a peek inside the fishbowl

I was talking to someone today about how SOME people say that Ottawa is boring. Urgh. I hate those people. Folks, if you think Ottawa is boring, YOU are boring. There is so much great stuff going on, and so much of it is free. All you need to know, is how to find out about it. :) So, in the interest of Finding Out About Things, if you’re looking something fun and interesting (and free!) to do in Ottawa, consider the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival. It’s taking place at Vincent Massey Park from June 21 to 24. There is a full program of events and activities scheduled and all of it is family-friendly.

For example, this year’s Family Fun Zone (combined with free admission!) definitely makes the festival an appealing destination for Ottawa families. There are bungee trampolines, bouncy-inflatables, a rock climbing wall, interactive arts, crafts and culinary pavilions, and a live Birds of Prey show. There is much to see and learn about!

A big item on the program is the 2018 Summer Solstice Competition Pow Wow. It attracts the best singers and dancers from across North America and there is $75,000 worth of prizes at stake. Trust me when I say this will be a sight to behold.

Of course, food is a big part of any celebration and there’s food to be found here as well in the form of a special Long Table luncheon or dinner on Friday June 22. These top chefs are bringing some amazing meals to the table. (You can read more about them on the bottom of this page.)

It’s a droolworthy menu for sure. The lunch menu includes: Toasted Sunflower Seed Latte (garnished with whipped cream and cinnamon); Quinoa and Smoked Venison Salad with Quail Eggs and Mixed Greens tossed in a Cedar Vinaigrette (garnished with fresh chives); Pulled Duck Slider in Mexican Molé Sauce with Three Sisters Relish.

Behold the dinner menu: Birch Syrup and Cranberry Wine-soaked Blueberry and Blackcurrant Shooter (garnished with greek yogurt and fresh mint); Roasted Corn, Red Pepper, and Cauliflower Salad with Dandelion Greens and Wild Rice tossed in a Walnut and Juniper Berry Vinaigrette; Elderflower-infused Tomatoes with Mushrooms, Avocado and Garlic Aioli (garnished with Fresh Thyme and Sumac Spice); Sunchoke and New Potato Salad with Spruce Tip-infused Asparagus tossed in a Herb Vinaigrette (garnished with Blackened Mint Dust); Braised Bison Osso Bucco in a Red Wine and Herb Sauce.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I was offered tickets and I wish I could go, but we’re booked. The silver lining here, of course, is that YOU can win tickets for yourself and three of your friends or family members.

These meals are family-friendly but I’m thinking this would this would also make a fun date night!

Interested in this spectacular culinary experience? Please review the details before you put your name down:

  • This giveaway is for four tickets to the 2018 Long Table luncheon or dinner at the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival and will be given to one individual.
  • In order for your entry to qualify, all you need to do is (a) Check out the event details on the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival website and (b) leave a comment below letting me know whether you prefer lunch tickets or dinner tickets.
  • For a bonus second entry, leave a second comment letting us know what other sights or activities you’d like to take in while you are at the festival.
  • One entry per email address, please, but make sure you’re able to attend before you enter. e.g. Babysitter is available, your calendar is cleared. Thank you!
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • If you can’t post your comment for whatever reason, you can email it to andrea at quietfish dot com. Please note, I cannot be responsible if your entry is misdirected or gets stuck in my Spam folder.
  • I will draw the winning name using Random.org at 6 p.m. EST on June 20, 2018. I’ll contact the winner via email at that time and post the name here as well.

Sound good? Over to you!

16 Jun, 2018

Weekend roundup: June 16 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: The Good Daughter: A Novel

12 Jun, 2018

Like a kid in a candy store

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I was photographing a woman who lives in my area for a Q&A to be published in the next edition of Kitchissippi Times. She’s a fitness coach for older adults and we got to chatting about this and that. Of course, given her area of expertise, we talked about health and fitness, especially the question of Getting Fit. How does one get fit, exactly? And how do we maintain a decent level of fitness? Some would recommend joining a gym. We certainly see enough articles about THAT in early January. Just lace up and hit the gym! Easy peasy, right? I’m willing to bet that a very very small percentage of people who join a gym learn to love the gym enough to stick with it for the rest of their lives.

The trick is, of course, to find an activity that you love enough so it gets you off the couch. Many experts recommend you look to your childhood if you’re wondering what that activity might be. Maybe you were the kid who ran circles around the other kids during track and field. Maybe you swam across the lake at the cottage every year. I was a kid on a bike.

Things were different back then. (I am, of course, referring to the 1980s.) My bike was purple, with a banana seat and big handle bars, sort of like this:

I wish I had a photo of me and my bike. I remember having those colourful and crinkly handlebar streamers and putting cards in the spokes with a clothes pin smuggled from someone’s laundry line. That bike meant freedom – wind in my hair, a pleasant ache in my legs, the sound of gravel crunching under my tires and the soft puttering sound of the cards in the spokes – the feeling that came with that was as big as the sky and as wide as the world around me.

In those days, I had every crack in the driveway, the curbs, and the road, memorized. That’s how much time we spent outside. I have no idea how old I was, but I remember sitting with another kid, picking clover or dandelions or perhaps playing “tree or bush” with grass that was about to go to seed and having this conversation:

“Is today summer?”
“Yes, today is summer.”
“What about tomorrow?”
“Yes, that’s summer too.”
“And the next day?”
“And the next day?”

We both were awed by the very idea of a summer that sprawled so far ahead of us, so far, in fact, we couldn’t even figure it out. We just knew that summer seemed to be endless, until it ended.

On our bikes, we’d compete to see who could pull off the longest skid mark in the sand. This was accomplished by riding as fast as you possibly could and then slamming the brakes at the edge of the Skidding Area (which was really just sand and gravel at the side of the road). There was always some boy trying to be Evil Kinevil or attempting to “pop a wheelie.” I noted very early on that boys would try just about anything to impress us girls, especially if it resulted in road rash.

No one wore helmets. This would have been a foreign concept to us at the time, same as the concept of bringing a water bottle or a wallet. Everyone knew that if you were thirsty you just drank water straight out of the hose. Or maybe if you were lucky, Paul’s grandpa would make Kool-aid and dole it out to us in Dixie cups again. During the day, venturing indoors – even for a moment – was risky business because your parents might remember there were chores to be done, or suddenly take you clothes shopping or something equally horrible. Out of sight out of mind was our mantra.

We were completely unencumbered, by anything, really. Even life itself. It was, after all, summer. As long as we were in by the time the porch light went on, everything would be fine.

We had a variety of destinations. Up until the sixth grade I played with the kids in my immediate neighbourhood; on my street or one or two streets over. Bikes often littered the driveways or lawns, depending, of course, upon that day’s adventures.

Two of our neighbours’ driveways were steeper and connected in the middle, which gave us a unique opportunity to swoop from one side to the other while executing daring tricks and stunts to impress the younger siblings. One time we told them they needed to pay admission to our bike show.

We also biked to the park or to the public pool, but our favourite destination was the candy store. It was called the Carousel. (I grew up in Bramalea, which was annexed to Brampton at some point.) It was a bit of a bike ride away and involved a major intersection, but that was no big deal. All we needed for a trip to the Carousel was pocket change.

I remember marshmallow strawberries in paper bags. Packages of ‘Lik m’Aid,’ Nerds, Sweet Tarts, boxes of pink popcorn, Cracker Jack (when the prize inside used to be good!) and Big League Chew. It was cool to buy Popeye candy “cigarettes” and bring them out during recess. It was a tube of brittle candy that had a red dot on one end and was wrapped with white paper in a way that each end was exposed. If you blew through it (like you would blow air through a straw) the candy dust would come out the red-tipped end, thus creating the illusion that you were actually smoking. This was cool. (I know, I still can’t believe it either.)

I seem to recall the Carousel sold toys too – Silly Putty and Slinkies – but I may be misremembering. What I DEFINITELY remember is how much I wanted a Monchichi toy. I still remember the commercial.

Mexican jumping beans, on the other hand, was a novelty I could afford. Or perhaps I had convinced my parents to buy some at the hardware store, where they were displayed on a rack in their tiny clear boxes right by the cash register.

The Carousel had cardboard cartons of “lucky” rabbit feet – piles of them – dyed in a rainbow of colours, mint green, lilac, pink, pale blue. There was a small chain on one side so you could use the limb as a keychain. I thought this was macabre, even as a kid.

The Carousel was a popular destination for frozen treats. Freezies were cheap (they cut them open with giant scissors right on the spot, but if you forgot to ask you’d have to rip the end open with your teeth) and there were also popsicles. If you were short on cash maybe one of your friends would split one with you, although this could be a challenge because sometimes they wouldn’t break evenly along the middle gully. Sometimes it broke across the middle the wrong way, which meant that someone got the top half (i.e. the part without a stick in it) and had to be eaten quickly before it melted. Grape popsicles were especially tricky and everyone was afraid of what their mother would do if they came home with purple stains down the front of their t-shirt.

Rockets, Fudgesicles, Creamsicles, ice cream sandwiches, were special and kind of a big deal if you got one. They were a heavenly respite from the heat of the summer PLUS you were the envy of others. Sundaes were a particular favourite of mine. These were essentially small cups of ice cream with a lid you peeled back. It also came with a wooden tool with which to eat it. It was supposed to be a spoon, I guess, but it’s really just a flat stick that’s wider and rounded on each end. You used this utensil to eat the ice cream, obviously, but as it happens, it was always the last thing in your mouth after the ice cream was eaten. Some kids would chew this spoon-stick for awhile in order to extract everything they possibly could from it. The feeling of the wooden stick in my mouth, along with its mild vanilla flavour, is one that will always remind me of those summers.

I was thinking of all of this yesterday, and more, while the eldest and I rode our bikes to Britannia Beach. I thought about how good it feels to ride somewhere on your own steam; the ache in my legs. I may not have streamers on my handlebars anymore, or a banana seat, or a big rubber horn to honk with happiness when the mood struck me, but the wind in my face and the sun on my skin is still the same.

09 Jun, 2018

Weekend reading: June 8 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

08 Jun, 2018

Squirrel combat gets real

By andrea tomkins in Home/reno

In a recent post about our garden, I mentioned that squirrels have been digging into my containers. It’s really frustrating. It’s not like I’ve been stashing peanuts in there or anything. It’s not like those plants are EDIBLE, but they’re dug up and disturbed and don’t get a chance to grow. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Step one: research a natural squirrel repellant.

I read that they don’t like human smells so I grabbed a ball of dryer lint and liberally sprinkled it with cinnamon for an extra touch. Some people use ground chili peppers but I didn’t want to hurt the poor things.

I buried it in one of our containers. 24 hours later, I found this:

My natural squirrel repellent didn’t repel

I totally understand if you’re not sure what you’re looking at there, but it’s my ball of dryer lint, dug up and discarded in a way that I was SURE TO SEE IT. Those squirrels sure know how to play with your mind, don’t they?

So, that didn’t work. Obv. I was still reluctant to pour cayenne pepper into my flower beds but I happened to be at the grocery store when I spotted these:

Homemade squirrel repellant solutions

… they were on the “last chance” produce rack at my local Loblaws, which means they’re one step away from developing green fuzz. At 50% off, I grabbed two packages, thinking that I could bury one or two peppers in each planter. And so I did. (This is the scene before I buried the pepper, for scale.)

Homemade squirrel repellant solutions

That photo was taken before I buried the peppers, and before the huge rainshower we had the other day. I’ve been patrolling the containers and so far so good. I am hoping that the smell of the peppers will send them into spasms of worry and will cause the little varmints to redirect their energies elsewhere.  If my plan fails, I’ll have no choice but to put them all in a blender (er, the peppers, not the squirrels) and for a DIY pepper spray kind of concoction. Stay tuned!



Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

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  • Ar: I would also check out the round dancing
  • Ar: dinner, looks amazing!
  • Kate: Dinner. Looks awesome!
  • Danielle: Oh, lunch. What a lunch it would be!!
  • Claudette: Gosh, summer did seem so endless back then...now, I yearn for it to arrive and within a couple of weeks I start panicking that before we know it, it'l
  • Jinjer: The world would be a happier place if we all had a corner store like that and could ride our bikes everywhere!!! Thanks for sharing such a SWEET memor
  • Marc: I put crushed egg shells down in my garden, and it tends to discourage squirrels and neighbourhood cats from digging around. They don't like the feel

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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