a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Aug, 2017

Weekend reading: August 19 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

18 Aug, 2017

Birthday wishes

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I was craving a sweet coffee beverage at Starbucks this afternoon but decided to make something for myself here at home instead. The reason: it hurts to move. You see, yesterday, I decided to finally try a fitness app I downloaded MONTHS ago. It’s called SEVEN and it’s an intense whole body workout that doesn’t require anything other than (a) your body (b) gravity, and (c) a chair.

I’ve been pretty good on the treadmill, and I figured, hey, adding seven minutes to my daily routine shouldn’t be a big deal, amirite?



I could hardly get out of bed this morning, that’s how achy breaky I was. Even my armpits hurt! I hobbleshuffled to the bathroom to down a couple of Advils just so I could make it down the stairs without killing myself.

So instead of tapping this post out at a busy coffee shop with a frothy drink by my side, I am at home, enjoying my own concoction of a double espresso with a teaspoon of coconut oil and a teaspoon of maple syrup and topped with icy cold milk. And you know what, it’s fitting the bill at the moment.

In other news: I am trying to recreate a vegetarian Big Mac here at home but can’t bring myself to buy processed cheese.

In OTHER news: I am turning 45 tomorrow. 45! As per tradition here at Casa Fishbowl, the birthday celebrant gets to dictate the day. The original plan was to go to Kontinuum in the morning (we’re already booked), followed by lunch (location TBD), a kayaking at Dows Lake, then sushi and a stroll around Preston Street. Unfortunately, they’re calling for rain so watersports and other outdoor activities will have to be postponed.

For the past few years I’ve tried to seek growth or challenge myself in some way on my birthday. I should probably challenge myself more often, but the way I see it, there’s no better time to make the effort to prove that I’m alive than on the Anniversary of The Day of My Birth. Last year we biked to the National Gallery to take in an amazing exhibition. That was pretty tame compared to the year we hiked the Lusk Falls Trail in Gatineau. The girls STILL talk about it. (And let’s be clear, it was a victory for everyone but they remember this particular birthday outing as something akin to a torture session.)

I have decided to change things up a bit this year. This year, I am starting a new tradition. What got me thinking about this, weirdly, is a scholarship that was awarded to one of my eldest daughter’s friends. One of the main requirements of this scholarship was to learn a new skill for each year of high school. So, for him, it was four new skills.

Now, I’ve learned a lot of things in my lifetime, and I learn every day, but a lot of the things I’m learning are neither fun nor helping me grow much as a person. For example, learning how to use the Flipp app is great for saving a few bucks at the grocery store, but it is making me a better, more well-rounded individual? Somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten to focus on learning. And isn’t that what life is about? (Ok, you could argue that last point, but you catch my drift, right?)

So here’s my pledge: I’m going to learn something new every year until The End. It’s a big promise to make to myself, not to mention the fact that I’ve just shouted it from the proverbial rooftop, but I think this could only be good for me.

At the moment I have a tab open with all of the courses offered at Algonquin College. The smarter, more rational side of me thinks I should dedicate my year to something that will expand my career options and marketable skills. The fun and less boring side of me… is considering ukulele lessons. Or pastry making, although boxing could be cool too. (I’ve always wanted to be able to punch someone effectively.)

What would YOU like to do or learn more about? A language? An instrument? A sport? Help!

To review: every other Tuesday is my day off and I’m trying to use this time to recharge my batteries. No work, no meetings, minimal errands. Last time, I biked to Tavern on the Hill for beer and hotdogs! 

When I started being a bit more mindful of how I spent my days off I swore up and down that I wouldn’t work or do groceries, but I almost always end up doing a bit of both. This is what happens when you don’t work a traditional 9-5 job.

So I got work stuff out of the way in the morning so I could grab lunch at the Aquatopia Conservatory Cafe. It’s on March Road as you approach Almonte; a bit of a trek, for sure, but I was looking forward to a peaceful lunch. Here’s what it looks like on the outside, from the parking lot:

Aquatopia Conservatory

When you step inside there are some plant displays here and there, and a long counter and cash register. At first I was at a bit of a loss. Cafe sounds and smells were audible. Should I go straight in? Wait for the staffer to return to the desk? (I hate having to worry about these things, but I do.)

I opted to wait, and a young lady brought me around to the back. I was given a choice of seats and picked one near the back.

Inside the Aquatopia Cafe

It’s a neat idea, that is, to have a cafe in a greenhouse. It’s a tranquil and pretty setting, for sure, with the plants, ponds, and sound of water spilling gently into pools. I had a bit of time to look around and absorb the views.

Sidebar: As I waited for a server to come over I thought a lot about my previous experiences as a solo diner. The way a restaurant treats its solo diners is a real test of their customer service skills. I don’t expect special treatment but I do appreciate when hosts and servers are mindful. For example, in one restaurant, I was seated at the head of a harvest table that stretched across the back of the room, even though there were plenty of other seats available at smaller tables. Newsflash, solo diners usually don’t want to be the centre of attention, eg. at the centre of a room, featured prominently at a massive table for 12, or plopped down next to the washrooms! I also appreciate it when servers whisk the extra cutlery away and pour me a glass of water, and generally speaking, not treat me like a weirdo for eating alone. (“WHAT? TABLE FOR ONE? Okaaaay.” It’s happened.)

But getting back to the Aquatopia Cafe, where I started to feel a bit neglected after awhile. No menu was forthcoming, not even an “I’ll be right with you” nod, which I appreciate and accept. Heck, I know people are busy! It’s a real art, isn’t it? Servers want to give people space and privacy, but it’s a fine line between that and neglect. And it differs from person to person. As a solo diner, my sense of time is distorted because it’s just me, alone. If I’m with someone else there is chatting and joking around, which makes one’s sense of the passage of time very different. Waiting for a menu for 15 minutes is different when you’re alone and hungry to boot.

ANYHOO, once the server eventually came around, my situation improved. I ordered an iced tea to start (it was excellent) and browsed the menu, which looked pretty good. I ordered the Delectable Pear & Brie, which is described as “sliced pear & brie cheese drizzled with a light honey mustard dressing on a dense, artisan cranberry-walnut bread.” Here it is:

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  • andrea tomkins: Part two is here! http://quietfish.com/notebook/2015/08/camping-at-achray-algonquin-park/
  • andrea tomkins: Ah! These are great. I am intrigued by Spanish. Urban sketching too! Also, bike repair! Ok. I have some thinking to do...
  • Sherrilynne: This looks a really fun run. Don't give up on running altogether. Give yourself a break and try something else for a while. You can always run agai
  • mimi: Spanish, how to read charted knitting patterns, how to play the concertina, American Sign Language, crochet, bike repair skills, basic building skills
  • Karen W: Currently I'm learning Urban Sketching by taking a course at Sketchbook Skool online. I've never been good at drawing but wonkyness is embraced in ur
  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Birthday wishes - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] Gallery to take in an amazing exhibition. That was pretty tame compared to the year we hiked the Lusk Falls Trail in Gatineau. The girls STI
  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Birthday wishes - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] on the Anniversary of The Day of My Birth. Last year we biked to the National Gallery to take in an amazing exhibition. That was pretty tame

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 (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. 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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