Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, 2008!

To: All our friends, relatives, bloggers, and anybody else who might stumble upon this blog.

From: TBF, Mrs. TBF, and a very uncooperative King

We hope you all have a great Christmas Eve, Christmas, and continued jubilation through the New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

We've been in London for the past few days celebrating Mrs. TBF's birthday. In all the excitement (including a bout with the flu), I forgot that Hanukkah began last night. I'll have some catching up to do with the menorah (and my candy Advent calender) when we get home, but I guess this one will have to do until then.

Right now, we're sitting in the BA lounge at Heathrow waiting for our return flight to Switzerland. I'll post some pictures from London in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maybe I DO Need The Practice...

If you'll recall, Mrs. TBF suggested earlier this year that I book a Mobility car every couple of weeks so that my driving skills wouldn't become "rusty". After a quick self-examination, I determined that I was indeed NOT retarded and I just let the suggestion drop to the wayside along with past suggestions involving walks which would culminate in picnic lunches and other things that I won't mention so that I don't fall victim to a middle-of-the-night-rolling-pin-to-the head.

Not needing the practice driving, but needing to run some errands last Wednesday, I booked a car. Sure, it snowed all day, but everything went without a hitch and all errands were completed successfully. Today, I had another car booked, and when I walked to the parking spot to pick up the car, it was, again, snowing like a banshee!

Hmmm... Now that I think about it, maybe I should book a car for Christmas Eve so that we're ensured a white Christmas.

So I jumped into the little, red, Honda Jazz just after 11 a.m. and took off to run my errands. First, I stopped at the pet supply store and bought King a load of cat food. On the way, I noticed that the car sounded a bit funny and that the ride seemed a bit rough, but I figured it probably had something to do with the snow on the road so I just let it go. After buying King's food, I walked next door to Wyss Nursery and bought a Christmas tree. It took a bit of engineering, but after putting down the back seats I managed to cram the tree into the car.

On the way back home, I began to notice a funny smell - like metal burning.

Why are the wheels locking when I come to a stop?

What's that smell?

What's that weird, bright red symbol on the instrument panel?

What's this strange lever next to me that's sticking up in the air?

What the...? Doh!!!

It turns out that I had been driving with the parking brake on the entire time! When I thought about it, I remembered that when I got into the car, the keys were in the ignition, and the transmission was still in drive. I thought it was strange, but obviously the person who had the car before me was used to driving a stick instead of an automatic, and she (had to have been a woman!) had engaged the parking brake before turning off the engine.

Me, having only driven automatics in the flat, Midwestern U.S., would never even THINK to check if a car's parking brake is engaged. I mean, I think I've probably used a parking brake maybe twenty times in the past 30 years of driving. FU**ING parking brake! Sheesh!

I'm happy to report that the car performed perfectly for the duration of my remaining errands...

...once the parking brake had been disengaged!

Evil...But Sooooo Good!

I just saw a little snippet on the Chicagoist blog about something that is now officially my new obsession. Ladies and gentlemen, meet my new obsession:

country fried bacon!

Dip some bacon in batter and then deep-fry until golden brown. Mmmmmmmmmmmm, so good!

NOTE TO SELF: Pay a visit to Wiener and Still Champion at 802 Dempster Street, Evanston on your next trip to Chicago.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Got Into A Fight...

...yesterday evening, with the common cold.

I was just sitting around reading a magazine, and I suddenly felt my throat getting scratchy. Seeing it as a good excuse to take my beloved generic Night Time Cherry Flavor cold medicine that I bring back from the U.S. (Mrs. TBF says I'm addicted), I did just that. Although I did sleep like a rock for over eight hours, I did wake up with a sore throat.

So how does one fight a cold? I...
...fight the sore throat by gargling with salt water.

...pound Vitamin C tablets even though there's no real proof that it does anything to help.

...drink the blessed nectar from heaven cherry elixir, and...

...whine like a baby so that Mrs. TBF will wait on me hand and foot when she gets home from work.*

I'm open to suggestions. What do you do?

*My cold hasn't yet developed into a full-blown man cold. But Mrs. TBF doesn't know that. Does she?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Flyin' High...

'Tis the season for feeding the birds. Much to the chagrin (I'm sure) of our downstairs neighbors, we set up a bird feeder on our balcony during the cold months so that our little winged friends don't starve. Also, another reason we do it is to provide King with some entertainment - we call it "kitty cable". King just sits at the window, watches the birds, and goes about making strange noises...mesmerized! He'll be twice as mesmerized this year as we've added a suet feeder channel to his cable subscription.

The reason I think our neighbors don't like our bird feeder is because the birds make an awful mess. I end up having to sweep/vacuum up the huge amount of seed shells/mess that ends up on our balcony, and that wouldn't be so bad if it was just a mess on OUR balcony. However, I've begun to notice the seeds on the walkway leading up to our building, so I'm sure that the seeds are also ending up on the balconies of the people who live below us too. I kind of feel

Oh...who am I kidding? As long as the neighbors aren't complaining, I don't give a rip!

Earlier this week, I noticed that we were running low on birdseed, so I picked up a bag at the local grocery store, brought it home, and noticed for the first time ever that our birdseed mix contains hemp seed. Is this legal? Obviously it is here. But...would this be legal in the U.S.?

I guess I should hold off on feeding the birds for a few days before any trip to the U.S.; wouldn't want to end up being surrounded by drug-sniffing dogs at O'Hare Airport.

Happy 1,000 To Me!

This is the 1,000th posting on The Big Finn's Big Blog. I guess I should really say 'Happy 1,000 To Us' even though Mrs. TBF hasn't blogged for ages (...ahem!). But regardless of who's been doing all the blogging, it's still a milestone. I figure that the average blog post is about 200 words, so that means TBFBB is equivalent to a 200,000 word novel.

How many pages would that be?

My first post on this blog was on June 17, 2004. That means it took 1,638 (4 years, 5 months, 24 days) to reach the big 1,000. At this torrid pace, I should reach 2,000 on June 6, 2013. I'll be 50 years old then.


Will I still be blogging then? Will blogs still exist? Will some other format take its place? I don't know...facebook is pretty darn easy...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Someone Had To Do It!

I just returned home a little while ago from a babysitting adventure. Actually, since the kids (whom I've known for seven years) are 13 and 11, "baby" isn't really the correct term. Dad was out of town on business, and Mom had to suddenly go out of town for the night, so "Uncle" TBF was called in for a little "adult" (snort!) supervision.

Imagine...somebody entrusting me with the safety of their children. I feel like such a grownup.

I actually walked into the house last night and sang: "Here I come to save the dayyyyyyyyyyy!" Since these American kids have lived outside of the U.S. nearly their entire lives, they actually had no idea what I was singing about. I asked them if they knew who Mighty Mouse is. They had no idea.


Everything went well. I cooked up a bit of pasta, watched some TV with the kids, answered about 827 questions like "How long have you been bald?", etc., and then the kids just went to bed at 9:30. I cleaned up a little in the kitchen, went upstairs to my room, read until about midnight, and then...proceeded to toss and turn on what has to be the shortest and most uncomfortable futon in the history of futons.

TBF advice: Don't ever buy a futon. If you have a futon - get rid of it!

So after having spent the previous evening with possibly the greatest, most polite kids in the history of kid-dom, I walked the kids to school and then got on the tram to head back home. I got on the tram with my ear buds in my ears, picked a seat, and opened my book. I was tired, crabby, and full of piss and vinegar from having woken up at 6:45 a.m. (It's inhumane, I tell ya!). At the next stop, two Swiss kids got on - one of the kids sat next to me, and the other one just stood next to him in the aisle. The trouble began immediately...

These two juvenile delinquents from Satan's brood began poking each other. Then, they started shoving each other. All the while, they squoli squonked at each other in their Swiss-German gibberish. Other people began giving them dirty looks - more shoving...more squonking...

Why is nobody saying anything? WHY IS NOBODY DOING ANYTHING???
, I thought.

I'd had enough! I back-handed the kid sitting next to me in the arm - hard enough to get his attention, but not hard enough to hurt him - while simultaneously giving him the death glare and said:


He looked at me and saw that he was about two seconds away from having a size 13 American shoe stuck up his ass. I stared daggers at his friend and he immediately broke eye contact with me. The brats didn't say peep for the rest of their trip. In fact, I don't think anybody else in the entire tram car said peep.

"Here I come to save the dayyyyyyyyyyyyy!"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Warm Thoughts... TBF.

We got our first Christmas card of the season yesterday. It was from my mom and dad.*

I looked at the postmark on the envelope, thought about how I've been freezing my keester off in Basel for the last few days, and then looked at the postmark again. This afternoon, I called my folks, ran a few dates by them, and then I went to the United Airlines website and booked a ticket.

I'll be in Florida in February!

*NOTE TO SELF: Buy Mom and Dad a Christmas card, and mail it, TOMORROW!!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

What Happened?

You used to be so great!

One day, not too long ago, I told Mrs. TBF that I had a real taste for Shake'N Bake. I really liked it as a kid on chicken and pork chops, so seeing how I hadn't eaten it in over thirty years, I decided it was time to relive a little part of my childhood. Figuring that it wouldn't take up too much space in my suitcase, I bought ONE box while I was in Chicago.

Tonight, I dropped the mix into the plastic bag, threw in a couple of chicken breasts, and shook it all up until the breasts were nicely coated. Then I popped the chicken into the oven at 400˚F for 20 minutes, like the instructions recommend. And????


Ok...they weren't THAT bad, but they weren't really that great either.

In all fairness, the chicken did end up being crispy on the outside and moist on the inside as advertised. No, that wasn't the problem at all. The problem IS didn't taste anything at all like I remember it tasting when I was a kid. In fact, the coating just tasted like crumbs from the bottom of the toaster with a few (not enough) spices thrown in. Oddly enough, unlike most prepared food in America, it seemed to be lacking salt - I actually had to add some.

Is it me who has changed, or has Shake'N Bake changed? Or both?

And while we're on the topic of expats bringing food back with them from America...

What's with all the North Americans bringing back Kraft macaroni and cheese in their suitcases?

The strangest thing about it all is that most of the people who bring back suitcases full of the stuff admit to me that they rarely ate the stuff back when they lived in the U.S. or Canada. What's up with that? I guess it's just "the thing" to do.

There's nothing wrong with bringing back some stuff from "home" that you miss and can't get where you live now, but a suitcase full of crap that you never used to eat anyway?

Whatever! I've learned my lesson.


Are you impressed that I actually set up my candy Advent calender before December 1st? I sure am! I've had it for as long as I can remember (and probably even before that). Here's what is written on the back:
Timmy [don't know who that is!]

December First to Christmas
Is the longest time of year,
Seems as the old Santa
Never will appear.

How many days till Christmas,
It's so mighty hard to count,
So this little candy ribbon
Will tell the exact amount.

[I think the person meant 'untie'] a candy every night
When the sandman casts his spell,
And Christmas will be here
By the time you reach the bell.

I guess I should have read the back before I ate my little Snickers bar THIS MORNING instead of 'when the sandman casts his spell'. Doh! But when you think about it: Why would someone eat candy right before going to bed? Who wrote this thing?

A dentist?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Late-Night Snack...

I made some popcorn a little while ago. It's not something I make very often, but I had a real taste for it tonight. And I'm not talkin' none of that air-popped crap! No-sir-eeeee! I poured some vegetable oil in a pot, threw in about a cup of kernels, and gave it a shake every now and then. Not only that, but I also doused it in melted butter and gave it a good BAM! of sea salt.

It was da-AMN good!

I crunched away on it while I spoke to Mrs. TBF who was crunching away on some Fritos at her mom's house. A beautiful moment, indeed. However, I have to admit that I was a bit jealous of the fact that Mrs. TBF was getting to enjoy the sacred Fritos.

Mmmmmm, Fritos! Llllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!*

But I'm not complaining. Really! Popcorn on a Sunday night is a pretty darn good snack. I am wondering about one thing, however:

Can I use bacon grease for popping popcorn?

Just askin'.

*simulated angelic singing

Fending For Myself...

Mrs. TBF and I buy our eggs from a local farm. We walk there (a couple of miles), pick out our organic eggs, drop the money into the mailbox, Mrs. TBF says "...thanks, girls!", and then we walk back home.

Aren't we just the greenest people you know? I mean, no car, walking to a local farm to buy organic eggs...

OK...I guess we're not really that green. But, we're trying!

So the best thing about these (in my opinion, overpriced) eggs is that Mrs. TBF uses them to make me an omelet every Sunday morning. Let me correct that: every Sunday morning when she is here.

This morning? She was in Chicago.

It's been a long time since I actually had to make an omelet myself on Sunday morning, but I managed...


It wasn't half-bad, but it definitely wasn't as good as the ones Mrs. TBF makes for me. Also, I didn't even think about the bacon (in the freezer) until the first forkful of omelet was in my mouth. So disorganized!

Mrs. TBF will return around 11:30 a.m. next Sunday morning. Would it be wrong of me to ask her to make me an omelet as soon as she gets home?

Um...thought so.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's GOTTA Be A New Personal Record!

I put up all of our Christmas decorations yesterday!

Yes, you read that correctly. I - Mr. Scrooge - unpacked all of our Christmas decorations (including this one available at yesterday and arranged them in whatever places looked good. Not only that, but upon playing Bing Crosby and David Bowie's Little Drummer Boy duet on the iPod just after midnight early Friday morning, I also declared the Christmas music season* officially begun. Our apartment is just oozing holiday cheer.

What the heck has gotten into me??? Am I mellowing in my old age? Who knows?

Mrs. TBF came home from work on Friday evening to a very different apartment from the one she left to go to work in the morning, and she seemed very appreciative. Everything is up except for the tree, and that won't happen until a couple of weeks from now. We had a nice dinner, enjoyed a little wine, went to bed...

...and then she got up at 4:30 this morning in order to catch a 5:45 a.m. taxi to the airport.

Yup, that's right: she's off to the U.S., and she won't be back until next Sunday.

I went with her to airport, saw her off, and then took the bus/tram back home. When I walked in the door at 7 a.m., King was complaining about me not having fed him before we left for the airport.

No appreciation!

I have to say that King has ABSOLUTELY NO HOLIDAY SPIRIT! Although I think he secretly likes the little Christmas bandana we make him wear this time of year.

*day after Thanksgiving until midnight on January 6th (Three Kings Day)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For What You Are About To Receive... will be truly thankful.

Many people in America are tossing and turning in their beds right now due to their annual pre-thanksgiving turkey angst. Please, stop your worrying because THE BIG FINN is here to put you at ease.



If your turkey is still in the freezer...YOU'RE SCREWED! It'll never defrost in time. Just go out for dinner at Old Country Buffet or some other place where you can strap on the feedbag for cheap. Trust me, the blow dryer won't work!!

However, if you have a fresh or thawed frozen turkey in the fridge, there's nothing to worry about. Break out your Weber grill, and you'll soon be eating some of the best turkey you've ever eaten.

But hey, enough of my blathering. Let's let the good people from Weber tell you how to do it. Here it is straight from the pamphlet that was included with the first Weber we purchased back in 1988:

Instructions for grilling the turkey using the indirect method.

Instructions on how to do the indirect method.

Here are a couple of our tips:

Forget the meat thermometer - you won't need it. We always just BBQ the turkey for 11 minutes per pound, and it's perfect EVERY SINGLE TIME!

We always Q the bird without stuffing. I've read that you can do it with the stuffing, but you have to add 2 minutes per pound to the cooking time. Mrs. TBF just squeezes the juice of a couple of lemons into the cavity before throwing in the sqeezed lemon halves. Then, she adds a mixture of various herbs and some crushed garlic cloves to "perfume" the bird.

Important: make sure you put some water in your drip pan. Otherwise, the skin of the turkey will turn black. I wouldn't recommend making gravy from the drippings because the drip pan will have little bits of charcoal in it, and who wants that in their gravy? Just make a gravy separately using the turkey giblets on your stove top.

Finally, let the turkey rest at least 15 minutes before carving it. We've actually let a turkey rest for about an hour before, and steam still came out of it when we sliced into it after an hour of resting.

And there you have it. Not only will you serve up one of the best tasting turkeys you've ever eaten in you life, but you'll also free up your oven for other things. Mrs. TBF can add some info in the comments in case I've forgotten anything, but...there you have it!

Oh, and us? We've already had our big Thanksgiving dinner this year. Rita and Eric were kind enough to host us (and a bunch of other people) at their house for Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings this past Saturday. Of course, I had to get my fingers a bit "dirty" by doing the post dinner preparation of the carcass for turkey soup.


What do you mean, what happened to the rest of the meat???

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanks, But...I've Got To Wash My Hair!

Big news in Baselland! More specifically: big news for us regular riders of the No. 10 tram line.


What's Tango, you ask?

I'm not totally sure, but I think it's the model name of the new tram cars that are about to begin gliding along the tram tracks that we can see from our bedroom window.

Exciting stuff, huh?

But wait...there's more.

Baselland Transport (a.k.a. BLT) is pulling out all the stops and putting on a TANGO-Premier extravaganza the likes of which has never before been seen by the unsuspecting Swiss public! Yes, this Saturday - and THIS SATURDAY ONLY - between the hours of noon and 5 p.m., we have been invited to "discover the new Tram-Generation" with a FREE round-trip to the BLT depot in Oberwil where we'll receive a FREE bratwurst...a FREE beverage...a FREE film...AND a FREE dance show!

ZWWWWWWWooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOP! (That's supposed to be the sound of a record skipping!)

Ya had me...and then ya lost me!

Dance show? DANCE SHOW???! Ain't gonnna happen! Not me. Nope!

The dancing gene (for both enjoyment and execution) DEFINITELY did not get passed on from the parents to yours truly. There's NO WAY - despite the offer of a free bratwurst - that I'm going to sit through a dance show.

Hmmm...all you can eat bratwursts? Maybe.

Wait...what am I saying. NOPE!! NO WAAAAAAAAAAAAY!


Just because I won't be there doesn't mean that every other person in Basel won't be packed into the tram cars like sardines. C'mon! Free bratwurst? Free ANYTHING?

FUGGEDABOUTIT!!! It'll be mayhem, I tell ya!


Then again, I do expose myself to the possibility of running into the death cloud. But then, that's always a risk, and a risk I'm prepared to take in order to avoid the dance show mob.

I am, however, reasonably excited about the new tram cars. How will they be tricked out?

On-demand video entertainment?

iPod docks?

Wireless internet?

Death cloud neutralizer?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Early Thanksgiving Cravings...

We're down to the last few hours of Pippin's stay at our house. She's a really, REALLY good dog, and I'll be kind of sad to see her go. There is, however, one strange thing I've discovered about her.

She smells exactly like homemade turkey soup.

It's not a strong smell. But when you stick your nose into the back of her neck and take a whiff, you definitely get the smell of turkey soup that you've made using the Thanksgiving turkey carcass.

Oh, and remember how I said that we just let her sleep on our bed rather than telling her to sleep in her crate? It turns out that her favorite place to sleep is wedged right in between our pillows. Now my pillow smells...that's right...exactly like turkey soup.

I woke up this morning with Thanksgiving on my mind. Lucky for us, we're going to our friends' home for an early Thanksgiving dinner this weekend.

Can't wait! GOTTA wait! CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Art In Da House!

There was an art exhibit in our town about a month ago. Seeing how there's not much else to do around here on a Sunday, we went. One of Mrs. TBF's colleagues from work is an artist/photographer when he's not spending time at his day job being Mrs. TBF's colleague, and he was showing some of his work. And lo and behold, we bought some of it.

His name is Timm Süss, and you can check out some of his work at his website.

Here are the three that we bought last month that I finally picked up from the artist last week. I'm a big fan of photographic art, and I especially liked Timm's reoccurring theme of decay.

And who knew that Timm's art would inspire performance art by yours truly?

Stare at photos on floor leaning against wall...

Stare at drill...

Stare at photos again...

Stare at drill...

Time decays and is reborn...

You may begin snapping your fingers now.

It Wasn't Me...HONEST!

There's nothing like getting on a bus, having the doors close behind you, and then being engulfed by the "death cloud". No...make that the OLD MAN DEATH CLOUD!!! That was our unfortunate situation this past Saturday after getting on the No. 34 bus at Hohle Gasse. Or should the stop be renamed: A. Hohle Gas?

...just came up with that one right now off the top of my head.

...pretty proud of that!

THIS DUDE was the culprit!

No...not me! The old dude...HONEST!

Diva Enablers!

We've been dog-sitting Pippin since this past Saturday evening. Our next-door neighbors in our old neighborhood had to go to Warsaw for a few days, so we told them we'd be happy to look after "the Pip".

A couple of days before Pippin was to arrive, her "mommy" (she wishes to remain anonymous) dropped off some of her supplies (crate, food, toys, etc.) and instructions for taking care of the Pip. Here are a few excerpts from those very detailed instructions:

...walks between 8:00 - 8:30 a.m. Lasts between 35 - 50 minutes.

...gets sausage treats on walk when she does not bark at other dogs.

...Pippin gets her "treat bag" after her morning walk. The big piece of treat is broken up into 6-8 pieces and hidden (not too hard) in her red blanket and you have to tell her to find. Do not put the blanket on the floor. It has to go on carpet because she does not like the plain floor - she slips too much.

...After her treats & blanket, you tell her it's breakfast time - one-third of a container of soft food.

...At lunch she gets a bag of hard food & 1 tbsp. of soft food with one slice of lunch meat (cut into small pieces).

...Maybe one or two sausage treats if she is good. Playtime with toys & she likes to bite hands. [TBF: You mean she has some stuffed toy hands that she likes to bite? Pip Mommy: No...she actually likes to bite your hands.]

...Suppertime is right after her afternoon walk which is around 4 p.m. (usually 20-30 minutes). Suppertime is bag of hard food & "Sunday chicken" [roasted chicken from grocery store].

...She may need some help jumping onto couches.

...She should go "potty" before bedtime, and her bedtime is between 10:30 - 11:00 p.m. Just tell her it's sleepy time and go to box and she will go in there. SHE GETS A MASSAGE & BELLY RUB [caps mine] before bed time.

I kind of teased Pip Mommy about the list when I first read it (TBF: You're joking, right? Pip Mommy: No, and I forgot to write down that she gets two strips of bacon with her breakfast on Sunday mornings.). But then I started to think back to the days when we had a dog, and I soon realized that we were just as guilty in diva creation. Our dog slept on our bed, got fed table scraps, and was not banned from using any piece of furniture as her own. We bought her Walker's shortbread cookies and Basler Leckerli (probably the only expat to actually like the taste of them) and gave them to her as treats. Oh the greatest dog treat of them all: stick your fingers in your dog's ears, rub them around a bit, and then let your dog lick her ear wax off of your fingers. Dogs LOVE it! Oh sure, you say it's gross now...but I GUARANTEE you you'll try it!

Oh...and telling the Pip to go in her box after her massage and belly rub? We wouldn't DREAM of it! She sleeps on our bed...wedged between our pillows.

Pippin appears to have even won over King.

Saturday evening.

Sunday morning.

Monday afternoon.

The Deep Freeze...

The contents of the freezers have been audited and reorganized, and the freezer list has been updated.

What's in your freezer?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Love Muscle!

Ooops...sorry! I meant "I Love Mussels"!

We had a rare stay-at-home-just-the-two-of-us Friday night this night. And did we slave over the stove for hours?


I picked up a container of mussels, a crusty baguette to soak up the jus, and we were in bidness!!!


Not only did we enjoy it, but King got in the act too!

Mrs. TBF washed the mussels down with some wine. I, however, decided to wash them down with a (very large) Belgian beer.

After I was done, I told Mrs. TBF that I was feeling a bit tipsy. How could that be? I only had (hic) one bottle...of this...9% ALCOHOL BEER!!!!

Word to the wise: always read the label first.

Next time...

*That's one of my trademark sayings which was inspired by Justin Wilson (remember him?). Translation: "SHIT, that's good!"

While Mrs. TBF Was At Work...

...I took the tram to Basel's main train station, plunked down nearly fifty bucks, and came home with two stunning blondes. Yes, I'm a sucker for these talented, beautiful ladies, and I have no shame.*

Anastacia's new CD came out last month. It was actually released on the day after we came back from Paris, and I was too busy preparing to leave for Chicago to buy it back then. I just figured I'd buy it in Chicago, but I found out that it won't be released in the U.S. until a date "TBA" in 2009.

It still amazes me that Anastacia is only a HUGE star outside of the U.S. What's up with that? I mean, she's American for God's sake!!! Not only is she American, but she's the best kind of American: Chicagoan-American!!!

The lady on my other arm was Dido. I don't know what it is about her, but her music just gets to me. I always tell Mrs. TBF that she has the "voice of an angel" and "sings to my heart". Her new CD was released TODAY, and I rushed out (like a sissy) and bought it! Not only that, but I then rushed HOME like a sissy and listened to it immediately.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I got tingles on the back of my neck and felt stinging behind my eyes a couple of times while it was playing.


*A feeble attempt at trying to sound manly on this most feminine of days!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Convenient...But Expensive!

I'm making garden vegetable soup for dinner tonight. It's a weekly staple at our house during the colder months.

The recipe calls for 2 cups of broccoli florets. I would normally buy whole broccoli, but I was feeling kind of lazy today so I just bought the bag of florets.

Last week, while in Chicago, I bought a 3 lb. bag of broccoli florets at Costco. I paid $4.49 for the bag. The price stuck in my mind because I remember being amazed at how cheap it was. Seriously, it would have been enough broccoli to feed me and Mrs. TBF for five nights. And while I'm thinking about it...

If you're one of the many people complaining how expensive food is, here's my advice to you:


If you're somebody who doesn't complain about the cost of food...well...then just go ahead and keep buying junk food.

So, the 3 lbs. of Costco broccoli florets at $4.49 comes out to about $1.50 per pound. And the 300 gram bag of broccoli florets at my local grocery store? It cost CHF 3.50. After a little quick metric and currency conversion, that comes out to...$4.50 per pound.

Yes, broccoli florets cost three times more in Basel than they do in Chicagoland!

Of course, I'm not complaining. After all, I did also buy a bunch of roasted nuts and a large bag of tortilla chips. I mean, come on! It's almost Friday!

Crisis? What Crisis?

Isn't there some kind of credit crisis going on right now?

If so, then why did I just receive this e-mail from my U.S. credit card company? You know...the credit card I rarely use.

Congratulations. Your revolving Credit Line is $40,000.

As a valued cardmember who has maintained an excellent account record with us, you have earned the credit line indicated above.

Buying power is in your hands.
You can use your card for all your purchases -
from everyday expenses like groceries and clothes,
to big-ticket items like vacations and home improvements.

Isn't revolving credit one of the things that has gotten people into such a big mess in the first place? It's called spending money you don't have, people! Don't do it!!!

Okey-dokey....I'll get off my soapbox now. But I've gotta be careful: the TBF soapbox is a BIG soapbox.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mrs. TBF-li: Meine Liebe Frau!

When the heck did Mrs. TBF become so Swiss?

We celebrated our friend Rammy's birthday at our apartment this past Saturday night. Our guests were invited over for 7 p.m. At 7:06 p.m., I heard a "...Where the hell is everybody?" coming from the kitchen.


Has It Really Been Five Years?


My passport expires on January 20, 2009. One of the only sucky things about being a Canuck is that the passports are only good for five years. Considering how much we travel, when to get the passport renewed is ALWAYS a major issue.

As it turns out, a good time to renew it is RIGHT NOW!!!

According the embassy in Bern, it'll take about 15 days to get the new one. Last time it only took a couple of days, but the embassy in Bern printed it themselves and it was a NON-MACHINE READABLE passport. This time, a machine readable, biometric passport will come to me all the way from Canada. Hence, the longer processing time. Seeing that I won't be traveling again until December 19th (going to London to celebrate Mrs. TBF's birthday), I feel very confident that, if I send in the application by next week, I'll have my new passport in plenty of time.

I already had my "expressionless" pictures taken in Chicago last week, I've downloaded the passport application off of the embassy's website, and now I just have to fill the stinkin' thing out. That's going require aboot fifteen minutes of intense focus, eh?

The attention span is not...quite...there...yet.

The Brain Thaws...

I've been suffering from my usual jet lag after returning from Chicago. On Saturday night/Sunday morning, I went to bed around 5 a.m. On Sunday evening, I was feeling tired at around 7 p.m. Yesterday morning, I was pretty comatose when Mrs. TBF woke me up. Today? Better, but still not normal.

So what's been going on since last week? Well...

O'Hare Airport in Chicago now has an extra runway. Somebody told me that the flights have been much more on time since this runway opened a couple of months ago. My flight? It left the gate precisely on time. Go O'Hare!!

Oh...and another thing about O'Hare: The BA lounge has Fritos!!! There were four bags in the basket when I spotted them. I grabbed them all and threw them into my carry-on bag. Screw the other passengers! They were mostly British anyway: they don't know what Fritos are.

Heathrow: Terminal 5 is great!! This was the first time I had actually landed at T5 and departed from T5. And, I'm happy to report that I enjoyed a flawless travel experience. The flights were totally on time, and, more importantly, all my bags made it home without delay.

Speaking of bags...
I just finished unpacking my bags yesterday, and what a collection of random objects they did contain. For example: a box for Mrs. TBF containing 48 tennis balls. Why, you ask? Well, that would be because a sleeve of 4 tennis balls costs CHF 24/$20 in Basel, and the box of 48 tennis balls from Costco in Lake Zurich, Illinois costs $30. Even if you add in the Illinois sales tax, the tennis balls in Switzerland are 7 TIMES more expensive than the U.S. tennis balls. Why is that?

We came home on Friday (Mrs. TBF had been in Singapore) to a big wet spot in the ceiling of our master bathroom. You know...the one that was repaired a few months ago!!! We're kind of taking the not-our-problem approach to it right now. The landlord can take care of it after we move (reminder: no later than October 6, 2010!) There's NO WAY I'm putting up with that mess again!

I tried to catch up on reading all the blogs in my Google reader blog roster, but there were literally hundreds of them to read. Screw it! I just marked all of them as read. Sorry about that.

Hey! People speak Swiss-German here! I forgot about that one. It sure makes life somewhat more complicated.

The elliptical trainer at my gym can be my friend, and it can be my enemy. Right now, it's my enemy!

My attention span has ceased to exist. Good bye!

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Minor Miracle...

Right now, I am sitting in the BA lounge at Heathrow Airport. After last week's diet of pizza, steak, Fritos, and Halloween candy, I thought I'd reward my discipline this morning with a breakfast consisting of a huge cappuccino, pain au chocolat, and a bacon sandwich.

It's absolutely amazing that my jeans still fit. In fact, they're not even feeling tight. Hmmmmmm....


Oops! Gotta go! I just noticed that they just replenished the hot buffet!

One Week Ago... was Halloween.

No, I didn't dress up. I thought of dressing up as Mr. Clean by putting on a really tight white t-shirt, but jet lag got the better of me and I just couldn't be bothered. Instead, I was content to just take some pictures of the nieces and nephew in their costumes.

My youngest niece, Sinead, dressed up as a fairy - or as she says it: faiwy. cute! Then, there was my nephew, Finn.

TBF: Finn, what are YOU supposed to be?

Finn: The Grim Reaper!

TBF: You look like a Swedish figure skater.

At that point, I was charged and stabbed with his plastic sword - for about the hundredth time that day.

Then there was some guy dressed up like a baby who was handing out Halloween candy with my mom. He claimed to be my dad.

I've never seen this man before in my life!

Two Weeks Ago...

...we were in Paris. I left for Chicago a couple of days after returning from Paris, so I just didn't make time to blog about it. And now, it's old news, so let me just say a couple of things.

Dear tourists: The proper pronunciation of this Metro stop is George sank and not George vee. Please make a mental note in order to avoid any further embarrassment.


This, a copy of the Statue of Liberty's torch, is a monument to French-American friendship. Yes, it is directly above the tunnel where Princess Di was killed, but it is NOT the Princess Di monument. It doesn't bother me if you continue to leave cards or flowers.

OK... THAT off my chest!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ready And Waiting...

My rental car has been returned, the bags are packed, and I'm all set to go. Mrs. TBF is well into her flight from Singapore to Zürich: she'll be back home at some point on Friday before me. I'll be leaving for the airport in about 2.5 hours for the 7:55 p.m. flight from Chicago to London.

It's been a good trip (as evidenced by my lack of blogging). I spent a lot of time with friends and family, ate a lot (too much) good food, and enjoyed really nice Indian summer weather for most of my stay. Oh...and NOTE TO SELF: pizza and Halloween candy is not an effective diet for keeping off weight.

Yesterday, I picked up some dry cleaning (GOD BLESS American dry cleaning!!!), and the dry cleaner asked me if I wished that I was staying a little longer. My reply?

" about 50 YEARS LONGER!!!"

Of course, I'm looking forward to seeing Mrs. TBF after being apart for eight days, and I'm even looking forward to seeing the beast that is King*.'s getting harder to leave Chicago each time I come back for a visit.

I've GOT to keep a positive attitude about Switzerland.

Clean and safe! CLEAN AND SAFE!!!!

*We're coming, King!!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

So Far In Chicago...

...I have:

smelled TWO skunks!

eaten corned beef hash and Fritos (not together)!

had a minor dispute with a cashier (I won!)!

seen a friend I haven't seen for over a year!

watched a grade school Halloween parade!

I hope the excitement doesn't escalate: I don't think I could handle it!

I'm enjoying beautiful, warm, and sunny weather here in Chicago. I just wish I had brought along some shorts.

Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lounge Rat...

Here I sit in the midst of (yellowing) palm trees in the Swiss Lounge at Basel's EuroAirport. I don't really have anything special to blog about, but since the lounge has free internet access I thought that I should at least use it for a few minutes.

I mean, SOMETHING FREE IN SWITZERLAND!!!! What's going on here???? Can't pass that up!

In about thirty minutes, it will be...ONWARD, HO!*

*If Mrs. TBF were here, she'd tell me to quit calling her a "ho". I hate traveling without her. Sad...

A Quickie..

I'm in a hurry...

We had a great time in Paris, and now I'm getting ready to leave for Chicago. While I'm in Chicago, Mrs. TBF will head to Singapore on business. That means that we'll be pretty much half-way around the world from each other...which is sad.

I'll blog about Paris (and Chicago) after I cross over the Big Pond.

I'm counting on you, King, to hold down the fort while we're gone.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Rude Awakening!

I woke up this morning to what sounded like a 747 about to land in our bedroom - according to Mrs. TBF's alarm clock, it was 5:22 a.m.

One question: Why would an alarm clock manufacturer make the numbers so dim that it's nearly impossible to see them even in a dark room? Just wondering...

Anyway, getting back to the plane...

I thought that planes weren't allowed to land at Basel's EuroAirport between midnight and 6 a.m. But I guess I was wrong. A quick look at the EuroAirport Daily Flight Plan - Arrivals webpage (OK...geeky to some, but of great interest to us), informed me - much to my surprise - that a number of (mostly) cargo planes land regularly between 5 & 6 a.m. And, it looks like the culprit was a FEDEX cargo plane (FX5083) arriving from Paris with a landing time of 5:27 a.m.


I have to say that I've never been woken up before by a plane landing at EuroAirport this early in the morning. What I'm wondering: is this something new? How could I possibly have never heard these early flights before? The noise was so loud that Mrs. TBF had to get up and close our bedroom window. Seriously, this plane flew only a few thousand feet right over our apartment!

I guess Mrs. TBF is going to have to begin getting up right before 5 a.m. every morning from now on in order to close the window. I mean, I'd do it, but the window's on her side of the bed. So, it...

...officially counts as her responsibility.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Two people (no wonder things are so expensive here!) showed up at 3 p.m. this afternoon to replace our washing machine. It's now 3:30, and they're already gone.

So how's the new machine, you ask?

It' the new machine.

It turns out that there has been some sort of snafu (I just LOVE that word!). The company ordered the wrong size machine, and the new one wouldn't fit into the spot where the old one was. Since the washer and dryer are stacked on top of each other, the washing machine has to be exactly the right size.


The repair "couple" put the old machine back in place, so at least "we" (read: "I") can still wash clothes until the new machine comes. I'll tell ya, being without a washing machine here would REALLY suck!

When I asked the repairlady how long it would be until we get the new machine, she told me that they could probably get the replacement for us by the end of the week. We're leaving for Paris on Friday morning, so this week is probably out. If they can't get it for Monday or Tuesday, then Mrs. TBF is going to have to deal with it on her own (yikes!) because I'm leaving for Chicago next Wednesday.


About the washing machine, that is - not about Paris or Chicago.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Another Step Closer To The Urn...

...or is it farther?

I brought King in for his annual check-up this past Wednesday. All in all, this trip to Dr. Boozer's office was rather uneventful; unlike last year when he dropped a bomb in his crate just before returning home.

Dr. Boozer gave King a blood test, and I called yesterday morning for the results and...


Sheesh! I mean, I'm not hoping that King dies a horrible death or anything, but...


OK...I guess I fudged that a bit. He does continue to have his thyroid at least there's hope for his demise at some point in the next decade (Did I say that out loud?), but Dr. Boozer had to send some blood to a lab for that test so I didn't get the results until today. And...the verdict?

I need to up his thyroid medicine...or maybe I won't...Mwaaaaah-ha-haaaaa (STOP THAT!)!

Great! Not only is the beast going to live forever, but...he's going to begin costing us even MORE money than he does now. I had just calculated that he costs us CHF 135 (about $115) per month just for food, medicine, and kitty litter. If you add in the visits to the vet...jeez...I don't even want to think about it. Doesn't he know that there's an economic crisis goin' on, for Chris'sake?

That crisis thing's still going on, right?

Es riecht wie Zwiebeln!

Our washing machine is on its last leg. A repairman came out last Friday to take a look.

Repairman: What seems to be the problem.

TBF: When I use the gentle cycle, the clothes seem to be coming out partially wet and partially dry. I don't think enough water is going into the machine. Sometimes, after the cycle is done, the door won't open without me pressing a bunch of different buttons. And finally...the machine smells like onions.*

Repairman: What?

TBF: The machine smells like onions.

Repairman: (sticking his head into the machine) You're right! It does smell like onions.

TBF: We don't really eat that many onions, so I'm not really sure where that smell is coming from.
The long and short of it was that the repairman called the building management and advised that our 13 year old washing machine would cost CHF 600 ($525) to repair, and a new one would cost about CHF 2000 ($1750). After he got off the phone, he told me that the owner would have to decide between repair and replacement.

This afternoon, I received a call from the repairman. Our new washing machine will be installed next Tuesday afternoon. Man, I LOVE it when things go the way I want them to go!!

One problem is solved (Thank GAWD!!!) But now I have another problem:

How am I going to get rid of this craving for French onion soup?

* Since the repairman spoke absolutely zero English, I had to speak in German. For the reader's benefit, I wrote down in English what I THINK I was saying in German. Just transpose some of the words, completely leave out others, and throw in a dash of gibberish (while gesturing like a mad man), and you'll have a more accurate idea of what I was actually saying to the repairman.

Gone But Not Forgotten...

I did something different this year, and I think it's going to work out well.

We have some really big potted plants in our rooftop garden that have to come in for the winter. Namely: the bougainvillea (just ignore the Green Bay Packers fan in the foreground), the bottlebrush plant, and a rather large hibiscus. Over the past couple of years, I've brought these plants into the apartment where they've proceeded to drop a bunch of their leaves for the sole purpose that King can bat them around all night causing me great annoyance.

The plants survive the winter OK in the apartment, but they pretty much look like they're barely clinging on to life when I return them to the rooftop in the spring. Yeah, they bounce back. But, for example, the bougainvillea doesn't begin blooming until about July 1st. The bottlebrush plant, which normally blooms at the end of May, began blooming in September this year.

I'm a greedy gardener - I want to maximize bloom-time.


This year, thanks to our friend Dr. (pharmacology) Rammy, our plants will bask the whole winter in summer-like warmth in a greenhouse. She arranged for her gardening service to come pick up our plants this week, and they were whisked away at 8:00 a.m. this past Wednesday morning.

As my babies sped away down the road in the Alabor trailer, I felt a twinge of sadness...and happiness.

For how many more summers will I enjoy their blooms?

Mixed emotions...

Update later: I just noticed that on the first glance of this post that it appears as if I am eulogizing Dr. (entomology) John. Let it be known: DR. JOHN IS NOT DEAD!!! Although, he is a Green Bay Packers fan. And that, in my opinion, officially qualifies him as disabled.

Friday Flashback: 時間は行進する!

I can't believe it's been a year since we got on the plane, turned left (thanks to Mrs. TBF's BA gold upgrade coupons), and raised our glasses in celebration of our 20th anniversary trip to Japan.


One year, people!

ONE YEAR!!!!!!!!

Last night, I mentioned to Mrs. TBF that it had been just over a month since we were in Amalfi. felt like FOREVER ago.

Isn't it strange how sometimes things that are recent seem like they happened ages ago, and things that happened a long time ago feel like they just happened?

I mean, it feels like just yesterday that I was running around with a full head of hair and six-pack abs without a care in the world.

Oh yeah...that was last night...


Speaking of dreams...

Hey, Mrs. TBF: How's that Japanese schoolgirl uniform coming along?

I Didn't Even Notice!

Has it really been over a year since we sold the Jeep?

Why...yes it has!

Have I missed it?


Have there been times where I wished I had a car?

No! OK...maybe once or twice.

The Mobility car-sharing program has worked really well for me, and I don't regret getting rid of our car at all. In fact, I've only really used Mobility cars about ten times over the past year, so that's not even once per month. And...some of those times were when I didn't really even need a car, but I just felt like driving around in order to cram a bunch of errands into one day.

Yes...the tram, bus, taxis, and the occasional rides from friends have served us well.


That was easy!

Who would'a thunk it?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Got A Package, People!


That's how I describe our door buzzer, AND that's what I heard yesterday afternoon. Hmmm...that's funny. I wasn't expecting anybody. Then, I walked over to the intercom:

TBF: Hello?

Mystery Swiss Caller: Squoli squonk...squonk...squonk...squoli...squonk-squonk!!!

TBF: Wie bitte?

MSC: Paket!

Got a package, people!!!!!

Hmmm...that's funny. I wasn't expecting a package. Could it possibly be all the wine I ordered from last weekend's Weinmesse? Already?

When I got down to our lobby, I saw two delivery men standing with a pretty big box. It was then that I realized that I was about to get some head!

Actually...two heads...AND a big plate!

Seeing how busy I've been over the past month doing...well...pretty much nothing, is it any wonder that I'd forgotten that we bought some Italian ceramics while we were in Amalfi last month? Actually, I seem to recall that I remembered the ceramics for a split second last week, and then my one second attention span moved on to more unimportant things, and then I just forgot about them again...until yesterday.

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah...

I unpacked the box and found that Mrs. TBF's "people" had used an interesting combination of styrofoam "popcorn", styrofoam sheets, and empty plastic water bottles as packaging material. Then, each ceramic piece was wrapped in foam rubber and two layers of bubble wrap. I'll be recycling/throwing out packaging material for the next week, but I'm happy to report that all three pieces are intact and the new heads will soon be joining the existing heads on our "head wall".

The plate? I have NO idea where we're going to keep that thing seeing that it's too big to fit into any of our cabinets. Mrs. TBF wants me to hang the plate on the wall. I, being the sole operator of the hammer-drill, have vetoed that idea, so I'm just going to have to buckle-down and find a place for it...somewhere. I guess that means I'll be doing a lot of walking into a room and then wondering why I actually walked into that room over the next few days.

I like that game, and I have to say that I've become pretty good at it over the past eight years. Practice makes perfect.

Colour My World...

Man, we've had some nice fall color here this year. In fact, Mrs. TBF and I think that Fall 2008 has been the most colorful one we've had since moving to Switzerland.

How's the fall color where you live?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gotta Love Them Pets!


There's nothing like waking up at 1:45 a.m. to the sound of your cat coughing up a gigantic hairball.

Not so bad?


There's nothing like waking up at 1:45 a.m. to the sound of your cat coughing up a gigantic hairball, while standing on top of the duvet, between your legs, and then splattering cat spit, fur, and chunks of cat food all over said duvet and onto the floor.

Forcing myself out of bed this morning at 1:46 a.m., I wiped up what I could, surveyed the rest of the vomit-spray, cursed King and decided that there was NO WAY I was spending the rest of the night in that bed. I told Mrs. TBF that I was going to sleep in the guest room.

About one minute after getting under the duvet in the guest room - yup, you guessed it! - King decided that he'd like to reclaim his spot on top of the new duvet between my legs. I told him to get the Hell out, and...he did; not to be seen for the rest of the night! Mrs. TBF slid into bed next to me a few minutes later, after opening the window, because "...the guest room smells like eggs!" (sorry about that!), and we spent the rest of the night sleeping in our guest bed. Or, should I say...NOT sleeping?

First, it took both of us about an hour to fall back to sleep. Then, I woke up at some point (4 a.m.?) and saw Mrs. TBF hopping around the room with a cramp in her leg. At 7 a.m., the bells, loud and clear because of the open window, were clanging away at the local church.

Why do the church bells clang at 7 a.m.? Why?...why?...WHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYY???

I got up and made us both some coffee, and brought a cup into the bathroom for Mrs. TBF just in time to hear her telling King:

"You just came one step the urn, MISTER!"

He didn't seem to care one way or another.

Out With The Old...

...and in with the new!

Here she is...Miss Switzerland 2008: Whitney Toyloy (great name!)!

While last year's winner showed a lot of promise by being "up for it", she definitely pales by comparison to Miss Boy-Toyloy!

One question:

Does Miss America pose for photos for a lingerie collection a week after being crowned?

Ummmm...didn't think so!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I've Got The Blues!

No, not those kind of blues. I guess it would be more accurate to say that I'm SEEING blue, and I wish it would end. You see, the Blue Man Group is coming to Basel at the end of October for a 2.5 month stay, and...I CAN'T WAIT!!!

No, not because I'm going to go see them. I'm not.

No! The reason I can't wait for them to come to Basel is that it means that they'll also soon (January 11, 2009) be leaving Basel, and then...


Sheesh! It's been on billboards, buses, trams, and every other place I've set my eyes since the start of this year, and...I'M TIRED OF THIS STINKIN' POSTER!!!

There is one thing I do like about it though...

Doesn't the Blue Man on the left look like Bob Denver from Gilligan's Island if he had a blue face and...oh...

...wasn't dead?