a peek inside the fishbowl

This is where my brain has been these past couple of weeks:

Four under the tree

This is where my brain has been as I walked and up down Westboro and West Wellington/Hintonburg (two of my favourite shopping districts in Ottawa!), and this is where my brain was as I spent untold minutes idling in abysmal Merivale Road traffic yesterday.

The “four gift” idea has been making its way around the internet for a while now, and I can’t take credit for it or tell you who thought of it first. I liked it when I first saw it, and floated the idea by the family awhile back. This year we decided to try it out and put it into play. We are doing so partly because I think we all accept the fact that we don’t need a mountain of gifts under the tree, and also because we’re planning a couple of nice getaways in the coming months. My preference is to spend our few extra dollars on Doing Fun Things as opposed to Having Too Many Things.

I have avoided writing about the four gifts idea because there are many people who exchange fewer gifts out of necessity, and I don’t want to toot my own horn or be annoying about it. I’m writing about it today because of this blog post over at Globetrotting Mama. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. To summarize: Heather’s family hasn’t exchanged gifts for four years. (In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that I know Heather personally and we went to school together.) Heather’s family is a travelling family. This is something I aspire to as well although we are not at a point in our lives where this can happen very easily. But, maybe some day we will.

So, yes. Four gifts. The girls made their wish lists awhile back. ONE of them helpfully divided her list up by category – Want, Need, Wear, Read – and the other didn’t bother, which left us guessing a bit. I will say it’s been tough to stick to the four gift rule because the temptation to pick things up on impulse is very strong. I did it, but I cheated a bit because I have a feeling the girls’ stockings will be overstuffed. The good news is that we’ve spent less on gifts this year and there’s less to wrap. What remains to be seen is how we feel on Christmas Day. Will it be sad to see less under the tree, especially after so many years of the volcano effect? (a.k.a the overflowing pile under the tree that spreads like lava beyond the borders of the tree skirt?) We’ll see, I guess.

20 Dec, 2014

Weekend reading: December 20 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

19 Dec, 2014

Piper is FIVE today!

By andrea tomkins in dog stuff

It’s hard to believe the furriest member of our family is five years old today. This is what she looked like when we first brought her home. Below are a few recent photos of her grown up self. And yes, she dishes out the attitude when it suits her. It’s a terrier thing.

Whatever dawg.


Suffice it to say, this pup is very smart and spoiled silly. And loved. She is very very loved.

I wonder what he was buying? ;)

The Grinch drives a Nissan!

And speaking of Christmas, have you finished your shopping yet? We’re giving away tickets to the Originals Craft Sale over on the Capital Parent website today. It’s an easy win! Check it out.

We have a winner! Thanks everyone!

Dear Fishies,

It gives me great pleasure to share another giveaway from Fishbowl patron, the Village Quire in Westboro. Have you been there lately? Molly, the owner, brings new merchandise in all of the time. There’s something new every time I drop by (and I’m there a LOT). I have a particular weakness for paper goods, and I am guaranteed to find unique cards, wrapping, AND all kinds of delightful items to give as hostess gifts too.

This giveaway is a quickie because Christmas is already so close, but that is neither here nor there. Even if you’re done with Christmas already, you can put this away for NEXT Christmas knowing that you’re going to save yourself a bunch of time. :)

This giveaway is for a complete Ugly Sweater Collection by Paper Source; it includes sheets of paper, two gift bags and a cool mug AND a bunch of Morsel caramels. (THEY ARE TO DIE FOR.)

I find this hilarious. It totally plays into my love of Christmas sweaters!

This gift can be yours. And it's from the Village Quire!

This would make a thoughtful gift for the bus driver, for the neighbour who shovels your driveway, or the preschool teacher! Consider this giveaway one thing to strike off your list!
Would you like to win? It’s easy.

  • In order for your entry to qualify, please leave a comment below. That’s it!
  • 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 name using Random.org at noon EST on December 19, 2014. I’ll contact the winner via email, who will have to pick up their chosen prize at The Village Quire (312 Richmond Rd, Ottawa). I urge you to get there before Christmas so you can check out all of the amazing stuff that’s in the store right now!
  • The Village Quire is on Facebook! Liking their page is not a requirement of this giveaway but it’s a great way of keeping up with news, local events, and 411 about other local businesses.

That’s it. Over to you. Good luck!

13 Dec, 2014

Weekend reading: December 13 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


NAC Ottawa family events

Saunders Farm annual passes for family fun!

Arctic Voices, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Holiday shopping at terra20 - Ottawa

Nepean Visual Arts Centre

Visit tThe Village Quire in Westboro Ottawa!

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  • andrea tomkins: p.s. I think socks and underwear are the perfect gift in the "NEED" category!
  • andrea tomkins: It is pretty awesome!
  • andrea tomkins: Lynn, I can’t tell you what I got them because the girls might read it, but what really helps is if they tell you what they need! Generally, I think
  • Lynn: I also try to follow this general rule but like you, I cheat on the stockings - that's where the impulse buying happens! I also struggle with the "som
  • Shan: I've also adopted that formula for this year. To be honest I've been heading in that direction for some time now. I've switched most of our gifts to o
  • Life of K: We've done this for a few years now and I love it! It really helps me from buying ALL THE THINGS for the kids and really think about what they'd like
  • Stefania: Love the pop song mash-up.

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, Capital Parent Newspaper, 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 – 902 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.


  • 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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  • I'm sharing some of my favourite lunch-related items over on the terra20 blog today. Whether you're packing a lunch for work, for your kids, or just eating at your desk at home, I bet there is something there for you. Check it out!

    - #
  • I have a new post up at the MediaSmarts blog this week. It's my response to a question that I'm asked quite often: What’s the best age to give a kid an iPod touch?

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On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

On this date in the archives

Got kids in Ottawa? These posts might be worth a click too:

All hail the mighty Twitter