a peek inside the fishbowl

22 Apr, 2021

It wasn’t a typical dog walk

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Mark, the eldest daughter, and I were walking Piper the other night when a woman approached us. I thought she was going to comment about the weather (a common topic as people pass each other on the street around here!) but the conversation went sideways right from the get-go. And it wasn’t about the wind chill.

“So how do you like living in a POLICE STATE,” she asked. The look on her face suggested she was hoping we would commisserate. We pretty much stopped in our tracks. Then she made a comment about how the regular flu kills more people than Covid does.

I was tongue-tied. Mark took the direct approach.

“No,” he said. “No, it doesn’t.”

She balked.  “GO AHEAD AND DRINK THE KOOL-AID,” she muttered as she walked away.

There was more to the exchange, but my memory is not my friend today.

I yelled something, not at her, but directed at what she had just said. I released it up at the sky, just to get it out of me. Something about living a long life, but I can’t remember the exact words now.

It was such an odd exchange between strangers that it almost feels like a dream. Did it really happen?

15 Apr, 2021

I got jabbed! #TeamPfizer

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

On the same day our youngest turned 20, I got my first Covid vaccine. For the record, my next one is scheduled four months from now.

I wasn’t going to write about getting my shot because I wanted to avoid any backlash. Let me just say that I agree there is a long list of people who should have received the vaccine before me: teachers, essential workers, anyone with any sort of health condition, even post-secondary students.

What convinced me to get the shot, other than the fact that it was offered to me as someone who works in health care and have regular contact with some elderly and vulnerable individuals, is this column by the resident ethicist at the New York Times. I believe if a vaccine is offered to you, it is your ethical duty to get it, because it doesn’t just protect you, it protects the people around you and the wider community

I decided to write about it here for a few different reasons. (1) It fits the spirit of this blog, which something like a family journal for me, (2) I feel like this is a historical moment, (3) I believe that talking about get the vaccine might convince some people who are sitting on the fence to get it too. Vaccine hesitancy is real, and it’s a real setback to us all getting back to normal, or even something that looks like normal.

My shot was scheduled for last Sunday morning at 9:25 a.m. at the Queensway Carleton Hospital. I was a ball of nerves as soon as I rolled out of bed.

I pulled in there early (too early, because if you’re not early you’re late) and wandered around the parking lot taking deep breaths before walking through the doors.

This is the only photo I have of the whole thing because there were “no photo/no video” signs posted everywhere. All that aside, isn’t nice to be greeted by geese on the way to get your Covid shot? ;)

The greeting team at QCH

There is a Tim Horton’s sign right above the entrance to the Covid vaccination clinic. Amazingly, I only saw one person go through there trying to get a coffee. Security put the kibosh on that one, obviously.

The process was very efficient. Walk in, hand in your form to someone at the door, clean your hands, get a mask, wait in a line, check in with another person for The Drill (“Do you have a fever, shortness of breath …”), wait to get your shot, get your shot, wait for 15 minutes, and leave. Even with the 15 minute wait at the end it seemed to go by very quickly.

Every staff member at every step along the way was cheerful yet professional, kind yet serious. I never felt unsafe, or that my safety wasn’t important. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, whether it was visual, like the green arrows on the floor or verbal e.g “Wait here and the lady in yellow will tell you which station to go to.” I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I was impressed.

The nurse giving me the shot was gentle, and very nice. It only hurt for a moment, as these shots usually do. It’s no worse than a pinch.

Afterwards there was a bit of a line at the exit and a few of us had to go back and sit down again to wait until the bottleneck cleared. We approached as a woman just finished wiping down our chairs. One my cohort apologized and the woman laughed. NO WORRIES, she said. THESE ARE THE CLEANEST CHAIRS IN OTTAWA TODAY.

When I got home Mark asked me if it the clinic was busy. I had to think about my answer for a minute. The best I can say is that it appeared busy, but this is because it was at capacity. As it should be! There was a steady stream of people but it wasn’t crowded, if you catch my meaning. (This is the benefit of timed appointments!)

The only thing that was mildly disappointing was my very real desire to ring a bell or hammer on some kind of giant gong that is shaped like a coronavirus (although I fully acknowledge that this would be annoying to the clinic staff) and the fact that I forgot to dress up in a gown and heels and full (eye) makeup. I was also keen to get a sticker, but this doesn’t exist here apparently. Maybe because some dummies would wear them even if they hadn’t gotten a shot? Or maybe it would kickstart a black market? Anyhoo, I would wear a sticker PROUDLY… at home, in my backyard, when picking up my groceries in the car, and walking the dog. ;)

That was a few days ago and I’m happy to report that other than a localized ache in my upper arm, I have had zero side effects. Yay! I am looking forward to the rest of my family getting their vaccinations soon.

12 Apr, 2021

The big TWO-OH

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

So, our youngest daughter turned 20 yesterday. TWENTY. YEARS. OF. AGE. That means, twenty years ago, a brand new life EMERGED FROM MY LOINS and became An Actual Person.

Some of you have been reading this blog for as long as I’ve been writing it. You’ve seen our kids grow up! I know exactly what you’re thinking and I honestly can’t believe where the time went  either.

It still boggles my mind that Mark and I made a fully-functioning person, and now this person is doing ordinary things like eating Dairy Queen cakes and watching Zoom lectures and big things like Making Her Mark on The World. Amazing.

I dug around my files and found the blog post I wrote when she was born. You can read it yourself right here if you are so inclined. The links are all broken (I was rolling my own code at this point in time) but now that I’ve reread it I think, wow, I’m sure glad I wrote that all down. Those tiny details are preserved, isn’t that cool? Right down to the chewing gum. ;)

Sidebar: This all reminds me that I desperately need to get these files organized. It’s just so overwhelming I can’t face it. Uggghhh.

I used to write long posts on the girls’ birthdays about what wonderful humans they are, and I still think they are wonderful, obviously, but I will keep the details between me and them if that’s ok. It’s probably SUPER UNCOOL for their mother to gush about them in such a public forum now that they aren’t kids anymore, am I right? :D

Anyhoo, I have other biggish news to share, but I need to collect my thoughts first. Nothing bad, I swear. It’s all good.


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):


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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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