Hi, I’m Mimi and I live in Berkeley, CA with my husband and two kids – Otis (7) and Bee (4). I’m the owner and designer of hello shiso, which makes accessories for kids. We’ve mostly been making hair accessories for girls, but I would love to make bibs and bags for girls AND boys soon.
What kind of house do you live in - are you and the kids happy here, or is there anything you find lacking, or would like to change?
We live in a Craftsman-style house built in 1906, and there had only been one owner in this house before we moved in (he moved in when he was 6!). It was a mess and really needed a lot of work when we bought it, so we were able to update it and make it what we needed, including a kid-friendly backyard full of fruit trees. We added a backyard studio a few years ago, and it’s been really wonderful having a space so close to home for my business.
I love that everywhere I look, I see memories that we’ve built as a family. And I truly love our neighborhood – we all know each other (street parties and BBQs are common, and there have been many jumpy houses rented) and kids are always on the street, traveling in packs. You can’t walk down the street without stopping to chat.
I love it! I just wish I had more time for it. I’ve got a long list of projects that I’d like to get to soon, and the list just gets longer and longer.
The kids have a play room, which started out as a playroom/studio until I got kicked out and we built a studio in the backyard. But the kids play all over the house and in the yard.
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
I’m a little bit obsessed with Pinterest. I also love Design Sponge, Remodelista and A Merry Mishap, among a million other blogs that I don’t have time to read. And I love Japanese books and magazine, which I buy when I’m in Taiwan – they always have great styling.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
Cardboard boxes, if you can believe it. Every box gets pulled out of the recycling and co-opted for play. After a while, I can’t take it anymore and recycle a few while they’re at school, but then more show up.
Some tidying tips? Do your children tidy up after themselves?
Unfortunately for my children, clutter makes me crazy! Recently, we borrowed a neighbor’s policy of getting rid of the things that the children do not clean up, and it’s been somewhat effective. But we all try to tidy up and do chores like laundry folding together, and we’re all trying to be better about putting things away as soon as we’re done with them.
One of the reasons we bought our house is because we’re within walking distance of so many great stores and restaurants. We’re definitely regulars at Elmwood Café, which used to be an old fashioned soda fountain and pharmacy. The new owners have continued the tradition with homemade sodas. They’re also right next to our beloved bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway, and you can peek into the bookstore from the café.
We start the day off with something relaxing, like a leisurely breakfast or a trip to the farmer’s market, continue with something fun like a hike or bike ride and finish off by hanging out and having dinner with friends. With no fighting or whining.
What is a normal day with your children? What do you do on the weekends?
Weekdays can be a bit chaotic with carpools, play dates, activities and a little bit of “alone time” with me for each kid, but we are often lucky enough to have our weekends look like our idea of a perfect day. Though occasionally with more whining and bickering. And every Sunday, we do Fashion Show Sunday, where one or both of the kids gets dressed up and we take pictures. We’ve been doing it since Otis was teeny, and it’s usually good for a few laughs. My family always looks forward to seeing the pictures.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ advice?
I think you have to do what feels right to you and your family. I always tell my kids “Different rules for different families” and I feel that’s true in so many ways. So much depends on what kind of parent you are and what kind of kids you have, and I try really hard not to judge other people’s choices.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
We love to make art together, as well as cook and garden. Lately, Otis has also been interested in sewing, and it’s been fun watching him try something new which requires so much patience and concentration. He’s very proud of his projects.
We always take sketchbooks and pens when we go out. I have a little packet filled with thin sketchbooks that is always ready to go – it helps us kill time when we’re waiting. Otis also loves to make word puzzles of all kinds.
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
I love DIY! I always feel like if I just had enough time, I could figure out how to do just about anything. I’ve made a giant homasote board and a chalkboard art table for the kids’ playroom, and my husband made a fort for the kids in the backyard. The DIY to-do list is long.
We have a huge stack which keeps growing, even though I try to go back periodically and weed some out. I’ve also been trying to take pictures instead, which is also good since then I can show them to family that live far away. I’m so sentimental, so it’s really hard!
How do you like to celebrate birthday's and other special days in your house?
I love traditions and it seems like most traditions around here are celebrated with food. For birthdays, we always eat noodles, which is a Chinese tradition. The birthday boy or girl gets to choose whether we eat the Chinese noodles which I grew up with, or spaghetti and meatballs, which is our new tradition. We usually throw parties for the kids’ birthdays, and last year for my husband’s 40th birthday, we had a pig roast, which was amazing and completely memorable.
YES! I try not to pack my children’s schedules with too many activities, since I feel it’s such a luxury of childhood to be bored and to create fun with friends. Luckily, there are often impromptu play sessions with neighbors, and we’re almost always happy to have kids over to play. They stream in and out of the house, and create amazing games. There are many lemonade stands, and the occasional yard sale.
How do you buy your books?
We love our local bookstore, and we receive a lot of wonderful books as presents. Luckily, our public library is very close, so we visit every week or two. We are discovering how wonderful it is to have knowledgeable book sellers and librarians, who always give us such wonderful advice.
What are some nice activities you can do with children in your area, and what would you recommend when people are visiting?
We have amazing playgrounds in Berkeley, plus some great parks where families can take hikes together. We also love going to our local farmer’s market (there are so many in the Bay Area) – ours always has live music and kids playing in the creek, whether there’s water or not. If we’re ambitious, we go to a museum – the Exploratorium in SF is one of our favorites.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?
Both! I used to be completely obsessed with food, but starting with my first pregnancy, when I was sick for 9 months, I became less interested. Isn’t that sad? Even though I’m not dreaming about the next meal in the middle of eating one anymore, I still love to cook for friends.
Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?
I do try to cook with the children, which they love. My family has also slowly been teaching the kids to make their favorite foods, including dumplings. I do most of the cooking in the household, though my husband is an excellent pancake maker. Lately we’ve been doing a food exchange with our neighbors (so we cook for them one night, and they cook for us one night) and it’s been really great – I cook one less meal, and it’s also such a treat to eat by someone else’s palate.
Where would you like to go on vacation - with or without your children?
I try to take the kids back to Taiwan every summer. I have a lot of family there, and it’s important to me that they get the family time, the culture and the language. I just wish it wasn’t so hot! Some times we take trips to other countries in Asia with my family.
My husband and I are dreaming about the day we can take a nice, long trip by ourselves. I’d love to go back to Paris, which I love!
I always search for small, portable items and fill their backpacks with these toys and a special snack or two. I’ve heard of wrapping each toy like a present, and I think I’m going to try that this summer. We also have an iPod filled with music and especially audio books. We also bring books, though I think we might have to move our son to a Kindle pretty soon.
What a lovely Mom Story, thank you Mimi for sharing it with us!!