a peek inside the fishbowl

I’ve made this recipe for “sushi salad” I found on the Canadian Family website a few times. I think I need to start making it every week:

June 29 #dailylunches - sushi salad

Sidebar: I’ve been craving sushi for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been by the Naked Fish Sushi place in Westboro THREE TIMES, only to find a “sorry we’re renovating” sign on the door. (Hello! Why can’t you put an ETA on there too?) There is no information on their Facebook/Twitter/website.

In response to this sad state of affairs, the youngest and I made this sushi salad for lunch yesterday. Happily, it totally hit the spot. I made it using regular white rice because that’s all I had, but otherwise kept the recipe as-is. It is very flavourful, and made our tummies very happy. I think the avocado was the best part of this salad.

In other news, my 21-day vegetarian challenge is DONE. (!) I am still collecting my thoughts about it, so stay tuned for the final post in the series. You may or may not be surprised by the outcome. :)

27 Jun, 2015

Weekend reading: June 27 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

I’m very pleased to introduce a new patron to the Fishbowl: the Ontario Tire Stewardship. OTS is doing something really cool and I thought you’d like to know about it. The Community Renewal Fund is a fund offered by Ontario Tire Stewardship that gives Ontario communities the opportunity to build spaces using sustainable materials made with recycled rubber from Ontario tires. The fund awards eligible Ontario-based communities and organizations up to $50,000 towards the purchase and installation of Ontario-manufactured recycled rubber products such as rubber mulch, athletic and arena flooring, sidewalk pavers, and even playground surfacing. (!)

Basically, old tires are saved from the landfill, and a community gets a special space of their own. Check out these past recipients of the fund and see how recycled tires have made a big difference in communities across the province.

How many tires are we talking about here? Well, it’s significant.

OTS recycled tires

The Community Renewal Fun is designed to:

  • Rethink the way people approach new projects and consider sustainable options.
  • Support Ontario’s economy by choosing to Rebuild old or inefficiently used spaces using products made from locally produced recycled materials.
  • Renew public areas so they reach their full potential and can be enjoyed by the entire community.

The grant is open to municipalities, registered non-profit community groups or organizations, schools/colleges/universities, and First Nations communities throughout Ontario. To qualify, projects must use products made from Ontario recycled rubber and be completed within 12 months of approval. The space must be publicly accessible and wheelchair accessible too.

This year they have brought the entire application process online, making it even easier to apply. To get started, all eligible communities need to do is submit their proposal on the online submissions page.

It’s a win-win situation, don’t you think? The Community Renewal Fund is a wonderful way to build a better community while supporting the local economy – and the environment!

Visit Rethinktires.ca to apply online and learn more about the Community Renewal Fund.

Will be catch a movie at Westboro beach this year?

Movies on the Beach is one of the most fun things to do during the summer in Ottawa. It’s hosted by Majic 100 (who have renamed it Friday Night Flicks by the way) and it’s free! We’ve been to the one at Westboro Beach a few times, so if you’re planning on going, here’s what I recommend:

  • The movies start at sundown but arrive early to nab a good spot.
  • Since you’re arriving early, keep the kids occupied with outdoor toys (buckets and shovels are perfect for Westboro Beach!) or spread out a blanket and bring a picnic.
  • You can watch the movie on a blanket (kids might enjoy lying on the ground) but most folks bring lawn chairs. It’s really the most comfortable way to watch the movie. (At least it is for me!)
  • Don’t forget the popcorn and snacks!
  • Also, it might be an idea to tuck a flashlight and bug spray into your purse, just in case. It gets dark at Westboro Beach at night!

Here’s the schedule for Ottawa’s Movies on the Beach 2015

  • July 3, Mooney’s Bay Beach (Into the Woods)
  • July 17, Walter Baker Park (Big Hero 6)
  • July 31, Westboro Beach (Home)
  • August 14, Heritage Orleans Park (Box Trolls)
  • August 28, Larkin House Park (Annie)

I can’t speak for the other locations, but there’s washroom facilities and easy parking at Westboro Beach.

We’ve had great fun in past years! Consider making it a date with another family and meeting there. Do note: given the start time, movie night winds up being a late night for the youngest kiddos, so consider yourselves warned. :)

At what age should a child be taught how to slice a banana? It’s something I found myself thinking about as I was chatting with Pat Gere, the director at OMS Montessori. Studies show that kids crave and thrive when given age-appropriate responsibilities, yet we find ourselves in a society that is becoming increasingly fearful of kids walking to school alone, playing at the park unsupervised, or even helping in the kitchen. (More about banana slicing in a moment.)

A peek inside OMS Montessori

A peek inside OMS Montessori

Sometimes I think that if I wasn’t a writer I’d be a teacher. I believe that education is the foundation of everything and teachers have an incredibly important vocation. What can be more important than inspiring a generation of creative, independent, curious citizens of the world? This is why I’m very happy to let you know that OMS Montessori has joined the Fishbowl family as a patron.

I had a chance to visit OMS, meet some of the staff, and see what the Montessori program is all about. Confession: I had no clear idea and had a lot to learn. Although the term Montessori is used by many caregivers and preschools to describe their programs, OMS is only one of three accredited Montessori schools AND they were the first to be established in Ottawa. In fact, next year is their 50th anniversary.

A Montessori education is based on the philosophies of Dr. Maria Montessori. You can read more about her on the OMS website. It’s fascinating stuff.

OMS students range in age from 18 months to 18 years. Yes, 18! Ottawa’s first high school based on the Montessori pedagogy is called The Element and it will be moving to Lansdowne in September. (I’ll be writing more about that later!)

OMS is dedicated to creating focused engagement for students of all ages. Classrooms are communities, a place where it’s normal to ask for help and to offer help, and they contain multi-age groups: 3-6 year olds, 6-9 year olds, 9-12 year olds, etc. Montessori recognizes that children are social creatures who have a lot to learn from one another, no matter the age.

One look into the classroom and it is obvious that students are engaged in joyful learning. The Montessori approach offers an individualized, hands on learning experience in which students are free to explore topics and subjects that interest them, while meeting – if not exceeding – the curriculum at the same time.

A peek inside OMS Montessori

These are kids who start learning the fundamentals of math when they’re three, and learn cursive before print, for example:


A peek inside OMS Montessori

Montessori children will write before they read. (!) I still have to wrap my head around this.

The Montessori method taps into a child’s natural curiosity and abilities to cultivate a love of learning. It’s child-directed learning with adult support and guidance. Pat told me the true test of a Montessori class is that if the teacher leaves the class, nothing changes. The kids just go on working because they’re so absorbed in what they’re doing. I thought about my own school experience, in which we sat in rows and some teachers ruled by fear and punishment. Shouldn’t learning be joyful? Isn’t learning what life is all about? What happens when kids are fuelled by their own natural curiosity and able to stretch out and get comfortable? Well, this is what happens:

A peek inside OMS Montessori

A peek inside OMS Montessori

Which brings me to the banana slicing. It’s natural that as parents we want to protect our children. We’re afraid they’ll hurt themselves, or make a mess, but the truth is that we all need to challenge ourselves in order to grow, and this appears to be a fundamental truth in a school environment that encourages learning through activity. Children learn through what they do, and adults do too.

The youngest OMS students (18 months to 3 years) explore their senses and learn life skills along with their colours and numbers. Slicing bananas/apples/eggs, and squeezing oranges for fresh juice are the norm here (not to mention the washing up afterwards):

A peek inside OMS Montessori

The curriculum is set up to meet the natural tendencies and characteristics that children have at a particular age, and OMS helps children be focused and engaged learners in whatever they do. And it’s amazing to see it in action.

Curious? OMS invites prospective parents, friends, neighbours or anyone interested in knowing more about Montessori education to contact the school. The OMS office is open all summer. It’s a great time to explore your options and consider the possibilities! For more information, check out the OMS website or following  them on Facebook and Twitter.

Someone asked me if this veg challenge has been hard. The short answer is no: it hasn’t been hard. To be perfectly honest, there’s only been two times I’ve missed meat. (But more on that in a moment.)

One person called me out on eating too much processed food recently. I guess you can say that my All-bran buds, veggie burgers, chips, and PC mini-naan breads are processed, but overall I think I’ve been eating ok over the last two weeks. (I’m tracking it right here.)

Related: one thing that I will never understand is my true weight. Perhaps this is an issue that comes with having a digital scale. When I weigh myself it’s at the same time of day, but I seem to fluctuate five pounds within the span of a day or two: between 140 and 145. I don’t know if it’s me, my scale, or what.

A note about those veggie burgers. I picked up Boca brand burgers recently and I think they’re my new favourite. Someone on twitter asked me where I bought them. I assumed Rainbow Foods – and said so – but then Rainbow Foods replied to say they don’t actually carry Boca burgers. I am having a total brain fail. Where in Ottawa did I buy them?? (Help!) I could have sworn I got them at Rainbow!

June 21 #dailylunches - veggie burger

It was Father’s Day this weekend and it included two meaty meals. One was on Saturday and it featured BBQ ribs (by special request), the other was breakfast sausages on Sunday. These are both meats that I enjoy.

So on Saturday I made my own veggie kebab in lieu of the ribs: halloumi cheese with red onion and red pepper. I doubled up on the cheese in an effort to overshadow the ribs and it worked. Eating is such a communal activity, isn’t it? One passes heaping plates of food that are thoughtfully prepared: here, take some. Let me feed you. It is a loving act, and to remove yourself from the ritual can be a little sad. (Lesson: it is depressing to feel like you are missing out. So prep something that will make you happy.)

On Sunday we had homemade waffles with sausages, so I just loaded my waffles up with a double helping of fresh fruit salad. The fruit salad was so lovely that it distracted me from the breakfast sausages.

You know what meats I’d miss if I was a strict vegetarian?

  • bacon in all forms
  • butter chicken
  • BBQ’d ribs
  • chicken wings
  • excellent salami
  • turkey, in sandwich format (e.g. post-Thanksgiving)
  • saucy meatballs
  • pulled pork

The rest I could probably do without. What about you?


NAC Ottawa family events

Saunders Farm annual passes for family fun!

Animal Inside Out BodyWorlds, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Joan of Arc Academy in Ottawa

OMS Ottawa Montessori schools

Sara McConnell photography Ottawa

Rethink Tires - Community Renewal Fund

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  • Dee: If you do this again, you can get veggie sausages for your breakfast. Give me a heads up and I'll get them for you - my pusher lives in MTL :)
  • Molly: Thanks for sharing the recipe! A is a big fan of Naked Fish and was equally disappointed to find out it was closed for renos the other day - I think
  • andrea tomkins: Me too! I've been a fan for just about forever. :)
  • Tiana: Too bad it's every 2 weeks, it's opposing my custody schedule!
  • andrea tomkins: Visiting the Ottawa Montessori classroom was a real eye-opener for me. It's so progressive. And in terms of our children's early public educations, th
  • Claudette: How I wish we could have afforded Montessori all through the early grades! My kids did a half day toddler and preschool (Casa) program until they star
  • Life of K: Love Sara's work!

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (15) and Sarah (13). I am the editor of the Kitchissippi Times and a regular contributor to MediaSmarts.ca. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

The #dailylunches project – 1000 lunches and counting

Every day I eat lunch and take a picture. Here's the latest:

Created with flickr badge.

Click the photo for details: what it is, where I ate it (if it's worth a mention!) and how to cook it (if there happens to be a recipe). You can also read more about this project right here.


  • Two articles of mine were published in the summer issue of Ottawa Magazine. One is a Q&A with a dermatologist about summertime skin care (YES, those are my superwhite legs in the photo) and the other is a blogger face-off about bikinis.

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  • So I was feeling a bit ranty and wrote this post about raising children in an age of zero privacy in the hopes it will start some conversations! Please leave your two cents right here.

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  • My latest post on the MediaSmarts website is up, and it's about family social media accounts. (Yes! It's a thing! And I think it's pretty neat.) Is this something you do as a family? I'd love it if you left your two cents on the topic.

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On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

All hail the mighty Twitter