favourites with shirley cai


I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Shirley Cai; Although Shirley is younger than me, I see her as the considered, intelligent and stylish woman I hope to grow into. When Shirley lived in Sydney we self published a book together called Safe Place - a combination of my poetry and her skills in everything else - photography, layout, design. The launch party is one of my favourite memories from the last few years. We made Japanese sweets, served batch brew coffee, and sold though almost every copy printed. Safe Place was created in an in between, tender space, moments before I stepped into teaching yoga fully and Shirley packed up and moved to the US.

Together we obsessed over making the perfect pour over coffee, and moving toward the lives we felt we needed to live. I’m sure you will enjoy and learn so much from her New York City favourites, beautiful photographs and advice for female creatives. Be sure to check out her latest work on Hetty Mckinnon’s Peddler Journal.

Name: Shirley Cai

current work  / creative project: By day, I work full-time as the Media & Communications Manager for the womenswear label 7115 by Szeki. By night, I work on writing and producing stories, as well as the design for Peddler.



scent: Bergamot

city: New York City

beverage: Coffee

movement: Swimming and walking

rest practice: lighting a candle or incense and listening to music

spiritual practice: Writing and journaling. I make time every day to write and reflect on things I’ve observed or learned about the world or myself. I also keep a gratitude journal which I bookend my days with.

work soundtrack: Jazz and soul. It’s usually Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Chet Baker, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke or Otis Redding.



travel essentials: I always have a journal and camera with me. I like to travel with my sturdy carry-all (this tote). I also make sure to have a bottle of water, sunscreen, face wash, a hat, and a good book.

kitchen essentials: V60 dripper, magic bullet, good olive oil, and Maldon sea salt flakes

bathroom essentials: a candle, face wash, rosehip oil, eye cream, and dental floss  

morning rituals: I like to wake up very early and start my mornings with some form of exercise—either swimming, running, yoga or a spin class. After that I make breakfast while catching up on the news and my favourite podcasts. I listen to The Daily religiously. After breakfast I make some time to fill out my gratitude journal and do some light reading. I always try to read before work because it helps set the tone for how I approach the rest of my day.

evening rituals: I end every day with a hot shower. I know I shouldn’t be working before bed but I try to squeeze in a bit of time to work on Peddler or a side project. Then to wind down I either listen to music, read or journal. I end every night by filling in my gratitude journal and reflecting on the day.


on working overseas

When I first moved I had all these expectations about the kind of work I was going to do and the kind of “career” I was going to build. My expectations got turned upside down in the best way possible and helped open up my eyes to what my true purpose in life is. The greatest lesson I have learned from working overseas is that you need to let go of all expectations and just go with the flow. When you make a choice to work overseas, you’ve made a choice to step out of your comfort zone. Embrace that decision and experience all the good and bad that comes with that. At the end of the day, it’s not about what job you do, it’s not about how much money you make, or how far up the ladder you can climb. It’s about how you do your work and how you grow from this experience.

on living overseas

If you ever get the chance to live somewhere other than the city you grew up in, then do it. Your mind will open up so much by just understanding how different people live, but also by understanding how connected we all are despite how big you think the world may be. I think it’s also super important to be respectful to the country that you’re living in by learning about and immersing yourself in the history and the culture of that place. You can’t just go to a different country and take. You need to also give back and see how you can contribute to that community. The best place to start is by learning about its history.  


on being a female creative

Awareness is pivotal to navigating the creative world as a female. It’s important to be aware of the gender gap. However, it’s even more important to be aware of the power you hold as a creative who happens to be a female. Your voice is different and different is good. We need more perspectives. Diversity is important. In such a patriarchal world your voice is refreshing and insightful. It’s important to value and celebrate that unique power that you hold as a female.


where do you find inspiration: From people watching. It doesn’t matter where I am—in a park, at a coffee shop, on the subway—there is nothing more inspirational to me than the energy of everyday life and seeing how people interact with one another.

can’t live without: human connection

currently reading: All About Love by Bell Hooks

your perfect day in NYC: Going for a morning run along East River Park, then meandering around the Lower East Side and Chinatown with a camera in hand, stopping off in a book store before ending up at Tompkins Square Park, listening to live jazz in the park and sparking up a conversation with the stranger beside me on the bench.

what does rest look or feel like for you: Rest is both mentally and physically switching off. It’s taking the time to listen to your body and slowing down. It is the lightness of being okay with letting your mind and body do nothing at all.

say hello: website / instagram

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