What’s going in your celebration swag bag?

Back in July 2014, June was tagged in a Facebook post inviting people to join in The Big Birthday Swag Bag Hop.

With both a holiday and a birthday on the horizon at the time, she was happy to jump on board and share a few of the essentials that would find their way into her suitcase were she to join a group of friends heading off for a special celebration.

Almost six years on – how time flies! – and, with the UK currently under lockdown, she’s already started planning her own post-coronavirus celebration.

So she’s revisited her original list and made a few adjustments to the must-haves that will be going into her swag bag this time around…

Scroll down the page to find out what they are – but before you do, how about telling the Girls Around Town what you’d put in yours?

To get involved, simply follow this link to a short survey listing the things to include, answer the questions and submit your response by Sunday 12 July.

No personal details will be stored or shared – as always with GAT surveys, it’s just a bit of a fun for a feature on one of the first Sunday mornings when the show returns to air on 107.8FM.

In the meantime, here are June’s answers to the questions – it goes without saying of course that these are all in addition to the things on the legendary (and very lengthy) spreadsheet packing list she compiles every time she goes away…

The destination

Well, it has to be Italy of course but for once I won’t be heading to my usual ‘home away from home’ in Amalfi.

Inspired by the book below, this time I’m off to Florence for a few days. And on the way home I’ll be nipping over to Milan – what’s a 200 mile detour when the fashion capital of the world beckons?

The book

As an avid reader, for me one of the hardest things about the current lockdown is not being able to nip into Newark library two or three times a week to pick up a good supply of books.

After just a few days of self-isolation, I’d already started searching through my bookshelves for something to re-read. And the first one I chose was one of my  absolute favourites, Bella Figura by Kamin Mohammadi. who left London in January 2008 to spend a few months in Florence and is still there!

Subtitled How to live, love and eat the Italian way, it tells the story of her first year in the city, month by month – the places she visited, the people she met and the meals she learned to make and enjoy, with many of the recipes included too.

During my own relatively brief time in Florence I’m planning to spend a day with Kamin on one of the workshops she has devised to bring the book alive to readers and hope to visit her home on a 10th-century castle estate in the countryside of Chianti for a simple Tuscan cooking class and olive oil tasting.

The beauty product

I’m still a martyr to mozzies so the White Tiger Balm on the original list will be in my bag again but my real beauty hero these days is a lovely berry-coloured lipstick…

Cast your mind back to the summer of 2017 and you may remember a slightly hysterical conversation between Rachel, Sue and me about how to choose the right shade of lippy.

Picked precisely in the recommended way (if you missed it, you’ll find details in the first 10 minutes or so of the podcast here), my berry lip gloss is a constant companion both at home and away so it will definitely have a place in the swag bag this time. 

Snack food

With lots of lovely Italian meals to enjoy, snacks won’t be much of a priority on this trip. But I’ll be adding a few of my favourite Vive Bars to that packing list to keep me going during the journeys to and from my two destinations – a far tastier option than airline food!

The music

My holiday playlist will mostly feature the wonderful Andrea Bocelli but there’ll be one extra track on there from the last time around…

After all, what could be more appropriate for the trip of a lifetime than Bill Medley‘s I’ve had the time of my life?

One last thing

Well, two things really…

A second (large and empty) bag – and a credit card to pay for all the extra swag going into it when I hit those Milanese shops!

So are you up for the challenge?

If you are, don’t forget to fill in the questionnaire and share your own swag bag essentials with the Girls Around Town.

Then watch this space to find out when they’ll be discussing their answers and yours on 107.8FM soon…

Soap with a conscience

You probably think long and hard about what’s in all the skin care and beauty products you use, right?

But how much thought do you give to something as simple as that bar of soap sitting in the bathroom or by the kitchen sink?

Not a lot, at a guess – after all, it’s no sooner on your hands or body than you’re rinsing it off again…

But not all soaps are created equal and if you want to find out why, you need to tune in or listen online this weekend, when June and Rachel take a look behind the scenes of Soapology with their guest Louise Grosse.

Based in Farndon, Louise creates handcrafted, artisan soaps using only 100 per cent natural ingredients. Made in small, quality-controlled batches, each bar is unique, with essential oils chosen and blended carefully for their therapeutic benefits.

With natural colourants in swirls, layers or solid colours, the soaps she makes aren’t just great for your skin – they look like little works of art when not in use too. And who could resist soaps with names such as MojitoPerfect GentlemanSudweiserHello Yellow and Sham-Pooch (yes, there’s even one especially for your four-legged friends!)?

What’s more, these ‘soaps with a conscience’ are eco-friendly as well. “None of our soaps contain palm oil, a decision we made because we are uncomfortable with contributing to deforestation of the natural habitat of orangutans and other wildlife who call the forests of Indonesia their home,” says Louise. “After a lot of hard work and many trial batches, we believe we have created a recipe that is superior to others that do contain palm oil.”

Join the Girls Around Town between 10am and 12 noon on Sunday to hear Louise explain how she taught herself the traditional cold process method of soap making known as saponification and how you can even try your hand at making your own soap on one of her Soapology Studio workshops.

Challenging perceptions of beauty

After more than ten years working in marketing, global brand management and trends prediction for a multinational health and beauty company, Sindy Kaur realised that, despite her love of the industry, she wasn’t always comfortable with the messages coming out through various media around what beauty is…

“I found it too narrow, too ‘perfect’ and not always something people could relate to,” says Sindy, the founder of Challenging Perceptions of Beauty and next week’s guest on Girls Around Town.

“So when I left the corporate world, I decided to diversify and deepen my understanding around how those perceptions of beauty and ‘success’ affect women on the other side of the industry.”

In 2005 she spent a year training as a life coach and since then has worked with people from different cultures and all walks of life, gaining valuable insights into the effects that trying to conform to other peoples’ expectations can have on self esteem and happiness.

Join Rosalyn and June on Sunday when Sindy will be describing some of the ways in which she has set out to challenge those perceptions and help to influence change.

“It’s not about attacking the beauty industry or the media and we’re not trying to dictate to people how they should or shouldn’t think or behave,” she adds. “Our aim is to open up conversations, to get people thinking and taking responsibility for the messages around beauty and success that we’re creating and passing onto the next generation.”

If you’re an outwardly successful woman who feels like a fraud on the inside or you want to get back on back on course after life has given you a knock or a wake-up call (think turning 50, divorce, redundancy or illness perhaps) you’ll want to hear about Sindy’s coaching programme Behind The Mask too.

Tune in or listen online between 10am and 12 noon to find out how she takes her clients through the steps to shedding the ‘mask’ – the ‘face’ they put on for the outside world when they’re not sure who they are.

And how in doing so they’re able to re-align with what’s really important to them, to reveal their true power and enjoy what they’ve achieved…