a peek inside the fishbowl

09 Dec, 2018

Weekend reading: December 8 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

06 Dec, 2018

Easiest flu shot ever?

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Is it just me, or is getting your flu shot is a heck of a lot easier now that you can get it done at your local pharmacy? No more calling and booking appointments, no more driving to the doctor’s, no more bad music in the waiting room. All I need to do is walk down the street to Shopper’s Drug Mart, fill out a form, flash my health card, wait until the pharmacist is free (it’s never been more than five minutes), and roll up my sleeve. Plus, there’s this:

Get your flu shot!

Does it hurt to get the flu shot?

No more than any other vaccination! In other words, it hurts a tiny bit but it’s over quickly. I hate getting shots but I do it because I know it’s a smart thing to do, not just for my own health, but to protect those around me (including a few senior citizens.) This part of the deal is nothing to sneeze at. It’s your call if you don’t care about being knocked out by the flu, but there are other people to think about. If you grocery shop, take the bus, work outside the home, eat in restaurants, go to the library…. basically, SEE PEOPLE, TOUCH THINGS, or BREATHE, you can infect anyone around you.

According to the CBC, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says the following people are at high-risk of influenza-related complications or hospitalization:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Adults and children with chronic health conditions;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities;
  • People 65 years of age and older;
  • Children younger than 60 months of age;
  • Indigenous peoples.

That’s not exactly a short list. Getting the flu isn’t just an extended rest on the couch and a Netflix binge. According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, approximately 3,500 people die of influenza-related issues each year in Canada. In Ontario, there are approximately 1,365 influenza-associated deaths per year in Ontario.

If you want to take a deep dive into the numbers, you can. Ottawa Public Health publishes up to date reports that highlight all kinds of information, including the number of laboratory-confirmed cases, flu shots delivered year-over-year, dominant strains and their peak “activity periods,” and more. (Go to this page and scroll down for the reports.)

Did you get your flu shot this year? Will you? Why or why not? I’d love to hear about your experience.

03 Dec, 2018

Date night at Zoe’s Lounge

By andrea tomkins in Ottawa

A couple weeks ago I was the lucky winner of an Instagram contest hosted by Ottawa photographer, Roland Bast. The prize was a charcuterie board and cocktails for two at Zoe’s Lounge, which is located inside the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.

I was so thrilled to win. I’ve been dying to check this place out for YEARS and somehow never got around to it. And when I learned that Zoe’s had been renovated, I was even more keen to experience this sophisticated downtown destination.

The view at Zoe's Lounge

I made a reservation and planned it all out with Mark. He works downtown, so we were going to meet up after work for a long-overdue date night.

It turned out that our date night was a particularly bitter and cold evening, but the sight of the old Chateau warmed me right up. It’s a gorgeous building, with so much history. We were itching to kickstart our evening and we scampered inside and made a beeline to Zoe’s.

Zoe’s is pretty much the perfect place to people watch, but it’s also a good place to simply let the world go by. We chose seats near the big window facing Rideau Street. Mark faced outward, and as it got darker and the street lights came on he watched buses pass by full of commuters and passers-by hurry to escape the chill. I was on a comfy couch and faced inward, toward the room. I watched well-heeled couples deep in conversation, and dark-suited young men watching the game. A mother and her young son ate dinner together. Girlfriends met for cocktails after a day of shopping.

We had plenty of time to defrost and disconnect from the wider world as we made our way through a delicious charcuterie board (the server had very good cheese know how!) and excellent cocktails.

Cocktails at Zoe's Lounge

Charcuterie Board at Zoe's Lounge, Chateau Laurier

My photos don’t do it justice, but a good charcuterie board is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the stomach. This was both! Unfortunately the lighting was dim and it made for a challenging photo op! (No complaints here though.)

Our food was great. The ambiance was pleasant and unhurried. We could have sat there longer but we had to get home and feed the dog. Sigh.

Is it weird to say that our short visit has stayed with me? It was bitterly cold that evening but, somehow, it was the perfect night to go out. It is such a nice treat to take a few moments to slow down during the busiest time of year. It was a gift, really. To have a few quiet moments to ourselves is something I’d like to do more often. To reconnect over a shared plate of great food and drink was, of course, a bonus. :)

A note: if you’re worried about parking, don’t be. We met up right after work, around 5 p.m., and there was plenty of street parking in the Byward Market at that time. (In fact, where I parked it’s free after 5:30!)

Thank you Roland and Zoe’s for a great night out! We will be back.

01 Dec, 2018

Weekend reading: December 1 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: The Rules of Magic: A Novel

I’ve written a lot about habits in past blog posts. Some of you already know that I have a small collection of daily habits that I’ve tweaked over time. I know what works for me. I know they work because if I drop the ball, I feel it. My daily routines include a 30-45 minute power walk (which I’ve now moved to the treadmill because of lousy weather), a blast of S.A.D. light, and a mix of vitamins (doctor’s orders). Of course, eating well and not going overboard with sugar, beer, and coffee, figures into that as well, but admittedly, that is harder to moderate.

My daily habits work well when I’m feeling good, but they become especially important during down days. The irony is that when I need my habits the most, it’s precisely the time they are hardest to keep.

I’ve added two other tiny habits to my life that have been making a difference, especially on those down days. Don’t laugh, but I’ve realized that the simple act of making the bed, and cleaning the bathroom sinks on a daily basis (!) makes me happier.

I’ve thought a lot about WHY these things make me happier and it’s because both of these things come with a distinct feeling of accomplishment even though they’re quick and easy. In a way, I’m tricking myself. As I’m doing these things, part of me tells myself: “SELF, if you can do these two things today, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.” Strangely, it works.

Making the bed every day never used to be a priority for me. I’d happily leave it exactly the way we left it in the morning. After all, we’re just going to mess it up again, right? But the feeling of sliding into a nicely made bed at the end of a long day is so satisfying that I decided to take two minutes every morning so I can be guaranteed that good feeling when it was time to hit the hay.

The bed is made

As you can see, I’m not fussy about HOW the bed is made, it’s just made. (Please just don’t look under the bed because the dust bunnies might shock you.)

As for cleaning the bathroom sinks every day, this is something I added to my daily routine a few weeks ago when Mark was sick with a cold. I really didn’t want to catch it so I was very motivated to clean the faucets, sinks, and counter. I always keep a spray cleaner and a microfibre cloth under the sinks anyway, so it actually isn’t much effort on my part. It really only takes me a minute to spray and wipe.

Every time I walk in there during the day I marvel at how clean the sinks are. Everything else is another story, but WOW, are my faucets shiny! I ROCK AT THIS.

I now wipe the sinks every morning, whether they need it or not. It’s a small habit, but it’s made a difference. It’s strange to say but it’s made a big difference to my mental health as well.

Perhaps this is just a case of small victories, after all, ANYONE can make the bed and wipe the sink, but small victories matter… and sometimes we have to take ’em wherever we can find ’em.

What do you think? Do you make your bed? If not, would you consider making it for seven days to see how it feels?


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  • K. Taggart: Yes! My family and I all get the flu shot every year. Why? Because we don't want the flu. We also don't want people we hang out with to get the flu. T
  • Computer Software: First of all I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question in which I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you
  • Claudette: The Globe article on the meal kit...it's interesting that no where does it mention that the convenience often, for many families, is directly related
  • Amy: I always make the bed, partly because my mom was a stickler for it growing up and partly because I make it easy to do. I have to have the sheets tuck
  • Donna: Thanks for this!! I am going to start this morning. One day at a time right.
  • Natalie Robichaud: I always make my bed. It's a small to do checked off the list and I like getting into a bed that's made at night. What SAD light do you use?
  • Jacquelyn: I've recently started vacuuming the kitchen and dining room floors every day. Previously, I would go weeks (!) between vacuumings. This was prompted

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). 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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