15 (More) Must Read Books About Love, Life & Being a Woman

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably clued in to the fact that I love to read. I always have a book on the go and when I’m not reading I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time browsing bookstores and obsessing over what I’m going to read next. A couple of you have asked me for book recommendations recently, so I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my favourite reads.

Ever since I wrote a post called 12 Books About Love, Life and Being a Woman last spring, I’ve been dying to write a sequel. Here are 15 more books about love, life and being a woman. Some of these titles are things I have read & enjoyed over the past year, while others are long time favourites.

If you enjoy this blog, you might enjoy these books too.

1. Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple – Part adventure & mystery, part hilarious satire, this was one of my favourite books I read in 2013. I love the character of Bernadette – she’s smart, witty, totally eccentric and utterly original. Set in Seattle, the book really captures (in the most hilarious way possible) the organic- granola-crunching-designer-rubber-boot-wearing-overly-PC atmosphere of life on the West Coast and what it’s like to feel like an outsider in this milieu (hmm, sound familiar?)

2. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell –  “Hi, I”m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ” When Lincoln, a mild-mannered, slightly nerdy IT guy is put in charge of monitoring office emails he never expects to become captivated by the entertaining emails exchanged between best-friends and co-workers Beth and  Jennifer. By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s too late to introduce himself – after all, he doesn’t even know what she looks like. What should be the creepiest story ever, turns into one of the sweetest, non-sucky love stories I’ve come across in a long time. I also loved the witty exchanges between Beth & Jennifer because their characters remind me so much of my best friend and I. Whenever someone asks for the perfect “feel good book” I tell them, “THIS. Read this.

3. Monkey Mind: a Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith – Although this book isn’t really about love and wasn’t written by a woman, as someone with an anxiety disorder, I could really relate to this memoir. As Smith describes the various layers of anxiety and how he experiences his day to day life, I kept finding myself saying, “Yes. yes. yes. I know what that’s like.” I feel like this book put into words a lot of thoughts and feelings I’ve had, but haven’t been able to express. The book is also full of witty humour as Smith describes the self-destructive absurdity that is living with anxiety. A good one to read if you or are a loved one are anxious.

4. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta – Ever since I started blogging, I’ve become completely obsessed with reading memoirs of other 30-something women writers. This is a fantastic memoir and one of my favourite books from 2013. Domenica Ruta grew up in a working-class, unforgiving town north of Boston, in a trash-filled house, with her drug addicted mother Kathi – a notorious local figure, whose life swung between welfare and riches, and whose highbrow taste was at odds with her hardscrabble life. With or Without You is a gritty coming of age tale about loving, leaving and healing your personal demons. I couldn’t put it down.

5. And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould – Unlike Ruta, Emily Gould grew up in relative privilege and following college, landed a job in NYC working at Gawker. I resisted reading this book for a long time because I’d heard it described as “narcissistic, angsty hipster drivel” however, I’m glad I picked this book. Gould’s memoir is written in stark, clear prose and seems to perfectly capture the numbness that a lot of us feel in our post-college mid-twenties. I rarely ever cry over a book, but when I read the passage where Gould breaks up with her boyfriend (in a scene so eerily similar to my own breakup), it brought me to tears. Gould grew on me throughout the book, to the point where I didn’t really want to let her go when it was over.

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January Came In Like a Wrecking Ball

I think Joe the Intern‘s Miley inspired New Year’s greeting was somehow prophetic because January has been one crazy month. My expectation that January was going to be a mellow four weeks of work, writing & going to the gym was totally smashed when it unexpectedly turned into a month of crazy work schedules, Vegas adventures and a lingering post-Vegas cold that just won’t quit. So, I have some catching up to do!

If you were reading this blog last year, you might remember that I participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council. In preparation for 2013, I let go of 50 things and I chose a theme for year: “Shine.” I wanted 2013 to be a year of to be a year full of healthy living, travel, mindfulness, creativity and sparkle, so I could fall deeper in love with my life. I decided that to make this happen I’d adopt the personal mantra of “Do more of what makes you awesome.”

When I look back at 2013 I am really proud of how everything turned out and do feel like I embraced my themed in all it’s shiny glory. I made health & fitness a much bigger priority in my life, started taking Barre classes again, joined a challenging new fitness program and made some helpful tweaks to my diet. I really grew my freelancing business a lot in 2013, worked with some fantastic companies and after a lot of blood, sweat & tears landed my dream gig as a Nationally syndicated relationship columnist. I learned that when I exercise my willpower I can do anything I put my mind to, which has given me a new sense of confidence that I didn’t have a year ago.

I have some really big goals for 2014. I want to finish a big (still kind of secretive) writing project I started before Christmas, make a habit of being fiscally responsible & saving money, travel as much as possible & revitalize my dating/sex life. I want to carry a lot of the good things from 2013 into the New Year, but go bigger. I remember reading a quote a long time on Nicole‘s blog that went something like this:

What would you do if you were no longer holding yourself back?”

This question has been dancing around my head for the past few months, so I used it as inspiration for my 2014 goals. I’ve decided that this year’s theme will be “GO. ALL. IN” – with my work, but also with my heart. No more sitting on the sidelines or holding myself back!

To make things happen, I’ve decided that my top 5 priorities or “ways of being” for 2014 are as follows:

1) Be Focused and Consistent – Make consistent forward progress on my big, kind of scary (but exciting) writing project. Get things done. Grow my business. Eat well and stay active. Keeping in mind that consistency & getting shit done, is better than perfection.

2) Be Healthy – Continue with the healthy eating and exercise habits I started in 2013. Challenge myself at the gym and push my body beyond it’s comfort zone. Practice self compassion and love my body no matter what (i.e. whether I have a six pack or not.)

3) Be Brave – Say “F*ck the Fear” and have the courage to put myself & my story out there. Write fearlessly. Love, let my guard down, and give myself permission to not hold myself back. Allow myself to be vulnerable.

4) Be Abundant – Save for my future by putting a set $ in savings every month. Be intentional with my purchases. Surpass my current monthly income. Move into my own apartment.

5) Be a Sexy Adventurer – Get my drivers license (yes, I am 33 and don’t drive. I blame it on the 12 years I lived in Toronto where I didn’t need a car.) Travel as much as possible. Take that trip to California. Go to the East Coast to visit friends. Attend Catalyst Con. Take a trip overseas. Embrace new experiences. Take charge of my dating & sex life. Find a meaningful connection with someone.

So, there you have it. In 2014 I want to feel focused, healthy, brave, abundant and sexy. I’ve learned that creating a roadmap for how I want to feel for the year is so much more productive than writing down a laundry list of “resolutions” that I want to accomplish. What do you guys think?

What’s your theme for 2014?  

How To Get Ready For a Night Out as a 30-Something

Last week, when the Universe sent me a sign that I’m likely headed towards a life of living alone with an extensive collection of cat figurines, I decided to take matters in my own hands. Within a few minutes of publishing my last blog post I was on my phone texting one of single friends to arrange a girls night out.

Although I still love a good night of drinks and dancing, getting ready for a night on the town as a 30-something is an entirely different operation than getting ready for a night out as an early 20-something. When I was in my early 20’s party prep usually involved getting drunk in the shower, putting on clothes & eating a piece of 3 day old pizza so I wouldn’t throw up later. Party prep as a 30-something involves considerably more pre-planning.

Game day – 

The key to a successful night out relies on establishing the perfect caffeine to power nap ratio. You want to have just enough caffeine in your system to feel human, but not enough that you feel too jittery to have a late afternoon power nap. Failure to power nap before heading out will likely result in your getting the nods at 11pm or worse, copious pre-game consumption of red bull. You’ve learned from your twenties that the latter never ends well.

You look in the mirror and realize that your roots are starting to look way more like Barrack Obama circa 2013 than 2009. There’s no way you can go out like this, which means you’re going to have a to schedule in a trip to the drugstore to buy hair dye.

However, be careful that you don’t linger at the mall and whatever you do don’t say yes to that second latte – you wouldn’t want to risk missing out on your precious nap time! You end up lingering at the mall anyways (“Oooh, free tea testing at David’s Tea!”) leaving you only a 2 hour window to eat, dye your hair and get ready. Colouring your hair under tight time constraints: what could possibly go wrong?!

Forgo nap time. Make coffee instead.

Nutrition – 

You’ve learned from an unfortunate incident in your twenties where you spent two hours throwing up in the washroom of Woody’s that eating before drinking is imperative. To ensure optimal stomach comfort you eat a healthy, protein rich meal with just enough carbs to make you feel full without making you feel sleepy. Now it’s time for the grooming portion of the evening!

Grooming – 

In effort to get the hair dye on your head in the most efficient way possible you manage to drop the applicator. The dye splatters everywhere. There’s purple goop on the counter, on the floor, on the ceiling, behind the toilet.

Purple? That doesn’t seem right.

20 minutes later: Your hair isn’t purple. However, in the haste of cleaning up the bathroom, you’ve also managed to get the dye all over yourself. Your arm now has this weird purplish black pattern that looks like a cross between a bruise and a prison tattoo gone wrong. If you keep your right arm glued to your body the whole night no one will notice. Yes, that will totally work.

Your beauty routine hasn’t changed that much since your early 20’s. However, as a 30-something you’ve developed an addiction to $50 YSL Concealer. When you worked in your cushy day job you wore it everyday, however now that you’re a freelance writer you dole out your YSL with the same discretion as Elaine Benes deciding whether a guy is “Sponge Worthy.” It’s time to bring out the big guns. You apply your YSL liberally and hope it’s worth it.

Wardrobe Selection – 

Your hair & make-up are done and you’re feeling pretty awesome. Now, comes the tricky part: deciding what to wear. As a woman of the world, you know exactly what to wear for a night out in Toronto, Las Vegas, or even Miami. However, when it comes what to wear to go out in Sleepytown you always draw a blank. You know that whatever you decide to wear, you’re likely going to be overdressed or look out of place. If you show up in jeans and heels, everyone will be in sweats. If you show up in a cocktail dress, everyone will be in jeans. If you show up in a Elie Tahari suit, everyone will be in skin-tight body-con dresses. You can’t win.

At 8:01 pm you decide to say “Fuck it!” and go for a look you call “downtown cool” – a white Alexander Wang silk blouse, a vintage Tibi mini-skirt & a Miu Miu clutch. At 8:01 pm you put the Alexander Wang blouse back in the closet after you have visions of someone spilling Jungle Juice all over you. At 8:02 the Tibi skirt also goes back in the closet when you remember what a bitch it is to dry clean.

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Man Repelling Looks for the Modern Spinster

I feel like the Universe is trying to make it painfully obvious that I’m in some kind of rut. We’re approaching the 6 month mark on my online dating hiatus  and I’m starting to get the itch to put myself out there again. From bizarre bar-room pick-ups to getting hit on by the over 60 set, in September I was definitely putting out a vibe that was attracting (albeit unsuitable) members of the opposite sex. However, something has shifted and whatever energy I’m sending out is decidedly different this month.

Last week an elderly woman stopped me in the middle of the sidewalk to discuss the rising price of cat food. To add insult to injury, Amazon has emailed me three times in the past month suggesting I purchase this – a glaring reminder that the only “men” I’ve spent time with lately are 12 inches tall and made of plastic (either that, or Joe the Intern has been shopping on Amazon for new “friends” when I’m not around.) Either way, things are getting weird around here – more so than usual.

It seemed only appropriate that this week another copy of The Added Touch (aka “Spinsters ‘R’ Us“)  arrived on my doorstep. If you’re new here, I received this same catalog last year. Inside I found a wide selection of libido killing nightwear, cat trinkets and the world’s saddest coffee mug – all of which were documented on the blog.

Well, The Added Touch is back with more Amish-like “party dresses”, body camouflaging sleepwear and other ingenious items that are guaranteed to repel potential suitors. Here are a few of my favourites –

Are all those shapeless muumuus you bought from last year’s catalogue feeling a bit breezy? What you need is something equally as figure obscuring, but in a two-piece pant suit. Love your Snuggie and have a Smurf fetish? Why not try this blue fuzzy lounge set? Just don’t be surprised if you get this stuck in head when you’re writing this post wearing it.  If velour isn’t your thing, there’s also these fantastic two-tone track suits – perfect for a light jog or joining the Heaven’s Gate Cult. Last but not least, if you’re looking some something a little dressier, why not grab a pair of these elasticized waist, sexuality neutralizing, corduroy pants. Apparently you can wear them with your favourite pair of cowboy boots. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

Any of these outfits would look great paired with this red “Hoodie Dickie.” Inspired by Eminem circa the movie 8 Mile and Little Red Riding Hood, this convenient hood gives you all the warmth and comfort of an actual hoodie but without the bulk. Sorry ladies, the Psalms of David book is sold separately.

Speed up the insanity process with a mug that makes you think you’re living with a bunch of cats, even when you’re not. Meow?

There will be no horsing around in your bedroom with this nightlight….

I’m single and have bad feet but luckily, there are lots of fun socks available to cheer me up. The catalog says “Ahhh…socks”, Simone says “Ahhh…celibacy!”

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From Pyjamas to Gladiator: On Willpower & Learning to Kick Ass

If you’ve ever struggled to break a bad habit, this post is for you.

2013 will always be remembered as the year that I staged my very own “pajama-vention” – otherwise known as “that time I realized I was getting gross and decided to do something about it, and learned to kick-ass in the process.”

In December and January I participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council. I learned how to let go of 50 things, made vision boards and set goals – some which I’ve already accomplished (!) I enjoyed the experience so much that when it came to sign up for the Stratejoy Willpower Council a few months later, I jumped at the chance. With my schedule now busier than ever, I knew I’d need to tap into my willpower to really “get shit done.”

One of our first tasks was to choose a bad habit that we’d like to change, or a good habit that we’d like to create. I knew right away what mine would be:


As I’ve mentioned before, being a freelance writer and/or working from home does come with it’s shares of perks: a flexible schedule and dress code with a commute that never is longer than the distance between your bed and your laptop. The downside is that when you’re not even required to wear pants on a daily basis, things have the tendency to get gross pretty fast.

After almost a decade of working in a corporate office environment, when I started freelancing I embraced the novelty of being able to work in my pyjamas. However, what began as a fun and comfortable way to give the middle finger to my former office attire, soon evolved to the point where I was wearing my pyjamas all day, everyday. Unless I was leaving the house, I wouldn’t even bother showering or putting on clothes until late afternoon. As someone who is naturally prone to anxiety, my pyjamas weren’t just a wardrobe choice, they were like a security blanket – one that covered my whole body.

I jokingly nicknamed my well loved leopard print pyjamas my “freelancer’s business suit” and when I wore out my first pair, my Mom and sister lovingly purchased me new ones for Christmas complete with matching booties. You can file the photo below under “reasons I might be single.”

 I hadn’t realized how bad the situation had become until my Mom and sister sat me down and told me I needed to start wearing real clothes around the house again. I agreed, but then told them I thought they were enablers.

“If you want me to stop wearing pyjamas, why do you keep buying me such awesome ones?! I mean, the matching booties: genius.”

My sister looked me in the eye and said, “Put on some real clothes Simone or I’ll burn those pyjamas in your sleep.”

The irony is, when I envisioned what my life would look like as a freelancer I didn’t imagine myself wearing flannel all day. Instead, I imagined myself wearing cute, casual basics as I wrote and worked on projects in my fun, colourful office. In other words, I wanted my day to day life to look more like my Internet Idol & Girl Entrepreneur Crush Jen Ramos (top left & bottom left.)

I could totally be the kind of person who spent the day working in funky striped dresses or a pair of leather leggings & a fun top. I already owned these kinds of clothes, so what was stopping me?! However, instead I settled for some approximation of this:

I knew I had hit rock bottom when I caught myself doing a phone interview with the head of marketing of a major Canadian bank wearing only a pink nightie, with a brown blanket wrapped around me.

That’s the thing I have learned about bad habits: they’re self sabotaging. We want one thing but we do another. I picked out clothes that embodied the vision I wanted for life, but stashed them away in the closet and instead, did exactly the opposite because it seemed easier somehow.

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