a peek inside the fishbowl

We’re slowly getting back to regularly scheduled programming around these parts. I have a lot I want to share about our camping trip but in the meantime I wanted to (a) fill you in on a family photo shoot we had with Fishbowl patron Sara McConnell and (b) spill the deets on a special photography giveaway.


I’ve known Sara for some time and have worked with her in various ways, but I’ve never actually been her client in this way, so this experience afforded me a new perspective. FACT: this lady is a pro: so organized and professional, right down to the details, it boggles my mind. Contracts protect all parties and keep things above board. Online payment is seamless. Instructions are clear. There are time frames. The photos come back promptly, which I appreciate because there’s no sense of WHERE ARE THE PHOTOS. I WANT TO SEE THE PHOTOS ALREADY.

The photos, oh, the photos.

Sidebar: I’ve taken a lot of photos of a lot of people but never quite feel comfortable in front of the camera. Sara makes the whole process very easy and dare I say, even FUN. I’ve also supervised a lot of photoshoots in a work-related capacity, and if the photographer is a good one, what you get back is actually better than reality. This was one of those times.

Our shoot took place at the Ornamental Gardens near the Experimental Farm. (I highly recommend this place, whether there’s photography involved or not.) Here is one of my favourites:


The girls were quite happy to have a chance to be intentionally goofy. :)

You know what makes me VERY happy about our photos – other than the fact that they’re gorgeous – is that I’m actually IN THEM. As the person who takes 99% of our family photos, I am in very very few family photos. And this has to change. (I’ve uploaded a few more from our session on the Fishbowl FB page if you want to have a look.)

Sara is offering some special beach sessions this summer. I’ve seen her beach shots and they’re amazing. They truly capture those magical childhood moments we want to bottle up and save forever. (And we can! In photos!)

The beach sessions are part of Sara’s ‘Imagination’ series, and they were inspired by her recent trip to PEI and a desire to bring a little bit of her vacation home. For Sara, it’s an opportunity to create a beautiful backdrop for parents to connect and play with their kids, and help create those wonderful memories.

Here’s a peek at what I’m talkin’ about here:

Beach sessions


You can also see an album of beach sessions on Sara’s Facebook page.

Would you like to win a beach session for your family? Read on:

  • This giveaway is for one of Sara’s “Moment” sessions, which will take place on August 20 at 7 p.m. in the east end of Ottawa. Session has no cash value but can be transferred to another family. The session must take place on August 20.
  • In order for your entry to qualify, tell me in the comments below: when’s the last time you had a family portrait taken? That’s it!
  • One entry per email address please.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • If you can’t post your comment for whatever reason you can email it to me for posting at andrea at quietfish dot com. Please note, I cannot be responsible if your entry is misdirected or gets stuck in my Spam folder.
  • I will draw one winner using Random.org at noon EST on August 7, 2015.

If you don’t win, or just want to book a photo shoot before the summer ends, you can do so on Sara’s website.

That’s it! Over to you. Good luck!

p.s. And I really hope the winner shows me their resulting photos. :)

28 Jul, 2015

When life is lovely and terrible

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Front row seats for the sunset

We’re back from our annual camping trip.

My friend K_ passed away suddenly while we were gone. A stroke. I’ve lost my mojo and am finding it very hard to muster up the enthusiasm and energy required to do anything.

K_ was a strong, adventurous type, and I think she would have liked our trip. I spent the latter half of our holiday trying very hard to be mindful of the moment at hand. I saw her in the waves of the lake, the flicker of the campfire and in the glowing embers. I heard her in the whispering of the trees and the beating wings of the loon and in the rain falling on our tent. She is everywhere. She is nowhere.

The world has lost a spark and is that much dimmer.

K_ and I worked together for a stretch and stayed in touch over the years. I liked her. Immensely. She was the smarter, wiser, older sister I always wished I’d had. The last time I saw her was at a colleague’s funeral on July 26, 2014. K_ was her good old self – bright and delightful as always despite the sad circumstances of our meeting. We made plans to get together for dinner as we parted. I suddenly missed her very much. “Let’s do it,” I urged. “Really, we have to meet for dinner.”

She read and commented here on the blog, and we followed each other and chatted on Facebook, but we never did get together for that dinner. Life got in the way.

K_ passed away on July 24.

My heart is hurting this week but I don’t want to make this post about me. I am terribly sad for her family, who lost someone much too early and so suddenly.

I fear for myself and my own family. This is something I have to admit. K_’s passing is another reminder that the time we have here is limited. We live our lives as if it’s a journey without end. We take our time for granted yet it’s the most valuable thing we own. Can I honestly say that I’ve lived? And done everything I’ve intended to do?

26 Jul, 2015

Summer sights

By andrea tomkins in Easy ways to make kids happy,Photography

The new clematis has flowered

Everyone loves watermelon

Swimming dog

Cannonball in the pool

View of the water

A very tiny toad

A very large radish from Mike's Garden Harvest CSA

25 Jul, 2015

Weekend reading: July 25 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

This is related to yesterday’s post, which you can read right here.

One of the best parts of being a parent is that we get to relive a bit of our childhood and not look like a crazy person while we do it. If our kids are around we can play hopscotch, jump rope, go on the monkey bars AND splash around in the wading pool and not look like we’ve totally lost our marbles. This, of course, extends to activities in the home as well. Play-doh, Duplo, Sea Monkeys … it’s another chance for us to have some fun. This is partly why I enjoyed doing so many crafts with the girls when they were younger. I enjoyed getting out the scissors and the glue, the stickers and the stamps, and seeing what kind of cool things we can make out of them. Enter: colouring.

Colouring books have seen a huge resurgence. Someone, smartly, realized that colouring between the lines has a calming quality that can be compared to yoga and meditation. And it’s totally true.

For the past few months I’ve been on the lookout for an adult colouring book that suited me, and it took me awhile to find one that I liked. Many were too complicated or intricate. Many had designs that weren’t my style, and to be honest, I wanted something SIMPLE without being totally juvenile. And I didn’t want to think about picking colours either, I just wanted a fun design that I could colour mindlessly. And I found it: The Usborne Big Color by Numbers Book (which you can pick up on Amazon right here if you’re so inclined.)

Usborne Big Color by Numbers BookColouring: Work in progress

It was exactly what I needed: a good variety of fun, simple designs that won’t take me a year to fill in. It’s so easy, and QUIET. I can sit down with a coffee and a bunch of markers and just GO. There’s no question about what colour I need to use, and each page is guaranteed to look great when I’m done. There’s no heavy thinking required. I can practically feel the chaos of my brain seeping away while I fill in the lines.

I see this colouring book as being one that’s fun for adults and kids to work on over the summer – together or alone – whether it’s a rainy day or just a calming activity to add to the bedtime routine.

Zen tangle!


Are you a doodler? If so, you know that it can be can be an oddly satisfying occupation. Doodling is a great way to still the mind and channel one’s focus. And it’s good for kids too.

Traditional doodling tends to be done out of boredom in the margins of notebooks and during conference calls (admit it, we’ve all done it!) whereas zentangle is a term that has been given to a style of purposeful doodling of patterns of repeating images.

The reason this kind of doodling is referred to as a Zentangle is that it is widely considered to be a form of artistic meditation. While creating a Zentangle, the person who holds the pencil is deliberately choosing to make a series of very specific and detailed patterns (a.k.a. tangles) that can be viewed from all four sides. Zentangle is all about the process, not necessarily the outcome.

Often referred to as “yoga for the brain,” elementary school teachers have noted that focused doodling is a great way to calm down a chaotic classroom and get kids focused on a creative task that results in a great sense of accomplishment.

Since Zentangles do not represent actual objects or figures, they’re great little art projects for those who don’t think they’re very good at drawing or have never really drawn anything before. They can be as simple or as complex as you’d like them to be.

Ready to try your own Zentangle?  All you need is a pen or pencil, and a piece of paper that won’t bleed through. Here’s a tip: smaller paper is less intimidating to fill. It might be a good idea to move up to bigger sizes later.

1) Relax, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and put pencil to paper. Begin by drawing an empty container, such as a circle or a loose square with soft angles.

2) Continue by dividing up your shape into smaller, organic segments.

3) Fill in the smaller parts with even smaller repeating shapes such as lines, squiggles, circles, diamonds, petals. Anything goes!

There is no wrong way to draw Zentangle-inspired art. Some art teachers don’t even allow erasers. There are no mistakes, only new directions!

Looking for inspiration? Or a good starting point? There is a huge community of Zentanglers online.

A version of this article was originally published in Capital Parent Newspaper.


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  • Ana Mills: I've never had a photo shoot with my husband and 15mo baby girl. Would be nice to win one for the first time.
  • carey: Our last family photo session was last summer with Sara. Would love to capture some more beautiful moments.
  • Heather: We are a family of two, and our last family portrait was done when my daughter was 18 months, so that puts it over 5 years! All our pictures are of ju
  • HollyStar: We had fabulous prenatal & newborn shoots done & that "baby" starts JK in September. So almost four years ago. Love the beach theme!
  • Sarah: When my daughter was 6 months old - she just turned four!
  • marnada: Our last family portrait was 2 or 3 years ago, and Sara did them. They are wonderful but the kids have changed so much since then!
  • Roz: The last time we had a family portrait was 2 weeks after my son was born (November twenty-TWELVE). I've been itching for another family photo shoot si

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!


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