Monday, December 19, 2011

2011: A year in review - London Theatre

As I was putting up the last few programs from theatre productions we had seen in London, I was amazed at the treasure trove a great shows we have seen this year. A true embarassment of riches! For those who know me, I have seen 4 times the number of live theatre shows than cinema films this year, but "when in Rome, do as the Romans do!"

That said, here is the listing (P = play, M = musical, O = Opera):

* When We Are Married (P by J.B. Priestley)
* Onassis (P)
* The Wizard of Oz (M)
* Flare Path (P by Terence Rattigan)
* Betty Blue Eyes (M)
* End of the Rainbow (M)
* The Children's Hour (P by Lillian Hellman)
* The Pittman Painters (P)
* Pygmalion (P by George Bernard Shaw)
* Crazy for You (M)
* Cause Celebre (P by Terence Rattigan)
* South Pacific (M)
* Madame Butterfly (O)
* Le Nozze di Figaro (O)
* Being Shakespeare (P)
* Driving Miss Daisy (P)
* You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (M)
* A Christmas Carol (P)
* The Lion in Winter (P)
* Pippin (M)
* Dick Whittington (M, but technically a panto)

Actors were well known; other were not. Highlights included performances by Robert Lindsay (two different shows), Michael Crawford, James Purefoy, Sheridan Smith, Sienna Miller, Keira Knightley, Elisabeth Moss, Ellen Burstyn, Carol Kane, Rupert Everett, Diana Rigg, Joanna Lumley, Simon Callow (two different shows), James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, and Dame Edna...just to name a few.

And the good thing is...there are already six shows in the 2012 queue, with Carousel, Ragtime, Singin' in the Rain, Top Hat, The Madness of King George and Master Class leading the pack!

Favorite show???? Ooooh, tough one. They were all so different that is is hard to compare. My top three certainly go to End of the Rainbow, The Pittman Painters, and Driving Miss Daisy (I mean, Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones - how can it not be in the top three?)

Favorite musical???? Guilty as charged. I am sucker for R&H, so give me South Pacific any day. A guilty pleasure.

Least favorite???? Well, if I have to choose, Pippin.

Monday, December 12, 2011

This first Christmas gift of the season - GO BEARS!

We purposely did not read emails or phone texts, read the online or paper news, and certainly did not watch any sports news coverage when we woke up on Sunday morning until AFTER we watched the replay of the NCAA Heisman Trophy presentation. Our satellite carrier provided coverage of the presentation, albeit in a tape delay format at 2 AM London time, so we got up early to watch it as a "pseudo live" presentation.

Yes, there is indeed a Santa Claus, as RGIII (a.k.a Robert Griffin III), was the first ever Baylor football player to receive the coveted Heisman Trophy. "Here Come the Bears!"

Not only is this young man an accomplished football player, but he is a student athlete with 3.9 GPA (having already completed his undergraduate degree in Political Science and is on track to complete his Masters in the spring), has aspirations for law school, is a team player, humble, and a religous young man. A credit to himself, his family, and Baylor University!!!!

Now, all I want for Christmas now is the RGIII Heisman win T-shirt!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful for...

In this season of Thanksgiving I am reminded of simple blessings, taking time to give thanks:

* my husband, partner, and best friend
* family that loves and cares for me
* my faith
* friends around the world that support me, accept me "warts and all", laugh and cry with me
* a life filled with new experiences every day
* my health...that enables me to do pretty much anything I want!
* a sense of humor and the ability not to take myself too seriously
* material blessings that enrich my life and others

Being with family in the US this Thanksgiving for the first time since 2001 reminds me of the things we take for granted.

Thanksgiving is that day to remember and to remind ourselves to celebrate Thanksgiving in our hearts every day of the year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"12 in 12 in 2012" Tuesday Update

T-9 weeks to Marrakech Marathon (race #1).

Putting in the miles (40 miles run this week) and at 26% of fundraising target. Little aches and pains in hip flexors and achilles, but nothing else too major. Lovin' those naps and massages when I can get them into the diary.

Reminder: If you, a family member, or friend have personally been touched by cancer, please consider donating to Cancer Research UK on behalf of my "marathon" marathon journey.

Taking it one step at a time,

This is why I am running

On a recent weekend trip, as I sat on the return air flight home and reflected on my weekend, I sighed with satisfaction. It had been a fun weekend visiting a new city for the first time, embracing lovely warm weather and a cool, refreshing Mediterranean sea breeze, eating delicious food, and visiting interesting historic sites. In general, I gave the trip a "thumbs up" although it is always challenging to fit in my long runs on the weekend when travelling away from home/London.

I then became aware of the man sitting nearby who was wearing a baseball cap; he was clearly undergoing treatment for cancer (either chemotherapy, radiation, both, etc.). He had no hair on his head (hence the reason for the ball cap) and no eyebrows or eyelashes, was quite thin, and just looked very tired.

My heart went out to him...and then I thought, "This is the reason I am running my marathon challenge for Cancer Research UK...just for people like him."

Taking it a step at a time,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2012 Olympic torch relay

We've had a little bad news, a little more bad news, and some good news.

First, Hachie Gal was notified today that she was NOT selected to carry the Olympic Torch for a one mile leg of its UK journey in conjunction with the 2012 Summer Olympics. Bummer dude...could it have been b/c I am not British????

Secondly, the torch relay course has now been publicized and the torch is not set to pass through my West London neighborhood. For those who are keen to see its targeted journey:

The good news is that on Days 67 and 69, I can get reasonably close to a route and come out and cheer "Citius, Altius, Fortius" (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"12 in 12 in 2012" Tuesday Update

T-10 weeks to Marrakech Marathon (race #1).

A relatively good week of training, although the fatigue level kicked up a notch this week (sadly, I am not as young as I once was).

A minor equipment setback was identified when it was discovered that the calibration in the Nike+ Sportswatch was slightly off, resulting in inaccurate distance calculations. Case in point: last week's 13 mile long run was actually only 12.6 miles. A bit disconcerting but better I know now rather than later.

Thankfully, my cracker-jack marathon road crew manager lept into action (a.k.a Budman) and with the fiendish determination that only a consulting partner can muster, he corrected the calibration issue tout de suite.

From a fundraising perspective, I am inching steadily closer to my fundraising goal of £10,000, with 23% raised thus far. If you, a family member, or friend have personally been touched by cancer, please consider donating to Cancer Research UK on behalf of my "marathon" marathon journey.

Taking it one step at a time,

Monday, November 14, 2011

after 4 years of driving in this country... it just me, or are UK roundabouts an exercise in "organized chaos".

Yes....they never get any better. Sorry, Brits!

Remembrance Sunday

In the United Kingdom, 'Remembrance Sunday' is held on the second Sunday in November, which is the Sunday nearest to the November 11th Armistice Day (the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m. in 1918) and the day "to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts".

A very moving event, one we even watched on television! For those interested, read on.

The United Kingdom national ceremony is held in London at the Cenotaph on Whitehall and, since 2002, also at the Women's Memorial. Many other UK cities and villages participate in local Remembrance Day celebrations. For those US friends, think of US Memorial Day, and you get the picture.


Wreaths are laid by Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, as well as many of the members of the Royal Family as well, the Prime Minister, leaders of major political parties and former Prime Ministers, the Foreign Secretary, the Commonwealth High Commissioners and representatives from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets and the civilian services.



Two minutes' silence is held at 11 a.m., before the laying of the wreaths. The silence represents the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, when the guns of Europe fell silent. This silence is marked by the firing of a field gun on Horse Guards Parade to begin and end the silence, followed by Royal Marines buglers sounding Last Post. Church bells are usually rung "half-muffled", creating a sombre effect.

Other members of the British Royal Family watch from the balcony of the Foreign Office.


After the ceremony, a parade of veterans, organised by the Royal British Legion, marches past the Cenotaph, each section of which lays a wreath as it passes.

Throughout the UK, small crosses with red poppies adorn churches, cemeteries, etc. These are from outside Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance

Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Poppy Appeal

Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day or Veterans Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty since World War I. This year in the UK, this day will be observed on Sunday, November 12th.

The day was specifically dedicated by King George V on 7 November 1919 as a day of remembrance of members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice ("at the 11th hour" refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 a.m.).

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields". These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Each year the nation expresses its unequivocal support for The Royal British Legion's charity work through the Poppy Appeal, emphasising the need to help all generations of the Armed Forces and their families - today and for the rest of their lives. Throughout the UK, men and women don red poppies on their lapels and clothing as a symbol of their support for Remembrance Day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

"12 in 12 in 2012" Tuesday update

T-11 weeks to Marrakech Marathon (race #1).

Thanks to those of you who have heard the call for support! Both the training and fundraising are off to a solid start:

(1) Last week's long run was 12 miles - it was a good, solid run.
(2) I am 20% to my fundraising goal
(3) Currently, no unusual aches and pains for this stage :-)

As you reflect on all the good causes that are out there, please know how much I am appreciate the words on encouragement and the donations. Please keep those donations coming!!!!!

Taking it one step at a time,

Monday, November 07, 2011

Guy Fawkes and fireworks

Saturday was Guy Fawkes Day (a.k.a "Bonfire Night")...for those of you not in the know, a brief summary:

Fawkes and his revolutionary cohorts set about assassinating King James I and attepmpted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in a 1604 conspiracy known as the Gunpowder Plot. They amassed enough gunpowder in a basement near Westminster to essentially destroy that part of London as well as kill nearly the entire membership of the House of Lords, the senior bishops of the Church of England and the royal family. The plot failed, and Fawkes and his co-conspirators were put to death.

The character of Satan in Milton’s "Paradise Lost" is based on Fawkes, and today we have the word “guy” because of him; “burning the guy” in effigy is a part of how Bonfire Night, November 5th, is celebrated in the UK. Each year in Britain, fireworks and bonfires are set alight. I actually caught fireworks this year from my bedroom window....that is what I call service!

Another tradition apparently dropped by the wayside, but also connected to Guy Fawkes Day involved children building a Guy Fawkes effigy and waiting outside public places, asking passers-by for a "Penny for a Guy". I witnessed none of that this weekend....guess some traditions do fall by the wayside. Oh, wait, there was a reference to it on Saturday night's show by the 80+ year old host of Strictly Come Dancing, Bruce Forsythe, ...guess his age explains why.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Ever had a "cameluccino"?

Recent trips to the UAE have proven to me that there are places that "do things bigger and larger than life" than even Texas.

Case in point: Why settle for a plain cappuccino when you can have a cameluccino?


At the only 7 star hotel in Abu Dhabi, known as the Emirates Palace, I was introduced to such a beverage. (And yes, the hotel ceilings are actually decorated with paint that is not only a golden color but actually contains gold ore flecks in it)...

Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

...but I digress.

After a long day of client meetings, the team sat down to enjoy coffees and relax. Not being a coffee drinker myself, I still had to experience a cappuccino made from camel's milk (not cow's milk). Before you say, "Oooh, disgusting", it actually did not taste all that different. I am not sure I would have known the difference quite frankly had I not been alerted to it before hand.

And yes, those are shavings of gold on the top! Again, another first!

Next door to the coffee lounge, was also a fabulous bakery that made delicious confections to resemble all sorts of things, including Chanel and Vuitton handbags, and with prices to match the real things.

Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

Thursday, November 03, 2011

LOL - literally

OK, I got an invite to attend a small gathering in Chiswick for the purpose of hearing a piano and voice recital of two Royal School of Music students. They are truly talented and they had a lovely program in store for the audience.

The recital was preceded by appetizers and cocktails, and brief chatting with about 40 people attending the recital.

I'll cut to the chase...the musicians were upstaged.

The main focus of attention was the "senior citizen" collie that kept wandering in and out of the music room....traipsing back and forth in front of the pianist or the tenor...clearly out of his element. Several of the guests, including myself, tried to comfort the poor animal but to no avail. Next thing I see out of the corner of my left eye, the dog keeps attempting to jump onto a sofa with 4 guests, only to be pushed back onto the floor. Snickering could be heard over Liszt and Schumann.

Next thing I realize, an odor is wafting through the room that is...well...quite awful. Metaphorically speaking, the dog "cut the cheese" and after passing the gas, clearly felt better and laid down at the foot of the piano.

At one point, he looked up and out at the audience, with what appeared to be a dog if to say, "Ahhhhhh"!

Sadly, I could not say the same.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

'Nuff said

Apocalypse 'predictor' Harold Camping apologises for getting it wrong... again. After incorrectly predicting the apocalypse twice in one year -- May 21st and October 21st -- he's finally come out and apologised (in a way) for a second inaccurate doomsday prediction.

According to him, "prophecy" is a tough business.


Tuesdays are "12 in 12 in 2012" marathon update days!

Status of "12 in 12 in 2012" Marathon Challenge: T-12 weeks to Marrakech Marathon (race #1).

Ladies and might seem a ways off, but that first marathon for 2012 is looming large on the horizon. Sure, it will be marathon #15 in the overall marathon lifetime count, but it is officially T-12 weeks before I am standing on the start line in Marrakech. That is a sobering thought.

So, what's the progress thus far? Good, steady, and on the 10 point rating scale, I give it an "8" for overall discipline. Work is always nipping at my heels, though, so that will be a constant challenge to get those runs in. :-).

That said, I have decided to institute "a weekend nap and massage" policy. Always looking for reasons to reward "good behavior", I can think of no better way to do that than indulge in two of my favorite things: hour+ naps on Saturdays and Sundays and a weekly sports massage.

So, besides training (which is going well enough at this stage), the fundraising has also successfully kicked off. Using some different strategies this year, I will be doing some staggered fundraising to various groups, including family and friends. If you are reading about my challenge for the first time and haven't gotten the email/letter asking for support, no worries - you will!

Until then, feel free to show your support and donate to my challenge NOW!

Taking it one step at a time (literally....

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Just sliding right through those holidays...

Admittedly, I am a holiday enthusiast. Any reason for celebrating a holiday, and you can count me in. I just love a reason to celebrate!

Given that premise, you can understand my dismay when I arrived home last evening, armed with Halloween candy and ready to greet my trick-or-treaters with a hearty "Happy Halloween". Sadly, I had not one ghoul or goblin appear at my door.

Right... I know...Halloween is not the holiday in the UK that it is in the US, but still, even as I drove up to the house, I saw numerous kids in costume running up and down the street.

I had not even really registered the fact that Halloween had come and gone without a sound, and that there'd be no formal Thanksgiving hoopla in the UK, when I heard on the morning BBC news that Oxford street was lighting their Christmas lights this very evening.

Not sure what is more troubling: the fact that it is "officially" Christmas season in the UK or that I actually have 2 full tins of Halloween candy at my house.

I'll close with a "Bah humbug" as it appears this is the correct holiday statement to close with.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Changes to British Monarchy...about time!

Sons and daughters of British monarchs will have an equal right to the throne under changes to the United Kingdom's succession laws agreed to on Friday.

Representatives of the Commonwealth of Nations approved the changes during a summit meeting; idividual governments of the 16 Commonwealth countries which have the Queen as head of state also must agree to the changes for them to take effect.

The changes would mean a first-born girl has precedence over a younger brother. They also mean that a future British monarch would be allowed to marry a Catholic.

The changes would apply to any future children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who married this year.

Good on ya, Brits!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fundraising for Cancer Research - 12 marathons in 12 months in 2012

The two most important women in my life, the women who made the person I am today, were touched by cancer in significant ways. My mother, Nancy Sartain Robinson, lost her battle with breast, bone, and brain cancer at the early age of 48. My aunt, Dr. Peggy Sartain, who was like a second mother to me, successfully battled uterine cancer. More importantly, she served as Pediatric Oncologist at Children’s Medical Center, Dallas, Texas for 31 years, and touched the lives of thousands of children and their families who were affected by childhood cancer.

In memory of these remarkable women, I am running 12 marathons in 12 months in 2012. Basically, one marathon a month, starting with Marrakech in January, London in April, and 10 others sprinkled throughout the year.

I’ve set a massive fundraising goal for myself (£10,000) so please consider supporting my chosen charity, Cancer Research UK by donating through my JustGiving page. Donating this way is simple, fast and totally secure. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to Cancer Research UK and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation (for UK taxpayers only).

Please join me on my marathon journey and help to find a cure for this dreaded disease. Your support would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Georgia Festival Chorus at Oxford

I realize this group "came and went" much earlier this year, but the Budman and I had a great time catching up with Baylor friends AND seeing Oxford for the first time.

The Georgia Festival Chorus, founded in 1987 as the Cobb Festival Chorus by Frank Boggs, is a chorus of 100+ singers who have a far ranging repertoire of classics, anthems, hymns, spirituals, and folk songs. The choir routinely tours internationally as well as within the US and recently just completed a UK tour, which contained a performance at the Cathedral at Christ Church where we were honored to see and hear them perform.

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So...what is our connection to the Georgia Festival Chorus? Simply put, the Budman and I became acquainted with the Boggs family through our own collegiate choir experience...the Baylor Religious Hour (BRH) Choir. During our stint in the choir, we had the pleasure of knowing (and singing) with Catherine, Frank's daughter. So, not only did we get to catch up with lifelong Baylor friends, we reminisced about BU and BRH.

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It truly felt like "old home week", both seeing friends and catching up with their lives as well as listening to some very familiar choral pieces we have had the opportunity to sing ourselves. A truly lovely program including:

* Glorious is Thy Name, Mozart
* Create In Me, Oh God (Opus 29), Brahms
* Almighty God of Our Fathers, James
* Saul, Hovland
* Salvation Is Created, Tschesnokff
* The Majesty and Glory of Your Name, Fettke
* In This Very Room, Harris
* Redeemer of Israel, Lewis / Arr. Wilberg
* I Will Not Leave You Comfortless, Wm. Byrd
* Daniel in the Lion Den, Caldwell-Ivory
* His Voice as the Sound, Walker / Arr. Wilberg
* My Song in the Night, Arr. Wilberg
* My God, My Portion, & My Love, Lewis / Arr. Wilberg
* Amazing Grace, Newton / Arr. Wilberg
* Ev'rytime I Feel the Spirit, Arr. Dawson
* I Want Jesus To Walk With Me, Arr. Hogan
* Danny Boy / Londonerry Air, Arr. Flummerfelt
* Moses, Medema
* Total Praise, Smallwood / Arr. Williamson

Led by the capable director and singer, Frank Boggs, who we have known for over 30 years...

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...the atmosphere was perfect for a concert and for reflection.

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A special treat was to meet the youngest members of the Bogg clan.

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While the highpoint of the trip was seeing friends and attending the concert, Budman and I did enjoy a quick walk about Oxford. What a pretty day....enjoy the tour!

Ashmolean Library

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Out and about in Oxford

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

I've gone over to the dark side

I have appropriately been accused of spelling my words with "Ss" and not "Zs"...guilty as charged.

Sad thing is, I don't even notice it anymore.

May Trip: Edinburgh and the marathon

Nice problem to many trips and not enough time to post. However, a quick note re: Marathon #14, Edinburgh; not the time I had hoped but a good run considering wind speeds were 30-35 mph from mile 17 onwards.



Hachie Gal will fight to run another day, however!

Being a fan of destination running, we took the opportunity to explore Edinburgh a bit prior to the race. First up, Edinburgh Castle....




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Views of the amazing Edinburgh skyline.





The other exciting bit of the weekend involved that "pesky ash cloud" that raised its head again, delaying our departure out of Edinburgh by a day. No worries, as we checked into a lovely hotel called "The Witchery" that was FAB-U-LOUS! So, when can I make a return trip?