The Big Birthday Swag Bag

I’ve just been ‘tagged’ by my good friend Deborah Garlick of Henpicked to take part in The Big Birthday Swag Bag Hop.

Here’s the scenario :

You’re going to a friend’s 40th birthday bash on an exotic island resort. The challenge is to list a few of your favourite things to add to the swag bag for everyone in the group.

Coincidentally, I’m going to be spending this year’s birthday in my own little bit of paradise. Not my 40th – that’s long gone! – and not on an exotic island but in small hotel close to the beautiful Italian town of Amalfi. And some of the items below are already on my list for the trip…

The book

I’m an avid reader, probably the best customer of my local library, so choosing just one book was a real challenge. But I finally settled on one of the few that I initially ordered from the library but enjoyed so much that I went straight out and bought a copy so I could re-read it (twice so far!).

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is the story of bright but directionless Lou who drifts between dead-end jobs until she rather reluctantly takes a post as a carer to Will, a young man who has been left in a quadriplegic state following a road accident. He’s bitter and angry, his parents are at their wits’ end and, shortly after Lou is hired, she hatches a desperate plan to try to convince Will that his life is worth living.

Although it deals with the subjects of disability and assisted suicide, there are lots of funny and sweet moments in the book. I laughed out loud in places, stayed up till 3am to finish it in a single sitting and wept my way through the final chapters.

The beauty product

As someone who won’t even venture out to the wheelie bin bare faced, I was tempted just to plump for a fully-stocked make up bag. Unable to decide between lippy, mascara, blusher and all the rest, I’ve gone for something completely different here…

I’m a martyr to mozzies! Whenever I spend any time in the sun, I invariably end up covered in itchy lumps, bumps and nasty red blotches. And although I’ve tried just about every kind of repellent under the sun – citronella candles, patches, sprays, the lot – so far I haven’t hit on the one that works for me.

But if I’m still searching for a way to prevent the problem, at least I’ve found a way to take the sting out of it. My beauty hero comes in a cute little hexagonal pot, all the way from Hong Kong – used mainly for relieving aching muscles and headaches, a little dab of White Tiger Balm (not the fiery red one!) on a bite works like magic.

Snack food

An easy one this – it has to be almonds. I buy these by the half kilo from my local independent health food shop, snack on them at home whenever I crave something sweet and always find room for a big bag in my suitcase when I go away.

The music

The soundtrack to Dirty Dancing, my favourite movie of all time with lots of tunes from my era…

Best one of all has to be I’ve had the time of my life – very appropriate for an exotic island trip and it’s also one of three that will be played at my funeral (the other two, if you’re wondering, being Billy Fury’s Halfway to paradise and Go now by The Moody Blues!)

One last thing

I’ll be taking my Surface tablet and hoping for plenty of WiFi hotspots so we can all post lots of pictures of our fabulous birthday bash on Facebook, to the envy of all our friends back home. Like the one above of the Amalfi terrace restaurant overlooking the Bay of Salerno, where I will be raising a glass or two of Prosecco on my own birthday in September…

Here’s Deborah’s blog – thanks Deborah and thanks to Susie Orman Schnall, author of On Grace for starting this. You can read her original post here.

Passing it on

I’m delighted to pass the swag bag onto Yvette Karan, a motivational speaker and intuitive holistic healer who is an inspiration to everyone she meets – and a very funny (in the nicest possible way) lady too! Over to you Yvette…

The (two) grand total

greaseLast Friday’s sing-along screening of Grease at Newark’s Palace Theatre was a huge success – a packed house, plenty of Pink Ladies, lots of singing along and even more dancing. There’s no doubt every member of the audience was having a ball!

And we’ve just found out that the event raised a whopping £2027.90 for Jo Lister’s Arctic Challenge in aid of Beaumond House Community Hospice.

Well done to everyone involved in the event and good luck to Jo, whose 120-kilometre trek across the Arctic is now just days away…

Grease is the word!

GreaseOur good friend Jo Lister is hosting a sing-along screening of the iconic movie, Grease, at The Palace Theatre in Newark on Friday 24 January.

Jo was a guest on Girls Around Town on 30 November, coming into the studio to tell us all about her Arctic Trek in aid of Beaumond House. As she says in her blog:

“I will be completely out of my comfort zone, and living in a way which, as a working mum of two is alien to me! No showers, toilets, or king size beds. No husbands to do the difficult or less desirable jobs and no children to raise your spirits.

Trekking 120km in the Arctic Circle in temperatures ranging from 0 to -20 degrees Celsius (possibly minus 35 at night) over frozen lakes, camping in tents and dragging all my worldly possessions in a sled behind me.

Along the way we will ski over numerous frozen lakes including ‘Lesjav’ri,’ which is over seven miles across. In good weather, we will see the beauty of protracted sunrises and sunsets. The effect of the pink light on the scenery can be stunning. Daylight will not be at a premium and therefore some travel may be necessary by torchlight. On clear evenings, one can expect superb displays from the Northern Lights, because Finnmark is regarded as the finest place in Europe from where to view them. The final part of our journey descends through the tree line of the Boreal Forest, to a frozen river valley, which we follow into Karasjok. We will then be transported back to our chalet for a celebratory meal and our flight home.

This 120-kilometre journey requires about 6 hours of active travel per day. Each night we must work together as a team & quickly – to create a safe and comfortable camp. By the end of the journey, everyone will have learned how to travel through an Arctic wilderness with a “level of comfort” that allows an appreciation of the environment. – The main challenge can be the wind – because in low temperatures it can be testing.”

Wow! ‘Challenge‘ sounds like a bit of an understatement, don’t you think?!

The Grease screening is the last push of Jo’s fundraising effort and tickets are going fast. They’re free but a donation of at least £5 per person would be, in Jo’s words, much appreciated. Just before Christmas, over 200 seats had already been booked (yes, the Girls Around Town are going – wouldn’t miss it for the world!) – if you want to join the party, call the Palace booking office on 01636 655755.

The film starts at 7.30pm – see you in the bar around 7pm!!