a peek inside the fishbowl

I am taking a closer look at some of the ideas I’ve bookmarked via Pinterest and actually DO something with them instead of just admiring them. This is the third in the series so far. You can read the others right here.

This was a little project I pinned awhile back. Mostly because (a) even though there are times when there’s a regular tsunami of reusable bags lying around the house, I can never actually find one when I need one and (b) it seemed to be a pretty cool summer project that actually has A Useful Purpose and (c) it’s all about no-sew craftiness, which I totally dig because I can’t sew.

I had a lucky day at Value Village, and among the many things I found was four or five men’s t-shirts for this project. They were only a couple bucks each. Note that there are only two pictured below! Certain individuals and the t-shirts were deemed too good to cut up and had to be worn. That’s fine by me.

Here’s what we started with:

T-shirts before they're cut up

Here we are cutting the fringe after we turned the t-shirts inside out. The fringes are tied together to create the bottom of the bag. (This is the no-sew part.) I struggled a bit with this, but luckily my eldest came to the rescue and figured out how to tie them so there aren’t any holes in the bottom of the bag.

Cutting the bottom

This is what the bottom of the bag looks like when all the fringes are tied together:

This is what the bottom looks like

And here’s the finished project!

Finished t-shirt bag #2

Finished t-shirt bag #1

Read the post by the original author for the full tutorial.

Not bad! And it really only took about 10 minutes.

These would make a great beach or swim/gym bag. I have yet to wash them, but you can probably throw them in the laundry with the towels afterwards. They are quite roomy and the handles are easy on the hands, which, strangely enough, is a common issue for me as I don’t like rough and picky straps.

My tips to you:

  • Don’t use t-shirts that are too big, otherwise your bag ends up too big.
  • Cut the fringe at the bottom long enough so it’s easy to tie together. I think you need about 4″.
  • I would only pack light groceries in these bags if/when I use them for grocery shopping. That being said, I think they’d totally work for the farmer’s market!
  • Next time I would let my teens choose their own t-shirts for this project. It’s a nice way for them to express their own DIY style!

So is this project pinworthy? I say yes!

Follow me on Pinterest right here, for many other “pinworthy” ideas I haven’t done anything with yet. Sigh.

21 day veg challenge

My veg challenge is DONE.

Did I miss meat? Not really.
Was it hard to do? Not really.
Did I do much meal planning? No.
What did it change? I’ll get to that in a moment.


Something I’ve been thinking about: Food is Joy.

I made fish tacos the other night. It’s easy, just take some white fish fillets and fry them with a bit of butter and a dash of salt and pepper until they’re browned. Fold the fish into flour tortillas and add your extras: sour cream, lettuce, red peppers etc.  Instead of regular salsa I made one out of mango, red onion, cucumber, cilantro, a bit of freshly diced jalapeño, and a squirt of fresh lime juice. It was heavenly and made my mouth sing (and burn, because I did a lousy job chopping that jalapeño).

I’ve been on a mango kick lately. Mangoes are a gift from the gods. Is there anything better than a mango? Ok, maybe a freshly-picked strawberry. Or a radish sprinkled with salt. Or a fall apple. I want to eat healthy foods that make my mouth sing.


Awhile back I did wrote a profile about a local lady, and during the interview we got to talking about food. As far as I knew, she and her husband are vegan, so I asked her about it. She told me she eats a mostly vegan diet, but that it all goes out the window when she travels to France. The French, apparently, raise the best-tasting chicken in the entire world and she can’t possibly give them up forever.

Food is Joy.

I liked her story, and it stuck with me. There is no label for a person like that, or a person like me. Perhaps flexitarian is the closest we’ll get but I’m actually not too interested in labelling myself. I am, however, quite interested in the idea of labelling. During face-to-face conversations, at what point does one tell another, I’m a vegetarian/vegan/etc.? And why do we need labels at all? I suppose it has something to do with our need to (a) identify with a group for support and belonging and (b) immediately convey important facts about ourselves using only one word. If I were to tell you that I’m a vegetarian, you probably draw a conclusion right away, even though it may not be the right one. A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, but if someone tells you they’re a vegetarian, do you automatically assume they’re healthy? I ate a lot of chips and ice cream and beer this past week; not exactly healthy.

So, what did this vegetarian challenge change?

I guess I see myself as someone who fuels her body primarily with vegetables, fruit, grains, fish, cheese, eggs, and legumes. I want my food to bring me joy, corny as that sounds. I would like to eat more fish, and I think we’re already on track with this. Meat will make an appearance, but won’t necessarily be the star of the show or the centrepiece of my plate. Ideally I’d like the meat I consume to be meat that’s been harvested a certain way but I need to inquire more about this. That being said, I will continue to avoid eating beef.

I am terrible at meal planning and would really like to be better at this. If I am honest with myself I have to admit that I don’t plan our weekly meals because I’m lazy. If I have time to watch Homeland after the kids go to bed, certainly, I can sit down and figure out what we’re eating that week. As someone pointed out here recently (Wanda, I think it was you), families only have a certain amount of meals they eat anyway. Under twenty, let’s say. If Monday was meatless, Tuesdays were fish, the others would fall into place.  If there are vegetarians and non-vegetarians eating dinner at the same family table, it’s easy to plan a dinner in which meat isn’t missed: such as soup and grilled cheese, or fettucine alfredo and a big green salad. Mexican-style menus are also good for when there are vegetarians at the table. For example, tacos. Taco fillings in our house include cheddar cheese, red peppers, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa. It’s easy enough to make a sweet potato & black bean mix as an alternative to the bowl of taco meat.

Thanks again Fishies, for your emails and your support. A few of you sent me recipes too, which I really appreciate (and will try)! If you want to read all of the posts in this series. You can do so right here.


I’m deleting the page I used to track what I ate and copying it below for my own reference. Anything marked with an asterisk designates a vegan meal (no dairy, no egg). I could have eaten better but I think I did ok overall.

Day 1 (June 8)
- latte (made with milk)
- oatmeal with diced apple, raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon sugar*
Beetball sandwich from Victory Cafe
- black bean and roasted red pepper spicy fajita *
- snacks: coffee with milk, handful of raisins and pecans, ice cream

Day 2 (June 9)
- latte (made with milk)
- toasted rye with peanut butter and jam*
black bean and roasted red pepper soup (made from last night’s leftovers), Farm Boy multigrain toast with olive oil and green onions*
- Vegan “Caesar” Salad (romaine lettuce, croutons, marinated tofu, coconut bacon), roasted potatoes, 1/2 Spirit Tree Estate Cider*
- snacks: coffee with milk, nectarine, Farm Boy maple cookie, strawberries and cream

Day 3 (June 10)
- latte (made with milk)
- Almond-milk-based yogurt with granola and all-bran buds*
grilled cheese and apple on buttered multigrain sourdough bread
- vegetarian pad thai (here’s the recipe), sesame rice crackers
- snacks: coffee with milk, banana, apple, air-popped popcorn with butter

Day 4 (June 11)
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
- leftover vegetarian pad thai from last night
- kale salad with vegan caesar dressing, spinach and tofu samosas, radishes, pickled cucumber (homemade), beer *
- snacks: radishes, coffee with milk, mango soft serve (DIY), banana

Day 5 (June 12)
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
chickpea, avocado, feta salad
- homemade multigrain/thin crust pizza with cheese, pineapple and red onion; leaf lettuce, pickled cucumber (homemade), beer
- snacks: buttered multigrain toast, coffee with milk, potato chips

Day 6 (June 13)
- latte (made with milk)
- smoothie made with frozen mango, banana, and almond-based yogurt*
- vegan version of yesterday’s salad (chickpea, avocado, lime, cilantro) on multigrain sourdough toast*
- tomato and goat cheese bruschetta, grilled caesar salad
- snacks: Pommies apple cider, homemade chocolate chip cookies (3), homemade guacamole and multigrain nacho chips

Day 7 (June 14)
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
- 15-minute creamy avocado pasta from Oh She Glows (recipe here!)*
- veggie burger, coleslaw, raw veggies and dip, ice cream cake, white wine
- snacks: nectarine, buttered popcorn, crackers, beer, grapes, rum punch

Day 8 (June 15)
- latte (made with milk)
- Banana. Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
- leftovers from yesterday with an added tomato*
- fried egg, red pepper, potato pancakes
- snacks: coffee with milk (x2), salty fried mung beans, beer

Day 9 (June 16)
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
quinoa and barley mix with chickpeas, kale, cranberries, pecans, and a light lemon dressing*
- Fettucine alfredo, kale caesar salad, beer
- snacks: pretzels, coffee with milk, banana, a handful of NY Fries

Day 10 (June 17)
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
quinoa and barley mix with chickpeas, kale, cranberries, pecans, and a light lemon dressing (same as yesterday, plus a mango) *
- veggie burger, potato chips, corn on the cob, beer
-snacks: latte, mango

Day 11 (June 18)
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
leftover fettucine alfredo with kale and green onion
- vegan black bean and sweet potato tacos (sort of based on this recipe), beer, tortilla chips and salsa*
- snacks: DIY mango soft serve, coffee with milk, apple, rye toast with peanut butter

Day 12 (June 19)
- latte (made with milk)
- PC mini-naan bread with butter and peanut butter, handful of pecans
bannock, wild rice, and raw veggies
- mushroom and garlic pizza, garlic mayo dip, beer
- snacks: coffee with milk, potato chips, red pepper hummus & carrots with mini naan bread

Day 13 (June 20)
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
Farm Boy salad, sprouted peas, cherries*
- BBQ skewer with red pepper, red onion, halloumi cheese; onion rings, caesar salad, bread and butter, cherry pie and ice cream
- snacks: diet pepsi, Pringles, cherries, pita crisps and red pepper hummus, beer, wine spritzer (2)

Day 14 (June 21)
- latte (made with milk)
- toasted sourdough bread with sliced tomatoes*
Boca brand veggie burger on PC mini naan with tomato, lettuce and onion
- waffles and fruit salad
- snacks: coffee with milk, homemade butterscotch-chip cookies (x3), sprouted peas, cherries, white wine

Day 15 (June 22 )
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola and fresh berries, with coconut milk*
“Eggcado” sandwich from Victory Caffe
- roasted zucchini on a bun, sauteed mushrooms, quinoa/mixed veg salad with feta
- snacks: coffee with milk, homemade butterscotch-chip cookies (x2)

Day 16 (June 23)
- latte (made with milk)
- Granola with coconut milk*
-  quinoa/mixed veg salad with feta and roasted zucchini (leftovers from last night’s dinner)
- grilled cheese, quinoa/veg leftovers, white wine
- snacks: coffee with milk, cherries, tortilla chips with hot sauce, popcorn

Day 17 (June 24)
- latte (made with milk)
- grilled cheese sandwich
- quinoa/chickpea bowl*
- coleslaw, cheese/tomato/lettuce sandwich, potato chips
- snacks: banana milkshake

Day 18 (June 25)
- latte (made with milk)
- apple slices with peanut butter*
vegan vegetable curry*
- rice paper rolls with rice vermicelli, mint&basil, cucumber, carrot, shrimp, glass of wine
- snacks: latte, bowl of pea shoots with caesar dressing, slice of garlic bread, radishes

Day 19 (June 26)
- latte (made with milk)
- banana
- yesterday’s vegan vegetable curry with added lamb’s quarters and green onion (from our CSA!)*
- homemade multigrain pizza: mushrooms, red onion, lamb’s quarters, mozzarella, beer
- snacks: coffee with milk

Day 20 (June 27)
- latte (made with milk)
- toast with peanut butter and sliced banana*
- leftover pizza
- leftover pizza (yes, for lunch AND dinner. sigh.)
- snacks: potato chips, peach/yogurt smoothie, Farm Boy maple cookie

Day 21 (June 28)
- latte (made with milk), bagel with cream cheese and strawberries
- Boca burger, caesar salad, boiled potatoes, raw veggies and dip, drop biscuits with butter, white wine, ice cream
- snacks: banana, Party Mix




I’ve made this recipe for “sushi salad” I found on the Canadian Family website a few times. I think I need to start making it every week:

June 29 #dailylunches - sushi salad

Sidebar: I’ve been craving sushi for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been by the Naked Fish Sushi place in Westboro THREE TIMES, only to find a “sorry we’re renovating” sign on the door. (Hello! Why can’t you put an ETA on there too?) There is no information on their Facebook/Twitter/website.

In response to this sad state of affairs, the youngest and I made this sushi salad for lunch yesterday. Happily, it totally hit the spot. I made it using regular white rice because that’s all I had, but otherwise kept the recipe as-is. It is very flavourful, and made our tummies very happy. I think the avocado was the best part of this salad.

In other news, my 21-day vegetarian challenge is DONE. (!) I am still collecting my thoughts about it, so stay tuned for the final post in the series. You may or may not be surprised by the outcome. :)

27 Jun, 2015

Weekend reading: June 27 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

I’m very pleased to introduce a new patron to the Fishbowl: the Ontario Tire Stewardship. OTS is doing something really cool and I thought you’d like to know about it. The Community Renewal Fund is a fund offered by Ontario Tire Stewardship that gives Ontario communities the opportunity to build spaces using sustainable materials made with recycled rubber from Ontario tires. The fund awards eligible Ontario-based communities and organizations up to $50,000 towards the purchase and installation of Ontario-manufactured recycled rubber products such as rubber mulch, athletic and arena flooring, sidewalk pavers, and even playground surfacing. (!)

Basically, old tires are saved from the landfill, and a community gets a special space of their own. Check out these past recipients of the fund and see how recycled tires have made a big difference in communities across the province.

How many tires are we talking about here? Well, it’s significant.

OTS recycled tires

The Community Renewal Fun is designed to:

  • Rethink the way people approach new projects and consider sustainable options.
  • Support Ontario’s economy by choosing to Rebuild old or inefficiently used spaces using products made from locally produced recycled materials.
  • Renew public areas so they reach their full potential and can be enjoyed by the entire community.

The grant is open to municipalities, registered non-profit community groups or organizations, schools/colleges/universities, and First Nations communities throughout Ontario. To qualify, projects must use products made from Ontario recycled rubber and be completed within 12 months of approval. The space must be publicly accessible and wheelchair accessible too.

This year they have brought the entire application process online, making it even easier to apply. To get started, all eligible communities need to do is submit their proposal on the online submissions page.

It’s a win-win situation, don’t you think? The Community Renewal Fund is a wonderful way to build a better community while supporting the local economy – and the environment!

Visit Rethinktires.ca to apply online and learn more about the Community Renewal Fund.

Will be catch a movie at Westboro beach this year?

Movies on the Beach is one of the most fun things to do during the summer in Ottawa. It’s hosted by Majic 100 (who have renamed it Friday Night Flicks by the way) and it’s free! We’ve been to the one at Westboro Beach a few times, so if you’re planning on going, here’s what I recommend:

  • The movies start at sundown but arrive early to nab a good spot.
  • Since you’re arriving early, keep the kids occupied with outdoor toys (buckets and shovels are perfect for Westboro Beach!) or spread out a blanket and bring a picnic.
  • You can watch the movie on a blanket (kids might enjoy lying on the ground) but most folks bring lawn chairs. It’s really the most comfortable way to watch the movie. (At least it is for me!)
  • Don’t forget the popcorn and snacks!
  • Also, it might be an idea to tuck a flashlight and bug spray into your purse, just in case. It gets dark at Westboro Beach at night!

Here’s the schedule for Ottawa’s Movies on the Beach 2015

  • July 3, Mooney’s Bay Beach (Into the Woods)
  • July 17, Walter Baker Park (Big Hero 6)
  • July 31, Westboro Beach (Home)
  • August 14, Heritage Orleans Park (Box Trolls)
  • August 28, Larkin House Park (Annie)

I can’t speak for the other locations, but there’s washroom facilities and easy parking at Westboro Beach.

We’ve had great fun in past years! Consider making it a date with another family and meeting there. Do note: given the start time, movie night winds up being a late night for the youngest kiddos, so consider yourselves warned. :)


NAC Ottawa family events

Saunders Farm annual passes for family fun!

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Joan of Arc Academy in Ottawa

OMS Ottawa Montessori schools

Sara McConnell photography Ottawa

Rethink Tires - Community Renewal Fund

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  • Ginger: I am going to try this out!
  • Margaret Whitley: As a long time Montessori Educator, student, parent, and supporter, I am pleased to see your profile of OMS. They are a fine example of what Montesso
  • Michael Milsom: Way to push yourself out of the box to explore another dimension..taking us all along for the ride :-) 21 days ..is a LOT of days to commit to doing
  • My 21-day vegetarian challenge is done! >> a peek inside the fishbowl: […] and sweet potato tacos (sort of based on this recipe), beer, tortilla chips and salsa* - snacks: DIY mango soft serve, coffee with milk, a
  • 21-day vegetarian challenge – it’s done! >> a peek inside the fishbowl: […] alfredo with kale and green onion - vegan black bean and sweet potato tacos (sort of based on this recipe), beer, tortilla chips and salsa*
  • Dee: If you do this again, you can get veggie sausages for your breakfast. Give me a heads up and I'll get them for you - my pusher lives in MTL :)
  • Molly: Thanks for sharing the recipe! A is a big fan of Naked Fish and was equally disappointed to find out it was closed for renos the other day - I think

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!


My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

The #dailylunches project – 1000 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.


  • Two articles of mine were published in the summer issue of Ottawa Magazine. One is a Q&A with a dermatologist about summertime skin care (YES, those are my superwhite legs in the photo) and the other is a blogger face-off about bikinis.

    - #
  • So I was feeling a bit ranty and wrote this post about raising children in an age of zero privacy in the hopes it will start some conversations! Please leave your two cents 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.

    - #

On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

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