a peek inside the fishbowl

On the nightstand: Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

It's me!

1) Ted Simpson‘s Ottawa porch portrait series (above)! Check him out on Instagram too. I love hearing about how people are staying busy and creative during these challenging times, don’t you?

2) Sunshine.

3) Daily walks.

4) A new puzzle.

5) Making (and eating) homemade New York style pretzels (here’s a recipe).

6) My orchid flowered!

It’s always exciting when the orchid flowers!

7) My indoor herb garden (it’s kind of a big dill right now):

Aerogarden is growing! Three cheers for fresh herbs

8) This beautiful cake, which I ordered for an upcoming birthday. (The youngest is turning 19. I hope my indoor herb garden will have enough mint to make mojitos by then!)

9) …. and here’s the thing that’s really making me happy right now, both kids are finally home. :)

In other happy news, I won a $50 gift card to Flock Boutique, one of my favourite shops. I entered a contest designed to support local businesses and YOU CAN WIN TOO! Get the details right here.

(Experts say that it’s good for your mental health to (a) express gratitude and (b) really savour meaningful moments, and that what I’m trying to do here. What’s on your list today?)

On the nightstand: The Rise of Magicks: Chronicles of The One, Book 3, by Nora Roberts

28 Mar, 2020

sleep and worry

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

One of the website articles I’m editing at work right now is a Q&A written by a sleep expert at The Royal. Dr. Lee and I first met when I interviewed him for this article about sleep trackers. We had a really good conversation, after which I did a lot of reading on the topic. I am fascinated by sleep. I think we all know that we feel lousy when we haven’t slept well, but many don’t understand that it is a critical element of our daily functioning, physical, and mental health.

One of the things he mentioned in his recent Q&A is something he called worry time. Basically, you give yourself permission – and a limited period of time ever day – to worry. You set aside a time to write things down, make to-do lists, itemize worries (whether they are rational or not), and then close the book on them. CLOSE.THE.BOOK. And when it’s not worry time, you just tell your brain, hey brain, save it for worry time.

His advice reminded of my coronavirus chronicle (a.k.a. my paper diary) in which I describe our comings and goings and family updates. I didn’t really think about it as worry time, but that’s essentially what it is. It’s an end-of-day brain dump that is remarkably calming.

The idea of setting certain thoughts aside is also echoed in Chel Hamilton’s mini-meditations, which I have enjoyed listening to for the past few months. I used to wonder why, in a guided meditation, participants aren’t asked to disregard or totally ignore intrusive thoughts. Instead, it is gently suggested we (1) acknowledge that our brains are doing what they are supposed to do (e.g. THINK ABOUT STUFF), and then (2) set aside those thoughts for the duration of the meditation. In one of her podcasts, Chel instructs listeners to imagine themselves putting those “buckets of junk” aside and picking them up later if they choose to do so. What I’ve learned that this is not just a nice sentiment, but by acknowledging that intrusive thought and then dismissing it, you are actually training your brain. It’s a mental push-up that builds a kind of resilience, which is actually pretty cool.

I sometimes choose to imagine intrusive thoughts as bubbles that I dismiss with the flick of a finger. Sometimes, when my brain wakes me up in the middle of the night I imagine those thoughts as dirt on a carpet. I run the vacuum cleaner over them again and again, until I eventually fall asleep.

26 Mar, 2020

The importance of chocolate

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Earlier this week we placed an order for grocery pick up at the Superstore. I had figured we might not get the toilet paper we wanted, or the disinfectant wipes, but I did NOT think the store would run out of chocolate. I ordered a couple Lindt bars and didn’t get them! The store normally makes a substitution if one item isn’t available, for another item that is similar. Well, there was no substitution made so we had nothing. NO. CHOCOLATE.

I should clarify that I’m not exactly a huge fan of chocolate. Generally speaking, if there’s a bowl of potato chips in front of me, and a bar of chocolate, I’ll take the chips, but since we are living in Unprecedented Times, anything is possible.

Thankfully, our lives haven’t been entirely devoid of chocolate. The youngest baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies that fit the bill. Here’s the recipe she used. IT IS VERY GOOD.

We also got our chocolate fix another way. I placed an order online with terra20** and tossed some Camino chocolate bars into the cart at the last minute. My friends, this chocolate is da bomb. (I ordered this one but they’re sold out for now. Boo! But there are other flavours still available if you are having similar cravings.)

All this got me thinking again about the groceries we’ve been buying, the lists we are making. There’s lots of good stuff in in those lists, bothperishable and non-. Healthy foods! Foods that can fill us up! But I realized it’s also important to make sure treats are part of that list too, just so we can feel a bit more normal.

**terra20 is promoting free same-day shipping if you make your purchase M-F and order more than $50 worth of merch. Details are here.


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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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