a peek inside the fishbowl

Looks who is right outside our window!

Updated at 5:00 p.m. to add THIS:

Robin's egg, and it's super fresh!

Now I’m trying to think of a way we can rig up a nest cam!

22 Apr, 2014

Thinking about cars on Earth Day

By andrea tomkins in Yaktivism

The other night we watched a really interesting episode of Cosmos. (Have you watched this show? I just realized you can catch it online here.) It was episode seven, which was about a fellow named Clair Patterson, who took on the task of figuring out the age of the earth. During this process he had to invent the ultra “clean room” – out of necessity really –  so he could study his samples without them being contaminated by lead particles. He was able to show (a) the earth is 4.5 billion years old and (b) lead does not naturally occur at Earth’s surface and is poisonous to humans.

This is how Wikipedia summarized it: “He examined the levels of lead in the environment and in deeper parts of the oceans and Antarctic ice, showing that lead had only been brought to the surface in recent times. He would discover that the higher levels of lead were from the use of tetraethyllead in leaded gasoline, despite long-established claims by Robert A. Kehoe and others that this chemical was safe. Patterson would continue to campaign against the use of lead, ultimately resulting in government-mandated restrictions on the use of lead.”

Clair Patterson is essentially the reason why leaded gasoline was banned. ONE GUY brought about a massive change in the automotive industry and made our world a healthier place. I have to ask myself – given the huge impact of cars and driving on our collective health –  what is MY chosen car manufacturer doing to make a positive change right now?


My friend Nadine Silverthorne posted this on Facebook this morning and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it:

“Myth: we have to save the earth. Frankly, the earth doesn’t need to be saved. Nature doesn’t give a hoot if human beings are here or not. The planet has survived cataclysmic and catastrophic changes for millions upon millions of years. Over that time, it is widely believed, 99 percent of all species have come and gone while the planet has remained. Saving the environment is really about saving our environment — making it safe for ourselves, our children, and the world as we know it. If more people saw the issue as one of saving themselves, we would probably see increased motivation and commitment to actually do so.” – Robert M. Lilienfeld, management consultant and author (b. 1953) and William L. Rathje, archaeologist and author (b. 1945)

What’s the world going to look like in 50, 75, 100 years? I don’t think about it very much because it’s too depressing. It’s much easier to pretend that there’s nothing wrong.

If we lived in a different place, I’d probably opt out of car ownership. But given our lifestyle it’s just not realistic for us to dispense with our vehicle. However, looking back on our history of car ownership, there are two things we did right:

1) We made the decision to be a one-car family.
2) We bought a hybrid.

Those two things make me very happy, especially now, as we coast past gas stations currently displaying pricing in the $1.36/L range. Not only have we saved on gasoline costs (our consumption averages around 4.5 – 5.0L/100km), but the hybrid has very low emissions as well.

Our car is a Prius, but a few months ago I had the chance to drive my first electric hybrid car. Ford loaned me a Fusion for the better part of a week, and I had a bit of an epiphany about the future of driving. All car manufacturers are going to have to pull themselves up by the boot straps because this industry is not sustainable. Ford seems to be at the forefront, not just with designing/making hybrid vehicles, but by including biomaterials in the production process, using less water, and maximizing the use of recycled and recyclable content in their cars.

For example, some of the materials that go into their vehicles include corn (in the fabrics), soybeans (in foam seats and head restraints), rice hulls (a by-product of rice grain that is being used to reinforce plastic), and agricultural waste from Ontario farmers is being converted into wheat-straw based storage bins.

It begs the question, who made your car? And what is that company doing to decrease the damage they’re doing to our planet, and to us? And who’s going to be the next Clair Patterson?

21 Apr, 2014

Easter Monday

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life,Multimedia experiments

Which one of these bunnies doesn’t belong? (Click on the image below to start the video.)

Mark is at work, the girls are watching a movie, and I am settling down to work with coffee in hand. This weekend we did some visiting, spent some time in the garden and doing things around the house, took the dog for a couple of long walks, and watched a robin build a nest in the hedge in front of our living room window. The winter tires are off the car, the winter gear has been put away, and the bikes and scooters are ready for riding. Sadly, we realized our supply of sidewalk chalk needs to be restored but that can be easily remedied. There will be ham sandwiches for lunch, and chocolate for dessert. Overall it was a pretty darn good weekend. How was yours?


19 Apr, 2014

Weekend reading: April 19 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

15 Apr, 2014

A waterless car wash? Yes, it can be done!

By andrea tomkins in Oh! Things!

Awhile back I received an email from Canadian Tire about the goclean waterless car wash, asking me if I wanted to try out a sample. I am often on the lookout for useful/new/cool things for my editor’s faves column in Capital Parent Newspaper, and this seemed like a good candidate. (I’d also seen goclean on Dragon’s Den awhile back and was intrigued!)

I don’t find it very easy to fork over money to go through a car wash, do you? I find it overpriced and more often than not we come out the other side with a sub-par scrubbing. The alternative is a DIY car wash in the driveway. Generally speaking, I don’t really care how dirty the exterior of our car gets. Mostly because I know (a) there’s always a rain shower just around the corner and (b) Mark is more likely to break down and do something about the car sooner than I do.

Why is it a good idea to opt for a waterless car wash? It’s simple really. First, it saves water. Washing the car uses hundreds of litres of water – DRINKING WATER. It’s a little crazy when you think about it, especially given how many people don’t have access to clean water… including people in our own country. Second, going waterless saves harmful chemicals from being flushed into the water system. Did you know that some municipalities have banned driveway car washing for this reason? Storm water does not get treated before it goes into the river. It’s worth noting that the City of Ottawa – although they haven’t gone so far as to ban the practice of home car washes – suggests washing vehicles at a commercial car wash instead.

I think the waterless option is better.

So my package of waterless car wash stuff finally arrived. Inside was a bottle of the waterless car wash, a package of four cleaning cloths, and some simple instructions that I can summarize thusly: spray, wipe, buff.

I asked Mark to help me out with our moderately dirty car. He was skeptical to say the least. Armed with a bottle of the stuff, along with two micro fibre cloths each, we went to work.


It took very little effort on our part. The whole car was done in about 20 minutes and did not require an extraordinary amount of scrubbing action. The instructions didn’t lie. We sprayed a section of the car, wiped the dirt off with one cloth, and buffed with another one. There were no buckets and sponges to lug outside, no need to drag out the hose or get elbow deep in dirty water. (I should mention we did not wash the windows or the tires with this stuff, but everything else got cleaned.)

Mark was quietly impressed with the whole deal. He didn’t think it would work, but it did. I think we’ll invest in their spot remover (ideal for dried bird poop and bug corpses!) and maybe their interior cleaner too. And then I’ll hire my kids to clean the car. ;)

It’s worth noting:

  • This stuff is not made of harsh chemicals that are damaging your skin/car/eco-system. It’s plant-based and biodegradable. (You can read more about it on their official website.)
  • It didn’t take very much of the spray to wash our car. I suspect we will be able to get at least 5-6 car washes out of one bottle.
  • You can find goclean at Canadian Tire for $15.29, and at terra20 for $10. (!) Regardless of where you buy the stuff, it’s cheaper than running the car through a commercial car wash.
  • I washed the cloths with the rest of our laundry and hung them on the line to dry. Now we’re ready for next time. That’s all there was to it!

For what it’s worth, the goclean waterless car wash did make the cut and appeared in the May issue of Capital Parent Newspaper, which you can grab at various locations across Ottawa or online right here.

Edited to add: want to try this stuff out for yourself? Enter this giveaway hosted by terra20!



NAC Ottawa events

Christmas ideas from Saunders Farm!

Frogs - a Chorus of Colours - at the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Funhaven - Ottawa's destination for birthday parties and fun

terra20 Ottawa celebrates Earth Month

Ottawa Gymnastics Centre - Westboro

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

IMAX 3D - Journey to the South Pacific

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  • andrea tomkins: Laurel - I did not mean to suggest that everyone has to buy a hybrid, rather, that that the automotive industry is heading that way and I'm happy we d
  • Laurel: I appreciate that you write a lot about being kind to the world and being aware re recycling and more. It's one of the things that draws me to your bl
  • A good stink.: Composting is a joy. Good for my garden and my soul. I compost all year round although winter can be a challenge. Squirrels will gnaw through your
  • andrea tomkins: You make a good point lacoop, we are definitely not alone on this planet! Easing our dependence on cars is a good idea for many reasons. I do wish the
  • lacoop: We also made the decision to be a one-car family. We also make a point of biking and walking where ever possible: cheaper, better for the planet, an
  • andrea tomkins: Me too! It's really inspiring!
  • Lisa from Iroquois: Love the Yellowberry story.

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 (14) and Sarah (12). I am the Editor of the Kitchissippi Times as well as Capital Parent Newspaper. I'm also 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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