a peek inside the fishbowl

07 Apr, 2021

Long weekend views

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I really needed this past long weekend and I really needed this glorious weather.

We went for quite a few long walks around our neighbourhood. After all, what else is there to do?

Most of the time we just walked the streets around here but now and then we decided to shake things up with a walk down to the Ottawa River, or up Carlington Hill:

Piper atop Carlington Hill

Hampton Park Woods was also a nice destination:

Woodsy walk around Hampton Woods

Who was it that said spring is like summer in the light, and winter in the shade? That’s what I thought about this weekend, as I scraped a layer of dead leaves from a layer of decorative rock at the side of our house only to find a thick layer of ice underneath. Meanwhile, in the sunny part of the backyard, bits of budding greenery decorate a bird party that features an all-you-can-eat buffet and a jacuzzi.

Birds bathing

There are actually three birds in the photo above.  You might have to click to enlarge the image to spot them all.

The squirrels are also out in full force. This one was lining its nest with extra flair, faintly hoping that Backyard Critter and Burrow Magazine will take notice of this fancy renovation:

Squirrel with pretty string

And of course, there was Easter chocolate, and carrot cake. (Here’s the recipe! It’s a keeper for sure.)

Carrot cake

Easter with older kids/young adults is miles away from Easter morning days gone by. For starters, it’s definitely a lot quieter.

I can’t rightly complain though.

Easter morning

Some of the Easter haul

I hope your weekend was a tranquil one and that you’re enjoy some of this lovely weather.

26 Mar, 2021


By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

What’s new? Well, never in my life have I gone on so many walks. We are walking here, there, everywhere. We walk the dog. We walk at lunch. I walk in the morning. We walk on the weekends. We walk to the store. That sounds like a lot of walking, and it is, but I do it because I know how much it helps me and I also know how I feel when I don’t do it.

Last night I went on a walk with a friend and I found a perfectly lovely vintage Pyrex bowl in someone’s garbage! (Stay tuned for my next blog post: “Walking For Profit.”) ;)

Last weekend we walked from Westboro Beach to Mud Lake, with a stop at the Britannia location of Farm Boy to buy picnic items and something for dinner, for a total distance of 11K. (!!)

Walking walking walking

Yes, it took a long time, and it was glorious. The sun was shining, the birds were all a’twitter, and the views were lovely. It was tough on my feet but at the same time, completely restorative.

I had a bit of an online shopping spree today. Remember my duvet upgrade earlier in the pandemic (and the unfortunate incident with the old one)? Since that time we bought new bedsheets and a pair of feather pillows (all great deals at Costco!) and a lighter duvet from IKEA for when the warmer weather hits.

Today, I bought a new duvet cover from Simons. I am wary of buying bed linens online because the feel of them is important to me, but I hit a breaking point and couldn’t help myself. While I was there I got sucked in to buying some new cloth napkins, which is good because our current assortment is driving me a bit batty.

Speaking of breaking points, I’ve been cleaning up/changing up the home office in fits and spurts. I spend a lot of time here and I need it to be… different. I’m in the process of giving away our extra office chair and looking into shelving or something for behind my computer (which is a corner desk, so, a bit weird). I welcome any and all feedback!

There are a few other things that are tempting me right now (don’t even ask me how many tabs I have open at the moment):

This is my view for many minutes at a time on weekends, but only when I don’t feel like I have (metaphorical) ants in my pants (which is frequently).

Sundays during a pandemic

The dog got a bath. (Last weekend I sewed her some bandanas, if you can believe it.)

Piper's new bandana

I read my library book. I have been reading lots of library books.

I received a pair of sneakers that I ordered online.

I did some laundry.

We visited an elderly individual in our circle who needs support.

We went for walks.

We shovelled the driveway.

We watched the Lego Movie.

We watched a few episodes of Call My Agent. (Highly recommend! It’s on Netflix.)

We watched the action on our bird feeders.

I tried out this “no-knead” bread recipe and IT WAS GOOD.

Someone decided to bring some Sea Monkeys to life. Stay tuned for the Sea Monkey report.

There’s a puzzle that’s been sitting out since Christmas that still needs to be done.

I miss spontaneous trips to a pub.

I miss work life at the office.

I miss ordinary interactions with people.

I miss the freedom that comes with simply walking out the door and not worrying.


When our daughters went away to university I discovered I liked making care packages for them.

Here’s one package, and another, just to give you a sense of the kinds of things I sent.

Of course, these were created and sent in the Before Times. It was a process. Building a care package took time, dare I say, weeks. I’d pick things up here and there on my shopping travels, always in person, never online. I’d slowly accumulate a nice collection of stuff and then when I had enough, I’d pop everything in a box I’d saved (cereal boxes were pretty good), and run it down to the post office to have it weighed and shipped.

And then Covid came along and ruined everything. Suddenly, those care packages weren’t so easy for me to pull together. I supposed I COULD order a bunch of junk on Amazon, but that’s not quite the same as a package that developed over time with items sourced from local shops. For the most part, I’ve been avoiding bricks and mortar shops altogether. And when/if I am in a store, it’s likely a grocery store at a time when my brain is in a different gear altogether. Add to this, I haven’t been to the post office since before Christmas. I didn’t have a great experience when I was there and I’m not eager to return.

So what’s a mother to do when her youngest kid is having a rough week?

Sidebar: I won’t go into details about her particular situation but I will say that although many people are having a tough time, my heart really goes out to teens and young adults. They are supposed to be busy living their young lives, and instead, they are staying home and wearing masks and being responsible and afraid and also missing out on the typical milestones and experiences and shenanigans the rest of us older folks look back on with a mixture of fondness and abject horror.

ANYHOO. I wanted to cheer the kid up but my tried and true care package tradition wasn’t happening. And that’s when I remembered all the conversations I’ve seen this past year about Instacart. If you aren’t in the know, Instacart is a grocery ordering service that is available in larger metropolitan areas. I never used it because we’d been doing ok with curbside pickup at our usual store, but I suddenly saw a use for it. I could place an order and have it delivered to the kid, in Kingston.

And so I did! I ordered her usual grocery staples but also some treats (chocolate, ice-cream etc.), and a box of frozen chicken wings for her to share with her roommates.


It was very easy to download the app and place the order. I had the option to have it delivered that evening, which is what I did because I knew she was going to be home. Instacart is like a grocery store Uber, in that once I place my order, someone in Kingston is contracted to do the groceries and deliver them. Interestingly, like Uber, the shopper can send a message to me through the app. I wasn’t sure about this feature at first but it came in handy when a couple of the products I ordered weren’t available and last-minute substitutions had to be made.

I realized Instacart also solved a problem I’d always had with traditional care packages sent by mail: you can’t send perishable food. I mean, chips, chocolate, and homemade cookies are nice to send but sometimes a gal just really craves avocado toast, you know what I mean?:)

The price of my grocery order was comparable to what I’d normally pay. Delivery cost an extra six bucks (and I also  tipped). It’s worth pointing out that even though there is an extra cost associated with grocery delivery, it was still cheaper than sending a package by Canada Post.

I was very pleased by the whole process. And the kid? She was very surprised! I told her to expect a delivery of SOMETHING around 5 p.m. She had no idea what it was going to be, and was thrilled and cheered by it all, even the broccoli.

26 Feb, 2021

Read this one thing today

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

“We can’t hold on to damaged things forever. But we can renew their purpose.”

>> rebuilt: on searching for answers to the only question that matters


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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. 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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