a peek inside the fishbowl

Transparency alert: the Bluesfest School of Music and Art (it’s brand new in Westboro!) is giving each of my kids the chance to try one of their classes, gratis. My thoughts, as always, remain my own. 

I can’t tell you how excited I am that the Bluesfest School of Music and Art is opening just around the corner from us. It’s been in the works for a long time (you can get a bit of background on it right here) and the day has FINALLY ARRIVED. Founded by Mark Monahan, the Bluesfest School of Music and Art (BSOMA) is “dedicated to supporting cultural development within the greater Ottawa community by creating opportunities through education that will allow students to discover, explore and deepen a relationship with the arts.” It’s running in partnership with Dovercourt, so you know it’s going to be top notch.

There is an open house from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. this Saturday (April 26), and I think it’s worth checking out. It will be your chance to (a) check out the new digs (b) meet the instructors and talk to some of the folks behind BSOMA. Apparently there will be mini-workshops too, which promises to be fun.

The first slate of classes looks fabulous. You may find a few pleasant surprises in there too, such as:

Would you like the opportunity to take a workshop at BSOMA? Maybe you know a kid who’s always wanted to learn the art of being a DJ. Or maybe you’ve had a secret desire to take up the blues harmonica? Well here’s you chance to WIN one $99 gift certificate and try something awesome. (Note: the courses I’ve seen on the website are all $99 and run about 6 weeks.)

Interested? Please read the following carefully:

  • In order for your entry to qualify leave a comment below telling me what course you’d take if you won. Check the current schedule right here. 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.

This giveaway has a quickie turnaround. I will draw one name using Random.org at 9:00 p.m. EST on April 27, 2014. I’ll contact the winner via email at that time as the first batch of courses start on the 28th.

That’s it! Over to you. Good luck! And may the arts be with you, always.

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

Looks who is right outside our window!

Updated April 23 at 5:00 p.m. to add THIS:

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

Updated April 24 at 3:00 p.m. to add THIS:

A new addition!

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


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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Me and my pet projects



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  • Tracey: Our family would sign up for family guitar - amazing!! I wish we could sign up for 'family' stuff everywhere, especially at the gym!!
  • Bonnie: Music in Motion 1 for my eldest daughter. What fun!
  • Brenda A: Rock n Roll choir sounds like such a great time and my girls would love this course. I wish much success to the Bluesfest School!
  • Jennifer D: Music in Motion 1 looks like a lot of fun!
  • KL: I think my daughter would love the Rock-n-Roll choir although I'm wondering if Family Guitar would be fun for her and dad.
  • kaitlin: I would let me 14-year old niece pick. I suspect she would pick the brilliant "Be in the Band" initiative and lend her amazing vocal skills.
  • Karen: What a great giveaway ! Would definitely go for the Family Guitar Class :)

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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The #dailylunches project – 665 and counting!

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


A year before

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