Guest Post: @StefanLia

2020 turned out to be an unexpectedly weird and a somewhat disappointing year. Yet, looking back, I must admit that, despite all the restrictions, I have managed to work around them. Who in a million years would have thought that a pandemic will hinder our daily lives? (Well, Bill Gates actually did foresee this).

For 2021, I have a couple of projects lined up. One of which are guest posts. Stefan sums up his experience of 2020. Have a read.

Looking back at 2020

Undeniably, this has been a strange year to say the least. For most it has been pretty difficult. Higher stress level from actual or potential job losses and cancellation of long-awaited holidays and big events such as weddings and graduations. For some, lockdowns proved difficult due to their personal situation.

People could not meet people. For most of us, not being able to meet your vulnerable loved ones for fear of inadvertently infecting them which could lead to much serious consequences is difficult. Worst of all, is the pain that those who lost a loved one as a result of the virus went through. 

Clearly, this was not a good year, a bad one for most, if I were to make a quick evaluation. Yet there is always a silver lining.

If, like me, you are lucky enough to work from home, I am sure you can appreciate the time spent with you family. Yes, kids drive you crazy and an important meeting may have been interrupted with your dog’s barks. Yet, look back at those moments with a moments of fondness and a way for colleagues and collaborators to see the other side of you.

A lot of people had free time on their hands – less going out, difficult in practicing hobbies meant that, for once, time could be on our side. A lot have taken online courses, refreshed their skills or learnt something new to take with them in the new year. That is surely one of the best investment one could make during 2020!

There was also increased realisation by some of our impact on the planet. We all saw the pictures of deserted major cities and quite frankly I am still sad to see no crowds in our capital city, Valletta which is generally bustling with local and foreign shoppers. Yet one cannot deny that we are pressuring our environment and greater awareness of that may lead to actual change in attitude that future generations will thanks us for.

Finally there is there was the realisation of the importance of front-liners in such crisis. Medical staff, law enforcement and other individuals putting themselves at risk on a daily basis as part of their daily job. Such key function within a country are sometimes underappreciated. With the pandemic, this was brought into the limelight and hope is that this will bring positive change for the people doing these jobs, being better conditions, salaries and greater appreciation.

As we prepare to celebrate a different Christmas this year, no work parties, no travelling and no big lunches or dinners, we can only hope that 2021 will be a better year. We will, for sure, take both the good and bad from 2020 with us to make the most out of it!

Stefan Lia is a governance & risk professional, father to 19 month old Bethany and 3 year old Nina (dog). He also happens to be my hubby ♡

Would you like to be featured on my blog? Let’s talk!

Amanda x

A few of my favourite things.

One thing you will most definitely appreciate when you start out on your own is support. Ever since I started my own business I realised how a single dose of support can keep your engine running through thick and thin (that, and a lot of hard work).

The COVID-19 situation we found ourselves in had me thinking. I realised I needed to support small local businesses even more, whenever possible. As a solopreneur myself, I know of the hardships we had to endure this year due to COVID-19 related budget cuts and restrictions.

So, without further ado, I am listing my top favourite tried & tested products from local businesses worth following and buying from. These small businesses work hard and deserve our appreciation ♡

MADUMA

My current stationery stash is all MADUMA. I have been a fan since day one. I even interviewed Kimberly, the brain behind MADUMA, in another post | MADUMA INTERVIEW.

Ikħal is my go-to colour. You can find it here: Ikħal Stationery Set

Rebels with a Cause

Rebels with a Cause are all about sustainability. Their reusable makeup remover pads are my Rebels with a Cause ultimate favourite.

You can find them here: Reusable Makeup Remover Pads

Kartolerija

For my birthday this year, a good friend of mine sent me this beautiful diary for a hopefully more beautiful year than 2020 ever was.

Their diary is available here: Djarju Elfejn Wiehed u Ghoxrin

Concrete creations

Another good friend of mine got me these handmade tealight candle holders. Love them.

Take a look at their creations here: Concreate Creations

The Learning Curve

I’m always on the lookout for educational toys, preferably not plastic ones. Bethany’s favourite is the natural Acvitivty Loop.

You can find it here: Activity Loop

The mama manual

I remember attending Nakita’s book launch and was super excited for her. If you’d like (or need) to get organised, this one’s for you!

You can order it here: How busy mums get organised

J-okini

I have a mild obsession with Japan. I even started learning the language but had to put a pause on that due to my whirlwind of a life. Sumie has the most amazing things and the perfect matcha. She even goes the extra mile and sends you matcha recipes and info.

If you love matcha tea, I suggest it you get it from here: Matcha Green Tea Powder

Pots by Veronica

These pots are actually painted by hand. The perfect seasonal gift!

You can find them here: Christmas Pots

Vanilla Mummy

I’m always trying to be creative with fruit smoothies and veggie snacks. These are a life saver. I’m being serious. Plus, they are reusable.

Check out the starter pack: Nom Nom Kids Starter Pack

Merlin

If you haven’t made my acquaintance yet, well, let me tell you. I adore books. Not love, adore. And by the looks of it, Bethany’s love for books is blossoming.

This is Beth’s favourite of the month: Kuluri u Forom

Well, that’s the end of the list (for now)!

Take care & stay safe

Amanda x

What’s NEW? MADUMA products & a mini-interview.

I have been following @madumamalta right from its birth. I even (and unashamedly) entered a giveaway and actually won. I was stunned; the last time I had won anything was in primary school (back then, I won a plant against a 25c fee. It died a while later).

If you follow MADUMA on Instagram, you know they’ve been hinting at launching new products TODAY. Well, guess what? I’m sharing the news IN THIS POST 😍 Here’s a sneak peak.

But first, let me introduce you to the person behind this much-loved local brand who is super nice and, let me tell you, down to earth. Kimberly takes the time to check in and see whether everything is OK whenever I publish a story featuring the MADUMA products. The last time she did, I asked her for an interview and she said YES 🙌

Photo by Naomi Gradel

We decided to keep it virtual for the sake of everyone’s safety.

I would love to know more about MADUMA. How did it all start?

The idea of MADUMA began when I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree at MCAST. I decided to focus my thesis on the demise of local trades, especially the historically rich floor tiles that you used to find all over Malta. I wanted to create awareness about this beautiful trade and do
my part to preserve Maltese culture. This sparked the idea of combining my two biggest passions, design and fashion, that led to me creating my own fashion label, focusing on the beauty of the Maltese floor tile.

So, tell me, Kimberly. What inspires you?

Whenever I walk into an old house or shop with traditional Maltese floor tiles. But not just that. My inspiration for new colours and ideas derives from exploring new places; especially when I’m on holiday and more relaxed.

I know for a fact that there are many creative people out there with great ideas who are afraid to take the leap. What advice would you give them?

Listen to your gut and just do it, even if people around you don’t believe in you or your idea. Do not let people discourage you from following your dreams, even if these people are the closest to you. If you believe in your idea, that’s all you need.

I have to ask this. What is your favourite MADUMA product (and why)?

It’s hard to pick, I love them all! I think it’s like asking a mother, who is your favourite child? This might be an unfair question, but I think if I really had to pick, it would be the organic cotton t-shirts because they were the first products that started my brand.

You, in three words.

Ambitious, brave, detail-oriented

Something on your bucket list:

To see MADUMA products being sold in brick-mortar shops around our beautiful island.

I’m sure it won’t be too long before you tick that one off your bucket list!

Now, for the good news! MADUMA launches these Maltese-tile inspired and potential stocking fillers today!

☆ Pocket mirrors ☆
★ Magnets ★
☆ Pack of 4 Magnets ☆ (so you can get all patterns if undecided)

Maybe we’ll be seeing other products in these new colours as well? 🤔💙

I’m always looking forward to see what Kimberly comes up with!

Show your support & go follow!

Amanda x

Why I keep photos of my toddler off social media

If you scroll through my Instagram feed or skim through my stories, you will occasionally see my little bee. But never her face.

Before reading this post, know this. This is my personal opinion, and for the record, everyone can do whatever they like. To each, their own. It’s not the first time that I liked a picture a friend of mine shared of her kids.

And as a mum, I know how it feels. My fingers itch to share a story of my toddler and show her insanely cute moments to the world. Her first smile, her first step, her continuous blabbering while we play.

But that’s just it. I don’t want the world to have access to her photos and videos. Her face. Once publicly online, they’re there forever even if you delete them. I have no way of knowing who saved her pictures on their devices.

I pondered on this throughout most of my pregnancy. On the one hand, I wanted to share happy pictures of our little family. On the other, my paranoid side kept kicking in. What if a stranger sees them? How would I feel if her pictures and videos had to fall into the wrong hands? Do I want that nagging feeling of doubt? No, I didn’t.

Unfortunately, it happens. Images, sometimes even retouched, resurface on the Internet. I revolt at the thought alone. But how can you know where the picture of your child is?

I’m quite a private person, so not sharing her pictures didn’t feel like anything out of the norm for me personally. Instead, I got creative. I include her in pictures, always fully clothed and her face never shows. The people closest to me, the ones who matter, see her in real life anyway 😋

She can start her own digital footprint when she comes of age. At least, I hope that when she’s a teenager, she’ll appreciate that I haven’t shared any ’embarrassing’ pictures of her 😅

Are there any parents out there who are on the same wavelength or is it just me?

Until next time
Amanda x

Featured image by https://www.instagram.com/kagrabowska/

Ready, steady, work?

Inspiration hits when you least expect it.

Triggered by something as simple as rain. Weird? I have no idea how it works but as soon as the smell of rain hit my senses this morning, I felt the need to sit down and just write.

Having a one-year old running around (literally now), sitting down at my make-shift desk to work, research or write, feels like a ticking time bomb. Coffees get cold all the time. Thankfully, with the turn of the season, I can turn that into a glorious ice coffee. Win!

I’ve been working on a personal project of mine for ages and keep on hitting the pause button. For one, client work comes first. I don’t know about working mums out there but as soon as Beth’s head hits the pillow, I’m on my laptop, crossing out the never-ending to-do list. The lack of sleep doesn’t help either. Many a person suggested that I rest while Beth sleeps.

Self-care is a priority. I truly believe that you should take care of yourself first before anyone else (otherwise, you wouldn’t have the energy or be in the right mind to do so). But let’s be real. There are tons of things to do every single day and they’re not getting done on their own. You cross one thing out and add three more. It’s just how it goes.

So, I cherish moments like these. When it’s quiet and my cappuccino is still warm, the rain drums on the window (albeit for an extremely short period of time) and I write.

It’s not crazy all day, every week, mind you. I make it a point to start my day with a 10 minute morning yoga routine to stretch and get in the zone. Even with Beth climbing all over me. After that, I make a list of targets for the day. I try not to overwhelm myself with tasks. It’s better to get one thing done and do it right than start a million things and end up with a million loose ends.

How do you go about work and taking care of the kids? I’d love to hear your side of the story 🤗

Believe it or not, I ran out of list pads. Maduma launched their new products just in time and I’m in love with this collection 😍 This is not sponsored, I actually bought everything in the video. It’s my appreciation towards small local businesses (plus I 💙 the traditional Maltese tiles).

Amanda x

#inthespotlight @Malcolm Gauci

Fashion is not my cup of tea. Those who know me best, know this only too well. Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t follow at all. I do have a couple of friends who are stylists; one of whom has been trying to take me on a shopping spree for months now (you know who you are).

I got in touch with someone whose social media accounts are consistently active and who does not shy away from the camera.

My second guest interview this year is with the greatly talented @Malcolm Gauci.

  • Award-winning fashion stylist
  • Style Influencer

 

While scrolling through his Instagram feed I couldn’t help but wonder how he manages to do what he does. I have known Malcolm for a while now; so we met over a coffee to talk about his world (pre-COVID-19).

Care to tell me more about what you do and how it all started?

I started out as a freelance photo model. There, I learned more about styling and met up with people from the fashion industry. I’ve always been passionate about styling; I guess you can say it comes naturally to me. Still, it’s not something that happened overnight. It takes a lot of hard work. Plus, a lot of people believed in me – and that gives you quite the boost.

At first, I wanted to have a space where I could interact with people and show my work. It’s how I started out on Instagram. Over time, I wanted to show more than just my styling work; I wanted to show them who I am, what I personally wear and connect with my followers even more.

Favourite social media platform?

Instagram. It connects you to a whole world of other people. You can easily find your niche there and can interact very easily.

I personally think that being online all the time can be a bit exhausting. Do you ever feel the need for a digital detox?

Having a full-time job that is completely different from styling and the social media world – that alone is detox enough.  Truth be told, I am sucked into the digital world. Apart from sharing relevant content with my followers, I also love documenting random things.

What does the future of influencer marketing look like in your eyes?

I think that over time, brands will reach out to the less- famous. This is already a thing; they’re called micro-influencers. And, I think having the everyday person as an “ambassador” will be the way forward.

Quick advice you would give someone just starting out? 

Stay true to yourself. If you’re not comfortable doing something that you do not believe in, then don’t do it.

Ok, super quick questions that have nothing to do with anything above. Just for the fun of it. 

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee

Favourite film?

I would have a favourite if I actually made it through the whole film

Would you rather read minds or the future?

The future

One thing you would like to cross off your bucket list?

Be part of Gucci’s creative team

Who or what inspires you?

There isn’t just one thing. I get inspired by random things I come across along the way

Go follow!

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Working from home

Ah, what weird times. I decided to avoid all the hassle and distance myself socially for the time being. For everyone’s benefit 🙌

I’m honestly used to staying inside for a long period of time. I have been growing my business and working from home for the past three + years now. So really, it’s just another day at the office!

Still, I so miss grabbing my laptop and heading out to my local cafe’ for a nice cup of frothy cappuccino while I work. And meetings. Actual face-to-face ones. I miss those 😥

Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I could just get up, grab my things and leave for a little change in scenery. It takes me at least two hours to get little Beth and myself ready before we actually leave the house.

I think I spend half an hour preparing the bag alone. Parents would know about the bag: Change of clothing, nappies, snacks, bottles, milk powder, water flask…there’s more. But, my intention is not to bore you out of your mind.

Funny how we take the little things for granted in life, right? The minute we’re denied something, a temporary ‘lack of freedom’, we’re done for. Spare a thought for people fleeing for their lives with nothing but their clothes on their backs. People who were denied their freedom even before they were born.

It’s not the easiest time for businesses. I get that. Believe me, I do. But we will get through this. So, in the meantime, if you’re staying at home, make the most of it.

Read more, rest more! Perhaps, find a cause you believe in and help out remotely for the time being? The NGO I voluntarily work with, bBrave  (anti-bullying), is always on the lookout for new members 😉 Just saying!

Stay safe,

Amanda x

 

 

New year, new mum? Stay Inspired!

I dove into 2020 head first.

Given my recent transition into motherhood, I had to slow down my work pace last year. So, in 2019, I set the stage for 2020. And I’m psyched about a couple of new projects that I’m working on 🤩 Can’t share anything yet though. What I can say is that one of my lifelong goals is about to take flight. Or rather, will eventually take flight. I’m already getting ahead of myself 😅

Looking back, 2019 had a little bumps. Honestly, I was torn between being my usual working-around-the-clock self and immersing myself in the role of a mum. Fast forward to eight months later, it gets better. Sleep doesn’t, but the rest does. I had to toss my schedules out the window though. Most days, I can only get things done while she sleeps.

Staying inspired was all the more difficult during the past months. Sometimes, all I wanted was for the day to be over just minutes after waking up. So, I had to get thinking of ways to avoid a downward spiral. One thing that helped hone my inspiration was (and still is) getting out of the house.

If you’re a working mum, a stay-at-home parent or a mumpreneur, difficult as it is, do take a break. You deserve it. Having a baby to take care of, plus work on top of that can take its toll. Getting out of the house might just be what you need. Even if it’s for a half-hour walk or a cup of coffee at your local café a couple of minutes away. True, you’re probably not getting things done and your never-ending list has nothing crossed off it yet. But, chances are, you’ll feel more refreshed after taking a break from it all and work twice as hard later (child-permitting).

These up here 👆 took a couple of minutes longer to get to 😋 It was our first ever trip with Beth and it went better than expected. 

Even as I write this, I’m aware that sometimes it’s not that easy. I’m a morning person and pre-motherhood used to get all the work done by midday. Getting some work done close to midnight is actually a thing now.

Ah, she woke up. After only twenty minutes.  So, to wrap this up, and all this aside, any help you can get, get it! True, I’m blessed with the most amazing people in my life. Even if you’re winging it on your own, remember you’re strong, amazing and you’re not alone 🙌💪

Amanda x

🎄 Christmas jumpers, imbuljuta tal- Qastan and the midnight mass

In the coming days, everyone around you will seem a tad more pleasant than usual. Even work will feel more tolerable when compared to the rest of the year. It’s a time when everything tends to sound and look better; especially if you’re an avid Christmas fan.

It’s one week until Christmas and, despite all that has been going on, the air is buzzing with cheer. Or perhaps it’s just me and my incessant obsession with this holiday.  On December first, we open the first tiny window of our advent calendar, overload our Spotify accounts with Christmas music, and start thinking of showering the fronts of our homes with blinking decorative lights (and sometimes even overdoing it).  All this sets the tone for the upcoming month and puts our little customs into motion.

Traditions are comforting, nice even. They’re like a familiar smell you randomly come across on a given day that takes you back to your childhood days. The nostalgic memories of Christmas past, if you will. Do you sometimes find yourself missing sitting cozily on the couch, your hands cupped around a warm mug of imbuljuta tal-Qastan your grandma just made whilst munching on some fresh out-of-the-oven mince pies on Christmas eve?

As a child, I used to spend every Christmas Eve at my grandma’s with the rest of the family. After that, we attended the Midnight mass and as children, tried hard not to snooze off in the dim lights during the extremely long sermon of the child. I loved every second of Christmas eve. Loved – because as we grew older, that little family tradition of ours dissipated.

Every family has its own traditions which inevitably change with the passage of time. Children grow up, move out, embark on their own journeys and create their own new thing. Still, change brings about the birth of new traditions which can be just as exciting.

When compared to other countries and given that no distance is great on this little island of ours, we remain close to our families and not just in physical proximity. To date, we tend to celebrate this day with our closest relatives and try to make up for lost time with friends. That is probably one of the reasons why we send out a bazillion greeting cards to everyone we have ever known in December.

Another thing that always fascinated me as a child – probably because of the Home Alone movies I used to watch – was the Christmas tree. I remembered being in awe of how grand it stood with gifts piled neatly underneath it. Back then, I also remember my mother pointing out that the Christmas tree hadn’t always been part of our tradition. Most Maltese catholic families make the crib and baby Jesus as the main centerpieces during the festive season to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas; the birth of Christ. Some would even go on to argue that no crib is complete without the decorative Gulbiena (vetches). Growing the plant in darkness was a task, that as kids, we took to heart. We checked on it every single day to the point of feeling proudly triumphant upon seeing its stringy white shoots sprouting from its watered cotton bed.

Setting up the Christmas tree, however, is now a tradition well embedded in the Maltese culture. We spend hours decorating our homes, which although sometimes we do so excessively, it still makes up for good family quality time. Something which lately, and admittedly, we seem to be lacking. It’s not the first time I’ve been to a café and sitting nearby is a family of four completely lost in four different digital worlds.

The spirit of Christmas, less the commercial hype, is associated with acts of giving, selflessness, and kindness. In this excessively consumeristic reality of ours, it would not be the first time you’d hear someone admitting that the true meaning of Christmas is lost and has now been replaced with all that is materialistic. However, and to date, for many locals, the Christmas season is not merely a frenzy period of gift shopping but rather, it’s more about being part of the communal experience. For instance, as kids, we never missed the children’s procession, singing and holding candle-lit paper lanterns as we roamed our village streets. This is something most towns and villages have been organising for years and still do.

Then on Christmas day, my family and I prepare lunch together and spend the day in each other’s company watching Christmas films and playing board games. Lunch on this day is a celebratory meal that takes time both to prepare and to eat. It usually involves a hearty three-course meal starting off with pasta or soup, turkey and roast potatoes plus a vegetable casserole (which used to be baked at the local bakery) undeniably followed by dessert, coffee, and liquour.  A couple of hours in, and tea, treacle rings, and mince pies are also served. Where food is concerned, traditions like these tend to stick around for quite a while on these islands.

It’s nice to have our own little traditions. Looking back, we reminiscence on childhood memories that we’re fond of. Looking ahead, a little change to what we’re used to doesn’t hurt either. Wearing funny Christmas jumpers, hanging Christmas stockings, exchanging gifts and indulging in Christmas inspired ginger lattes and cookies with friends and family, are seasonal traditions that make December special.

 

Featured on the Times of Malta Christmas Magazine, 2018

Here’s to new #beginnings!

The reason behind my online absence? Little Bethany 💙 She became my number one priority way before she came into this world. She is also the reason why I’m not getting any sleep. Not even a wink.

Working on my projects and taking care of Beth is a new challenge I’m diving into, head first. I cut back on some work for the first few weeks but am slowly getting back on track. It’s not like no one ever went through this before but it hits you right in the face when you’re actually experiencing it.

One thing you’re in dire need of if you’re a working mum is flexibility. I must admit that being my own boss does help. I can get work done when she sleeps, be it at four in the morning (I’d be awake anyway) or 11 at night. And perhaps also try to squeeze an hour of sleep in between. 

As an avid planner myself, I am now aware of how naive I was to think I had everything under control. Once a newborn was in my arms, I realised that planning was not going to be on the agenda any time soon. 

My clients were extremely understanding. I couldn’t have asked for a better lot ❤ I made sure to meet up with everyone before I popped. And together, we planned and scheduled most of the work. I wanted to make sure I had everything covered. And, I did. 

When my water broke, the first thing I did (after taking a shower & calling my better half), was to sit back down and tie loose ends. An hour and a half later I was in the labour ward. 

I quite like privacy and am not one to shower my social media with pictures of myself and my family. In fact, most people didn’t even realise I was pregnant. Not until after I posted a picture showing Beth’s tiny feet.

I’m also aware of the irony given my line of work. But being or becoming an ‘influencer’ has never been on my agenda. I have always been a behind-the-scenes kind of person.

Having said that, I will be sharing just a few pictures in the coming days on my IG account 👇

Follow me on Instagram

It took me forever to write this blogpost! The minute she closed her eyes, I sprinted to my laptop. Inspiration hit and I wanted to pour it all down. It feels good to be back 💙 

Amanda x