Books: The Good and Even Better of 2017 and Reading Goals for 2018

Books of 2017 and 2018

At the beginning of 2018, I had set out on Goodreads to read 18 books. I read 17 completely, and two halves, so that’s 18, right?

Anyway, I wanted to share with you, assuming you also like to read, what I read, what the winners were and what I could have left behind. And I’m always curious to know what other people are reading, so link me into your Goodreads profile, or feel free to give me some book suggestions!

Out-Of-The-Park Books (IE: Yes, EVERYONE Should Read These)

  • Daring Greatly – Brene Brown – I think Brene Brown’s books should be human mandatory reading. I embarrassingly didn’t really truly understand “shame” until I started reading her books and it truly has changed the way I think.
  • Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment – Amir Levine – If you are a human being and leave the house and have relationships with other human beings, even if only platonic, you must read this book. It’s that important.

I Liked Them, Personally (IE: I Would Recommend Them)

So-So

Wouldn’t Recommend – Not even going to link to it

  • Unfuck Your Habitat – Rachel Hoffman – Nothing new or groundbreaking in this book. It felt like my mother nagging with a twist of fuck to make it edgy. Nah thanks.

Couldn’t Finish

  • Family Matters – Rohinton Mistry – I really, really wanted to get into this book, because I love Rohinton Mistry, but it wasn’t the right time for me. I will definitely revisit.
  • When The Body Says No, The Cost of Hidden Stress – Gabor Mate – Gabor Mate is amazing, but this book stressed me out, ha. I truly believe everything he wrote up until the point of me putting it down, but hearing about all the shit we’re susceptible to if we think certain ways was a downer to me and I needed to put it down and go live and not think about dying.

Books I Will Read in 2018

20 – in terms of books I will read this year, feels good to me. I only read 1 fiction book in 2017! That can definitely be improved. Any suggestions? I’m also in a bit of a Winston Churchill phase and my woo-woo side hasn’t left, and likely never will. Here is what I’ve come up with so far in terms of reads, feel free to give some recommendations, especially fiction:

  • Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills – Mary Soames
  • The Untethered Soul – Michael A. Singer
  • Evolution of Goddess – Emma Mildon
  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill – Sonia Purnell
  • Eat Dirt – Dr. Josh Axe
  • Brain Maker – Dr. David Perlmutter
  • Power vs. Force – David Hawkins

What’s on your list? Care to join me along in a 2018 reading challenge on Goodreads? I don’t care if your goal is to read 5 books, or 50, reading is good for the soul (and your brain, and your life). I’m here on Goodreads.

Books for Free

Also, if you don’t want to buy every single book, check out Hoopla, which is what I use, to borrow them digitally from your local library system. I love buying books, but I reserve that now for books I know I love, or one’s I’m not entirely sure of just yet.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Brooke Simmons

 

10 Self-Lessons That Actually Changed Me From 3 Weeks In Europe

31 Ways to Sunday - 10 Life Lessons that Actually Changed Me

Bonjour, my darlings.

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here.

The end of the summer was a whirlwind. I was burnt out for many reasons, and was desperately looking forward to an upcoming trip I had planned to Europe and the UK for 3 weeks.

Trust me, leaving the country was exactly what the doctor ordered.

And it was fucking amazing.

My gal pal Jen and I took off for 21 days starting in London, heading to Cologne, Munich (for Oktoberfest), Paris and finally Reykjavik. It was a marvellous trip, full of laughs, drunken nights (several), shit loads of bread and cheese and beer and wine and everything else that we “shouldn’t” eat, new friends, AND we even made it into a movie. (More to come on our adventures).

Since I’ve been back, I’ve dived head first back into my business, joined a weekly business group, started learning to fly (airplanes), started learning the drums and got back out in my social circles. Life is busy. Life is good. A good change from things before I left.

Sometimes taking a step back to take a look at your life without the weeds has the ability to allow you to see areas where you are strong, areas where you need support, and sometimes gives you the ability to intuitively make calls on what you really need to fill gaps or make space to fulfill yourself a little bit more than before. Forward movement. Positive steps.

There are lessons to be learned with travel. I was expecting fully to learn about culture, history and people in the places that we travelled, but what I wasn’t quite expecting was the fulfilling and seriously life-changing lessons I learned about myself that I have taken home and moved forward with. I literally felt that I came home with these things wrapped in a box waiting for them to be dived in further.

This was an amazing gift.

Here are 10 Self-Lessons That Actually Changed Me From 3 Weeks In Europe

  1. I got really fucking clear on my needs – Something about spending time away from daily routines, people, and places allows us to view them from a different lens and also add a new twist to our view of things based on our new experiences. Despite not travelling on this trip with a romantic partner, I got really crystal clear on what my needs are right now in a relationship. I got really clear on work…what I want to do, what I don’t want to do anymore and what I want to explore. I got really clear on taking time for myself and saying no once and a while. Goal: Communicate these needs more to other people.
  2. No excuses time away from work is a non-negotiable – I planned on having “work days” while I was away. And I did for the most part. But I threw some out the window. And I would never plan on scheduling work time again while away. Why? Because we all deserve to go and play. We are worthy of play/rest/relaxation time. Furthermore, when I play, I’m way more productive upon my return (which is why burnout is a thing). Goal: 2 weeks completely off the work grid in 2018.
  3. I can still make money when I am not working – Although my business is still more “me” dependant than I would like, I have some pretty rad people on my team right now who kept the wheels turning quite well in my absence. We even brought in new business while I was away. Goal: Polish this even further in 2018, so the biz is making money while everyone is on holiday.
  4. It’s ok to indulge. And indulge some more – Shockingly I ate a lot. I know that rarely happens when people go away on vacation. Being the curious cat that I am, I wanted to try, try, try. I ate the local favourites wherever possible and felt ZERO guilt. We drank every day but one (only because the resto we went to did not serve alcohol and we were too hungover to be bothered to grab our own). Could I do this all the time? No. But I indulged. I didn’t feel sick, even after all the cheese and baguettes in Paris. I actually felt awesome. I gave myself permission for this window of time to have no rules. Sometimes we put ourselves in tight boxes of rules in real life. Break them once and a while. Goal: Designate days and times to ignore ALL the rules without guilt.
  5. Big, slow, German breakfasts are my “jam” – Speaking of eating. When staying with my beautiful friend Karin in Cologne, (I could write a whole post this amazing woman), she put out this beautiful German breakfast spread every morning. Breads, cheeses, meats, yogurt, fruit, jams. And we sat and savoured it. Slowly. Karin is quite glamorous. She enjoys her food, her wine, hearty laughter, the occasional ciggy, and she savours life. This was a beautiful way to start the day. A full meal, not rushed. Not checking CNN, emails or standing up waiting to throw the dishes in the sink and rush out the door. Just enjoyed. On pretty dishes. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been more conscious of allowing myself the time to enjoy my breakfasts. Why breakfast? No idea. It just seems like a glamorous and stress free ease into a hectic day. Something that I’ve noticed since doing this is that taking my time with breakfast and in the morning actually increased my efficiency later in the day. Who cares if you take an hour if you are really enjoying yourself? Goal: Use pretty plates and trays and glam up my breakfast routine as much as fucking possible. Because it makes me happy.
  6. I can eat raw pork and not die – Raw pork. Yep. I love me a good tartar, but when a bun with raw pork came rolling past my curious eyeballs in our local hang in Cologne, I knew it was something I had to try, (much, I’m sure to poor Jen’s vegetarian gag reflex…she was so understanding of my meat eating curiosity). I had health insurance if things got dicey. It’s called Mett, and it was eaten very frequently in Cologne. And it was good! And I didn’t die or even have a bellyache. Goal: Always try something new on the menu.
  7. I can sit with uncomfortable feelings, they won’t eat me – From time to time some things came up for me. Normal things like homesickness, a bit of “what am I doing with my life” after a particularly late night, and one day I remember in particular in Paris, extreme restlessness and unease without an obvious cause that would not settle. Travelling with a close friend, I felt I could be honest about this stuff. But some things don’t have a known cause to talk through. I couldn’t always just go lock myself away or take a nap. I remember one day sitting there and just giving myself permission to feel the way I felt without doing anything about it. It passed. It wasn’t complicated or dramatic. It just passed. I think this is what they mean when in meditation they say “just observe”. Goal: Observe feelings without assigning them a value, and they too, shall pass.
  8. Self compassion is where it’s at – Out of all of these things, this was the biggest take home for me. Self compassion. Being mindful with how I feel and what my needs are and being kind to myself about it. We are often super compassionate to other people, yet hold ourselves at a ridiculously high standards using “should” self talk and other limiting beliefs that we have whipped up over the years. Self compassion involves recognizing that we aren’t perfect – we never will be. It does not turn into a whiny self indulging, self pity-party, but allowing ourselves to be imperfect and looking at it with compassion. How this exact thing came up for me during this trip is a mystery. All I know is that I had a clear “self compassion” message when I came home that I actually went out and read this book (which I would recommend). Goal: Observe my actions and thoughts compassionately, as I would for a loved one.
  9. I will never, ever check bags again – I used to be that girl. The one with the oversized bags. Literally. Oversized bag tags for the embarrassing win. Carry-on bags for 21 days was a total experiment. Jen and I agreed that we should really try to do this, to both save on money and time spent waiting around for bags at airports. Also, we did a LOT of train travel, and having a gigantic suitcase would have sucked. I stuffed all of my belongings in a backpack and small carry-on suitcase. It was a Christmas miracle that this actually happened, but I did plan ahead and packed versatile pieces. We took advantage of our AirBNB laundry facilities and learned to pack and repack (and repack) like pros. Goal: Throw out my Kim K. sized suitcase, i’ll never use it again.
  10. You can make it happen – What makes me sad is that some people don’t ever experience the gift that you can give yourself of travel. “I can’t afford it”, or “too busy” often get in the way of the bigger picture of the cultural and personal learning that happens when we get away from our daily routines and into different culture. Jen and I planned ahead and tried to make logical spending decisions. Travel is a gift and I assure you with the right amount of pre-planning and research, almost anyone can make a decent learning trip happen. Goal: Explore, travel and breathe in the beauty of this beautiful world as often as possible.

Brooke Simmons

She Let Go

Hello beautiful souls…

I’m travelling this week, truly practicing the digital nomad lifestyle in preparation for my upcoming trip to Europe in a few weeks. So, haven’t had recipe testing time in a bit to share with you.

But I do have a gem that I found using my meditation app that is simply beautiful. It’s a poem that is elegantly read by John Siddique and written by Safire Rose.

Many people are feeling some intense energy lately. As we add things into our lives with open hearts and love, sometimes (oftentimes), it’s necessary to let things go. To truly love and value yourself, it is so important to lovingly let go of people, things and situations that do not align with our values. As hard as it may be.

If you are in this boat, I offer you this…to sit and reflect on. I hope it serves you as much as it does me.

 

Brooke Simmons

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

“We are so materially well off, yet so psychologically tormented in so many low-level and shallow ways. People relinquish all responsibility, demanding that society cater to their feelings and sensibilities. People hold on to arbitrary certainties and try to enforce them on others, often violently, in the name of some made-up righteous cause. People, high on a sense of false superiority, fall into inaction and lethargy for fear of trying something worthwhile and failing at it.”  – Mark Manson

 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good LifeThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was just ok. I enjoyed parts of it but as a whole it didn’t land for me.

A lot of this book was funny, (if you can stomach a s**t load of swearing), and somewhat educational, it was a series of short stories…(some true, some may be true?), of examples of how f**ked up we all really are. There was some data interwoven to back it up and some of it was pretty decent learning.

Proof that we’re all f**ked up isn’t what bothered me. I just found myself thinking “oh, another story time” every time the author started in on a long drawn out story, that didn’t REALLY have to do with not giving a f**k at all. In fact, I’m not sure by the end of this, I’m any wiser on how not to give a f**k.

Perhaps that’s where the subtle part plays in.

A few parts that were valuable reading were the topics on entitlement – (called “You Are Not Special”) – a reminder that it plays out in 2 ways: “I’m awesome, give me special treatment”, or “I’m a victim, give me special treatment”, which is far more common.

The romantic love/boundaries part I also found was well done. Basically, healthy love involves boundaries, healthy rejection, and taking responsibility for their own issues and not taking on their partner’s. Entitled and unhealthy relationships is the opposite. Pretty basic, but he does a good job at summarizing it and observing how entitlement also weaves into toxic dynamics.

The rest wasn’t earth shattering, and again, not sure where the “Not Giving a F**k” comes in. There were parts where I laughed out loud, but I’m easily amused at really foul language.

If you are looking at a direct strategy on how to give way less f**ks, read The Sedona Method. If you’d like a funny and entertaining account of how effed up and complicated we all are as humans, this is the book for you.

View all my reviews

Brooke Simmons

Book Review: YOU are a Badass by Jen Sincero

“You are perfect. To think anything less is as pointless as a river thinking that it’s got too many curves or that it moves too slowly or that its rapids are too rapid. Says who? You’re on a journey with no defined beginning, middle or end. There are no wrong twists and turns. There is just being. And your job is to be as you as you can be. This is why you’re here. To shy away from who you truly are would leave the world you-less. You are the only you there is and ever will be. I repeat, you are the only you there is and ever will be. Do not deny the world its one and only chance to bask in your brilliance.”

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome LifeYou Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars.

I really enjoyed this book! I feel like the author and I could have been buds in our 20’s…I could relate to her rebellious nature. The information here wasn’t anything new per se but I really enjoyed the way it was presented and laid out. She did cover quite a few topics in this book. It was also pretty funny and overall motivating.

View all my reviews

 

my read shelf:
Brooke Simmons's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge
Brooke has
read 5 books toward
their goal of
18 books.
hide

 

I should really get my reading butt in gear.

Brooke Simmons

Defining Your Fears with Tim Ferriss

6.5 years ago, I read a book called the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss that quite literally changed my life. That sounds dramatic and cliche and it wasn’t like I had a real epiphany from the book. But it sparked an idea that took off, and years later I am a self employed location independent business owner (which means I could quite literally work anywhere in the world with an internet connection). So yeah… corporate sheeple job to business owner with major flexibility. That’s a life changer.

I dig Tim Ferriss.

I also dig his podcast – he is focused on productivity and habits of the worlds most interesting and successful people. Obviously, I like productivity and habits too.

A Powerful Tool

A few weeks ago, while surfing around YouTube, I saw that he had done another TED talk. (If we’re being honest, I’m kinda over the TED talk thing, but that’s another story for another day). But since it’s Tim, I decided to watch and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m going to let you watch it yourself, but to me it was profound. It was vulnerable. It spoke to everyone – from people who suffer from mental illness, to every day people trying to get through a challenge or plan their future. And it offered a tool that we can all implement in our lives today to start breaking down and defining our fears – and consider this before setting goals.  This. Was. Powerful!

 

I hope you find as much value in this as I did.

Brooke Simmons

3 in 1 DIY Facial Toner

DIY Toner RecipeOne of the things I removed from my skin repertoire many years ago was store bought facial toner. Number one, it’s an extra step. Number two, they are often filled with icky things I’d rather not be putting on my skin…like alcohol, preservatives and other chemicals that I can’t even pronounce.

But one day, while fiddling around trying to create my own make-up setting spray, I realized my new little product could work as a great toner as well. I’ve been using it ever since and see the difference when I don’t.

The best thing about this DIY toner is that it is fully customizable to your skin and the seasons. I make it a bit differently in the winter than in the summer. It’s also totally chemical free. It’s also cheap to produce. You can also use it as a make-up setting spray AND skin refresher spray (hence the 3 in 1). I definitely take advantage of it mid day if I’m running all over the place.

You DO need to get a spray bottle for this though…trust me. I love and use Infinity Jars for my cosmetic stuff because their glass jars filter out ultraviolet light and help preserve whats in them. My go-to jar for the toner spray is their 30ml Fine Mist Spray bottle – works like a dream for this purpose.

I spray it on my skin when damp. This helps hold in moisture due to it’s ingredients.

Here is my current toner recipe. I am going to break down the benefits of the ingredients below, and also give you some variations you can try with your own skin.

3 in 1 DIY Facial Toner Recipe

In a 30ml glass bottle add:

  • 22.5ml Orange Blossom Water (easily available in the International isle of many supermarkets and health food stores).
  • 6ml Distilled water
  • 1/8 tsp Vegetable glycerin
  • 5 Drops of lavender essential oil – use a good quality EO here…I like oils from Aroma Foundry.

Shake well before use.

Ingredient Break Down:

Orange Blossom Water is super gentle for sensitive skin and has a beautiful light smell. It’s moisturizing properties and soothing effects on sunburn make it a good choice for the summer time when our skin gets more sun exposure.

Alternative: Rosewater – has anti-inflammatory properties as well as controlling excess oil.

Vegetable Glycerin is a non-negotiable ingredient in this toner. This natural triglyceride has a wonderful way of moisturizing skin and also acts as a humectant, which means it preserves and pulls in moisture. It has a sweet taste – you can eat it (but why?), and is water soluable even though it’s texture is almost oily. If you have oily skin though, don’t let this scare you…it’s small amount in this batch will help your skin, and won’t clog pores.

Lavender Essential Oil is my favourite essential oil in the whole Universe! I could smell lavender all day every day. Besides that, lavender oil on skin has soothing properties to heal and reduce irritation and redness.

Alternatives: 

Dry Skin

  • Rose
  • Chamomile
  • Neroli
  • Geranium
  • Lavender

Sensitive Skin

  • Basil
  • Rose
  • Chamomile
  • Neroli
  • Lavender

Oily Skin

  • Geranium
  • Tea Tree
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Lemongrass
  • Clary Sage
  • Bergamot

To your beautiful skin!

Brooke Simmons

Banana Lavender Muffins

 

I think when it comes to anything lavender, you either love it or hate it. I am obsessed with it. Lavender everything please. The colour. The smell. It runs in my diffuser constantly. So one time at an event, I ate something with lavender in it. And I was hooked on now baking with it.

Since we’ve had the usual long, cold grey winter here in Canada, now that the temps are starting to rise, and the sun is starting to shine again, I feel like I should bring out all of my summer things! And heck, why not get eating it again.

Lavender is one of those things where a little goes a long way. You don’t want to pile a whole big mountain in your food to have it end up tasting like a bar of French milled soap. Having a subtle hint of this flower adds a lovely, floral, bougie, maybe even slightly peppery flavouring. Especially to sweets – which sounds weird but it actually works.

I found lavender flowers in the tea section of my favourite local organic supermarket. You can also obviously use fresh from your garden if you have. And yes, this makes a lovely lavender tea as well, perfect for pre-sleeping:

Lavender flower tea

Back to these muffins, a friend of mine who is notoriously cranky about food, came over after I had made a batch of these. 3 were gobbled up in one sitting which to me confirms that they are deeeeeeelish.

Also, if you have bananas on hand but they aren’t soggy ripe like they should be for baking, try Jill’s hack here by ripening them in the oven. Works like a charm!

Print Recipe
Banana Lavender Muffins
Course Breakfast, Snacks
Cuisine Summer
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Servings
Extra Large Muffins
Ingredients
Course Breakfast, Snacks
Cuisine Summer
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Servings
Extra Large Muffins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Line or grease a muffin tin. Either a large 6-spot muffin tin, or a smaller 12-spot muffin tin.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly mix together half of a tablespoon of lavender buds and a teaspoon of sugar. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor or large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.
    Banana lavender muffins - mix the dry
  5. In a separate bowl mash the over ripe bananas.
  6. Combine all of the other wet ingredients.
  7. Pulse or fold in the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
    Lavender banana muffins - stir well
  8. Divide equally amongst cups. Bake for 20 minutes.
  9. When the muffins come out of the oven, sprinkle with the lavender/sugar mixture. Set on a wire rack to cool
    Lavender banana muffins cooling
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Enjoy these and the taste of warmer weather!

Read With Me!

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/59043211-brooke-simmons

I’m not sure if i’ve told you this or not, but I do love a good book. I love to learn. I’m curious about a lot of things. This is where my book addiction comes into play. Now, I’m not the fastest reader on the planet. I’m not one of those people who can polish off a book in an afternoon. Some books I read faster than others – especially books I can’t put down which become my all time favourites like this one, this one and this one.

Over on Goodreads (my profile is here, let’s be friends), I have set a goal for myself to read 18 books in 2017. (I’m on #5). I’ve decided to start posting my book reviews here. Bare with me…this isn’t something that comes naturally. The first one will be a little thin. But hopefully I will get better at it.

Have you set a reading goal for this year? Have any book selections? I’d love to hear them.