month From Today?

Mrs. TBF and I will be at the Blog-O-Rama (we still haven't settled on a name!) in Basel. It will take place in the Brasserie at Zum Braunen Mutz (a short tram ride/ten-minute walk from Basel's main train station) and begin around noon on Sunday, January 14, 2007.

In a couple days' time, the list of participants has already grown to about twenty bloggers/spouses/partners/children. How many will there be in total? Who knows?

What I do know is that it'll be fun!

One Week From Right.....NOW!

...our plane will be touching down (if it's on time) at Ciampino Airport in Rome.

Yes, we're spending Christmas in Rome this year. At first, we thought we were going to return to Vienna for Christmas. Then, we went to Rome in March with Jo-Mama, Colon Blow, and Mrs. CB.

I'm not sure if it was in Rome or shortly thereafter, but at some point Mrs. TBF emphatically pointed out that she wanted to "...go to Rome instead of Vienna this Christmas!" and...we're going to Rome this Christmas.

Next year, I'm picking the Christmas destination!

No, no...there's no controversy. I was just kind of set on returning to Vienna because we had such a great time (and the best meal of my life) there last Christmas. Plus, this is...what?...our fourth trip to Italy this year many trips to Finland? What? I caaaaan't heeeear you!!! That's right...

Italy 4 Finland 0


We're returning to the same hotel we stayed at in March, the airport transfers have been arranged, the restaurant reservations have all been made, and now the waiting begins.

The waiting is the hardest part...

A Night Out Wit' Da Kids!

Mrs. TBF and I met Barry and Eva for dinner at Basel's Fischerstube restaurant/microbrewery last night. Of course, I suggested Fischerstube not knowing that Eva doesn't really drink beer, but I had never met her before so...who knew?

You may recall that Barry and I met up for the first time back in September. Eva had not yet arrived in Switzerland, and Mrs. TBF was away on a business trip. I went home that night, after enjoying a couple of beers and a nice meal with Barry, feeling a little old when I realized that I was 17 years old when Barry was born. Hence, the nickname "da Kid" was born.

Last night, after realizing that Mrs. TBF and I were already dating before Barry and Eva had even begun school, I decided that THEY are now "da Kids"! I guess my lack of maturity tends to lead me to believe that I'm still in my twenties. However, when I take time to think about it I reluctantly have to admit that I was already well into my twenties half my life ago.

Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives...

Where was I? Oh yeah...

We all enjoyed a very nice meal at the Fischerstube. Eva enjoyed some "bambi" off of the game menu along with her...white wine, and Mrs. TBF, Barry, and I each ordered the Suuri Kalbsleberli (calf liver) with Rösti, along with a couple of beers each. I hadn't been to the Fischerstube for quite a long time, and I forgot how good their beer can be. We're really going to have to make an effort to go there more often.

So, being a "school night", we called it a night fairly early. On the way back to our bus stop, I snapped this picture of "da Kids" on the Mittlerebrücke with the Rhein and the Hotel Les Trois Rois in the background. The picture is a bit shaky because I was freezing my arse off and I had a couple of beers in me. Nevertheless, I think the picture turned out pretty well even though it looks like a light ray coming out of Barry's head is about to beam him back up to the mothership.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

No, Excuse Me!

This ad was in last week's Coop (Swiss grocery store chain) Zeitung. Apparently the people at Tilsiter (cheese) of Switzerland felt the need to poke some fun at the Finns. Now, I can take a "joke" (contrary to what some people say about me), but there are a few inaccuracies that need pointing out.

First of all, the green box in the ad states that "In Finland, Tilsiter cheese is called Leipäjuusto. And that is exactly how it tastes." The bold print under the picture states: "Excuse us dear Finns, but Tilsiter comes simply from Switzerland." Now, my German isn't the best so I called Canadian-Swiss and read the ad to her to get her opinion. After reading her the ad over the phone in my "completely unaccented" German (HA!), she kind of validated what I thought I was reading: the ad seems to be implying that the Finns stole Tilsiter cheese from the Swiss and renamed it Leipäjuusto.

To begin with, Leipäjuusto is not the what the Finns call Tilsiter. I've had both cheeses, and I can tell you first hand that they are not the same cheese. They have completely different flavors and textures. The first sentence is incorrect.

Also, I'm not really sure what is meant by "...and that is exactly how it tastes." The word Leipäjuusto actually translates to "bread cheese". Are the people at Tilsiter implying that the Finnish cheese actually tastes like "bread"? If so, most people in Switzerland won't understand the "joke"...because most people here CAN'T READ FINNISH!. Or, are they implying that it tastes exactly like Tilsiter (it doesn't)? Not sure...

Then, there's the picture of two Sami people (I've come to find out that it's apparently no longer politically correct to call them Lapplanders...who knew?). Is it really accurate to represent "the Finns" with a people that make up 0.14% of the total population of Finland? It would be similar to the Emmentaler cheese people having an ad with picture of a Native American (I called them "Indians" when I was a kid) in a tee-pee, stating that Americans call Emmentaler "Swiss cheese", and then going on to say "...Excuse us, dear Americans..."

Finally, is Tilsiter really a Swiss cheese? Yes, it's currently produced in Switzerland. Yes, it was originally created by Swiss people. However, it was actually created by Swiss people who had settled in East Prussia in the mid-19th century. It's East Prussian cheese, for God's sake! Leipäjuusto, on the other hand, has been a part of the Finnish diet for hundreds of years. Maybe the Swiss are the real guilty party? Tut uns leid, liebe Schweizer, aber der Leipäjuusto kommt nun mal aus Finnland!

I noticed that this week's ad show's a grimy, Russian man standing in front of a truck carrying a white sack. This week's ad states: "Mikhail hat soeben eine Ladung frischer Pulvermilch vorgefahren. Tut uns leid, liebe Russen..."" (Mikhail just transported cargo of fresh powdered milk. Excuse us, dear Russians...).

OH...MY...GOD!!! The Tilsiter people are taking-on the Russians this week?

Now they're asking for trouble!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Gift? For Us?

From UBS????

We are stunned!

Last Friday, as I was walking into the front lobby of our building, I saw the mailman putting a box into our mailbox. As far as I know, we weren't expecting a package, so I couldn't imagine what it might be.

It turns out that it was addressed to Mrs. TBF, and made kind of a glugging noise when I shook it. "Ahhhh...somebody very thoughtful sent us the gift of liquor," I thought, and I brought it up to the apartment.

When I got into the apartment, I opened the box (had to make sure it wasn't a bomb or anything like that...just looking out for Mrs. TBF), and I discovered that it was a bottle of Pol Roger Brut Chardonnay 1998 vintage champagne. I figured it was from some secret admirer of Mrs. TBF's and I figured that I'd...confront her the moment she got home, find out who the culprit was, and...then...KILL HIM IN THE MOST GRUESOME AND PAINFUL WAY KNOWN TO MAN!!!...

Take it easy, just kidding...

My snooping has its limits, so I didn't open the card. I just set the box aside and really didn't give it one iota of thought until several hours later after Mrs. TBF got home and asked: "What's this?"

"Somebody sent you a bottle of very nice champagne," I told her. "Who?" she asked. "Well, how the hell should I know? Open the letter," I bellowed...with clenched fists. She did, and here's what the letter said:

A gift for you from your UBS MasterCard

Dear Mrs. [TBF]

You use your UBS Mastercard regularly and are among our best clients. To thank you for your loyalty and the trust you have placed in us, we are sending you a bottle of Pol Roger Brut Chardonnay 1998 vintage champagne [See? Didn't I tell ya?].

Enjoy the freedom of cashless payments the world over [blah...blah...blah].

Please do not hesitate to contact our 24-hour [blah....blah...blah].

We hope that we can continue to count on your valued custom as a UBS [blah...blah...blah]...all the best for 2007.

Sincerely UBS AG

Naturally, I had to go to the Mövenpick Weinkeller website to check out how much our "loyalty and trust" is worth to them, and a little Friday evening research (martini in one hand, typing with the other) revealed that it's worth about CHF 72 (about $57). Not bad...not bad at all.

We couldn't believe it! We just switched to this new credit card in July or August, so with just a few month's worth of purchases we appeared to have reached "..among our best clients" status. Da-amn!

Mrs. TBF wants to send them a thank you letter (she's nice). I'm already trying to imagine what kind of gift we'll receive next year with a full twelve months of purchases under our belts (I'm an ass!).

Has anyone ever heard of anything like this? I mean, we used our U.S. credit card waaaaay more when we lived in the U.S. and never received peep. Now we're getting a freakin' bottle of champagne. Go figure...

Perhaps it was a mistake. Maybe we should drink it before they realize their error and ask us to return the bottle...

Attention Bloggers: Mark Your Calendars!!!

Julie, Sara, and I have been working hard behind the scenes to come up with a date/time/place for a Swiss blogger get-together. We've come up with the following:

When? Sunday, January 14, 2007 (noon-ish)

Where? Zum Braunen Mutz (Brasserie) Barfüsserplatz 10 Basel

Who? Any bloggers (including spouses/kids/friends) who wish to attend.

Ok...Now that that's been agreed upon, we now need to come up with a catchy name for our get-together.

A couple of names have been thrown around. We kind of liked S.Ex.B.O.M.B. (Swiss Expat Bloggers Out to Meet in Basel), but thought we might lure perverts to our fun, little event. A few other ideas were suggested, but nothing really jumped out as being "THE" name.

What do you think?

Post your name suggestions and let us know if you will be attending. Also, let us know if you'll be bringing somebody else along so we can get an idea of how many spots we'll need to reserve at ZBM.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Flashback: Two Themes For The Price Of One

Yesterday was my dad's birthday (Yes...I called him. No, I didn't send him a card - I forgot!) and it's currently the yuletide season. So, I dug deep into the archives to find a picture that would combine these December themes, and I managed to pull out this picture of me and my dad from Christmas Eve 1987. Mrs. TBF and I had only been married for two months. Wow! The picture was taken by Mrs. TBF at my parents' old house (my dad built it) in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois.

In the late 80s and early 90s, when my parents still lived in Chicagoland, Mrs. TBF and I would go to their house and have Christmas Eve dinner with them and my sister. Then, after dinner, we'd open the gifts. Back then, we would spend the night (we lived about forty minutes away at the time), and then we'd drive to Mrs. TBF's parents' house the next day for Christmas Day dinner.

Apparently, on this particular Christmas Eve, my father and I both received new phones and new L.L. Bean pajamas from Joulupukki (Santa Claus). My dad is proudly sporting his Sony cordless phone which kind of looks like a G.I. Joe walkie-talkie. I'm telling you, it was cutting-edge technology at the time. And me? I actually received a regular phone. No...not a cordless phone - I'm talking a regular phone with a cord and everything. Do "they" still even make non-cordless phones for the home? I forgot to send my dad a birthday card this year. However, I did order him the Fart Machine Two! He should have it already which means that he's busy terrorizing his friends around the swimming pool at their place in Florida right about now.

Yes, nothing says "I love you" like a fart machine!

I Felt The Earth...Move...Under My Feet!


I felt an earthquake about 40 minutes ago - a jolt, a couple of rattles, and then...gone. No damage, no mayhem, no looting, ...nothing. Of course, I picked up the phone and called Mrs. TBF to find out if she felt it at at the office (she did).

King was completely unfazed. He was sleeping on the bathroom floor (radiant heat), and I was actually standing right next to him cleaning toothpaste splatter off of the bathroom mirror (...See, anonymous? My life isn't all glamour!) when it happened. I looked down immediately and saw that the beast hadn't even stirred.

Maybe I should go back into the bathroom to see if he's still alive.

Update: An aftershock was just felt at 9:20 p.m.

Second update: It looks like this earthquake was man-made!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hyvää Itsenäisyyspäivä!

My God...what kind of Finn am I?

I almost forgot that today is Finland's Independence Day. Happy 89th birthday!

Stupid Foreigner: 1 Swiss Company: 0

It pays to fight city hall. Or, in this case, our property management company.

A couple of months ago, we had to have our dryer repaired. It was still working, but it was making a loud noise and the clothes weren't coming out completely dry. I called the management company and they arranged for a repairman to come out to our apartment. He did...dryer fixed...clothes dry. End of story?


Today, I received a bill for CHF 383.80. Wha'? The invoice referenced that we had to pay the bill in "accordance with article 2 of our rental contract." I pulled out our rental contract, trudged through the German legalese, and saw that article 2 referenced our service contract which covers all repairs on our appliances. So, I called the management company.

I called the "big Swiss cheese" at the management company and I asked him why I was receiving a bill since my rental contract clearly states that we have an appliance service contract. "Zere moost be zum meeztake...plees eegnore zees invoice and sro it avay," he said. I said, "...thanks for the early Christmas present," and heard him choking with laughter as I hung up the phone (...I didn't think it was that funny!).

OK...throw it away? I don't seenk zo. The "big Swiss cheese's" name, the date, the time, his exact words - written on the invoice. FILED FOR FUTURE REFERENCE WHEN I RECEIVE THE PAST DUE INVOICE.

...just you wait and see.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It's Always A Great Day...

...when Mrs. TBF returns from a business trip.

Since she left Basel on Monday, Mrs. TBF has flown from:

Basel to London
London to Newark
Newark to Atlanta
Atlanta to Chicago
Chicago to London
London to Basel

...and MAN, are her arms tired! God...I kill the nieces and nephew with that one. At least, I used to. I guess they're getting a bit older now, and Uncle TBF's jokes are getting a bit stale.

Anyway, after Mrs. TBF unpacked, we decided to go up to The Fishbowl to enjoy some of the very unseasonably warm weather we've been having here in Basel. It's December 3rd, and we were sitting upstairs enjoying temps of over 15˚C/low 60s˚F, bright sunshine, and blue skies. I mean, there are some roses still in DECEMBER!!! In a few days time, Mrs. TBF experienced temps of 70˚F in Atlanta, then about a foot of snow in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and then blooming roses in Basel.

It's great having Mrs. TBF back home, and we'll now have a stretch of not being apart until the middle of January - which is nice. Although, I have to say, I did kind of enjoy living the life of "The Dude" for almost a week while she was gone.

What Are The Odds??

The train began moving, and I was on my way back to Basel. I had pretty much everything I needed for the return trip - my day pass and halbtax abo, my favorite beer in the world, a snack, a newspaper, and my mobile phone. Mrs. TBF called me from Chicago a few minutes into the trip, and I was basically oblivious when a couple joined me in my compartment at the next stop. After getting off the phone, I noticed that the couple had Canadian flag lapel pins on their jackets.

What are the odds that a couple from Sudbury, Ontario - where I was born - would end up sitting right across from me on a train going from Chur to Basel in Switzerland?

I think I should go buy a lottery ticket.

Chur: A Hint of Soul!

Yes...Yes...YES!!! I'm happy to report that I found a hint of soul in Chur. Not a lot, mind you. However, enough soul to give me hope for other areas of Switzerland that remain by me, as of yet, undiscovered. I can't really put a finger on it, but I sensed something when I was there - something that I don't feel in Basel. People were walking down the street smiling and laughing, the town seemed to have a relaxed vibe, and I heard people speaking Romansh which seemed to add a certain exotic feeling for me. I've heard Romansh described as sounding like people speaking Spanish with a German accent, and I have to say that that isn't to far off from what I heard. Chur was's going to require a return visit with Mrs. TBF.

So, the day started out on Friday morning with me taking the 9:07 direct train from Basel to Chur. For those of you who live in Switzerland, let me recommend the current Special Offer Day Pass which is on offer until December 17th. The 1st class day pass (TBF: too big for 2nd class) is normally 90 CHF, and is currently 59 CHF - such a deal (seeing that this round-trip would normally have cost 98 CHF)! The only stipulation is that you can't use it before 9:00 a.m. on weekdays. Hence, the reason for me taking the 9:07 train.

Anyway, I had a leisurely 2.5 hour ride down to Chur. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, I was listening to tunes on my iPod, and just taking in the great scenery of the Graubünden zipping by.

After arriving in Chur, I went directly to the Tourism Office to pick up a map and a little guidance. I already knew at which restaurant I wanted to eat, so the friendly lady in the office pointed me in the right direction, along with telling me about the "must see" places on the map. I was off into the sunny, bustling streets of Chur. Noon was approaching, so I went directly to the restaurant at the Romantik Hotel Stern, where I enjoyed a really nice lunch consisting of regional food and wine.

While I was eating my lunch, I looked out the window and was surprised to see that it no longer appeared to be sunny. I thought it was strange because there had hardly been a cloud in the sky when I had walked into the restaurant twenty minutes earlier. However, after lunch, when I walked out into the street, I looked up and saw that the sky was totally blue. The mountains in the background were were in complete sunshine, however the old town where I was standing was completely in shade. I soon came to discover that the sun, at this time of year, goes behind a mountain a little after noon and stays there until...late afternoon. The weather forecast had shown sunny weather with a high of 15˚C/60˚F. However, I'm telling you that it felt like the temperature dropped 10˚C with the old town shrouded in shade. Plus, taking pictures of the old town became a bit challenging.

In spite of the cold, I still managed to enjoy my walking tour. Chur boasts having the largest Christmas market in Switzerland, and I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the fact that a lot of crafts being sold looked like they had actually been made by local artisans (...instead of in China). Plus, there was a lot of food for sale (nice grill!).

Eventually, the cold got to me (I hadn't anticipated needing a heavy coat), and I decided it was time to head back to the train station. Here's a picture I took of my nemesis - the sun-blocking mountain. I took the picture at exactly 3:00 p.m. As you can see, the street lights are on, for god's sake! Naturally, when I made it back to the train station it was - you guessed it - gleaming in bright sunshine. I stood next to the station and thawed my frozen bones before jumping on the 3:15 train back to Basel.

Yes, the round-trip train ride took five hours, and yes, I was only in Chur for 3.5 hours. However, I enjoyed my visit enough to know that I'd like to go back someday, but...maybe during the warmer months.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Search For Switzerland's Soul Begins...

I boarded a train bound for Chur (pronounced Koor) at Basel's train station bright and early on Friday morning. Would "soul" be found during a day-trip to the oldest city in Switzerland?

Stay tuned...

Last Second, Friday Flashback: Bonus Edition

Impromptu Friday is not only a summer thang. No, no, NO!!!

Last Friday night, Mrs. TBF and I were sitting in "the Pit" (the sitting area where we just sit and talk for hours on end), and I suddenly picked up the phone. Mrs. TBF asked me who I was calling, and I told her not to worry about it.

The phone rang, and the person at the other end answered...

Not too long after that, Canadian-Swiss, Orange-X, Mrs. TBF, and I were in "The Fishbowl" enjoying an autumnal fire.

The TRUE SPIRIT of Impromptu Friday lives on!!!!

Friday Flashback: They're Baaaaaack!

Let's go back five weeks. My mom and dad were visiting, and I thought I'd put my mom (a retired nurse) to work. We were about to go away away to Prague for the weekend and, wanting to look my best, I thought that the old middle-aged, resistant to Nair For Men, ear hairs needed a trimming. I handed my mom the scissors, and...."whoa...that's my brain!!!"

It's been five weeks, and the hairs are back with a vengeance. Seeing that Mrs. TBF is in Chicago, and my mom is in Florida...I guess I'm on my own.

I'll try not to slice into my ear like I did the last time I did this myself.