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Dough serves up tennis themed doughnuts in celebration of US Open

The US Open is in full swing, and what better way to celebrate tennis than with an (almost) racquet-sized doughnut from Dough in Ditmars, Astoria.

This weekend only, rally your friends and head over to Dough to try their Tennis Doughnut; a white chocolate and vanilla glazed brioche doughnut topped with a white chocolate tennis ball

The NYPD estimates that more than 900,000 fans will attend this year’s US Open, with nearly half traveling from outside of the tri-state area and around 25% visiting from abroad.

“We’re big tennis fans, and love what the US Open brings to Queens,” said Dough co-owner Steve Klein. “Besides it being an amazing sport that brings people together, it’s definitely an economic driver for Queens’ small businesses,” said Klein.

Dough is located at 21-70 31st St. in Astoria, Queens, NYC.

Dough’s Tennis Doughnut is available this weekend only (9/9 & 9/10) at all of their locations.

Five Astoria Bars to Get Your Boozy Frozen Fix

By ET Rodriguez
news@queensledger.com

It’s getting hot out there and, in some cases, unseasonably so. June 2 saw a high of 87 degrees – the hottest it has ever been on that day in 10 years – and people are desperate to find ways to chill out.
Some opt for the beach, others for a pool and if you’re like me, you reach for a cold drink, press it against your sweating forehead, take a sip and let the frigidness cool you from the inside out.
In that spirit, here are five funky bars in Astoria to walk, skip and hop to so that you can indulge in the inebriation of summer.

 

Ninos AQ

35-01 Ditmars Blvd.
Opens at 5pm p.m. during the week, 11:30 a.m. on weekends.

Family owned and operated Italian Restaurant, Ninos AQ, has become one of the most popular restaurants in Astoria over the last few years.

Their Craft Cocktail Program is curated by brother Michael Vendome, and includes fun and unique cocktails such as the Spicy Watermelon Margarita, Agave Old Fashioned, Double Rum Negroni, Passionfruit Martini, Spicy Espresso Martini, Junglebird, and many more…

For the Summer, Ninos AQ has brought back their Frose and Frozen Aperol Spritz, and you can enjoy both under palm trees at Ninos AQ’s tropical outdoor dining experience.

Reservations are suggested.

 

The Highwater

34-20 Broadway
Opens at 4:30 p.m. during the week, 10 a.m. on weekends, closed Mondays.

Awash with shades of teal and aquatic themes, The Highwater is the only tiki bar in Astoria, according to general manager, Emily Coffin. Their drinks are carefully crafted using house-made juices and syrups, curated by their beverage director.
On Memorial Day, they unveiled their brand-new, wooden outdoor dining area that feels like a piece of a tropical resort right in the concrete jungle. Not one for beverages of the alcoholic persuasion? That’s ok because The Highwater also offers a tasty variety of dry cocktails, like The Rose of Sharon – a hibiscus tea Arnold Palmer sweetened with orgeat or the Not Your Baby – pomegranate juice, cinnamon syrup and muddled jalapeño, a riff on a spicy Margarita.
The tiki theme also permeates the food menu with coconut and mango flavor profiles. They even serve Loco Moco – a staple dish of Hawaii.
“Tiki is about escapism, whatever that means to you,” said Coffin. “It’s always summer here, it’s always a vacation.” Come grab a piña colada, drop in, drop out and sail away.

 

Sek’end Sun

32-11 Broadway
Open at 5 p.m. on weekdays, 11 a.m. on weekends.

The name Sek’end Sun is a phonetic spelling of the word “second” which is a nod to the first bar of owners Derek Vernon and Jay Zimmerman, Basik in Williamsburg opened in 2011. After the success of Basik, they opened Sek’end Sun in Astoria almost 10 years ago and by the looks of the crowd on a late afternoon, they seem to be doing well.
With exposed brick and wood everywhere, the feel is rustic and warm – not to be unmatched by Kat, the bartender. She has a sweet smile and a kind disposition that will make anyone want to spend their money and rightfully so. Their frozen daiquiri is not tainted by artificial syrups, but instead, is a refreshingly tart and balanced frozen take on the traditional Cuban cocktail topped with a few dashes of angostura bitters like it’s served on the small Caribbean island.


Keep in mind that the frozen cocktails rotate and the daiquiri may not be available when you visit, but whatever is on is sure to be good. And if you’re counting your pennies, be sure to stop in on a Wednesday when Happy Hour is from open to close. All day they offer discounted drinks, $2 off all food items, $9 cocktails and $25 bottles of wine.


“Sek’end sun is the place where you can foster local roots,” said bar regular Monica between sips of their slushy daiquiri.

Las Catrinas Mexican Bar & Eatery

Las Catrinas has eight slush machines featuring unique and tasty frozen drinks.

32-02 Broadway
Opens 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Mon-Thurs., 4 p.m. on Fridays and 1 p.m. on weekends.

This Tulum-inspired restaurant is small but makes up for it with big flavor. The open kitchen doles out some of the best birria tacos with a consommé so clean and savory, you can drink it to the last drop.
The tortillas are hand-made in house and exude a rich corny flavor with a great chew. The tacos lean a little pricier than most, but once you take a bite, you’ll know it’s worth it.
The real attraction however, are the incredibly unique frozen treats – frozen whiskey with charcoal and hibiscus renders a black concoction; frozen mezcal with horchata adds a punch to a classic flavor profile; a frozen espresso martini has deep toasted, chocolatey notes and can replace any dessert or after-dinner drink and the “Sangrita” is a layering of lime margarita and frozen sangria resulting in a striped pattern that is as fun to look at as it is to drink.

Diamond Dogs

34-04 31st Ave.
Opens everyday at 4 p.m.

Diamond Dogs has joined the bandwagon of out-of-the-box frozen drinks, like their Paper Plane.

There is no website and no signage on the outside of Diamond Dogs, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from filling the bar and the backyard space. Looking around, the feel is rugged outdoors meets NYC hipster – the walls are a mix of exposed brick and pink-flowered wallpaper, a deer head hangs on the wall above the bar, guns replace tap handles and old liquor bottles serve as vases for fresh flowers. The bar is cocktail forward with a house barrel-aged Negroni and classic cocktails become frozen. In May, they had a Penicillin, the first week of June, it was a Paper Plane. The Aperol lends a color that is incomparable and the flavor, paired with amaro Nonnino, gives a hint of bubblegum at first, that is then balanced by the bitter flavors of the Italian amaros and makes for a surprisingly perfect drink on a hot summer day.
The bar celebrated their eight-year anniversary in April and if you’re lucky, you can find Astoria- renowned bartender, Patricia Ahn, who has been slinging drinks around the city for a decade.

Astoria Electeds advocate for bike infrastructure 1 month after tragic death

‘Street Safety is Public Safety’

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

Last Friday, a month after the tragic death of 62-year-old cyclist Tamara “Tammy” Chuchi Kao in Astoria, the neighborhood’s elected officials gathered at the intersection that she was struck by a cement truck driver to demand the Department of Transportation (DOT) build a north-south bike lane and an east-west bike lane — at the very least.

Assemblyman Zohran K. Mamdani demands it by September, and that the DOT begins commencing workshops immediately to determine where these protective corridors should be built.

“What we need to be clear about is that these are reckless policies that allowed for such deaths to occur,” he said.

In the two and a half years Mamdani has been in office, four cyclists have been killed in the 36th State Assembly District he represents.

According to Crash Mapper, 63 cyclists were injured in collisions from January 2022 to January 2023 in Assembly District 36, with one fatality.

“We see this happening again and again and again,” Mamdani said. “What we are calling for is protected bike lanes in Astoria — not just a north-south [corridor], not just an east-west [corridor], but both.”

He shared that he bikes daily, as do many Astorians, and that greater efforts should be taken by the DOT to ensure that street safety for the neighborhood becomes a priority.

Currently, there is one protected bike lane in Mandani’s district: the north-south corridor on Crescent Street. As for the rest of the neighborhood — more than 98 percent of City Council District 22 according to Spatial Equity NYC — all that counts for a bike lane is paint.

“[These are just] suggestions for where cars should not go. That is where our neighbors are being killed,” Mamdani. “These are preventable deaths, and these are deaths that we must ensure that they stop.”

Councilwoman Tiffany Caban, who represents the 22nd City Council District, denounced the recent proposed budget cuts by the mayor’s office, which would lower the budget over the DOT by over $35 million.

“Street safety is public safety,” Caban said. “We have to do better than these skeleton groups. We need really robust personnel and services.”

The intersection Kao was struck, 29th Street and 24th Avenue, is along the route to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, State Senator Michael Gianaris shared. As such, there are often trucks traveling down the street, which poses a danger to bikers and pedestrians.

”We are here today for something that is a tragedy but is remarkably simple in terms of why it happened and how we can fix it. There is not enough infrastructure to protect cyclists in our city, and in this neighborhood specifically,” Gianaris said.

New York State Senator Kristen Gonzalez reinforced that what happened to Kao was not an accident — it was a policy failure. These are preventable crashes, she expressed, and there should be funding to create the infrastructure needed to protect bikers in the community.

New Green Classroom at Energy Tech HS, Astoria

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

A new green classroom has opened at Energy Tech High School in Astoria. The classroom will grow herbs and vegetables through the year in a soil-less garden.

The lab is designed to help students learn about urban food production and sustainability; it is a hydroponic system, meaning that the plants will be grown in water containing nutrients instead of soil, with seeding stations, a tower garden, composting station and hanging vines.

Kale and herbs will be grown in the lab, and they will be made available to the AP Environmental Science classes and a Green Team after-school program.

The project is a collaboration between the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Energy Tech. Led by NYPA’s Environmental Justice programming, the green classroom builds on the national Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) program.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Nov. 15 in the 9th grade Living Environment classroom with New York Sun Works — a non-profit organization that built the lab — and elected officials in attendance.

Following the ribbon cutting, a tasting of classroom-grown fresh basil with tomato and mozzarella was held with the Energy Tech High School community.

“Our new hydroponic lab has been welcomed with great enthusiasm by our school community,” said Energy Tech principal Hope Barter. “Through this partnership, students are provided with enriching classroom instruction focused on the science of sustainability, engaging and high interest hands-on learning, and access to the healthy foods that they have helped to cultivate. The program also contributes to students’ knowledge of additional green career pathways and areas of STEM study. We greatly appreciate our partners at New York Power Authority and NY Sun Works for bringing us these valuable opportunities.”

The P-TECH program offers paid internships to high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Energy Tech has had students in the program for the last two summers. 14 students at Energy Tech have earned scholarships from NYPA.

Energy Tech High School serves grades 9-14; it is an Early College Initiative and Career and Technical Education school catering its education to the growing energy industry.

NYPA has funded 18 green classrooms and two green community laboratories in New York City over the past three years. The average classroom created by New York Sun Works produces more than 500 pounds of vegetables per school year.

“NYPA is pleased to support the Energy Tech High School learning lab that will bring new opportunities to students who want to prepare for skilled in-demand clean energy jobs and go on to personally rewarding careers,” said NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll. “NYPA supports New York State’s long-standing commitment to creating a more diversified, highly skilled workforce and these creative STEM and sustainability programs ignite young people’s interest in the energy and environment fields. Students will learn about sustainable food production and environmental science as part of the education they need to become the next generation on the front lines of fighting climate change.”


Any tips about whats happening in Long Island City, Astoria, Woodside, Sunnyside or Northwest Queens? Email me at aventer@queensledger.com!

Ravenswood Playground Renovated, $7.1 million in improvements

Photo: NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

The new renovations at Ravenswood Playground are complete, as $7.1 million in amenities bring new play equipment and water play features to the Astoria park.

A ribbon cutting was held for the park on Tuesday, Nov. 15, bringing NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr., City Council Member Julie Won and Community Board 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris together in celebration.

“Ravenswood Playground has been completely transformed, and we could not be more excited to cut the ribbon on these new amenities for the community,” said Donoghue. “Thanks to our Mayor, Queens Borough President, and City Council, over $7 million has been invested to transform this vital neighborhood greenspace, with something for everyone in the community to enjoy. I know that Ravenswood Playground will continue to be focal point for fun and relaxation for the Astoria community into the future.”

New seating and picnic areas has also been added to the reconstructed park, and the basketball courts and softball fields underwent renovations.

New equipment will allow all-inclusive, accessible play to visitors, and water spray features were implemented to the children’s play area.

A newly constructed adult fitness area brings accessible units for all users.

Ravenswood Playground sits adjacent to Ravenswood Houses, and serves many of the residents of the NYCHA Housing Complex.

“This $7.1 million investment for Ravenswood Playground ensures that our NYCHA residents can enjoy brand new equipment, renovated sports fields, and much-needed safety improvements,” said Council Member Won. “Our parks are where our kids play, and I am happy that our neighbors at Ravenswood Houses will have an updated space to enjoy the outdoors.”

Funding for the project was provided by allocated funds from the City Council ($4 million), the Office of the Borough President ($2.5 million) and from the Office of the Mayor ($700,000).


Any tips about whats happening in Long Island City, Astoria, Woodside, Sunnyside or Northwest Queens? Email me at aventer@queensledger.com!

Ruhling: The Bargain-Basement Buyer

Digging through the big, brimming bins, Sam Kirby – “that’s Kirby like the pink Nintendo character,” he likes to say — unearths a treasure.

Sam’s the manager of Bingers Bargain Bins.

It’s the Funko Pops doll modeled after Pam Beesley, the level-headed receptionist at Dunder Mifflin on the iconic TV comedy series, The Office.

He thrusts it aloft like a trophy.

 Would you buy it for $10.99?

How about $8.49?

Or better yet, how about a pair of Pams for $2.99?

At any price, it’s just so cute that it’s hard to resist.

(Sam didn’t – he has a collection of The Office characters in his own office.)

At Bingers Bargain Bins, the price of Pam and all the other prizes keep going down until they hit rock bottom and are replaced by next week’s shipment of stuff.

Bingers Bargain Bins, which is in an old warehouse that Sam painted bright blue, is a no-frills fun place to shop for big-name brands – you never know what you’re going to find, and that’s the whole point.

Sam, who was a diehard Bingers shopper before he was put on the payroll, recently was seduced by the Angry Mama Microwave Cleaner, a product he didn’t know he couldn’t live without but now wonders how he ever did.

You fill the plastic female figure (its “dress” comes in several colors) with water and vinegar, and pop it in the microwave for 7 minutes. Steam comes out of her head (remember, she’s a mad mama) and softens all the dirt and stains so you can easily clean the appliance.

Bingers Bargain Bins opened at the end of 2020, about six months after Sam arrived in Astoria.

Sam, who was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and grew up in Daphne, Alabama, didn’t expect to buy the Angry Mama.

Nor did he anticipate that he would end up living in the Big Apple.

After attending Louisiana State University for a year, he moved back home and got a job as a customer service representative at a car dealership.

“It was my first real job,” he says, adding that he didn’t know anything about cars. “But I learned a lot – about cars and about people.”

Shopping is like digging for treasure.

Five years later, when his sister vacated her apartment to study abroad for a year, he took her place in Auburn, Alabama, rooming with her best friend, Jackie Goff, who became his girlfriend.

“I went there without a job,” he says, “and I worked in the restocking department of a vending machine company. It was neat because the warehouse was like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – I got to snack on Snickers bars and Coca-Cola all the time.”

Sam might still be there had Jackie, a kindergarten teacher, not gotten a job offer in the South Bronx, where she had done a year-long internship.

“We kicked the idea around for about a week,” he says. “I told her moving to New York sounded like it could be fun.”

For the first year, Sam, sitting on his couch with a laptop, devoted himself to finishing his community college degree online.

“I kept delaying things because I really didn’t know what I was interested in majoring in,” he says. “I chose science because it was the most general thing offered.”

He fell in love with Bingers Bargain Bins, which probably is the only discount store in the world that has a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, and when there was a job opening in August 2021, he applied.

“I was shopping there one to two times a week, and the manager recognized me in the interview,” he says.

Sam, who is 28, became the manager in February, and a couple of months later, he proposed to Jackie at the Central Park Reservoir.

Living in the city has been a great adventure for Sam, a tall man with a sliver of a Southern accent that surfaces when he’s smiling, which is pretty much all the time.

 “We love it here,” he says. “And I love Bingers Bargain Bins – it’s a fascinating concept.”

Bingers Bargain Bins buys pallets of merchandise returned to major retailers, including Amazon.com.

Some of the items are repackaged by Bingers into so-called “mystery boxes” that sell for $99.99.

“They are a collection of everything in the bins – we go by what we think is fun, not by what we have in excess,” he says. “The retail value always exceeds the price paid.”

Sam is still a frequent shopper at Bingers Bargain Bins.

He looks around his office – his computer mouse, computer stand and paper shredder – yup, they are all from BBB.

“I’ve become the perfect gift giver,” he says, grinning. “I’m always finding little doodads.”

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com;  @nancyruhling; nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com,  astoriacharacters.com.

Ruhling: The Self-Styles Shopkeeper

Flavio Bessah is setting a style scene on the sidewalk.

He carries a petite light-blue side chair out the front door of his shop, Flash 16 Botik, and places it on the colorful Turkish rug atop the concrete.

He follows that with another chair, this one upholstered in a light floral pattern.

Flash 16 Botik is at 22-04 33rd St.

Flavio, tall and dark and shy, adds a small wooden cabinet and a half dozen empty frames and artworks to the smart scenario.

By the street planter, which is filled with purple and yellow petunias and serves as an extra seat, he places a glass-topped side table, crowning it with a lamp that has a blue and white china base.

After making a few adjustments – perhaps the pillows on the second chair should be re-arranged and the painting should be moved to the other side – he steps back to survey his work.

“I have to be and like to be involved in every detail,” he says.

Yes, it is a perfect city sitting room.

Flavio’s been working for hours, cleaning, and arranging and rearranging, and he didn’t realize that it’s time to open the boutique, which sells fashion for people and fashion for the house.

This isn’t Flavio’s first shop.

The shop carries furniture and home accessories.

That one, Flash 16, was on Newtown Road, and he closed it last year because of the pandemic after a three-year run.

This boutique, which he is calling Flash 16 Botik , is on 33rd Street off Ditmars Boulevard between the old Key Food parking lot and Chip City.

It has only been open two months; there’s much work yet to do.

The black awning still carries the name of the previous tenant, a juice bar, and Flavio’s still trying to figure out how to fit all his stuff into this, a significantly smaller space.

The designer-brand stock varies – you really need to visit the boutique every week to keep from missing out on the Coach, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and Escada pieces that you and your wardrobe simply can’t live without.

Right by the door, there’s a pair of lipstick-red Calvin Klein stilettoes.

On the back wall, there’s a vintage framed poster of the Beatles promoting their first film, “A Hard Day’s Night.”

In the window, there is a pair of glass and metal table lamps. And over in the corner, by the vintage glassware, there’s an entire section filled with designer handbags.

The clothes racks are bulging: There are frilly dresses, tailored coats, just-plain jeans and shiny micro-mini skirts.

The designer merchandise – some new, some old, some donated, some consigned, all of it in perfect condition – is carefully curated by Flavio, who made his career as a fashion stylist.

Flavio has a degree in journalism.

Flavio, who is from Goiânia, a city in central Brazil that’s 125 miles from Brasilia, has always been interested in fashion, but it wasn’t until he moved to New York City some two decades ago that he began the collection that ultimately led to his opening the shop.

A journalist by training – he has a degree in the subject from the Universidade Estácio de Sá in Rio de Janeiro – Flavio figured he would write about fashion in the city.

He quickly discovered, however, that the money he was making writing his magazine articles didn’t cover his rent or his fashion purchases.

Working as a fashion stylist, however, did. So did selling styles and style.

Like Flavio’s first shop, Flash 16 Botik – Flash refers to the camera-carrying paparazzi, 16 is the date of Flavio’s birthday and Botik is a play on the word boutique, which is what the restaurant across Ditmars Boulevard calls itself – is proving to be successful straightaway.

Flavio has a good feeling about this store: He thinks and hopes that it will be so popular that he’ll be able to open an entire chain that features his self-styled fashion aesthetic.

He finds the 12-hour days fun and fulfilling, whether he’s unpacking dresses or dressing up the front windows.

“I’m so busy with this right now that I don’t have time to do styling any more,” he says, grinning. “I’m totally dedicated to Flash 16 Botik.”

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com;  @nancyruhling; nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com,  astoriacharacters.com.

VBGC Queens raises over $100K at annual gala

The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens hosted their annual gala on Wednesday, May 18 and raised over $100,000 for their Astoria-based programming.

The event honored Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who received the “George Skouras Award,” Peter Vallone Sr., recipient of the “Judge Charles Vallone Award,” Dr. Cameron Hernandez of Mount Sinai Queens, recipient of the “Albert ‘Cubby’ R. Broccoli Award,” and Paula Kirby of Plaxall, recipient of the “Ann Buehler Award.”

Treasure Hodge, an executive recruitment liaison for VBGC Queens, was honored with the “Staff of the Year” award.

Walter Sanchez, BQE Media Publisher and president of the VBGC Queens Board, was inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with his son, John Sanchez, president of the VBGC Queens Young Professionals Board.

The gala’s silent auction featured items from the New York Mets, Museum of the Moving Image, Milkflower, The Row, Chef Moise, Noguchi Museum, Ample Hills Creamery, Alewife Brewing, Untapped NY & Behind the Scenes NY, JetBlue, NFL, Trattoria L’incontro, Ace Hotel, Disney, Cheesecake Factory and Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom.

Marco Santini was in attendance illustrating his iconic “One Love” painting, asking guests what they value most and incorporating their words into art. At the end of the night, the painting was auctioned off to the highest bidder

The evening was sponsored by Mega Contracting, the Vallone Family, Plaxall, JetBlue, Innovation Queens, Robotti Insurance and Wildflower Studios.

The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens hosted their annual gala on Wednesday, May 18 and raised over $100,000 for their Astoria-based programming
Pictured (l-r) Costa Constantinides, Walter Sanchez, Peter Vallone Sr., Tena Vallone, Paul Vallone, QBP Donovan Richards, and Paula Kirby.

 

From ‘Sex and the City’ to ‘The Kids We Love’

How a local author breaks traditional storytelling with her new kid’s book

Eleni Fuiaxis, a professional model, actress, elementary school teacher, and mother of two from Astoria, can now add published Children’s author to her already expansive resume. Best known for her role as Debbie in the hit HBO series Sex and the City, she hopes to reignite reading and storytelling in schools with a brand new book series designed to help parents and teachers engage and connect with kids.

The first book in the series, “Picky Patrick,” was something she started writing eight years ago as a labor of love. Fuiaxis said that she always enjoyed reading to her kids at night, but would always return home from work exhausted.

“I was so tired by the end of the night,” Fuiaxis said, “I made up these stories for them.”

Her children loved the stories so much that she began to write them down. In fact, her son Zen was so inspired by one of the stories that he asked her if he could make copies of the book to sell to his friends. It was at that moment she became determined to publish them.

“Picky Patrick” hits major book sellers on July 12

But as soon as she found a publisher, everything suddenly came undone. “My marriage fell apart,” she said. “I had no idea what I was doing with myself and my life.”

Fuiaxis said this was when she embarked on a journey of self-discovery. It was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that she decided to become certified to teach.

“The modeling and acting industry were completely annihilated,” she said. “And so many teachers were getting sick, retiring, and walking off the job.”

Feeling compelled to help serve in any way that she can, she quickly found herself thrown into the classroom. “It was intense,” she said. “But I have no regrets. It’s one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done.”

Since the children connected organically with the characters in her book, she decided to add 14 different prompts at the end, to serve as a springboard for deep and meaningful conversations.

“Picky Patrick,” tells the story of an 8-year-old boy who seemingly has it all, but spends all of his time nitpicking and choosing to focus on the negative things.

One day, after reading the book to her class, she said that a student approached her with a dilemma–they accidentally colored outside of the lines. That was when a fellow classmate stood up and said, “remember Picky Patrick… it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

“Kids are literally teaching each other how to self-soothe and problem solve,” she said. “It really connected with them… now, coming out of COVID, they need time to connect more than ever.”

Fuiaxis also said that she has finished three more manuscripts for the collection–“Smelly Nelly,” “Scared Steven,” and “Negative Nathan”–which she plans to release at a future date. Her first book in “The Kids We Love” series, “Picky Patrick,” will be released by Mascot Kids and available at major booksellers on July 12.

Ruhling: The Woman who takes History to Heart

As a historian, Heather Nicole Lonks Minty is used to telling stories.

Other people’s.

So that’s where we start.

We’re in England, where in 1909 two suffragettes, identified as a Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, find a novel way to draw attention to the cause.

They mail themselves to the prime minister at No. 10 Downing St. so they can advocate, in person, for the right to vote. (The postal charge is 3 pence, and the “human letters” are unceremoniously returned when the recipient refuses to sign for them.)

Heather starts a new job next month.

“A delivery boy had to actually walk them there,” Heather says, smiling at their audacity and cleverness. “During the mailbox bombing and arson campaign of 1912 through 1914, one woman used to hide explosive devices in her wheelchair.”

In the United States, the women were not so militant. In 1917, they merely chained themselves to the fence around the White House to get President Woodrow Wilson’s attention.

Heather, a tall woman with glamorous gold-rimmed spectacles, tells these and other stories about everyday people to make history come alive.

Whether you’re talking about women picketing to get the right to vote or young men protesting the draft, the stories resonate because “it could be you or someone in your family,” she says.

That’s why she finds walking tours so thrilling: You get to stand in a space where history took place.

As far as Heather’s own history, it starts in Flushing, where she was born 32 years ago and where she spent most of her childhood and young adulthood.

At LIU Post, she earned a bachelor’s degree in TV and radio (she loves watching historical documentaries, and her thesis was a video walking tour of the Civil War draft riots) then proceeded to earn a master’s in public history at Royal Holloway, University of London.

“Public history is all about getting history to the public,” she says. “These days, there are many engaging ways to tell stories that are not just exhibitions in museums.”

After returning to New York, she landed a job at the New-York Historical Society, a move that would change her own history in ways she never imagined.

It was there that she met Chris Minty, a “cute” Scotsman fascinated with U.S. history who had a fellowship with the museum.

“We actually were in London at the same time, both frequenting the same research libraries when I was in college, and I did take some day trips to Scotland, but our paths never crossed,” she says.

They were introduced at a staff meeting, but Heather wasn’t impressed enough to pay much attention to him.

It was Tinder that kindled their romance.

“I swiped right, but I still didn’t recognize him,” she says, adding that the people on fellowships like Chris had separate work areas so she never saw him. “He sent me a message saying he thought we worked in the same building.”

Heather thought it was a pickup line until she verified the information.

On Nov. 4, 2014 – Heather, ever the historian, remembers the exact date – they met for coffee.

“Our love of history connected us,” she says. “We spent five hours talking – it’s probably the longest coffee date known to man.”

Their relationship deepened their appreciation not only for each other but also for their respective areas of study.

“He opened my eyes to parts of American history I had never seen before,” Heather says.

Although they had been dating only a couple of weeks, Chris traveled all the way from Morningside Heights to Flushing to have Thanksgiving dinner with Heather and her parents.

“The holiday, of course, is not celebrated in Scotland, so he really didn’t know what he was getting into,” she says. “My mother sent him home with so much food – and he discovered corn bread.”

Heather makes history come alive.

They married and moved themselves and their voluminous collection of history books to Boston, where Chris had been offered a job.

Heather took a position with the Boston Athenaeum and later worked for the Boston Arts Academy Foundation then Respond, whose mission is to end domestic violence.

At the end of 2020, during the pandemic, they returned to New York to be closer to Heather’s family.

Heather was working for Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit that focuses on New York City’s and state’s finances and services, when their daughter, Isla, was born.

(For the record, the only reason Isla, who is 6 months old, has not visited a museum yet is because of covid restrictions.)

Next month, after taking a short break in her career, Heather’s starting a new job as the development director of an institute in New Jersey whose mission is gender equality, which syncs with her keen interest in women’s rights.

“Having a daughter makes this even more exciting because instead of fighting only for myself now, I’m fighting for her and her generation,” she says. “That makes it easier for me to leave her and go back to work.”

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com;  @nancyruhling; nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com,  astoriacharacters.com.

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