a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Oct, 2015

Weekend reading, for Binki

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

This list is for Binki, a blog reader who noticed that life got in the way and I didn’t post a weekend reading list. (Thanks Binki!) :)

I know there are a lot of community-minded folks who are on committees for parks and playgrounds and other community spaces. What if I told you that there is $50,000 grant for use towards a community project with your city’s name on it, just waiting to be claimed? 

Here’s the scoop:

  • Ontario Tire Stewardship’s Community Renewal Fund is a grant program that awards eligible Ontario-based communities and organizations up to $50,000 towards the purchase and installation of Ontario-manufactured recycled rubber products.
  • The grant is open to municipalities, registered non-profit community groups or organizations, schools/colleges/universities, and First Nations communities throughout Ontario.
  • Applicants can visit RethinkTires.ca to learn more and to submit an application.

As a thank you for checking out their website and helping spread the word, the folks at RethinkTires.ca have given me a couple things to give away to one reader anywhere in Ontario:

1) A handy roadside emergency kit to stash in your car. (Everyone should have one!)
2) A Multy Home Lexington Multi-Colored door mat made from recycled rubber.

From Rethinktires.ca

It’s easy. Just leave a comment below and you’re entered!

  • This giveaway is open to residents of Ontario. One entry per email address please.
  • 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 is void where prohibited by law.
  • I will draw one name using Random.org at noon EST on October 6 and I’ll contact the winner via email. The name of the winner will be posted here as well. So please check back!
  • Prizing will be mailed to the winner by Rethinktires.ca.

That’s it. Over to you. Good luck!

28 Sep, 2015

Things I am loving: this butter knife

By andrea tomkins in Oh! Things!

The eldest and I decided to check out a big Etsy-sponsored craft show at the Sensplex this weekend. It was hot, busy, and the overflow parking was overflowing, but I’m glad we went. I picked up a few really cool items (which you can see over here on Facebook!) including THIS…

It’s a butter knife. Here it is in its packaging:

Butter me up, two

… and here it is in action:

Butter me up

It might be a little kooky to love a butter knife this much, but I do. It fulfills my household shopping motto: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It is beautiful AND useful. This is why I like this knife. Also, it’s locally made by Infinite Purpose Jewelry. I fully expect that it will bring me hot buttered joy every day.

HERE’s a fun fact, in case you’re a design nerd who likes to Know Things. This is actually referred to as a master butter knife and it’s not intended to be used for spreading butter. It rests near the communal butter dish and the point is used to spear pats of butter and transfer them to your plate. Each place setting would have a butter spreader. It’s a small knife with a rounded tip so as not to tear the bread.


26 Sep, 2015

Weekend reading: September 26 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

For the recipe file: Slow Cooker Butter Chicken, canadianliving.com

On the nightstand: Misery

25 Sep, 2015

Device management in the home

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I have been working on a little project for MediaSmarts and it got me thinking of a modern day parenting issue I am going to call DEVICE MANAGEMENT.

Is a modern issue? My parents had to deal with device management a few decades ago too, but the devices back then were telephones with long curly cords, the television (all 13 channels or whatever), and well-thumbed issues of Teen Vogue. Maaaaybe the VCR could fall in that category too. Maybe.

Times sure have changed, haven’t they? The tech is changing at lightning speed and we’re all having a tough time keeping up with it all. There are new apps, new sites, new social media tools to keep track of. Perhaps the best way to tackle it is to not worry about the individual tools so much, but to make sure our kids have been given a bit of guidance before launching in to it all.

I think a good strategy for dealing with people on social media boils down to one word: kindness. If we teach our kids to be kind, to respect others and treat others in the way we ourselves would like to be treated, everything should be ok. Of course, we also have to teach our kids to not give out their personal information to people online, share passwords etc etc. but I still maintain that kindness must be the foundation of all of our actions online.

Anyway, I digress. I think device management (a.k.a limiting how much time our kids spend online) is something that is worth thinking a bit about before they get their hands on a device. It’s much easier this way, trust me.

This is the way we do it here at Casa Fishbowl. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.

1) TV: it’s surprising how little traditional TV the girls watch so there is really no need to set limits here. We do however, continue to have a No Netflix Tuesday rule. Somehow, it works. Amazingly the girls find something else to do on these days.

2) Devices are not to be brought to the dinner table. This is family time! The rule applies to parents too.

3) Devices are to be plugged in/on the charging station by 9 p.m. every night. The charging station is downstairs in the office. It used to be in the kitchen – a high-traffic area – but the temptation to check it while passing by is too great and the tangle of cords was starting to make me a little crazy. It’s better to be charging out of sight somewhere else, like on an electric typewriter, for example.

Here’s what that looks like. It’s not fancy, but I enjoy the irony of it all:

Typewriter charging "station"

Cords in behind

Most of our devices end up next to the thing, so the cords aren’t completely eliminated, but it works for us:

Our typewriter charging station

4) Related: I think having devices in the bedrooms is a bad idea, for several reasons. (a) SLEEP. Devices emit a spectrum of light that are disruptive to sleep patterns. (b) SLEEP. Even though the alerts and buzzes and beeps can be turned off, some kids will be texting into the wee hours, no matter what.

5) Here’s something: instead of nagging kids to get off their devices it might be an idea to simply keep them occupied with something else. Chores, hobbies, homework, a trip to the library, etc. If their hands are occupied, they won’t be so quick to pick up their devices.

Did you know that the Apple AirPort Extreme has a really interesting feature that might be appealing to networked families:

A useful access control feature lets you decide not only who accesses your network but also when they can access it. If you have kids with their own computers, for example, you can control the times they’re allowed to access the network. They can have accounts that are available only at certain hours of the day — for example, when you can be home to keep an eye on them.

Pretty good eh?

You know what part of the problem is for me, at least in terms of heavy device use? Portability. The fact that the device is portable is convenient, almost too convenient. I keep my iPhone in my pocket so I am more likely to check it whether or not it notifies me of something in my network just because it’s THERE. If all I had was a desktop computer, I wouldn’t be checking it nearly as often. Sigh.

How do you manage your devices at home? I’d love to hear about your strategies!

23 Sep, 2015

Picture day

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Confession: I like picture day, and I always have. And it’s picture day today for our two daughters.

This might seem a little strange coming from a photography nerd who partially makes her living taking photos and keeps 20,000 of them in a family digital archive (I’m not even kidding), but there it is.

I love those picture day portraits, because they document the passage of time in a very clear way. The poses are always the same, as are the backgrounds (more or less). The only thing that interrupts all that sameness is the passage of time, which is reflected in their changing faces, hairstyles, and outfits of choice. The obvious and true observation to make is that it’s amazing to see how much they change every year.

Yes, the photos are kind of cheesy. Yes, the package deals are kind of a rip off and the ordering system is archaic, but I won’t stop shelling out until the girls are out of school. I just can’t bring myself to drop picture day.

Picture day is a lot different now that the girls are teenagers. Picture day USED to be favourite dresses (mostly MY favourite dresses, ahem) and carefully brushed hair (most of the time). It’s a lot more casual now. It’s just showing up in your fave t-shirt for the most part. And perhaps it’s seen as uncool if you hint at efforts beyond a touch of makeup and carefully arranged hair.

At some point a few years ago I had the idea that I would keep all of the 8x10s from their photo packages into an album with plastic sleeves. I slide them in so each pair of pages facing each other is from the same year. Turn the page, and it shows the next year, and so on. And that’s all that’s in this book: no artfully designed layouts, no fancy displays of penmanship, no scrapbook corners.

Memories of picture day

The album idea is a very low-maintenance way of keeping them handy, but here’s where I have to confess that I haven’t added the photos for the last couple of years. (Gah. I know they’re around here SOMEWHERE). It is very nice though, to be able to pick it up and flip through the pages. It’s a walk down memory land every time, at which point I always find myself wondering how it is we have become parents of teenagers. Sigh.

It’s funny to think about how much photography has change as a whole. The overwhelming majority, say 99.9% of the photos we have, exist only in digital format on our hard drives: ones and zeros arranged to show the nose they inherited from their mother, or blue eyes from their father.

The picture day photos are actually among the few prints we own, which again reminds me of how precarious our digital photo libraries are. What if our house burned down? Well, at least I could grab my album of picture day photos on the way out the door…



NAC Ottawa culture days

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

Rethink Tires - Community Renewal Fund

terra20 Ottawa

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Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

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  • Shannon Barlow: Gorgeous door mat. So many uses for tires, who knew?! Thanks for the chance.
  • Binki: No Weekend Reading last weekend? :(
  • Marielle: Such a pretty door mat!
  • Chrissy: Beautiful mat! Almost too nice to step on. :)
  • TD: The Mat is great. We are talking of getting a new mat for the front door soon. The car kit would be useful too.
  • Katie: thanks for the information about the grant, and the give away!
  • Jenn: We definitely need an emergency car kit! And the doormat would be a welcome replacement for a very worn plain one. Thanks for the opportunity!

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 (16) and Sarah (14). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, 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.


On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

All hail the mighty Twitter