a peek inside the fishbowl

09 Sep, 2023

Back to school for the youngest

By andrea tomkins in parenting

Sarah in the playground

I might be exaggerating but when we dropped the youngest off at kindergarten she cried every morning for months, possibly years. While the photos above may show otherwise, I don’t think we had a truly smooth drop-off until second grade. It broke my heart every day to leave behind a crying kid. Teachers assured me that she stopped as soon as I left but I always had a sneaking suspicion they were just saying that to make me feel better.

Well this kindergarten kid is all grown up now and she’s back to school this week, but this time as a masters student in the art history department at Queen’s. I suspect there were fewer tears than there were back in kindergarten. ;)

My friends’ Facebook feeds have been chock full of back-to-school photos and it’s all left me thinking about how far we’ve come here at Casa Fishbowl, and how strange it is to know someone from conception until adulthood and spot the patterns in their lives that add up to The Person They Have Become.

A small part of me is tempted to take some credit for her reaching this amazing post-secondary milestone. Is this weird of me to say out loud? We were the family who encouraged home art projects, bought memberships to the National Gallery and planned kid-friendly visits, and dropped by open houses of local artist studios and collectives. But we can’t truly take much credit at all – her success is truly her own. She studied for her exams and got good grades. She got the internships, jobs, scholarships and grants. She winged interviews because she’s smart that way. She put herself out there more times than I can count, and the universe rewarded her hard work and her courage. As parents, we may have given her a pair of oars, pointed the boat and given it a shove, but she’s the one who has been doing all the rowing.

Mark and I are so proud of how hard our kid has worked and how far she’s come. We are excited to see what’s in store for her.

04 Sep, 2023

it got me

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I’m writing this from the sofa as I recover from COVID. I feel like my brain hasn’t quite been restored to full capacity but on the whole I am ok. Recovery has been two-steps-forward/one-step-back but I think I’m finally on the mend. 

This was my first time getting Covid. Honestly, I can’t believe I managed to hold out this long. Catching Covid is different for everyone, I think. How sick you get seems to depend on so many things: Your age, overall health, whether you’re vaccinated or not. My Covid was like having the flu, but with all sorts of other fun symptoms thrown into the mix like some kind of bad joke. Like many, I was achy, but not just regular muscle ache: I had eyeball and dental pain and weird muscle spasms in my rear end and in my legs. I lost my sense of taste too, which was probably one of the most depressing symptoms, at the very least, on par with the eyeball ache. Mark went and bought me some of my favourite foods to tempt me to eat but I tell ya, there’s nothing sadder than biting into a tomato sandwich at the height of summer and having it taste like… nothing. It is so strange to lose your sense of taste, because when you lose your ability to taste you also lose the joy that comes with eating. The texture was there, as was the temperature of the food and some sense of whether what I was eating is salty or sweet, but otherwise I might as well have been eating cardboard.

My sense of taste has returned now but there was a weird in-between time where I really had to think about what I was eating. 

This pizza… am I tasting it, or is it the memory of pizza I am tasting?

Anyway, I was totally bummed to find myself out of commission during last week’s perfect weather, and now this, the long weekend. Ugh. Even though it’s stinkin’ hot outside right now there are things I wanted to do. I did not want to be holed up here at home during the last few weeks of the season with a summer to-do list that remains incomplete. Sigh. I will deal.

In other news, it is back to school season. Why, Andrea, you might be thinking, aren’t ya’ll done with school? As it turns out, we are, but also, not really. More about that coming soon.

22 Aug, 2023

It’s been a wonderful summer so far

By andrea tomkins in Ottawa

I have fallen way behind on my summer reports but I promise to get back to it once things calm down around here a little bit. In the meantime I will say this… if you’re looking for something fun to do I 100% recommend renting e-bikes and tooting around town. We went to Petrie Island and it was lovely. More soon!

E-bike rental

This past spring I enrolled myself in a 28-day online “boot camp” style health and fitness program and it helped me refocus my efforts and build some healthy habits. One of these habits is fitness related: three 30-minute workouts every week. The other is simply filling half my plate with vegetables for every meal.

I am happy to say I am getting better at both those things and am feeling really good! I feel stronger, both inside and out, if that makes any sense. :)

There are a lot of good reasons to “eat the rainbow,” which I won’t get into here because there has been so much written about it and it’s easy to search it out if you’re interested. I will say, however, that it’s interesting to see that practically every article and research study I’ve read that involves health and food essentially points to the same things. Whether it’s an article about diabetes, cancer, brain, or eye health, the answer always seems to be: follow the Mediterranean way of eating. And as Michael Pollan famously said: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” So this is what we are doing. (If you aren’t familiar with Pollan, he is an investigative journalist who is well known for research and writing about food and one of his most popular books is “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Look him up!)

Of course, the best time to eat more plants is in the summer when those plants are plentiful and less expensive. Earlier this year we ordered a CSA share from Rochon Gardens. CSA – which stands for community-supported agriculture – is essentially a way for consumers to “subscribe” to a harvest. As shareholders we pick up a bunch of fresh produce once every two weeks, which keeps our fridge full of local/seasonal produce until the fall.

But back to the healthy eating thing! One thing I do know about myself is that one of the best ways for me to eat better is to simply log my food intake. I like having a document to look over. It also helps my accountability when I know I’m writing it down. That being said, I have a strong dislike for calorie-tracking apps. Maybe I just haven’t found the right one but it takes a lot of time and dedication to log every bite you eat on the regular, which just makes me give up after awhile. So as a short-term solution I created my own (very) basic food logging calendar in Google docs to give me an idea of how I’m doing.

So, all that being said, for the month of July I am tracking my food in this Google food tracking doc. You’ll see right away that I’m not tracking calories. This is about better eating overall, not counting the macros. If I’m counting anything, it’s how many plant-based foods I’m eating in a week. Did you know individuals who consume at least 30 different plant-based foods each week have more varied gut bacteria as a result? YES. So bring on the fruit, veg, herbs and spices!

Also worth noting, I have an appointment with my doctor in a month and will show this to her and get her feedback.

While I was setting it up I thought it would be cool to share it here in case you’d like to follow along. At the very least, following my document might give YOU some meal-related inspiration, whether it’s a new recipe or purchase. I’ll mention products if merited, and link out to recipes. AND, if you are super keen, you can download a copy of the calendar and join me for the month of July. (By this I mean, download, delete what I’ve written, and use the blank calendar for your own tracking purposes.)

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? (Also: if someone can let me know if they can see/download my food tracking calendar I would appreciate that.) My commenting function is wonky so you can send me an email or reach out via my social media channels.

Anyway, yes! I am excited to be eating my way through a delicious summer.

The last time I went to a baseball game in Ottawa was in the summer of 2019. I was invited to a media/influencer event for the Ottawa Champions and it was a hoot. As a bonus I won a very pretty pair of diamond studs that I still love and wear on the regular. (You can read that post right here.)

Last night we finally went back. FYI, the Ottawa baseball team is not the Champions anymore, it’s the Ottawa Titans. (I also need to remember to stop calling it the Ottawa Lynx Stadium. Ha. I think it’s just the Ottawa Stadium now, right?)

There were lots of families, lots of seats, lots of fly balls being caught by kids in the uppers. It’s a pretty fun night out; an easy night out.

Getting there was easy. Parking was easy, and pretty cheap, all things considered. Food is the usual ballpark food, although there is a Mexican option which I’d like to try next time. We opted for Bigfoot hot dogs — $9.00 each and they are enormous. Onion rings were $10 and we will be actually eating the other half of that serving for lunch today. In hindsight I wish I had opted for the smaller options! Anyhoo, this is not a food review but I will say the Shiny apple cider was really enjoyable – crisp and not too sweet – and I think I’m a convert. Sometimes apple ciders are syrupy and have a weird aftertaste but this one was kinda perfect for the ballpark and paired well with our giant hot dogs. ;)

I mean look at that dog!

At the Ottawa Titans baseball game

At the Ottawa Titans baseball game

Enjoying Shiny Apple Cider - At the Ottawa Titans baseball game

I’m sure some of you have reached this point and are wondering how the actual game went. Er, I did watch the game and it went well for the home team but I am far from an expert commentator. All I know about baseball is from what I learned playing baseball in primary school but that was more than enough to sit back and enjoy the game.

If you’ve ever played or watched baseball you already know this is the kind of sport that unfolds at a slower pace and in fits and spurts, but that’s ok… more than ok, in fact! I do need my brain to not be going full speed all the time, you know what I mean?

Super low-key entertainment keeps it all moving along. Musical interludes: Fun. On-the-field contests (i.e. two people racing down the field carrying empty pizza boxes over their heads): FUN. Staff throwing (wrapped) hot dogs and bags of chips into the audience: FUN. Seventh-inning stretch, when actual co-ordinated stretching happened: FUN. My inner eight-year-old was loving every minute.

Did I mention this was family-friendly? There were people of all ages. One group of seniors had cowbells. The people in front of us were grandparents with a BABY and it went amazingly well. Scores of kids were free-ranging with baseball mitts in their hands as they roamed the upper stands. It was, honestly, a joy. Sometimes I wondered if we’d been secretly transported back to 1982.

There were fireworks at the end, and then we were back in the car, on our way home, with smiles on our faces. It was a great way to kick off the Canada Day weekend.

All this to say, I am keen to go again. What I might do differently next time is buy our parking and entry tickets beforehand, just to save a bit of time and effort, and take advantage of online ordering early in the game for food and drinks.

Here’s the Ottawa Titans website for more info.

Have you been? I’d love to hear about your experience with Ottawa baseball.

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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 offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). 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, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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