How To Make A Rockaway Girl Smile

So how am I doing five months to the day after Superstorm Sandy came crashing into our lives?

The seasons have rolled by, this year with a more acute appreciation of normalcy. Cheering the first coffee shop and nail salon to return. Watching more houselights flickering in the rows of darkened houses huddled against nightfall.


2012-10-31 11.16.22 saturday
Halloween hobbled by, unrescheduled like its New Jersey counterpart.  But we partied with the little goblins on our street with whatever candy we saved from the storm.

There was a run on water heaters and boilers in November, before the temperature dropped below 32 degrees and the pipes froze. We heard stories of guys driving way out to Pennsylvania with what precious gas they could hoard – there was also a gas shortage, remember? – to pull boilers off the delivery trucks.

Somehow, we were able to get the trifecta in place. New electrical panel, boiler and water heater. That, and Boston Market, was Thanksgiving.

Christmas and New Years Eve we spent in our FEMA/Actors Fund supported apartment in the Avalon building in New Rochelle which was a break for me. Sky’s school was temporarily housed in another high school in East New York until mid January so my day did not start until I had driven through Westchester, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn to drop him off.

Back in Rockaway finally, we began rebuilding and repairing. Seven broken windows were replaced, the man cave in the basement was power washed and painted, all leaks repaired.

Signs of Spring

Everyone has new cars. Close to 2500 cars were ruined and taken away after the storm so no one even considered getting a used car. I refuse to tell you how many times I have tried my key in the door of a black Jeep that wasn’t mine.

We wandered into Bob’s Furniture last weekend and ran into other Rockawayites looking for basement furniture, just like us.

“Listen, for your basement you want to look at this selection,” Gary, our salesman and one of Seth’s Friday night poker buddies, settled into the display sofa with an appreciative glance. “Two words. Bonded leather.”

It seems that this was the weekend you couldn’t get your hands on any kind of bonded leather furniture. I really didn’t want to go schlepping out to Pennsylvania.

A Bright Spot

Seth found a story about CARE, the Cherished Album Restoration Effort, an amazing group of people who will restore up to 50 photos for people in the flood zone. Next weekend, someone will be coming over to scan our photos so they can be restored. This is the kind of disaster relief work that uplifts the spirit as well as repair the damage. The one thing everyone says they miss the most are the photos that were in the basement and ruined by the storm. I am so grateful to them for offering to save what precious images we have left.

That puts a big smile on my face.


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An Arts Career Without Paper Or Pen

purple me

What to do when you are at a loss for words

Today was the first day I realized that my obsession with paper is over.

Now think about that.

How can you claim to be an artist or have an arts career if you don’t use paper?

I was raised in a papered world where writing meant one thing: putting a pencil or a pen to paper. Reading was an activity that involved books, newspapers, magazine that were printed on paper. Writing and illustrating my picture book, “Rabbit Mooncakes” was a daily dance with paper, ink and gouache. My ancestors invented paper way back across the ocean in China – what is going on?

Loss sharpens priorities

Huuricane Sandy wiped out twelve cartons of my books which we had to unearth from a waterlogged basement in Rockaway, Queens. The only thing heavier than those endless ruined stacks of books was my heart. The superstorm also swept away many of my photos and sketchbooks. Once we were able to focus on saving what photos we could, I promised myself they would be scanned, restored as best as possible and sent upwards into the cloud.

Perhaps it is that fear of losing perishable things that has inspired my determination to master the art of creating text and image digitally.

Easier said than done.

How many of you love freshly sharpened pencils and brand new notebooks in September? And what about that box of Crayola crayons that greeted you on the first day of school? Oh, and the pictures we would carry home for the refrigerator gallery…

But where are you going to put all of that at the end of the year? What are you going to keep? I know. You do the same thing I do – you just keep stashing the paper away in a box, why? Just because. Because you don’t want to throw your past away or admit that you really don’t want to keep the stuff in the first place.

New baby photos

When we realized all of our photo albums were gone, my wise third child said, “Don’t feel bad, mom. We needed new baby photos anyway. I looked terrible in the old ones.”

Well, that inspired me to start looking good for my new baby photos. I am watching what I eat, running everyday and making new memories that we snap with our phone cameras, write on our computers and me, I am loving my simple sketch program on my iPad. People cannot help but smile and peek over my shoulder to watch me doodle and draw. Sometimes we get into friendly conversations and I actually email them the sketch.

I suppose I could have had a similar experience with an actual sketchpad and pencil but to be quite honest about it, I don’t miss it. I really like working on my iPad.


A Twelve Step Guide

Maybe you need a little help?

Here’s what worked for me in kicking the paper habit.

1.  Give yourself a gift.  I got myself a drawing program for my iPad and phone called SketchBook Pro which I used to create the image for this post.  It has a text function that I like.  I also have Art Set – they have cool paper choices and their paint really looks like paint.

2. Treat yourself to a nice stylus.  Most come with a spongy tip that, to me, feel a little weird when you drag it across the screen.  I admit, I haven’t found my dream stylus but I am doing OK with one that actually has a brush tip that you can adjust.  It makes me feel a little better when I am using paint.

3. Keep your iPad and stylus handy.  You will be surprised how quickly you will begin to grab them to write or sketch something.

4. Save your best sketch of the day as your desktop image.  It is a great visual reminder of what you drew or wrote yesterday and that you should be doing more of it today.

5. Send emails to your friends with a sketch.

6. Post a sketch to Facebook.

7. Tweet a sketch.

8. If you have a blog, create a post with one of your sketches.

9.  If you don’t have a blog, offer to guest post for a blog you like with one of your sketches.

10. Do a self portrait and assign it to your contact so it pops up when someone calls you.

11. Add the self portrait to your email signature.

12.  If your mother wants a copy, you can always print one for her.



So, yes. I confess. I am putting away paper and pen and I am fine without them.

Fine, and you?



How To Make A Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookie

Few things are for sure in this world.

Chocolate chip cookies are a sure thing. And let’s be sure we are talking about the same cookie.

I make a cookie that is the love child of butter lace cookies and Toll House chocolate chip cookies.

In my book, the perfect chocolate chip cookie to have after an early morning bicycle ride on Saint Patrick’s Day,

to look forward to as I am running the last quarter mile of my half marathon run along the beach,

to delight Seth who is allergic to nuts, is a thin, crispy, round cookie an even golden brown, slightly darker around the edges, erupting with semi sweet chocolate chips.

I frowned at the handbrake on Sky’s Rockaway Cruiser. It was dangling uselessly from the left handle refusing to stay put in its clip. This would clearly be a difficult thing to manage especially while drinking coffee which was the plan.

Fortunately, our friend Paul, who we call The Bike Guy, was nice enough to swing by, toss the Cruiser on his bike rack to take back to his shop to fix. “I’ll just tighten the cable for you and it’ll be fine.”

In the meantime, I was in the kitchen wondering how to make my chocolate chip cookies thinner and crunchier. This has been a work in progress and two weeks ago I came fairly close by making a few adjustments. Today, purely by accident and process of elimination which are my two favorite ways of figuring out most things in life, I made a cookie that I was happy with. So happy that I sent over a plateful of them to Paul who wouldn’t let us give him any money for fixing our bicycle.

About twelve miles later in the afternoon, Seth told me Paul wanted to know if I could give him the recipe for the cookies. “I want a copy too,” said my mom who was helping me with the baking. “I really like the crispiness.”

Here it is.

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Notes: If you have a temperamental hot oven like mine, I suggest you use aluminum baking sheets lined with parchment paper. The bottoms of the cookies will not burn as quickly.

Regarding flour, my friend Katherine, who writes cookbooks so she should really know about this, has always sung the praises of cake flour. I have yet to try this in my cookies but should you have the chance to do so, please let me know how they taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 4 aluminum baking sheets with parchment paper. If you don’t have a sifter, go and get yourself one. It is God’s gift to lumpless cookie dough!


2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/4 cups sifted sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cup sifted flour

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips


In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter adding the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

Add the flour, salt and baking soda.

Mix in chocolate chips.

Place no more than half a teaspoon of dough for each cookie on the cookie sheet spacing them apart to allow them to spread. You should get a dozen on each sheet. Place two cookie sheets in the oven for 8 – 9 minutes.

Remove and let cool on racks.

About 6 – 8 dozen small delightfully crispy thin chocolate chip cookies!

Perfect for riding around on your beach bicycle and munching on.

How Surfing Can Make You A Better Mom

Fwd: Pic- Sunrise & HYK on the beach this AM-I am the photographer-what do you think?

me, at the beach in Rockaway


Some people will do anything to stay young.

I am not satisfied with staying young at heart.  I want to be young.

Let me be clear.  It is not my youth that I am chasing.  It is the childlike wonder and simple fearlessness that I want.  That is why I surf.

And of course, in order to be good at it, I run every morning and I take hot yoga classes for strength, balance and focus.   Somehow, the stars and the surf are in alignment here in the Rockaways and it is now reinventing itself as the coolest beach with the skyline of Manhattan just over the bay.  There are yoga classes on the beach during the week, beach tennis, a skateboard park and the big deal of the day is the food vendors along the boardwalk now have a liquor license!

How to Rock the Rockaways

You want to know how to do this?

  1. Listen, get up early, get out here around 7:30 am on a Saturday.  At this time you can probably find a parking spot off 96th street in the big lot across from the library.  The A train stop is 96th Street.
  2. Walk over to 108 street and set up your yoga mat by the water.  The class is free, usually taught by my friend Helen who is fabulous, and begins at 8:00 am for one hour.  There is no better way to start off your weekend.
  3. Afterwards, you can rent a bicycle for the day and cruise up and down the boardwalk.  Check out the surfers at 91 street,  I’ll be there.  You can grab a bite at Rippers – great veggie burgers and juice bar.  My fave is the Dreamcatcher.
  4. Find yourself a piece of sandy heaven and relax.
  5. Rinse and repeat.



Hey, this is a lot of work but it is so worth it.




Surf's Up Now

Sky and his new surfboard

I am lucky to have a friend to go running with every morning.

I am blessed to have a son I can go surfing with every summer.   He is the reason I paddle out to catch waves and try to hang ten.

Today, I saw him surfing with his friends up around 143 street in Neponsit.  It was a whole scene – lean, tan boys laughing in the tumbling waves out past the first set of breakers, giggling girls in bikinis waving at them.  Getting called in by reluctant lifeguards under the stern gaze of their supervisor and whispering conspiratorially,


“Hey guys, I know you guys can swim out there.  My boss is here so I have to call you guys in.  You know I won’t bother you when he’s not around.  We’re surfers too.”

Sky grabbed his board and his eyes barely flickered a hello as he dashed by me with his crew.  Does that bother me?  I suppose it could but, I surf too.


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Hoong Yee

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Eat Your Vegetables, Eat On The Roof

ben and his parents

Ben Flanner and his cool parents

dinner on the rooftop

Dinner and a movie on the roof


Are vegetables good for you?

Of course!

Are they fun?

Fun?  And cool.

Here at the SMP Building in Long Island City, up on the roof,  Ben Flanner has created a one acre farm with a killer view.  Ben has always wanted to run a farm, according to his mom.  I don’t know if he ever imagined that farm to be on top of a former auto parts manufacturing building on Northern Boulevard but that’ s what makes his farm so cool.

We had a dinner for about fifty people followed by a screening of one minute videos created by local artists in their favorite restaurants in Queens.

This is a little film project we call the Moveable Feast.   Do you want a peek at where artists like to eat?  Check these out.

We had salad with greens from the farm and desserts made by aspiring pastry chefs from the food incubator program down the block.  I nibbled on beet greens which are a beautiful deep red color and delicious in a mixed green salad.

Locals Rule

I love being a local.

I love buying local produce, working with local artists, supporting local businesses. There is an unmistakeable sense of pride that is part and parcel of local creative industries.  It is a distinctive Queens edge that comes through.

Especially in the lettuce.

Get more Wow!

If you want style notes and more for people who change the world, please check out:

Getting to Wow! to feel good, do good and look good

Nonprofit Knitwear for all things knit and nonprofit

Style Notes from me, your artspy

Hoong Yee

— Subscribe and get a little Wow! every day

— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested

— Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @hylkrakauer)

— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update

Thanks so much! I really appreciate your help.

Word of mouth is the best way to share, don’t you agree?