Meet New Zealand mom Kirsten living in Hong Kong…
My name is Kirsten Zaki, I was born in New Zealand. Very soon after, my family moved to Asia. From a very young age I remember being interested in travelling the big wide world. Every member of my family has a creative bone, from musicians to make –up artists, copywriters and actors. My grandparents ran a small theatre in Fiji in the 70’s and they were always very theatrical in their approach to life. I went to Chelsea College of Arts in London and explored all mediums including bacon. Back then, film was only just considered an art form, so much has changed since then. Nearly 20 years later I am back in Asia (Hong Kong) married to an Australian with an 18 month old daughter and 8 months pregnant with our second baby. Most of my professional life has been involved in Design. When I was pregnant with our first child I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy for her.
I teamed up with a good friend and we started Hocusadabra. Hocusadabra is more than an e-shop, we are trying to change the way people shop for children. We say this on our website and it has become a bit of a mantra… We believe 110% that it is our responsibility to share important messages, eg. that BPA is damaging to our kids health, that it's important to support independent designers/artists, use sustainable materials, eat organic food, listen to music from other tribes. After all, we are all marching to the same beat… our future!
What kind of house do you live in, are you and is Kitty happy here or is there anything you all terribly miss …?
We live in an apartment; it’s a low rise with six floors and only two apartments on each floor. It could easily pass for a 30’s block with high ceilings and quirky detailing. Our caretaker is an avid gardener and plays the guzheng (A traditional Chinese instrument), there is a wonderful play area for children, a pool and we are propped up in the jungle on Victoria Peak. There has been talk of a roaming Malayan Porcupine but we have never seen it. We have a banana palm outside our bedroom window and I love watching the various stages of it ripening. In the summer months we have amazing panoramic views of Hong Kong Harbour and in our opinion there is nowhere better to live. In the still of the night we can hear the hum from the city but the serenity never changes.
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
Our daughter’s room has been decorated in the same vain as our home. We fill it with collected bits from our travels, photographs, artwork and anything inspiring. Life is organic and to me a contrived space can make you feel a little uncomfortable, it has always been important that people feel relaxed in our home whether they are in our living room or playing in Kitty’s room. Before we had kids we bought a huge L shaped white sofa and a White Cappellini Shadow Lamp. People would ask how we would protect them from sticky fingers… any marks we claim as a “love mark” and proof of life. The more the merrier….
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
To me everything and anything can be inspiring. I am particularly drawn to the richness of colour and texture that India and the Middle East provide. But I am also inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian minimalist spaces. I love World of Interiors magazine for its eclectic editorials and Cote Sud for endless vicarious coastal living.. The Internet is also a constant source of inspiration and I can travel anywhere, get lost for hours all from my office.
What is Kitty’s favorite items in your house?
Kitty loves our bedroom as there always seems to be something more interesting in there like my dressing table full of costume jewelery, or my husbands collection of cords and electrical’s for his various IPods, games etc. Her absolute favourite toys are her Holztiger animals and Lindenwood alphabet blocks. That was all the proof I needed, we had to have them on our website and they became the first things we bought for the site!
What places in your new neighborhood do you like to go to for shopping?
We can walk in the mountains behind our house and end up at a little supermarket, a great florist and a bakery. It may not be the best of the best but it is quite a novelty in HK to be able to walk to a general store.
What's it like to raise a child in your town?
It is different to how we were raised however the times are different too. The HK expat community can be a very homogenous society so we are very conscious when choosing activities and schools to be mindful of this. My husband is half Egyptian, we live in China, the world is a melting pot of many different socio economic groups and so we hope to raise our children so that they can understand and accept them all.
Who do you consider is a good example for your child?
This is a really tricky question. When Kitty was first born, I was so protective of who she spent time with however I think as a parent our aim should be to make our children solid enough to not be swayed by different people. This is our ultimate goal as people, to be confident in who we are. So I guess we, as parents need to be the best examples first and foremost!
What is your idea of a perfect day with your child?
Doing whatever the day allows us with no other commitments or distractions. This is such a discipline, to be in the moment 110%!
Can you tell us a funny story, quote or remark Kitty recently made or happened?
Kitty is just learning to talk so she copies most things I say if she can work out how to pronounce them. She will raise her finger saying no, no, no at me and I can only laugh knowing exactly where it has come from.
Are their any books you can recommend for parents and how to raise your child?
The Hurried Child by David Elkin, which talks about how childhood is becoming shorter and the importance of slowing it down. I also love the Waldorf/Steiner philosophy.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
They are all grass roots: simple old-fashioned values such as honesty, kindness and respect… and manners. Please and thank you go a long way in my book!
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with Kitty?
We haven’t got to this stage yet, but I can’t wait to craft. I have play dough and sponges ready for a rainy day.
Any tips for keeping the house clean when crafting?
I bought a beautiful Liberty Print oilcloth from Merci in Paris to cover our dining table with for parties but I am sure this will come in handy when craft making.
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
Definitely craft, not a great fan of DIY but I love seeing what other people come up with.
Books, websites, local shops you can recommend to get tips and ideas for kids crafting?
I love PurlBee and can’t wait to buy yarn and felt, oh and Wool and The Gang!
What do you do with all the projects Kitty made at home or in school?
Any nice decoration ideas how to hang them, keep them or use them as presents? Kitty has just started painting at her kindergarten, I like the idea of hanging them like prayer flags but I am not sure what longevity this will have. I’m also thinking of adding one wall in their bedroom for pin- ups as well as using our new blackboard paint.
How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?
With a lot of balloons, cake and anyone with good spirit. I started a new thing this year for my husband and prepared his favourite dishes, think this might become our tradition. Food is always such an integral part of any party. Oh and a piñata!
What are favorite games in your home?
We were given all the old classics as wedding presents. I just found them in a cupboard, Scrabble, Jenga, Risk and Twister. My husband doesn’t know yet but I thought our next evening of entertainment would have to involve at least one of these! We went through a phase of Wii parties until I put my shoulder out boxing.
Are there musical instruments in your house?
My dad plays the Ukulele and very kindly gave us one, I keep buying tambourines because of my obsession with Stevie Nicks and we have Maracas everywhere. We have a whole toy box dedicated to making sound and always have music playing at home. I can’t imagine a world without it.
What are all time favorite books for Kitty?
All my favourites are mentioned here…
What are nice activities you can do with children in your place and what could you recommend when people are visiting?
All the things that have been here forever are my favourite things to do with children visiting. The Peak Tram, Star Ferry, Dim Sum at City Hall and The Dragon’s Back hike (In the cooler months)
What movies do your children like to watch, is there one from your childhood you would love to show them too?
Movies are a bit ambitious at this stage but two of my favourites from childhood are Annie and The Muppet Movie. I can’t wait to watch them with my kids.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food’ lover or both?
I’m both but I’m not the greatest cook. On one of the first dates with my husband, I set his oven on fire! I love cooking in an open kitchen as part of entertaining but our kitchen at home unfortunately doesn’t allow it. I love visiting farmers markets on holidays, cooking is all about produce!
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with and or without the children?
We just went to a little place called Manchester-by the-Sea in Massachusetts, USA. We stayed with close friends who have a little boy the same age as Kitty and it was heaven, lots of long walks, beach trips and clambake! Before children, we did some great adventure trips, Peru, Bhutan, Argentina, Africa and South East Asia but holidays these days need to be simpler. My husband can’t wait to take our children back to all of those places but I’m trying to slow down time, they grow up way too fast! All our best family holidays are at the beach, last Christmas we were in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand and this Christmas, we have rented a house on the North Coast of NSW, Australia.
Do you keep some sort of travel journal Kitty?
My husband and I have always kept mementos from our travels with the aim of keeping a scrap-book, maybe this is something we’ll make with the children one day as so far we have a chest full of lose bits and bobs awaiting on a new home.
What kind of souvenir can she bring back home?
I normally always bring magnets back from travels; it has sort of become a running joke amongst a couple of friends. We were in Nantucket this summer and we brought a little basket back for our daughter, as I just loved the history of them.
How do you prepare for a trip, any useful tips?
Well thought out and organized packing is essential. Bags with wheels are required when you have younger children, we learnt this after the last trip.
What place do your children love to go to?
Home to see grandparents and family.
Tips for traveling with a plane or a long-time trip on the road with children?
Music, food and a sense of humour are key!