Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nicely Done, Chuck!!!

Last week, while at my sister's house, I noticed on CNN on the little hyp-mo-tizing news-ticker thing-a-ma-jiggy at the bottom of the screen (one major reason that I normally avoid watching CNN) that Prince Charles had cancelled his annual ski vacation to Klosters in order to "...reduce his carbon footprint." Of course, the ticker made no mention of the fact that there hasn't been too much snow in Switzerland this year, and that the skiing hasn't been too good.

Wait...that didn't have anything to do with Chuck's decision to blow off the annual Swiss ski vacation, did it?


Oh, come on, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume (BTW...pronounced a-shoom by some Brits - and they say that Americans are destroying the English language!) that his intentions were sincere and not some lame attempt to gain some good publicity before booking THE ENTIRE FIRST-CLASS AND BUSINESS CLASS SECTION (a total of 62 seats) OF A JUMBO JET FOR HIS 20-STRONG ENTOURAGE - TO PICK UP AN AWARD FOR HIS WORK ON THE ENVIRONMENT.

Doh! Insert "carbon foot" into mouth...NOW!

I guess it truly as been a bad year for Global Warming Alarmists. Don't get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with the environmental friendly lifestyle of reduce, reuse, and recycle. I don't believe in wasting anything, and I am constantly trying to think of ways to reduce our "carbon footprints". Solar power? Wind power? Tidal power? Bring 'em on! They're all good as far as I'm concerned in spite of the fact that I just happen to be one of those people who thinks that the media has created public hysteria and that "human activity" global warming isn't as bad as a lot of people fear that it is.

Hell...I'm still waiting for acid rain to start. Whatever happened to that?

Shiver In My Bones...

...just thinking about the weather.

I'm not gonna get all Tommy Skilling (Chicago weatherman extraordinaire!) on your ass, but now that the books have closed on January, 2007, I'd like to let you know that...

I've begun keeping my own Basel weather records.

Most of our Basel-based British friends think that Basel has possibly the best weather on the face of the earth. From what I've seen on Sky, I can understand why they feel that way; it rains A LOT in the U.K.!

If you ask me how the weather is in Basel, I'll gladly tell you that it ranks in the category of MAJOR LEAGUE SUCKAGE!!! Compared to Chicago, there are a lot more rainy days in Basel. Yeah, YEAH...Chicago has a lot more severe weather and a lot more rain than Basel does if you're a weather-geek like me and keep track of things like total annual accumulation, but in Chicago you usually have: a torrential downpour that lasts about thirty minutes, a 100-year-old oak tree falling through your roof, and then brilliant sunshine pouring in through your new skylight for the next four days...before next week's 14-minute hailstorm dents your entire high-lined Pontiac Firebird. In Basel, it! The skies are often grey, then the sun peaks through just when you have to leave the house, causing you to become over-optimistic and leave your umbrella at home, and then the annoying drizzle begins minutes later. This process repeats itself an average of about forty to fifty times per day (especially in spring).

Now, Mrs. TBF has always said that the weather here isn't as bad as I make it out to be. Rather than debate the issue with her, I decided to come up with my own weather rating system; a complicated system of TBF analysis, algorithms, and set theory, I'll have you know...

Here it is:

TBF Weather Rating System ©2007

1 - A total washout of a day. Your typical pissin'-down-rain-all-day kind of day.

2 - A day of drizzle with periods of no rain, but cloudy.

3 - No rain at all! It can be mostly cloudy, but the sun should at least be trying to peek out from behind the clouds.

4 - Mostly sunny. If it's cloudy in the morning, but then becomes sunny for most of the rest of the day, then it's a pretty solid 4.

5 - Blue sky, not a cloud in the sky, sunny all day.

I do give half points (i.e. 1.5, 2.5, etc.), but not quarter-points. Also, I only count the days that I'm at home. This is my rating system, and I'm not listening to anybody else. Mrs. TBF and I have already had a couple of days where we've had differences of opinion regarding half-points. At that point I just hold up my hand in front of her face and tell her to " to the hand, 'cause the weatherman ain't listening!"

She...doesn't like when I do that!

As you can see, I don't pay any attention to temperature. For me, it's all about how sunny it is. Sunny day = happy TBF!!!

So, cut to the chase already....

Ok, OK!!!! The average day (out of 21 days I was at home this month) for January, 2007 was.....drum roll, please.......................a..........


That's right! A very clean, safe, and boring 3.0. The average day was mostly cloudy with no rain. The worst day was January 1st which was a 1.0. The best day was January 30th which was a 4.5. Of course, we were in Chicago during last week's snowstorm in Basel, so the actual rating (had we been home for the entire month) was probably less than a three. rules are my rules!

You know...this weatherman thing isn't all bad. Had I known that a bald guy like Tommy could end up making (a reported) $3 million per year, maybe I would have pursued a different career path.

Maybe I'D be working, and Mrs. TBF would be sitting at home...obsessing about various things of no importance whatsoever.

War in Switzerland!

This is my 600th post. Scheisse!

I just read an article in swissinfo about how the "...two top Swiss supermarkets have declared 'war' on the price of butter, claiming that a cartel has made the product too expensive in Switzerland."

Thank God that this horrible scourge on Swiss society is finally being addressed. Now, maybe the Swiss authorities can turn their attention to other not-quite-so-important matters. You the two guys I saw...SHOOTING HEROIN ON THE STAIRWELL LEADING TO THE HEUWAAGE PEDESTRIAN UNDERPASS RIGHT BY THE METHADONE CLINIC (Isn't methadone supposed to keep people from using heroin? Thought so...) while I was walking back from the gym this evening (btw...30 minutes, 3300 steps!).

Rather than focusing on how much more expensive butter is in Switzerland than in France, maybe more attention should be focused on the fact that heroin costs almost HALF AS MUCH in Switzerland than it does in France.

I'm Happy To Report...

...that my training for the Super Bowl is going very well.

I went to bed at 4:10 a.m, and I woke up at 12:45 p.m.

Yup...feeling pretty good about myself. GO BEARS!!!!!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Walk On By

I'm not really sure why, but I got it in my head a few weeks back that I wanted to buy a pedometer. I guess I had heard that a person should walk 10,000 steps per day in order to maintain a good fitness level. I go to the gym three to four times per week, but my gym opens too late in the morning for Mrs. TBF to go. I thought that walking might be a form of fitness that Mrs. TBF and I can do together (awwwwww!), so I bought us both pedometers at Dick's Sporting Goods when I was in Chicago last week. They were cheap; something like $14.99 each.

I put my pedometer on right after I bought it, and I was fairly surprised to find that I had difficulty walking 10,000 steps per day while I was in Chicago. As a matter of fact, I had a bit of a problem walking over 5,000 steps per day. I think there was one day when I hit 7,000 steps, but that was only because my sister (pushing my frozen, 16-month old niece in the stroller) and I went for a fairly long walk in order for me to "...get in more steps". On most days, I was averaging between 4,000 and 5,000 steps. Granted, I wasn't really making an effort to exercise because I was "...on vacation from doing nothing" as my friend Dave likes to say, but I found it interesting how much less walking I was doing in the "driving society" that America is than I normally do when I'm home in Basel.

Zip ahead a few days, and now I'm back in Basel. As you can see from the picture of my pedometer that I took before going to bed in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, I managed to top 11,000 steps for the day - no problem. The longest walks I made yesterday were to the grocery store (a 7-minute walk) and to the dry cleaners (about a 10-minute walk). Other than those strolls, there was nothing really out of the ordinary.

Right now as I'm writing, I just took a look at my pedometer and I'm happy to report that I'm currently at 10,165 steps which comes out to 4.81 miles. DAMN! Who would'a thunk it?

According to the little booklet that was included with the pedometer, walking...

burns almost as many calories as jogging

slims your waist

lowers blood pressure

lessens anxiety & tension

is easy on your joints (i.e. my "glass" knees)

can be done when you're traveling (i.e. Mrs. TBF)

...just to list a few things.

Hey, maybe I'll go out and buy some of those nordic walking poles, put on a green felt hat, and a dour expression, and...


I'm becoming a SWISSY!!!!

Where The Rubber Meets The Road...

I feel the need to talk about getting rid of our 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited; the SUV that we moved from Chicago when we moved to Basel in October, 2000. Mrs. TBF HATES when I bring up this topic, but since she is currently thousands of miles away in Bangkok, and probably asleep, I feel "safe" in bringing it up. MWAAAAH-HA-HAAAAA!

I better hurry...she'll be waking up soon!

Mrs. TBF wants to keep the car (although I'm beginning to sense that she is waivering a bit), and I want to get rid of it.

Just to set the record straight, there's nothing wrong with the Jeep at all. It's been very well maintained, "...ja se käy niin ko kello" (...and it runs like a clock) as my dad would probably say. However, I just don't think we really need it. Here are the hard numbers from 2006:

Insurance: CHF 2,517.80/$2,014.24
Parking in our Garage: CHF 2,100.00/$1,680.00
Maintenance: CHF 3,638.00/$2,902.40 (needed new tires last year)
Gas (estimate): CHF 1,200.00/ $960.00
Car washes (estimate): CHF 300.00/ $240.00
Annual road tax: CHF 684.00/ $547.20 (up 25.58% to CHF 859.00 for 2007)
Highway sticker: CHF 40.00/ $32.00

Total: CHF 10,469.80/$8,375.84

Normally, I wouldn't dwell on these numbers like I have (...and believe me, I HAVE!), but there's one thing about the Jeep that really bothers me: we hardly drive the thing.

Last year, we drove a TOTAL of 2,995 miles/approx. 4,850 km. That's right, people...we put less than 3,000 miles on the car in twelve months, and that was INCLUDING a driving trip we made to Burgundy. After doing the math, I came up with the fact that it cost us CHF 3.50 ($2.80)/mile or CHF 2.15 ($1.72)/km.

Here's what I want to do: SELL THE JEEP!

I know that people in North America will gasp at the thought of us wanting to go without a car, but unless you've been to Basel, you have no idea how good the public transportation is. We live about a one-minute walk from the tram station and a three-minute walk from the bus stop. The tram comes every ten minutes, and the bus comes every eight minutes. The tram takes us to the center of Basel in about nine minutes and to the grocery store in one minute.

I figure that with the combination of public transportation, taxis, and rental cars, we won't even miss the car. Heck...we already have tram passes, we already use taxis if we're going to somebody's house for dinner in order to avoid drinking and driving, and we rented a car to go to Siena last year. When we take taxis, the average fare is about CHF 30 ($24). Sure, taxis are expensive in Switzerland, but do the math; CHF 10,000 (I'm not even counting the money we'll get for selling the Jeep) divided by CHF 30 comes to about 333 taxi rides per year which would be more than one taxi ride per day that we're actually at home. I'm actually estimating that we'd need to use a taxi MAYBE three times per week MAX. That would leave a lot of money for rental cars if we want to take a weekend driving trip.

As far as I'm concerned, there's really no economic reason for keeping the car. The only reasons would be ones of perceived convenience. However, I contend that after a few months of not having a car, we'll wonder why we kept the thing for as long as we did.

We're going to be taking a driving trip to the Reims, France (in the Champagne region) in May. I say we put the car up for sale right after that trip.

So, what do you think, Mrs. TBF????

Oh...and by the way...I love you, and you're SEXY when you're angry!!!

It's All Greek To Me...

Mrs. TBF and I were supposed to be in Athens this weekend. The trip has been cancelled because the meeting Mrs. TBF was supposed to attend next week in Athens has been called off. I, the "trailing spouse", was yet once again, planning on tagging along on one of Mrs. TBF's business trips. Her meetings were to start on Monday and we were just going to go a couple of days ahead of time to take in some of the sights. Then, I was going to return to Basel on Monday night to avoid the "solo sightseeing" thing that happens if I hang around during the week when Mrs. TBF is on business.

I'm not too upset about not going to Athens, and I think Mrs. TBF isn't too upset either. Afterall, she just spent nearly two weeks in the U.S. We returned to Basel on Sunday, and then she left for Bangkok the next day. She returns from Bangkok this Friday, and then we were going to leave for Athens on Saturday morning. Sure, I was going to return on Monday night, but she wouldn't have been back home until Thursday. That's a lot of time away from home in a three-week period.

King likes it when the three of us are at home together; for the 2-3 hours per day that he's awake.

So, the good news is:

Mrs. TBF will be home next week!

We can stay at home and rest up a bit (especially Mrs. TBF).

We can watch the Super Bowl beginning at midnight instead of at 1:00 a.m. (Athens is one hour ahead of Basel).

King will not be wandering around the apartment aimlessly wondering where we are.

The bad news is:

We miss out on a weekend of eating Greek food. Although I have to say that I had a KILLER greek omelette at the Buffalo House Restaurant in Buffalo Grove, Illinois last week - gyros meat, feta cheese, onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki. I asked for extra egg yolks, but I didn't get 'em (I think the waitress thought I was joking), and I have to say that I like "real" American feta cheese better than that "fake" Greek stuff.

I had to call the Lufthansa service number (CHF 0.15/minute, choice of German or French only) to cancel my flight. NOTE TO SELF: The next time you do this...look up the word "cancel" in the German dictionary ahead of time. It really helps when you are speaking German and...WANT TO CANCEL A FLIGHT! Fortunately, the lady spoke English and I was able to get the flight cancelled. The airfare was non-refundable, so I lose that. However, 60% of the purchase price was taxes (rip off!) which means that I'll get a refund of CHF 251.85. I guess that's better than nothing. I miss out on seeing Athens for the time being, but I'm sure there'll be other opportunities. Anyway, I'm in the process of booking another ticket for Chicago in April. Maybe I'll just go have another one of those Greek omelettes, or maybe I'll just head to Chicago's Greek Town for dinner.

That's almost as good. Isn't it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

I'm In Training...

Mrs. TBF called me about 90 minutes ago. She's in Bangkok.

I find it absolutely amazing how she can adjust to time zone changes without any problem. Our flight left Chicago at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday evening...

Oh...I have to mention that our friend, and Mrs. TBF's colleague - Jeanette, was not only on our flight, but managed to switch her seat so that she was sitting right next to us.

Also, I'm going to reveal, for the first time in public, that Jeanette is #1 (and Mrs. TBF approved) on the "if anything were to ever happen to Mrs. TBF, sugar mama succession list". Dido (sings to my heart), Scarlett Johansson (a mix of "...undeniable acting talent with wit and wisdom beyond her years" according to, and Martha Stewart (knows her way around a kitchen combined with the added excitement of having been in the "big house") are also on the list actively vying for the #1 spot. Mariah Carey (I've liked the idea of living in least for a little while. Oh...and she's really rich!) used to be on the list, but Mrs. TBF did not approve - I'm not exactly sure why.

So...getting back to time zone changes.

We made it home yesterday around noon(?). I guess I'm not exactly sure what time we got home since it's all a bit hazy. This morning, I drove Mrs. TBF to the Basel train station where she took a train to Zürich Airport. Then, she flew to Bangkok - five hours ahead of Basel and twelve hours ahead of Chicago. As I said, I just spoke to her. She told me that she had actually managed to sleep on the plane and was now watching the sunrise while being driven to her hotel. I'm thinking that she'll probably check into her room, take a quick shower, and then head to the office.

That right...she will go right to work.

She does this all the time. None of this "leaving a day ahead of time so that I can get acclimated" business. Nope! She lands...and pretty much goes right to work. Me? I'm sitting here in Basel, wide awake, because I'm still on Chicago-time.

Right before we hung up, Mrs. TBF said: "You're going to go right to bed now...right?" I told her I would, but then I began thinking about it. You see, I consider myself to be in training right now....for the Super Bowl.

As you may have heard by now, the Chicago Bears have made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years. The game is this Sunday and I intend on staying up to watch it live. The problem is that the game starts at midnight here, and that means that I'll have to stay up until about 4:00 a.m. if I want to watch the whole game. So, I'm just going to go to bed between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. this whole week.

I don't know what Mrs. TBF is going to do. She'll be back in Basel this Friday, but she'll be having some trouble if she's still on Bangkok time when the game gets going in the wee hours of Monday morning; that's because the game starts at 5:00 a.m., Bangkok time.

My guess? I will be snoring away on the sofa by 12:15 and she'll stay up to watch the whole game. Then, she'll get a couple of hours of sleep and go to work. She'll be fine when she comes home from work in the evening, and...

I'll be a wreck.

God Bless...

God bless...the fat guy who was seated a couple of rows behind me on my flight from London to Chicago.

I was listening to my iPod with Mrs. TBF's fancy, noise-reduction, Bose headphones when I thought I heard the sound of somebody sawing wood. The headphones (Which, by the way, make my ears sweat profusely. Sorry about that, hon. I hope you're enjoying them right now during your flight to Bangkok!) came off, the camera came out, and....SNAP!!!! There are few things that I enjoy more than watching people as they are falling asleep in public places. Fat guys catching flies and sawing wood on a airplane? Priceless!

God gullible, six year old nephew who still falls for Uncle TBF's little tricks.

I mean, the kid actually came running when I told him I wanted to get a picture of his Spiderman underwear. "No...turn around," I told him. "I want to get a good picture of the Spiderman on your butt." "Closer...CLOSER...!!!!" WEDGIE!!!!

He's a pretty big at six years old. I hope he doesn't end up being bigger than me. I'd hate the thought of him getting revenge on me in my old age.

God cubes!

I don't care that it's January and that my runny nose was freezing up. There's nothing like a drink with about 47 ice cubes in the glass. Oh, and there's also nothing like restaurants getting rid of their extra ice by dumping it into the urinals.

I'll bet that many of you ladies didn't know that a lot of restaurants put ice cubes in the urinals? I showed the picture to Mrs. TBF right after I took it, and I had to explain it to her. She had never heard of such a thing.

Yup...I've melted a lot of ice cubes in my days!

God stuff!

We brought my mother-in-law's car to be washed and I held back tears of joy when I saw these signs in the waiting area. Free coffee? That's no big deal. But, free phone calls? Nothing's free in Switzerland.

I'm weeping...

God bless...affordable limousine service.

I always take a limo from O'Hare Airport to my sister's house. It's usually about a 30 to 45 minute drive and it costs just under $60 (cheaper than a taxi). A regular taxi from Basel Airport to our apartment (a 15 minute drive) costs about $45.

What up wit' dat?

Mrs. TBF took a limo from her brother's house to the airport on Tuesday morning when she had to fly to South Carolina. We ordered it for 7:00 a.m. I took this picture at 6:59 a.m. See? Who says Americans are always late?

God bless...the snack food aisle at pretty much any American grocery store!

This is only half of the snack-food aisle at the Dominick's in Lake Zurich, Illinois. Instead of having a choice of about three different types of chips like you have here in Switzerland, you have a choice of what seem like dozens of different types of chips. I have to admit that it's a bit overwhelming when you're not used to it. Mrs. TBF is holding Blue Diamond "jalapeño smokehouse" and "Maui onion and garlic" flavored nuts. Who knew that such things existed?

I looked for potato chips fried in bacon grease. Couldn't find 'em. Maybe next time.


Mrs. TBF isn't exactly jumping for joy when I say that I'm itchin' to move back.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chicago: Hero Worship...

I ran into an old high school buddy at Dick's Sporting Goods this afternoon. After giving it a little thought, I realized that we hadn't seen each other in nearly twenty years.

After finding out about what he's doing these days, I dropped the bomb that I haven't worked for over six years. At that point, he dropped down to his knees right in front of me and began waving his arms up and down in homage of the man of leisure that I am.

...had to tell him to stop when I noticed a lady standing there - staring at us - with her mouth wide open.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chicago: To Whom It May Concern...

Dear Chicago-Based Global Warming Alarmists:

I hope you're enjoying your week off.

The temperatures, since our arrival, have been EXACTLY normal with high temperatures of about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, it's definitely January in Chicago: cold, dry, small static shocks every time I touch something metal, a little snow on the ground, and salt...everywhere! It's just the perfect week to be adding an extra layer of insulating blubber because...I'm a mammal...DAMMIT!

Dear Nieces:

Thank you so much for waking up with pinkeye this morning. I especially like the fact that you were jumping on my mattress last night before I went to bed. If you need me, I'll be in the bathtub dipping myself in gallons of instant hand sanitizer.

Dear Mrs. TBF (who is in South Carolina right now):

Sorry about the fact that I ate cookie dough ice cream last night after dinner, and then instantly slipped into a coma in my chair while watching Napolean Dynamite with the kids. I did somehow manage to sleepwalk to bed where I woke up at some point to find the bro-in-law standing next to the bed and handing me the phone so that I could talk to you. I don't really remember much of what I said, but I do hope I actually managed to put together at least one complete sentence.

Remember how you told me to get up and brush my teeth? I did...about two hours later. At one point, I seem to recall standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open wondering why I couldn't find my toothbrush. Everything must have worked out in the end because I woke up with dried toothpaste on my cheek.

Dear Elmo Doll:

You suck!

Thank you so much for the (3 a.m.?) wake-up call. There's nothing like waking up in an unfamiliar bed and hearing a high-pitched voice saying: "Hi Sinead, let's play. Squeeze Elmo's hand!" Yes, of course I walked over to a completely silent pile of toys to find out where the noise was coming from. And, yes, of course Elmo began talking again the moment I got back into bed.

I didn't know who the voice belonged to until the next morning when I told my sister about the voice at which point she told me that it was you, ELMO, and that she had heard it too.

I think I'm going to be having nightmares for weeks.

Dear 80% of Americans:

You're fat! Your doctor won't tell you because he doesn't want to lose you as a patient, so I will. You are extrememly overweight and out of shape. Pushing the shopping cart around the grocery store buying donuts, chocolate milk, etc. with 0 trans fat does not count as a valid exercise/diet which will help you lose weight. You will continue getting fatter unless you change your habits, AND I'm going to give you the secret:

Consume FEWER calories, and get MORE exercise.

I know what I'm talking about. Every single time I come to Chicago, I consume more calories and get less exercise. Guess what? I gain weight. Then, I return to Basel where I consume fewer calories and get more exercise. Guess what? I lose weight.

Maybe I should write a book!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Chicago: Eating For Sport!

The fact that I've been stuffing my face full of food 24/7 while in Chicago pretty much explains why I haven't blogged at all for the past few days. There were the ribs at my sister's house on Thursday night, the "cheesy beef" and onion rings for Friday lunch, the prime rib on Friday night, the corned beef hash skillet for breakfast at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning (it's amazing how quickly things turn "redneck" once one is 60 minutes outside of Chicago), and sushi for dinner on Saturday night.

Yesterday, we went into "the city" to have breakfast with Dave (I only managed to get a picture of his hand), Shannon, and the girls. We ate at a restaurant called Wishbone that promotes itself as a "haven to young families". My omelette was pretty tasty, and...

Can you say M.I.L.F. Central???? WOW!!!

A couple of hours later, Mrs. TBF and I made the short drive to Andersonville where we had lunch with Michael. Even though I was still somewhat full from breakfast I still somehow managed to wolf down a hamburger and fries.

After that, we drove to the 'burbs to watch the Bears' game on Colon Blow and Mrs. CB's HD TV. Of course I crammed in a few brats, some beers, and a bunch of snack food down the old gullet...even though I wasn't really even hungry.

The Bears are the NFC champions (!!!!!!), stomach's not feeling 100%.

Maybe I'll try to consume less than 15,000 calories today.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pick Your Seat...

I'm leaving for Chicago tomorrow. I have a 7:00 a.m. flight to London where I'll connect for my flight to The Windy City. If all goes as planned, I should be landing in Chicago around 2:00 p.m. Yes, it's a 14-hour trip, but it shouldn't be too bad because Mrs. TBF once again used her miles to ensure that I'd be basking in business class comfort. Ain't she sweet???

Yesterday morning, before she left for New Jersey, Mrs. TBF encouraged me to use the British Airways online check-in. I was going to blow it off and just check-in at the airport, but I was miraculously organized today and actually had extra time this evening to give it a whirl.

And...I'm glad I did.

I used SeatGuru to find the best seats, and then I went to the BA website where I switched my seat on the Chicago flight from a window seat to an aisle seat that SeatGuru says is a "....great forward facing Club World seat with lots of extra leg room." I clicked on the "Print Boarding Pass" tab, actually worked!

The boarding passes are sitting on the dresser on top of my passport, my bags are packed, I've set up an early-morning wake-up call with Mrs. TBF, and I'm pretty much ready to go.

I'll be in Chicago for ten days. I'm not bringing my laptop along, but I'll update the blog at my sister's house and just add the pictures when I get back home.

I was just thinking: Who the hell goes to January????

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Osso Buco: Because You Asked For It...

I've made this NON-TRADITIONAL Osso Buco recipe a bunch of times. Just about every time I've made it, our guests have asked for the recipe. So, me posting this recipe is as much for the friends/bloggers who have requested as it is for my benefit (won't have to type it out or photocopy it ever again....YES!).

I'm posting this recipe without permission,'s from "The Olives Table" cookbook by Todd English and Sally Sampson. I suggest you go out and buy it (Hopefully, the free advertising will avoid litigation!)!.

By the way, we always write comments in the margins of the recipe after we've tried it. Here are the comments for this one:

March 12, 2004...For about the 4th or 5th time! I'm's just soooo damn good!!!! (that's my comment)

Oh my God - WOW! Love it! Yum!!!! I live da'good life!!!!! (that's Mrs. TBF's comment)

So, 'nuff blathering...

Here's the recipe...from "The Olives Table" by Todd English (a studly guy and a great chef!) and Sally Sampson (an incredible package of looks and brains!):

Osso Buco of Veal (serves 4)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 x 14-ounce veal shanks (Kalbshaxen), cut 1.5 to 2 inches thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped slab bacon or chopped high-quality thick-sliced lean bacon

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Spanish onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, cut into medium dice
2 leeks (white part only), well washed and chopped
2 cups roughly chopped shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
(NOTE: Chopping this stuff with surgical precision - if you're like me - takes about an hour!)

3/4 cup dry white wine (I use dry vermouth...Noilly Prat)
1/2 cup good-quality dry sherry, such as Tio Pepe
4 cups chicken stock (I usually just use chicken bouillon cubes.)
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425˚F/220˚C.

I combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large Ziploc bag, throw in the shanks, and give them a shake until they're all dusted.

Place a 14-inch straight-sided ovenproof saute pan or a 3-to-4-quart Dutch oven* over medium-high heat and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the veal shanks and cook until they are deeply golden on the bottom, about 3-5 minutes. Turn over and cook for about 2 minutes on the second side. Transfer the veal shanks to a plate.

Add the bacon to the pan and cook until it begins to render its fat, about 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms, rosemary, fennel seeds, and pepper flakes, stirring well after each addition, and cook for 10 minutes.

Return the shanks to the pan and add the wine and sherry. Spoon the vegetables over the veal and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and orange zest and bring to a low simmer (NOTE: Everything up to this point...excluding the chopping...takes about 30 minutes).

COVER and transfer to the oven. Roast for 2 hours.

Carefullly transfer the shanks (they'll be falling apart at this point) to a plate and return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the mustard and simmer for 10 minutes. Return the shanks to the pan and cook until heated through.

Serve immediately with basmati rice, Everyday Polenta (Do I need to type out that recipe too? Good grief!), or garlic mashed potatoes. Garnish with the parsley (Or, if you're like us most of the time, walk back into the kitchen after finishing the meal and stare like dorks at the little bowl of unused, chopped parsley.).

This is a great dish to serve when you're having people over for dinner because it just sits in the oven for two hours, and then there's only a minimum of last minute preparation. If you're not in Switzerland and your guests show up late, just leave the pot in the oven with the heat turned down to keep it'll be fine. Also, I like to do all the chopping of ingredients the day before and just put them in Tupperware containers in the fridge.

There you have it!

Damn! I'm feeling very Jamie Oliver right now!


*Not the kind of Dutch oven where you fart and pull the blankets over your spouse's head...sicko!

Nothing Matters But The Weekend...

...from a Tuesday point of view.

Here are a few reasons why this past weekend was a great weekend:

Rammy invited herself over for Friday night dinner because John was out of town on business and Olli was at ski camp.

Why spend Friday night at home alone when it's so much more fun to spend it with good friends?

I made some of my "famous" osso buco and served it up with my butter and cheese laden polenta. There was also a little more cheese, some dessert, and plenty of vino Italiano.

A great start to the weekend.

Saturday was a beautiful, unseasonably warm (...remember when it was called that instead of global warming?) day. We went into town to do a little shopping where I even managed to capture the piggy bank tram car on film. "The Pig" is very elusive.


We decided, upon returning home, that King was in need of a little fresh, unseasonably warm, January air, so we brought him up to 'The Fishbowl" where he proceeded to be blinded by all that sunshine, ate some still-surviving-due-to-unseasonably-warm-temperatures grass, and just foraged around for God knows what. Just think, it won't be long until we're having "Impromptu Fishbowl Fridays" again.

...can't wait!

On Saturday night, a bunch of us folks showed up at Alan and Wendy's house for dinner and "games". Some of us, including a not-too-jet-lagged John, played Twister (this was the only picture which didn't reveal assorted bald-spots and butt-cracks). I opted for Kerplunk (When's the last time you played that?) and foosball.

We had a nice prime rib roast, plenty of good wine, and an all-around good time into the early-morning hours. Plus, as an added bonus, we even managed to go the entire evening without the overly-strict upstairs neighbors calling the Polizei.

Imagine that!

As if more proof is needed that the internet is an amazing thing, a bunch of us bloggers got together for a tête-à-tête in Basel. Just think, the only people out of the 25 who were in attendence that I knew one year ago were the Expatters, Canadian-Swiss, Orange-X, and Mrs. TBF.

I became so involved in trying to talk with everyone that I somehow managed to forget to take pictures. So, I only ended up getting shots of about three-quarters of us. I guess there's always "next time" since plans are already in the works for the next blogger get-together.

A group of strangers brought together by the common thread of blogging. Ahhhh...we are the world!


Q: What do the Green Bay Packers, TBF, and Mrs. TBF all have in common?

A: We all spent a part of our Sundays sitting at home watching the mighty Chicago Bears advance to the NFC Championship game.

It was the perfect end to a great weekend.

Oh...and by the way...the Packers suck!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Flashback: Bed, Glorious Bed!

Every now and then, when Mrs. TBF gets into bed, she sings the words "...bed, glorious bed!" to the tune of ", glorious food!" from Oliver. Aaaahhhhhhh, bed. There's nothing like it; especially when it's winter, you're really tired, and you have flannel sheets...


We bought our bedroom set during the summer of 1987, and it was delivered shortly before our wedding in October. I had always wanted a waterbed, and Mrs. TBF, who was not Mrs. TBF yet, had no objections, so that's what we got.

Our bed has seen a lot of traffic over the past (nearly) twenty years (ok...sleaze bag, get your mind out of the gutter!); two humans, three cats, and a dog have fairly equally called it their nighttime home over that time.

The bed has served us well through sickness and health. It was a bastion of comfort when I was recuperating from my fourth knee operation in late-1991. Dominique's access to the bedroom was restricted because she would immediately jump on my knee, Binky pretty much ignored us unless she was hungry, and King picked up little "gifts" around the house and brought them to the bedside right before...settling his 16 lb. mass on my belly.

By the way, just ignore the crazy J.Crew boxer shorts...

Eventually, Dominique pretty much staked her claim to the bed and "agreed" to let us use it during the night. Mrs. TBF and I would each have our 10% shares along the sides, and Dominique would sprawl-out with her head on Mrs. TBF's back and her butt on my pillow next to my face. In the morning, when I'd get up to make coffee, Dominique would steal my warm spot by burrowing under the covers (like in this mid-90's picture), and then she'd growl at me when I'd push her over so that I could get back into bed.

Yes, the bed has been a fantastic investment in rest and relaxation. However, we now have a problem.

One thing we never considered before moving here was having to replace our mattress. I actually did think ahead by purchasing extra waterbed cylinders in case we had a leak, but I never thought about the possibility of the insulated, hollowed-out, mattress-like cover that goes over the cylinders wearing out; and, it has! It's lost its shape, and our waterbed has become a little saggy here, a little lumpy there, and in need of a change. So, we've decided to replace the waterbed with a regular mattress. Here's the problem: I can't find an American queen size mattress for sale in Europe. The mattresses here are a little shorter (no problem) and three inches wider (problem). The Euro-mattress won't fit into our bed frame.

What to do?

I'll tell you what I'm going to do...

I checked out the American IKEA website. When we go to Chicago next week, we're going to buy a nice, queen size mattress that is compressed into a 16.5"x 16.5"x 60" package for shipping for $329. A quick call to BA World Cargo revealed that it will cost us $299 to have it shipped to Basel. Remarkably, the total cost for buying it in the U.S., shipping it here, and paying the import tax will be less than it cost to buy the mattress for the bed in our guest room from our local IKEA...over six years ago! Plus, it's the right size for our bed. The only problem is that I won't be able to open the package that the mattress is in (it'll decompress) before shipping it here. If there's a flaw with the mattress - we're screwed.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Just A Reminder...

What?: Bloggers' Basel Get-Together

When?: Sunday, January 14th, 2007; Noon - ?

Where?: Zum Braunen Mutz (ZBM) - Barfüsserplatz, Basel

Who?: Bloggers, blogger spouses/children/friends, and anybody else who wants to show up

Why?: You're not skiing due to the lack of snow, so why not?

ZBM has agreed to reserve two large tables for our group of 20-25 people (thanks Canadian-Swiss) on the condition (...those Swiss rules again!) that we actually eat something and don't just drink. So, come with an appetite. I've checked with some of you, and it appears that most of us are planning on, no problems there.

Don't worry about it if you can't make it exactly at noon. Just get there when you can. Mrs. TBF and I will be there at noon to hold the tables. I'll be the tall guy with the chrome dome and the temporary beard. Mrs. TBF will the little cute one with the long curly hair (unless she decides to pull it back).

We're looking forward to seeing you all there!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Shaking, Rattling, and Rolling On Shomer Shabbos...

It was 8:19 a.m. this past Saturday morning - both of us in a dead sleep - when suddenly...

Yes...another man-made earthquake in Basel.

There was a quick shake, a little bit of rattling, and...that was about it. No damage, but I'm beginning to think that I should maybe do something to secure my massive shot glass collection that sits precariously on the moulding ledge in the kitchen.

We had the shake...we had the, now it was time to "roll". And, that's exactly what we did!

Mrs. TBF and I, along with a bunch of friends, converged on a bowling alley in Allschwil on Saturday afternoon to celebrate Olli's 14th birthday. It was the first time I had bowled in nearly ten years, and, therefore, also the first time that I had been forced to wear bowling shoes for nearly ten years.

The thought of wearing shoes that other people have worn...DISGUSTS ME!

However, being the good sport I am, I laced up my turquoise, white, and red size 47s, and actually managed score a rather decent (at least for me) 124 in my first game (are they called games in bowling?). If I remember correctly, I even had the high score in the first game.

During the second game, my "glass" knees began to bother me (bowling really seems to be hard on my knees) and my score plummeted to a 91. Mrs. TBF actually improved from a 50-something in the first game by rolling something like a 110 in the second game, but we were all put to shame by Alan and Wendy (husband and wife) who each rolled an identical 145 in the second game.

The pins seemed slightly smaller than the ones in America, and they were reset and cleared by strange cables that were attached to each pin. But, overall, everything else pretty much felt the same as late-1990s bowling in the Chicago suburbs.

I have to admit that bowling probably has difficulty cracking my "Top-100 Favorite Things to Do" list, but I ended up having a pretty good time. In fact, it's possible that I'd be willing to not wait ten years before returning to the lanes...

...albeit, with a change of socks!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Puzzling Progress...

As this is my first post of 2007...Happy New Year everyone!! Yeah, I have a few new year's resolutions just like everyone else. I'm not planning on sharing any of them except for the one about posting blog entries more often. So, you may say I'm a bit late as it's already the 8th, but I think if I was to post every 8th day this year I would achieve my resolution successfully. But...I am going to make a valiant attempt to over-achieve.

Anyway, that is not the progress I want to tell you about. I want to tell you, and show you "puzzle progress". Behold...the current state of completion of our 2000 piece puzzle of the NYC skyline, pre-911.

We started the puzzle on the 1st and worked on it together on and off the 1st and 2nd. It is a lot of work just to get started, what with turning over all the pieces and segregating the border pieces, and then putting the border together, and then finally getting to the job of doing the inside. Is that how you make a puzzle? Well, it's how I have always done it, but I must say that TBF comes from the school of "just start putting pieces together as fast as you can whether all the pieces are turned over or whether or not you've found the border and put it together". Needless to say, his method and mine sometimes clash as I start resenting the fun he is having putting the pieces together while I'm still TURNING THEM OVER DAMMIT!!! Ok, sorry for that mini-rave out. Back to the progress bit...

So when I went back to work on the 3rd I was wondering if TBF would work on the puzzle on his own. In answer to my thoughts, when I came home that night from the office I asked him if he had worked on it and he sheepishly admitted to "doing a little", which turned out to look pretty substantial. After I whined and said it wasn't fair, he left it alone for the rest of the week. He wanted to work on it together in the evening, but I found the glare off the shiny surface to be difficult to work on - natural light is the choice of most serious puzzlers (of my caliber). So, we left it until this past Saturday and then only did a little as we had a fairly busy day.

Ah Sunday - day of rest and "puzzling"! This was the day of major progress, but this type of achievement doesn't come with some downsides. As TBF and I tend to both be very competitve people, I sensed we were competing for who could place the most pieces. And, I found TBF was at times actually "trash talking" at me!!!! After spending what seemed like hours working upside down on the monotonous sky while TBF motored along right side up on the interesting bridge and buildings, I said I wanted to work right side up on that part too. So, we were both working the same side of the table when I exploded, said I was done for the day and accused him of "hogging" the space and the puzzle because he was sitting in the chair working in the middle of the puzzle while I was going from side to side around him. He called me back in and said he would work upside down for a while on the other side of the table because after all - it's a "piece of cake". After a few minutes, I noticed he was back on my side of the puzzle and complaining it was harder working upside down!!! The nerve!! Oh well, we found a way to peacefully co-exist on the same side of the table and when we had filled in all the non-sky parts we called it a day - a day of progress.

This weekend - we tackle the sky!!!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's...

...2006! Just doesn't sound right, does it?

Let's Do Lunch -
The day after C.A.V.E., we met up with the Expatters for lunch sans alcohol (at least for us) and peanut butter/chocolate fondue (that was the killer) at Restaurant Zur Harmonie. We hadn't seen the Expatters since August, and thought it was about time to put that streak to an end. I didn't bring my camera, or maybe I did...can't remember, but you can see a picture of us looking surprisingly none the worse for wear right here.

N.Y.E.E. -
Having had a full forty hours or so to recover after C.A.V.E., we once again put our stomachs and livers to the test at our New Year's Eve's Eve party. Mrs. TBF made WAY too many appetizers, including homemade gravlax or graavilohi as we Finns call it, which we put outside on the balcony before the party along with the refreshments in "nature's refrigerator". We had about twenty guests who barely put a dent in the food, but managed to polish off a healthy chunk of the bubbly. I even came up with a New Year's resolution during the party...

Henry mentioned that we need to plan more get-togethers with each other, so I resolved to call him, rather arbitrarily, at least six times during 2007. I'm not sure where the number six came from, but...there you have it!

New Year's Eve -
We arrived at John and Rammy's house (armed with leftovers from N.Y.E.E.) all refreshed after an afternoon nap (...another one of my 2007 resolutions: take naps). We actually brought the camera along, but it turns out that we didn't even take one picture. Our friend Alan took a bunch of pictures and sent them to me in pdf format, but I can't figure out how to import them into the blog. I'll add some later if I can figure out how to do it.

Needless to say, the party at John and Rammy's (as usual) was a lot of fun. It was the typical fun crowd of people all enjoying the Thai food that Rammy made. We sat around the dinner table talking about our resolutions, and then we'd, from time to time, just randomly start singing Christmas carols. It was a great way to start 2007.

The first days of 2007 were spent just taking it easy. We broke out a puzzle of the pre-911 New York skyline and proceeded to fall into a deep puzzle-hypnosis. My sister called us on New Year's Day, a couple of hours after we be hyp-MO-tized, to wish us a happy 2007.

Sis: "Happy new year! What are you doing?"

TBF: "We're making a puzzle."

Sis: "Don't you mean that you're 'doing' a puzzle? We say, in English, that one is 'doing' a puzzle, not 'making' a puzzle. OH...MY...GOD!!! You're forgetting how to speak English!"

I guess I have to add "learn to speak English real good" to my list of 2007 resolutions.

Now, if only I could break away from this stinkin' puzzle!

Total Gluttony...

I had good intentions of blogging more often after we returned home from Rome, but it seems that a hectic social calender kept us a bit too...busy, Busy, BIZZZZY! Here's part one of the recap:

C.A.V.E. -

The first thing on the agenda was our "Caviar and Vodka Evening" - or, C.A.V.E. for short. It all began when our friend John asked me a few weeks back if I had ever tried Grey Goose vodka. I told him no, and plans were immediately hatched. John would buy some duty-free Grey Goose and caviar while on a business trip, and I would defrost and grill John's birthday present (G.O.M. - gift of meat/U.S. ribeye) that had been sitting in our freezer. Since Mrs. TBF, Rammy, and (unexpectedly, but happily) Andy (a.k.a. "G.O.M.E.R." - Gift of Meat Extra Recipient) were also going to be there, I had to make an extra run to Globus to buy more U.S. steak.

The evening arrived. John unveiled the freezer-chilled bottle of Grey Goose and the jaw-droppingly expensive, teeny-tiny tin of caviar. We broke out the frozen shot glasses, some blinis, a little of this and a little of that, and a nice starter was had. We even had a side by side taste test putting Grey Goose up against Finlandia vodka, and I'm sad to report that the Grey Goose was FAR superior. Sorry, dad!

Some champagne was poured, followed by some nice wine that Andy brought along, followed by the steaks which everybody raved about ( surprise here. They were American steaks, AND they were grilled by yours truly - the grill master!). Afterwards we had Mrs. TBF's peanut butter/chocolate fondue for dessert.

Ok...let's recap: vodka, caviar, champagne, red wine, steak, peanut butter/chocolate fondue...followed by, the next morning...