a peek inside the fishbowl

I am preparing another issue of the Extra Helping to go out this week. Woot! If you live/shop/love the Westboro/West Wellie part of Ottawa and you like things that sparkle you will not want to miss this one. You can read more about the Extra Helping and sign up right here.


I have this compulsion in which I need to DO STUFF; go places, see things, mark a special day with something memorable. And so when a special day comes up, like the last long weekend before the start of school, I can’t let it go by without Doing Something Awesome. And that, my friends, is how we decided to find a place for an aerial tour/zipline adventure nearish to Ottawa. There are several from which to choose:

We tried booking a reservation at the first two places and were unsuccessful, but that was totally our fault since we were trying to book our treetop adventure on the day of. (Note to self: zip lines and aerial adventures need to be booked ahead of time.) Mark called les Chutes, who have a smaller treetop obstacle course that includes a few short zips, AND they didn’t require a reservation. Phew.

Les Chutes Coulogne is about a two-hour drive from Ottawa and I’d forgotten, but it’s one of my favourite drives. We took one route to get there, another to come back (via Shawville) and it is so pretty… rolling hills and farmland and red barns and fields of sunflowers and clouds and peeks at valley below along a twisty two-lane highway. It’s like driving through a dream.

We were in too much of a hurry to pack a lunch so we stopped at a chip truck called Pique Patate in Mansfield-et-Pontefract before we arrived for our aerial tour. There is no shortage of casse croutes in Quebec, as many of you probably know, so we were relatively certain we’d find one along the way. This one was located at a busy intersection across from a cemetery, and lunch for four was only $25. I had a pogo with a side of yellow sweet mustard.

I’m glad we stopped because there is virtually no food to be had at Chutes Coulogne outside of chips and chocolate bars. But that is neither here nor there.

We arrived, paid up, and waited to be outfitted with our gear. While we waited we checked out a play area for the younger set. They had the kind of play structures that, frankly, should be installed in every playground everywhere:

Balancing act, at Chutes Coulogne

The kiddy area, at Chutes Coulogne Park

The kiddy area at Chutes Coulogne


After awhile we were collected by a nice young fellow and who set us up with our gear and gave us a lesson in climbing and zipping.

Sidebar for us vain types: harnesses and helmets are not meant to be stylish. I wore long shorts and wished I’d thought to wear my knee-length yoga pants and stretchy top as it would have been more comfortable.

There are a few different packages at Chutes Coulogne but we decided to go with the obstacle course. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because the lady in the office told us that it was a half hour experience, but it turned out to be a pretty good choice for our family. I also think it’d be a good one for people who’ve never done anything like this before.

The course consists of ten different challenges: ladders, suspended bridges, high wires, and a few zips. It starts easy and gradually gets more difficult. Some family members were a bit more confident than others, but we all did it, and lived to tell the tale.

A view of the obstacle course, Chutes Coulogne Park

Chutes Coulogne Park

Along the obstacle course, at Chutes Coulogne Park

the obstacle course at Chutes Coulogne Park

Along the obstacle course, at Chutes Coulogne Park

Chutes Coulogne Park

This one was tricky! at Chutes Coulogne Park

I think it took us an hour to get through, and it was enough for me. I was pretty pooped at the end of it and even though a couple of the younger family members were keen to buy admission to the longer zip lines I couldn’t find it in me to do it. Next time for sure.

Instead we went explored les Chutes historical trail, which is included in the cost of admission. The area has a really interesting history, and I recommend visitors not skip it. This self-guided tour illustrates an important chapter in our Canadian history: the lumber trade. Men living in the wilderness, giving their blood, sweat, and tears, and more often than not, their lives, to make a few dollars in return for a commodity everyone needed.

There is an easy walking path with signs along the way, as well as some spectacular views of the waterfall, a man-made log chute, and a landscape forever changed by commercial interests:

Read the rest of this entry »

30 Aug, 2014

Weekend reading: August 30 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

When I was a teenager I wanted a tattoo of an ankh. It looks like a cross but it’s looped at the top, a symbol used in ancient Egypt to mean eternal life. (Here’s the Wikipedia entry about it if you’re not sure what I mean.) At one point I even tossed around the idea of having it branded into my arm, thinking a white scar would be more subtle than the typical “tat blue” colour that aged tattoos somehow all achieve over time. 

I was so sure I wanted an ankh at the time, but looking back, I’m glad I didn’t do it. I’m a different person now than I was 20+ years ago, and the things that were meaningful to me then, haven’t been for a long time. (Plus, do I want a wrinkly old tattoo on my body? It’s just not for me.)

Sidebar: when I was in journalism school I spent a day hanging out at a tattoo parlour here in town for a story I was working on. The number of awful mistakes, regrets, and saggy misshapen Tweety birds I saw that needed fixing was a real eye opener.

Awhile back I stumbled upon Tattly, an online store that designs and sells temporary tattoos. There are hundreds of different designs and many of them are excellent. The girls and I poured over the options (it was very hard to choose) placed our order, and waited. It’s worth noting that we also ordered a skateboarding sandpiper for Mark and a couple of radishes. I chose this set, among others.

Which one shall it be today? (Blog post coming up!)

They didn’t take long to arrive, and we were thrilled with our purchases, This is why I ended up choosing one of their newest designs, the science set, for my Editor’s Faves column for the September issue of Capital Parent Newspaper. (Which you can see right here.)

I’m also thinking these would make really great loot bag gifties.

The Tattly tattoos are easy to apply and last a few days, they come off with a cotton ball and a bit of baby oil, and they’re FUN. I wore a blue VW van around the house for awhile and then washed it off before going to a meeting at the office. I wore that “Oh hello” bird in the photo above on the outside of my upper arm for the better part of a week and then got rid of it. I will be applying popsicles to my ankle before the summer ends. I can change them with the seasons!

Why bother with permanent ink when you can have so much fun choosing designs that mirror your feelings that very moment? Today, I think I might feel like a watermelon…

Looking for a new recipe to try? This one is a keeper, and I’m actually looking forward to the leftovers!

August 25 #dailylunches - Thai tofu quinoa bowl

This is a Thai Tofu Quinoa Bowl from Chatelaine. You can grab the recipe right here.

I used slightly less quinoa, and I didn’t have quite enough ginger, but WHOA nelly… is it ever good. It’s light, it’s spicy, it’s got my number. The next time I make it I will make sure I have enough fresh ginger on hand and crank up the heat.


NAC Ottawa family events

Summertime fun at Saunders Farm!

Creatures of Light Nature's Bioluminescence at the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Ottawa Gymnastics Centre - Westboro

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Litterless lunch solutions at terra20

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  • Shawna: If you are artistically inclined, you can upload your own drawings or photos on stickeryou.com to make custom tattoos. So fun! I had a batch made this
  • andrea tomkins: Allison: great ideas! I'll definitely try subbing in apple sauce and banana next time. :)
  • A treetop adventure to cap off the summer >> a peek inside the fishbowl: […] extra stuff for fans of Westboro Village […]
  • Allison: Still a staple in our lunchboxes for school! I have now halved the oil and use applesauce for the other half. I also half the honey and brown sugar, a
  • Molly: Well, you know how much I love Tattly!! Big believer in temporary ink...
  • Brenda A: These are super cute and I am off to check out the site. I am tattoo free and happy with that, but temp cuties like these will be great!
  • andrea tomkins: I really liked the tofu in this recipe, but yes, you could totally add shredded chicken!

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 – 790 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.


  • 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!

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  • 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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  • My latest post at the MediaSmarts website is about passwords. Is this something you've talked about with your kids? Given the proliferation of devices in households (often one per person now) it might be an important topic for discussion. How have you handled passwords in your household?

    - #

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:

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