a peek inside the fishbowl

Awhile back I posted a General Life Update in which I revealed a few big things coming down the pipeline for my family and I. In that post I wrote about my departure as managing editor of Kitchissippi Times but what I didn’t mention was how thrilled I was with my final issue. The theme was one I’d been planning for some time and thanks to a lot of people including Paula Roy – a regular contributor to KT who happens to be one of the most fabulous foodies I know in Ottawa – we made it happen.

The July issue of KT was all about pizza. You can read the digital edition of it right here. We had a lot of fun with this one and I am grateful to everyone who indulged me, contributed photos and articles, and helped pull it together. :)

The pizza issue!

I like pizza just as much as the next person (or maybe a tiny bit more) but I also think pizza reflects the great diversity of our community. It’s a humble and economical food – a slice can be had for only a few bucks – but it can also be very fancypants with gourmet toppings prepared by top-tier restaurants.

So how can someone take a universal food like pizza and turn it into a major focal point of a very local community newspaper? Good question.

  • Paula wrote a fabulous introduction to the topic and shared her own tips and tricks as well as some of her personal history with pizza. (It’s not what you’d expect for a foodie!)
  • Paula also shared her tried-and-true recipe for pizza dough. I use one that’s close to this, but I’m definitely going to give hers a try. Also useful: her suggestions on where to source local ingredients if you’re making your own. There are some great ideas here!
  • I REALLY liked this collection of beverages to pair with pizza and I’ve made note of these great wine, beer, and cider recommendations straight from the pros. Have a look right here.
  • Paula and I collaborated on a PIZZA MAP. Honestly, when we started putting this together we had no idea there were THIS MANY places to grab a slice in our area. If you live on this side of Ottawa you will definitely want to check it out. Maybe it will inspire you to try a new place?
  • I interviewed a Kitchissippi resident who installed a permanent pizza oven in his backyard. Unfortunately for me, our chat occurred very close to dinner and my stomach made weird noises the entire time. I was inspired by his story and I’m secretly hoping Mark builds one for us in our yard too. You can read that article right here.
  • Dave Allston, our local historian, wrote a fantastic column about the history of pizza in Ottawa and Kitchissippi. I learned so much, and there are parts that made me laugh out loud too. He shared some great old ads and photos, which were posted on the web version of the story.

I found myself thinking about the pizza edition of KT while we were away in Thailand. The youngest and I found ourselves craving pizza during our short stay in the Phi Phi Islands. We ordered a medium Hawaiian pizza from a place that billed itself as “Phuket’s #1 pizza!” The very idea of ordering Hawaiian pizza in Thailand cracked me up to no end. It should be noted there was also seafood variety available as well as pepperoni or plain cheese.

We ate our pizza on a bench overlooking the ocean, half a world away from home. It was hot and delicious. They gave it to us with packets of ketchup (??) and little packages of oregano and a fine chili powder that we sprinkled on top. I’m a convert! The chili powder really gave the pizza a real boost.

Pizza toppings?

To enjoy a favourite food in a gorgeous setting with a sprinkle of something new was really special. I hope the pizza edition of KT has the same kind of effect on readers – and takes something familiar and makes it fresh and new again.

20 Jul, 2019

Weekend roundup: July 20 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

We are finally home from Thailand! The youngest and I have had a wonderful adventure but I’m happy to be sleeping in my own bed again. I have more photos and travel posts coming, but first, naps and laundry. I’m also trying to get back to routines so I’m starting with a new weekend roundup. :)

On the nightstand, the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.

17 Jul, 2019

Two hours in Paris, part three

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

(Click for part one and two.)

After our pit stop, we wandered along the Seine and around the shops and restaurants and charming alleyways of Paris.

La Seine

Alleyways of Paris

Alleyways is Paris

Notre Dame under construction, July 2019

After a couple of hours we were hot, tired, and overwhelmed so we decided to call it a day. We were also worried. If the RER train took us overly long to get here, could there be similar delays on the route back? We assured ourselves that there couldn’t possibly be another issue with unattended baggage. It’ll be fine, right? Er, wrong.

We boarded the train (once again my daughter’s ticket didn’t work and a random citizen had to help us out) and we were three or four stations away from the airport when the train stopped (again!) and a message came over the loudspeaker. Of course, we didn’t understand what was being said, so we ignored it. We continued to stare out the window and sweat to death in our seats in a state of anxiety. We didn’t notice that everyone else had gotten off the train and we were the only ones left sitting there, along with one other young fellow who was equally oblivious and non-French speaking. Thankfully, a fellow passenger who’d already left the train (!) backtracked, stuck his head in the door, and explained, in broken English, that if we wanted to get to the airport we had to get on another train. I still don’t know why, because it wasn’t the end of the line. Sigh.

We eventually made it back to the airport. The youngest was feeling ill at this point and we asked to bypass one of the check-in lines, which they let us do, thankfully. She ended up throwing up in a garbage bin en route to our waiting area. (According to her, she had made a tactical error mixing melatonin with a glass of wine on the flight but I’m certain the heat and exhaustion didn’t help matters.) Thankfully she felt better after, er, the purge. I was worried whether she’d be ok for our 12-hour flight to Bangkok and the flight to Phuket after that. But that was about it for our travel troubles.

We found our gate and admired the deluxe waiting areas, snacks, and window shopping. Was our outing worth all the trouble? I am unsure, but I do know that if we hadn’t made the effort to try to see Paris during our layover we would have been disappointed in ourselves. In hindsight, I can’t say I regret our decision but I do know it would have been a pleasure to kill eight hours in that gorgeous airport. I also know that I would really like to return to Paris some day and I will need a lot more time to absorb it fully. Maybe in the spring or the fall, when the weather is cooler and our stomachs aren’t in knots about late trains and connecting flights.


11 Jul, 2019

Two hours in Paris, part two

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

(Part one of our layover in Paris is right here.)

Nature called. The youngest went first. The way it worked in this particular cafe was that one had to ask the manager for a token, go downstairs to the WC, pop the coin in the lock mechanism, and do your business. She came back to our table and reported on the coin mechanism and a big flush button instead of the usual handle to flush. My turn. I got my coin from the manager at the same time another female customer was heading to the loo. I turned to him. “Are there two places down there, to, you know…” I know this was a vague question but what I was trying to say was: ARE THERE TWO TOILETS IN THE LADIES’ LOO. He paused for a moment and answered in the affirmative. His pause gave ME pause and this pause is what I thought about as I descended the stairs behind this other lady. What did he mean by it? Was there a second washroom down there or not?

She went in one door and I didn’t immediately spot another women’s WC, only men’s. Ok. I shall go. I pulled open the door. There was a urinal on one side (whatev) and a token-operated door on the other. I had a bit of trouble pushing the token through the slot but I persevered. I swung open the door and looked down. Instead of a toilet on the other side – surprise! – there was a squat toilet. I had actually done some reading about the variety of toilets that were awaiting us in Thailand but I wasn’t prepared to find one in one of the busiest tourist regions of Paris. Squat toilets, in case you don’t know, are the original latrine. (Need me to paint you a picture? You essentially go over a hole in the ground.) Fortunately, this one had running water and a working flush, and a roll of toilet paper at the right level. Unfortunately, I was wearing a flowy ankle-length dress and had my phone in my pocket. Then my glasses fell off my face. My catching reflex HAS NEVER BEEN FASTER and I managed to snatch them out of the air before they hit the ground. Oh, and someone was knocking on the door and jiggling the handle, upping the pressure considerably.

“OCCUPIED, er, occupée!” I yelled, surprised at the sudden high pitch of my voice (no doubt infused by mild panic). I broke into a sweat.

Two questions sprang to mind in that moment: (a) Why did my daughter not warn me about the squat toilet and (b) was I really going to do this?

I will skip over the details but I will confirm that I survived the ordeal AND nothing terrible happened.

I opened the door and there was a man standing at the urinal and another one waiting. I flew out of there like a bird out of a cage. When I got back to our table, my daughter confirmed there were indeed two toilets in the ladies room.

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11 Jul, 2019

Two hours in Paris, part one

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

In my previous post, I wrote about our airline breakfast but I was getting a little bit ahead of myself.

There were many families on that flight, including a few infants, and I wondered if we were in for a fitful night’s sleep. Sleep was key to our plan. You see, the youngest and I were excited about the promise of Paris, or as much as we could squeeze into an 8-hour layover before continuing on to Phuket via Bangkok.

Unfortunately, sleep eluded us completely, but it wasn’t the fault of fussy babies. The babies were great! One fellow a few seats away snored something awful, which had me gritting my teeth and debating whether a drive-by poke was in order, but there were also a few other people in our immediate vicinity who were equally disruptive. I also couldn’t get comfortable. I slept for an hour, if that. The youngest slept even less. So when we arrived in Paris we were already feeling less than 100% but we soldiered on, because, hello, PARIS.

I had researched sample itineraries eg. “How to spend an 8-hour layover in Paris” and “What to do with eight hours in Paris” and found one we liked. We were keen to copy it down to a tee. The plan seemed simple: exit the plane swiftly (we paid extra to sit near the front); go through security; catch the RER blue line to Paris; get off at St.Michel/Notre Dame; stuff ourselves with baguettes and gelato; browse the books at Shakespeare & Co.; visit famous cafes of Hemingway; stroll the Ille de la Cite, etc.

We did none of these things. But let’s back up for a moment.

The plane exit went ok and we found the entrance to the Paris trains well enough but we got hung up trying to figure out how to buy tickets. The kiosks were confusing so we flagged down an attendant and he helped us, and even saved us a few bucks. We quickly learned that we needed to hold on to these tickets to enter and exit each station, which we’d do multiple times during our journey. Strangely, my daughter’s ticket did not work past the first gate so we had to beg strangers to help us. Thankfully everyone we met was very friendly and kind.

The RER train to Paris was delayed by 20-25 minutes. Here I was expecting that Paris trains would run with absolute and unquestionable punctuality! Wrong. And what was supposed to be a 40-minute to the city turned into a sweaty and panic-inducing 90-minute+ test of our patience and sanity. The train stopped for long stretches of time, seemingly for no reason. We finally asked a fellow passenger what was going on because we didn’t understand the announcements. Apparently, there was unclaimed baggage at one of the stations. Then trains were backed up. I accepted this. Of course, security is important, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Time was ticking and we were very worried about making it back in time to catch our flight to Bangkok.

When we finally reached our stop we realistically only had two hours to wander. Seeing Notre Dame was interesting but we were farther afield because it’s cordoned off and very much under construction. Oh well. We were in need of fuel so we dropped into the first cafe we saw, which was across the street. The youngest ordered a coffee with whipped cream and I opted for a latte and a croissant. When in Paris, right?

Croissant and a latte in Paris

It was an excellent choice. I had been feeling slightly nauseous. The heat certainly wasn’t helping and I was jetlagged and grumpy from the awful train trip to get to this point. We needed to rest and regroup and to do so in view of Notre Dame was lovely. (We were also directly next to a busy intersection but that was easily overlooked.) I was enjoying the view, savouring my meal, but then, nature called.

… to be continued.

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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. 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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