The 67th thing I love about living in Berlin

photo credit: Angele McQuade
photo credit: Angele McQuade

(Even if I don’t actually still live in Berlin…)

I got an unexpected gift late the other night when Rebecca, one of my favorite Berlin partners-in-crime (er, let’s make that adventure) forwarded a link to this New York Times story on the favorite streets of various European cities. Scroll down the page to Berlin, and there you’ll see what I was so delighted to find: a long piece by Joshua Hammer on Rüdesheimer Strasse, one of the main streets in our lovely (former) neighborhood surrounding Rüdesheimer Platz.

Though this neighborhood is considered to be sleepy and perhaps even boring (gasp!) by some Berliners’ standards, we found it absolutely enchanting and still talk wistfully pretty much every day about the blissful year we spent living there .

Hammer’s article gives a decent taste of the neighborhood’s charms, but we suggest an actual visit (especially when the wine garden is open) if you want to really understand the true joy of life around Rüdesheimer Platz.

And trust me, our own next visit can’t come soon enough.

Water Words

Photo credit: Angele McQuade
Photo credit: Angele McQuade

While at the annual retreat of the Washington Romance Writers chapter of the Romance Writers of America this past weekend, I had a lovely conversation with some equally-lovely writer friends about those moments when inspiration zings you, when ideas come so unexpectedly you have to grab at whatever’s closest to scribble them down before they fly off again.

For me and many of my fellow writers, our muse shows up while we’re in the middle of otherwise mindless, mundane tasks like driving, doing the dishes, or taking a shower. That’s definitely true for me, and the reason I now keep a stack of note paper and a pen in a bathroom drawer.

Some writers swear by waterproof note boards or writing on tile walls with crayon. I’ve tried dry-erase markers–both on tile and on the bathroom mirror–but it turns out steam is not exactly friendly to that type of ink. So now I depend on the humble, practically-timeless combination of pen and paper whenever a spark of an idea hits.

Of course, I have to actually jump out of the shower to write those notes, and that’s exactly what I did the morning after the retreat, when I’d just barely rinsed the shampoo out of my hair when idea after idea for the young adult mystery I’m revising slammed into my head.

Trust me when I say it’s tough to write notes when your hands are soaked and water’s running down your arms and right onto your paper. As you may be able to tell from this picture, my counter ended up completely soaked and my notes did, too, but all that mattered was that I could read them.

You may also notice that photo’s pretty blurry; I did that on purpose to save you all from spoilers. I am writing a mystery, after all. Someday, I promise, you’ll thank me.

Just like I’m keep thanking my personal shower muses for some many, many  new ideas, water-logged or not.

The 8th thing I love about living in Arlington, VA…

Wait, what – Hurt Locker is a musical? Nope…just an elaborate inside joke from the current Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Finally being close enough to New York that theater weekends can be a real thing!

Thanks to Vamoose Bus and its direct trips from Arlington to Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, we’ve been taking full advantage of this proximity to catch up on some amazing Broadway shows.


Our first trip up not long after moving back to the US from Berlin, we saw Wicked (Theater Girl’s pick for her very first Broadway show), plus the sadly now-closed After Midnight (with Dulé Hill!) and Buyer & Cellar (Michael Urie!).

On our second trip, we were extra-ambitious and managed to squeeze in four shows plus a whole day with a friend conveniently visiting from Berlin that same weekend. Seeing Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall in the new production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a thrill I’m still pinching myself over months later, matched only by FINALLY seeing Alan Cumming in the latest Cabaret revival (Michelle Williams, too). Stunning performances, all.

Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall? Enough said.
Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall? Enough said.


Seriously, looking back at those sentences I just typed, I have to wonder if I’m not the luckiest person ever.




Add in Pippin and this other kinda-well-known actor Daniel Radcliffe (Daniel Radcliffe!!!) in The Cripple of Inishmaan and I already know it’s going to be hard to top that theater-licious weekend.


At least until Theater Girl is stage managing professional shows of her own, because you know I’m going to want to be in the audience for those every single night.

Things I’ve Heard From Our Balcony


ligSomeone playing a trumpet! For a few brief and wonderful moments, I actually thought I was in Berlin listening to our regular musical visitors. Then the very un-Berlinish crosswalk signal down the street began beeping and I remembered that we’re now back in the US where we rarely hear music on the street. It’s likely that the unseen trumpet player is a busker down in front of the Metro station a few blocks away, but that doesn’t really matter to me. I’m okay with letting a little musical mystery back into my life…

A rather angry squirrel barking at some unseen threat.

Overgrown tree branches scraping against the window of an apartment in the building across the street.

An extended set of really, REALLY loud male sneezes.

The local high school’s marching band practicing its halftime show out on the football field a few blocks away.

A spirited, high-volume rendition of the Rocky theme by a twenty-something guy running down the block. Continue reading

The 3rd thing I love about visiting Huntington Beach, CA…

SugShack(aka my hometown)

Breakfast at the Sugar Shack.

This Main Street mainstay is famous with locals and tourists alike for its just-off-the-beach location, but to my friends and family, it’s also the site of an impromptu wedding breakfast just after my love and I got married in a (very) informal and pretty much unrehearsed sunrise ceremony. Continue reading

The 2nd thing I love about visiting Huntington Beach, CA…

HBsurfersunThe ocean.

The Pacific Ocean, to be specific. And the sand and tidepools and cliffs and bluffs and surfers and swimmers and body-boarders and toe-dippers and piers and sandy towels and sunscreen (so much sunscreen) and wind and seagulls and sunsets and tar (okay, maybe not the tar) and lifeguard stations and dolphins and grunion runs (when the midnight moon is right) and whale watching excursions and the outline of Catalina Island 26 miles away, but only when the view is clear enough.

That’s why, whenever I get back to Huntington Beach, my very highest priority (after hugging my family, of course) is to get myself down to the ocean, dig my toes in the wet sand, and walk along the waveline until I once again feel the connection that tells me I’m home.