Easter tidings


Happy Easter! It’s a pretty low-key day here at the MacKay/Norman residence – Easter-egg hunt this morning (yes, this happened; we are young at heart…?), French toast for breakfast, laundry (me), hockey (Darcy), reading (just finished This is Where I Leave You), and general indulgent laziness. We have also been debating supper on and off for the past three hours without a conclusion. Does inertia beget indecision? I don’t know. You decide.

Adventures in cape-wearing


Shoes, Aldo; cropped pants, The Gap; cape, Forever 21; purse, Coach.

I don’t know when I fell in love with capes, but somewhere along the line I did. Photographing a cape, however, is not easy.  Flowy, drapey – and let’s face it – shapeless fabrics are difficult to capture in a flattering way, and I looked awkward, pregnant, or both in all of the pictures I tried to take. The shadows of the after-work light were not working in my favour either, so I just have to call this one a big fail. Bonus points for shoes, though, and the fact that it was warm enough to wear both heels and the cape itself. Never mind that I had to tip-toe and skip over puddles…spring is coming! Finally! (How do I know? Only a couple weeks ago, the snow in the picture above was about two feet higher than it is now. *Shudder*)

BUT, minus-15 tonight with 2 to 4 centimetres of snow in the forecast?! North Bay, why must you be so cruel?

My love affair with lipstick


If you follow me on Instagram, you will have noticed a few pictures of me wearing vibrant lipstick, and today was no exception. My love of lipstick and its part in my makeup routine is one that has been that been tried and tested over 20 years of experimentation. My mom gave me my first tube of lipstick, and it was a soft neutral with brown undertones that didn’t suit her but that she had received for free from The Soapberry Shop (at least, I think that’s what it was called – does anyone else from Sudbury/Espanola remember that bath-goods store that was in the Southridge Mall but WASN’T The Body Shop?), so pretty much by default it was good enough for me.

That complimentary lipstick was passed along with the caveats that I apply it lightly and only wear it occasionally. To my 12-year-old self, it was daring to press the pigment a little harder against my lips and perhaps give them more definition and attention than my mom would have approved of at the time. Luckily, however, she turned out to be pretty open to my eventual shift into wearing a full-blown “face” and I was never told to “take that stuff off.” Granted, I normally favoured neutrals that were complements to my pale skin and red hair, but no matter the period (tween with glasses and braces, teen with insecurities about what looked right, adult – kind of – and 30-something with a makeup routine down pat), I can always remember the lipsticks I had (have) going as my favourites.

For at least a couple years between the approximate ages of 13 and 15, I was faithful to a shade called Cinnamon Stick, and it was made by Bonne Bell, which was the first brand of makeup I ever bought with my own money. Mainly, this was for two reasons: Espanola didn’t have a lot of choice and Bonne Bell fell into exactly the right price point for a Sudbury Star after-school newspaper carrier. Cinnamon Stick was the colour I wore to my Grade 8 graduation, and because of that it will always be special to me.

By the end of my years-long Bonne Bell phase, I had a lot of those black containers of makeup on my vanity before I started to branch out into more expensive brands like L’Oreal and, eventually, Clinique (the reason for expansion was because trips to Sudbury – and therefore variety – became more frequent in direct proportion to how often someone in my circle of friends got their driver’s licence). What this meant for me was more access to Walmart’s pharmacy and beauty section and the Sears makeup counter.

From these many trips of giddy, laughing teenage girls came the L’Oreal lipstick I ended up loving for years. It came in a muted gold tube and had a very distinct smell that I would know in an instant if I ever came across it again. During this time that carried me into my early 20s, I also became equally enamoured with a Clinique colour – a perfect berry-pink called Surprise that Susie and I kept in our makeup bags until it literally ran out; the shade was (sadly!) discontinued. Ah, that tell-tale mint-green tube!

Somewhere along the line, as I expanded my (literal) horizons, I delved into the wonderful world that is MAC makeup, and I still wear a red lipstick from their line that is called Amplified and that most definitely lives up to its name. I have a couple other MAC lipstick tubes in my rotation, but my absolute favourite brand of the past two years is – hands-down – L’Oreal’s Infallible lipstick, which is what I have on in the picture above (Forever Fuschia). The staying power of this stuff is amazing (the colour fades slightly but the pigment lasts ALL DAY), and because I use Blistex Lip Conditioner underneath all of my lipstick applications, I also keep a hint of shine that isn’t sticky-looking. Back when Clinique’s Surprise was the lipstick of choice, Susie and I also used to obsessively buy and apply a clear lipstick sealer (Wet ‘N’ Wild, I think…?) to help make the colour last as long as our nights did (and sometimes that was very, very late), but Infallible lipsticks don’t need anything but the magical formulation that lives inside those silver casings. Me likey.

To be honest, I RARELY leave the house without at least a little (or a lot) of lipstick on, and because of this I have come to realize the old adage is true – women do turn into their mothers; I can’t count the amount of times I have heard my mom say, “Wait now, let me get my lipstick on!” before being ushered out of the house, getting out of the car, leaving a restaurant, etc…and now that’s me!

You have to give it to me, though – I have at least improved my technique as the years have gone by…


Birthday blowout



This past weekend was Darcy’s birthday, and we really went all out with three days of food-indulgence. It started with the cake you see above, and was nicely complemented with homemade pasta, homebread bread, french toast, and then dinner and drinks with friends. I had never made a layer cake before, so I was pretty pleased with how this one turned out – my only gripes were that I should have let the butter that went into the icing sit out longer (this misstep resulted in lumpy icing), and I should have made more icing to fill out the inner layers a bit more (the icing in between was a bit sparse). However, the cake was enjoyed by all and if you want to make it for yourself, you can check out the recipe here: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake from Jen’s Favorite Cookies.


I also tried making homemade pasta for the first time (using my Kitchenaid pasta roller and cutter that Darcy gave me for Christmas!), and I am seriously impressed with how it turned out. I made the dough the night before, and at first I was horrified at how dry it was, but after adding water bit by bit, and kneading, kneading, kneading, it finally came together into something I thought looked pasta-dough-like (i.e. it was similar to what the dough looked like on the YouTube videos I had been watching all week). The next day at suppertime, Darcy and I cut the dough into six pieces and fed it through the pasta roller until it was at the desired thinness for fettucine, and then cut it using the fettucine cutter, the after-effects of which you see in the picture above. Yes, I made that! I was pretty astonished at how “real” the pasta turned out. Obviously. Ha! If you have a pasta roller at home, I used Chef Michael Smith’s dough recipe here, and for the actual dish, I made Pasta with Tomato and Bacon Sauce, also a recipe of Chef Michael Smith’s. (Note: the pasta-dough recipe made enough for two very well-sized meals, so we used half for Friday night’s dinner and I froze the other half for future enjoyment.)


Chef Michael Smith strikes again! I made this French toast with his Country Bread recipe that I use over and over again, and the actual French toast itself is made from my mom’s recipe:

2 eggs, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup milk, 2 Tbsp butter; mix all ingredients together and melt butter on griddle/pan before dousing slices of bread in egg mixture; cook until nicely browned. (I double this recipe for two people – I eat a lot of French toast in one sitting; it’s my absolute favourite breakfast meal).


On Saturday night, we went out to East Side Mario’s for dinner and drinks with friends, and I discovered $5 blueberry-pomegranate sangria. Winos rejoice! This drink was so good. My meal was just OK – I think I was seriously still full from breakfast, so I favoured the refreshing drinks over the heavy pasta (and, to be honest, I was spoiled with my own creation from the night before).

All in all, it was a great weekend, and if you follow me on Instagram (@defactoredhead), you can keep up with my shenanigans there as well. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must run a million miles to compensate for being a carbohydrate balloon all weekend. :)

Sequins to sweats


Glammed-up, touched-up…


…Dressed down, way down.

Today was the slowest day at work EVER and because of that, I had a lot of time to think…about food. I spend a lot of my brainpower thinking about food and I don’t think this will ever change. Where this is going is toward what I ended up having for supper and tonight I just wanted something good. You know? So, I flip-flopped between Susie’s pancakes, Classic Pad Thai from Dave’s Green Papaya, and Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese, and in the end I didn’t go for any of it. Instead, I settled on a classic recipe that I can thank Ami for. Do you remember Ami? She and I used to do a little cooking/baking series here on the blog, and from that experience came a few recipes that are still in my regular rotation (namely, Avocado Pesto Pasta, Elvis Granola, and Chef Michael Smith’s bread).

However, the recipe I’m referring to is one that Ami posted on her blog, when she used to offer up her foodie wisdom for all of us to benefit from! So, without further ado, I present a very simple spin on Rachel Ray’s Spaghetti Aglio Olio!


 Minimal ingredients, delicious flavour.

I am missing one thing from the photo above and that is butter, so keep that in mind, as well as the fact that I kind of freestyle this recipe now:

1. Get your salted water boiling for your pasta (I used about 6 to 7 handfuls for a two-person meal).

2. While the water is getting ready to boil, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan, and when melted add in a flat of anchovies. Break up the anchovies until they melt into the oil/butter mixture. (Water should be boiling around this point, so throw the pasta in!)

3. Lower the heat and add four minced garlic cloves to the pan, as well as 1 tablespoon of chili flakes. Continue to cook on low-ish heat to let flavours meld. Add vegetable of choice (I used chopped kale today but have also used broccoli; keep in mind, however, that broccoli takes longer to soften). Season with salt and pepper.

4. Add in one ladle of the pasta’s cooking liquid and let pan ingredients cook and simmer until pasta is ready.

5. Drain pasta and add it to the pan. Mix, remove from heat, and add 1/2-cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

6. Serve and enjoy!



Book club


Back in January, my friend and co-worker Lee sent me a list he found on buzzfeed.com: “16 Books to Read Before They Hit Theatres This Year.” Initially, he thought he was sending me an interesting article. I responded with “challenge accepted.” I thought it would be a great idea to read all 16 books by the end of the year (as well as force me outside of my book-selection comfort zone), and then watch as many movies as we could, as they came out. So far reading is beating out watching; the movies that come to North Bay leave a lot to be desired.

In any case, it’s full steam ahead and I have read five books so far: The Giver by Lois Lowry; Labor Day by Joyce Maynard; Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead; The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais; and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. Next up is Divergent by Veronica Roth because this seems like it will be enough of a blockbuster-type movie to reach the Galaxy theatre in the good ol’ Gateway to the North.

Of the books I have read so far, Dark Places has been my favourite. It’s been a while since I read a crime novel and I forgot how much fun they are! Who did it? How? When will everyone find out the truth?! AHHHH! Reading Dark Places has made me cautiously look forward to reading Gone Girl, and I say “cautiously” because I have heard the ending is…questionable.

Labor Day was my second-favourite, and the others were simply OK – you know, great in some parts, zone-out-worthy in others. I haven’t flat-out disliked anything so far, but I have to admit I’m worried the books I liked the most will also end up disappointing me to the largest degree, in terms of the movie. I know this is a classic stance of book lovers – “the movie is never as good as the book!” – but come on! It’s so often true! One exception that comes to mind, for me, is Atonement by Ian McEwan. I loved this book AND movie. But that’s only one…of many book-and-movie combos!

What about you? What has your success rate been in the book-versus-movie enjoyment ratio? Care to give any books on the Buzzfeed list a go?

Helllloooooo out there….?

I’m sure the few people who read my blog have long since given up on me – I haven’t, after all, posted a thing on here since July – but, to be honest, I just haven’t felt the drive to write anything. The largest reason for this is the fact that I am still working on getting my pharmacy technician licence, but this chapter in my life is about to come to a close, because I literally have one more thing to do in my apprenticeship before I can finally go ahead and apply for my official provincial licence. It’s been almost two years since I hit the reset button on my work life, and I am ready to feel like I have a full personal life again, rather than half of one.

During my absence from the blogosphere, there have been many times I have thought about posting a few pictures to show what I was up to…but then I didn’t…but now I am…so…semi-chronological grab-bag blog (sans picture editing), for all!

(And, you will also notice I changed the look of my blog! I am still trying to figure out some of the technical things, so if you notice anything weird, please forgive me! :)


July 2013: Post-North Bay Noreen Yeates Triathlon, with two of my co-workers (I was the last leg, the 8.4-km run).


August 2013: Ribfest North Bay, small but mighty.


July 2013: The friends are coming! The friends are coming!


July 2013: The friends are here! The friends are here!


July 2013: The Beaches Jazz Tune Up 20-km Run, I’m in there and so is Erin!


August 2013: The one and only trip to the beach this summer.


August 2013: Summer in the Park = Beaver Tails for me.


August 2013: I’m 31!


August 2013: Off to a wedding in Oakville.


October 2013: Thanksgiving weekend fun at the fair.


October 2013: Looking bright-eyed and evil at the Canadian Cancer Society’s OktoberFEAST event in Toronto.


October 2013: Happy Halloween!


October 2013: Some of my Halloween decor.


December 2013: Annual participation in the Salvation Army’s Santa Shuffle 5K in Sudbury.


December 2013: Time to get festive!


December 2013: My pride and joy of Christmas decor.


December 2013: Feeling the Christmas “spirits”!


February 2014: The Hypothermic Half Marathon in Sudbury, which I will NEVER do again.

Chocolate zucchini loaf via PaleOMG

July 23, 20131

These ingredients transform into an amazing chocolate zucchini loaf!

Darcy and I have been trying to reduce the amount of carbohydrates and sweets we keep in the house, and because he is much better at avoiding these things than I am, I immediately started looking for healthier dessert and “treat” alternatives. I came across this recipe for chocolate zucchini bread at paleomg.com and have baked it four times in the past three weeks. It’s that good, and I have at least one other person, independent of Darcy and myself, who agrees (right, Susie?!).

July 23, 20132

As you will read in the recipe below, you have to suck as much moisture as you can out of the grated zucchini. I had no idea how much water is retained in this vegetable!

July 23, 20133

Delicious batter that I licked from the spoon.

July 23, 2013

It doesn’t look like much, but believe me, it’s chocolatey, moist, and best served warm with butter!

Moist Chocolate Zucchini Bread via PaleOMG
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded (equal to 1.5 cups shredded zucchini)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • ¾ cup sunbutter (I used almond butter)
  • ⅓ cup raw honey
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour (This was much cheaper at Bulk Barn than at the grocery store!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Shred your zucchini. Use the shredding attachment on your food processor or take the long and boring route using a cheese grater. Whichever works.
  3. Once your zucchini is shredded, you need to remove the excess liquid. And zucchinis have a lot of it. Place a couple paper towels down on the counter, throw the zucchini on top, then place another paper towel on top of the zucchini, then squeeze. The more you squeeze, the more liquid will come out. Genius.
  4. Use more paper towels as needed, but be sure to squeeze until the zucchini feels waterless. (I found achieving waterless-ness next to impossible, so I just went for “fairly dry compared to what it was when I started.”)
  5. Place zucchini in a bowl with the rest of your ingredients. Use a large spoon to mix well until all the ingredients are combined and you have a deep chocolate colour.
  6. Pour your ingredients into a loaf pan.
  7. Place in oven to bake for 25-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when you poke it. (My loaf took the full 35 minutes to bake through.)
  8. Let cool, cut, and serve!

Spicy pasta salad for a weekend BBQ

July 19, 20133

Last night, I went to a potluck/bonfire at a co-worker’s house, and after trying this pasta salad out on some friends a couple weeks ago, I decided to make it again based on some pretty good reviews. It’s an easy recipe to throw together, and it can be made the night before, which is usually a bonus when planning for bigger dinner parties and the like. I also think this recipe is a “safe” recipe for people who don’t like spicy foods because I don’t like a hot flavour but thoroughly enjoyed this “spicy” salad.

July 19, 2013

The recipe calls for smoked gouda, but I went for the Applewood Smoked Cheddar from my local cheese shop, the Delaney Bay Cheese Market. The Applewood cheese tastes amazing in this salad!

July 19, 20131

Much ado about cheese.

July 19, 20132

Finished product! I’m craving the leftovers that are now in the hostess’s fridge…

Spicy Pasta Salad with Smoked Gouda, Tomatoes, and Basil (from Food Network magazine, July/August 2013


Kosher salt

12 oz. mostaccioli or penne pasta

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup whole milk

1/4 white vinegar

freshly ground pepper

1 and 1/2 tsp adobo sauce from a can of chipotles (or 1 mince chipotle)

1 10-oz package of grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1/2 pound smoked gouda cheese, cut into small cubes

24 basil leaves, thinly sliced


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain and rinse under cold water until no longer hot; set aside.

2. Make the dressing: Mix the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste, and the adobo sauce in a small bowl.

3. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, dressing, tomatoes, and gouda. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed, and even an extra teaspoon or 2 of vinegar, if necessary. Stir in the basil at the end. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.


1. I did not weigh out 12 oz. of pasta; instead, I just used the full box of penne (454 g).

2. Whole milk is homogenized milk and, unfortunately, does not come in a 500 mL or 250 mL carton!

3. I used adobo sauce (not a minced chipotle), and I found the canned chipotles in adobo sauce in the international foods section of the grocery store.

4. I did not use 24 basil leaves, as this seemed like a lot to me. Instead, I used the pack of basil in the ingredients picture above, which was probably about  8 to 10 leaves…? You should be able to find a similar-sized package around the produce section of your grocery store.

5. I did not need to add more salt and pepper to the final mix, but I did add more vinegar (about 1 and 1/2 tsp more).

6. As I mentioned earlier, you do not need to make this the “day of.” Mixing everything up the night before and covering the bowl tightly with Saran wrap works out perfectly!

A day in the life…

July 18, 20134


My hair wouldn’t stay up and I was too lazy to find a better elastic…the essence of Monday.

(Sandals, Dollhouse via Winners; cropped pants, The Gap; blouse, H&M; belts, vintage; earrings, vintage.)

July 18, 20133

July 16, 20131


New pants, new shoes, old top…maybe 2006?

(Shoes, Spring; cropped pants, The Gap; shirt, Zara; belt, vintage)

July 16, 2013

July 17, 2013


Ah, chambray, the fabric of all seasons.

(Shoes, Spring; skirt, H&M; shirt, Jessica Simpson via The Bay; belt, Forever 21: earrings, vintage)

July 17, 20131

July 18, 20132


Limited shopping in North Bay means The Gap has become my go-to store…hence, more Gap cropped pants!

(Shoes, Spring; cropped pants, The Gap; peplum top, Smart Set; necklace, vintage)

July 18, 20131