Astoria Characters: The Happy Household

At the entrance to the basement apartment, there’s a sign that proclaims, in all-capital letters, “LOVE LIVES HERE.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Katrina, Homer and Tiffany.

And so do Tiffany Hopkins and Katrina Olson and their cats, 9-year-old Homer and 13-year-old Thursday.

In this happy house, homemade biscuits are baking as Tiffany and Katrina set the breakfast table.

Their careers keep them busy and sometimes apart, so they do everything together, including the cooking and baking.

Homer, who, when he feels like it also answers to the nickname Bear, wanders into the living room for a treat. He’s been blind since the women rescued him from the street when he was a kitten.

It’s a lively household. The women chat – about big and small things. Tiffany possesses an infectious laugh that she lets loose liberally. It always makes Katrina crack up, too.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Tiffany has lived in a lot of places.

Tiffany and Katrina, who celebrated their love with a formal wedding in 2011, have been together since they met as college students nearly two decades ago.

Their won their complimentary ceremony in a contest that marked the passage of New York State’s Marriage Equality Act and were one of 24 couples who exchanged vows as a group in Central Park courtesy of The Knot.

“I had signed up, so they notified me that we won,” Katrina says. “I called up Tiffany and asked her whether she wanted to get married in two weeks.”

And Tiffany said: “Oh my God, are you proposing?”

They both said yes, a fact commemorated in their bedroom by a pair of pillows, each of which proudly bears the honorific “Mrs.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Katrina lived in Budapest as a child.

It was their Texas ties and love of theater, among other commonalities, that made Tiffany and Katrina fall for each other even though they are separated by eight years.

Tiffany, who was born in Hillsboro, Texas, moved around a lot because her father had a career in the Army. She lived in Germany for a few years, returning to Hillsboro to attend the same community college her parents had gone to.

She chose to major in theater because the school offered her a scholarship in honor of her parents who had been in the program. After graduating, she transferred to Texas A&M University. She stopped her studies when she was offered a full-time job as a props runner at Yale Repertory Theatre.

After eight years there, she decided to return to school, subsequently earning a bachelor’s degree in media production and a master’s in journalism from Quinnipiac University.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Tiffany has an infectious laugh.

Katrina, meanwhile, was pursuing a path that also would lead her to Yale.

Born in Wichita Falls, Texas, which is 170 miles north of Tiffany’s birthplace, Katrina lived in Budapest, Hungary for five years of her childhood when her parents worked for the U.S. Embassy there.

She fell in love with the stage when, at age 6, she saw a community theater production of “Annie.”

“I also saw a lot of plays in Budapest,” she says.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Katrina has a master’s degree from Yale.

She studied theater at the University of North Texas and spent a study-abroad year in Glasgow, Scotland. She landed a stage management job with the Houston Grand Opera, where she worked until she went to the Yale School of Drama to earn her master’s degree.

By the time Katrina arrived there, Tiffany had already left to complete her own degrees and was producing videos for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven.

“But all my friends were still at Yale, so I kept going back to see them,” Tiffany says, adding that Katrina soon became one of them.

After dating for a while, Tiffany and Katrina moved in together.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Katrina works for the Pop Culture Collaborative.

When Katrina finished her studies, she took a job with the Public Theater, and as Tiffany says with a big smile, “dragged us to New York City.”

For a year, they commuted between cities then moved to Astoria in 2008.

Katrina recently became the senior events manager for the Pop Culture Collaborative in Manhattan, while Tiffany remains the multi-media producer for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven.

Sometimes, they work remotely.

They’ve spent a lot of time turning their apartment into a cozy home. From the mason-jar pendant light over the living room table to the cube-shaped dresser in the bedroom, which includes a ground-level cat door, virtually everything is hand-made.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Tiffany’s with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.

“Tiffany is super-handy,” Katrina says.

And every item has personal significance.

Right above the “LOVE LIVES HERE” sign, there are two oil paintings whose fancy gold frames kiss like lovers. One is of Tiffany’s childhood home; the other is the house Katrina grew up in.

Below it, there is a wooden sign that adds “always & forever.”

Tiffany and Katrina love their lives together. They enjoy each other’s company so much that they can’t complete a conversation without smiling and laughing.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Katrina and Tiffany: So happy together.

It would be nice, they decide, to make jam to spread on their homemade biscuits.

“I’ve always wanted to try to do it,” Tiffany says.

“We should go berry picking,” Katrina says.

“We could pick blueberries in New Haven,” Tiffany says.

“We should put it on the calendar for the next weekend,” Katrina says.

Astoria Characters Day is Sept. 13, 2020.

Sponsored by Bareburger, it’s a free, public event.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at; @nancyruhling, nruhling on Instagram,,

Copyright 2019 by NancyA. Ruhling