a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Oct, 2018

Weekend reading: October 20 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: The House at Riverton: A Novel

Mark’s birthday was in September and we commemorated the occasion with a great bike ride… to Aylmer, QC.

Some of you might remember a bike ride we undertook last summer. Frankly, I amazed myself. We biked to Stittsville and back to Westboro and LIVED. But this was not that. The bike route to Aylmer from Westboro is considerably shorter than biking to Stittsville, in fact, it’s only about 12km one way.

(If you’d like to plot a cycling route I heartily recommend you use the Bike Ottawa interactive maps. They’re A+.)

First of all, I should explain… WHY AYLMER. And to that I say, why not. It’s a cute little town that’s right on the river and a reasonable distance from Ottawa. It also fits into my idea of The Perfect Destination, most notably because beer and food can be found there. I truly believe the best outings have a nice carrot at the end. But I will get into that later.

Our route began at Westboro Beach. From there we crossed over to Quebec via the Champlain Bridge. Honestly, this was the worst part of our journey, as traffic is fast and the space allotted to bikes is narrow. If you want to bike to Aylmer with kids (and you should) I recommend they bike on the sidewalk, no matter what anyone says.

This first part of our journey was a little uncomfortable but it was all uphill from there (I mean figuratively, not literally).

We hopped on the bike path on the Quebec side (a.k.a the Sentier des Voyageurs Pathway) and headed west. The path is totally flat and paved and there are lots of little places to stop so you can take in views of the river:

Bike ride to Alymer

This part of the route to Aylmer is very pretty. It’s a quiet path. We went during the day on a Friday. There weren’t a lot of cyclists on the path but it also didn’t feel totally isolated, if you know what I mean.

Bike ride from Ottawa to Aylmer

Interestingly, I don’t think we passed a single pedestrian along the majority of the bike path, although there were more people as we got closer to Aylmer and were cycling near neighbourhoods.

At one point it becomes pretty clear that you’re near Aylmer. There is plenty of signage, which is welcome for first-timers, small children, and nervous cyclists. At this point it’s pretty easy. You just pick a road and turn your bike in a northerly direction.

We were fairly hungry. It was long past lunchtime AND we hadn’t spent any time researching which restaurants we wanted to hit up here. What’s the best restaurant in Aylmer? You tell me! I will say that we were pretty fortunate that we decided to go to the British Pub & Cafe:

Aylmer restaurants

It’s gorgeous inside, but we were happy on the patio. The wasps made us less happy, but hey, you have to roll with the punches sometimes.

I had a tough time choosing my meal and after MUCH deliberation, opted for their veggie burger. ($16, fyi).
Here’s how it’s described on the menu: Homemade quinoa and tofu patty, house turnip pickles, slices of tomato, pickles, romaine and aioli.

This is how it arrived at our table:

Lunch at the British, in Aylmer

I had to laugh at the savoury vegetarian pancake that was sandwiched between two buns, but then I took a bite. And other. It was really really good! My mouth did a happy dance. And now I ask myself, why does a burger need to look like a burger? This was perfectly fine. And those sweet potato fries? Oh my. I would honestly get back on my bike right now if I knew those fries were waiting for me in Aylmer.

I enjoyed a cold beer with my lunch but I kept it to ONE because I didn’t want to be wobbly on the way home.

After lunch, we biked to the Aylmer Marina. It’s a glorious downhill wind-in-your-hair ride from the British, which is on Rue Principale Street, so don’t go back on the bike path to get there, definitely take Principale.

View from Aylmer Marina

Just past the Aylmer Marina is a lovely park and beach. The Sentier des Voyageurs Pathway continues but this was the furthest we’d go today.

It was one of those bright and happy end-of-summer days but the beach was mostly deserted. It’s no surprise, really. It was a school day after all. I found myself wondering, however, what took us so long to pay a visit.

The beach near the Aylmer Marina

The beach is closed

Soon it was time to head back home. We paused to admire the scenery along the way and stopped at some of the scenic lookouts we had skipped over the way here.

Bike ride from Ottawa to Aylmer

Bike ride from Ottawa to Aylmer

The ride back over the Champlain Bridge was just as hair-raising as the first time, but I was powered by sunshine and sweet potato fries and felt much better equipped to deal with it.

Who else is scouting out ideas for Christmas? I live in Westboro, and one of the things I really like to do is walk over to the main street and poke my head in the shops and see what’s shaking. I tend to spend a *lot* of time at Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s*. There’s always something fun and new in store. You’ll find plenty of Christmas/birthday/everyday fun items here, along with that amazing customer service I appreciate so much every time I pop by.

Sidebar: So I just reread the title I chose for this post. I called Tiggy Winkle’s a toy store but I really hope that folks understand that it’s actually so much more! And it’s not just for kids either. There is major amusement to be found for all ages at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s. Games, puzzles, collectables… the name of the game here is fun. I dropped by earlier today and there were, ahem, a few things that caught my eye.

I love Exploding Kittens. It’s a very fun game and the artwork cracks me up. There’s an Exploding Kittens puzzle now too! (Puzzles at Christmas are simply THE BEST.)

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's (Exploding kittens puzzle!)

Card-based games have two things going for them: they’re portable, fun, and you can pull them out any time. (Oops. I guess that’s three things.) This one looks very fun! (I hope my family gets that this is a hint.):

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's (Name game quiz)

Did you know that Tiggy’s carries a selection of books as well? This would make someone a great gift AND they’d be sure to survive a zombie attack! That’s a big win in my books.

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's (Zombie Survival Guide)

I adore iron-on patches, and so do the teens in my life. Some very cool designs here:

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's (iron on patches!)

One of the many things I like about Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s is their dedication to classic toys. We have one of these paddle ball toys. We STILL keep it in the mudroom by the main entrance to our home. I got a LOT of practice when the kids were smaller…. mostly because it always took them so long to get ready in the mornings:

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's (Paddle ball)

Speaking of the classics:

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's (Star Wars Lego.)

Hello STUFFIES. I always check to see if they have mini wire fox terriers like Piper. This came pretty close:

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's

And then there are the products you may not expect but heartily believe no child should live without:

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's (Two Bros Bows)

But one of the main reasons I love this store is that they have a fantastic sense of humour. I absolutely adore this fuzzy wind-up llama. If this doesn’t make you smile I’m afraid you may be dying a bit on the inside:

Toys at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's (Wind up Llama)

I am very happy to let you know that Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s BIG Wicked Weekend sale is coming up fast. Mark this on your calendar: It’s October 18-21 and you can save 20% off your purchase in-store on online. (Please note! The discount applies to regular-priced in-stock items only and cannot be combined with any other offer or discount.)

So who would like a $50 gift card to spend at the sale? This is an easy win, folks… but please read the next part carefully:

  • This giveaway is for one $50 gift card that will be given to one individual. It can be used at the sale or anytime afterward
  • In order for your entry to qualify let me know how you would spend your winnings in the comments below. Check out the website to see what’s new! One entry per email address please!
  • A BONUS second entry goes to folks who leave a comment on this Facebook post as well. Just make sure you come back and let me know in a second, separate, comment that you did so.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • If you can’t post your comment for whatever reason you can email it to andrea at quietfish dot com. Please note, I cannot be responsible if your entry is misdirected or gets stuck in my Spam folder.
  • I will draw the winning name using Random.org at 9 a.m. EST on October 18, 2018. I’ll contact the winner via email at that time and post the name here as well.
  • The winner will need to pick up the gift card at a Tiggy’s location of their choice in a timely manner.

Happy Friday and good luck!

*Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s is a longtime blog patron but my love for the store and excitement about this sale is all my own. 

10 Oct, 2018


By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Thanksgiving is a little different now that one of our chicks has flown the coop. She started her second year at Queen’s in September and took the bus home. Mark and I picked her up at the bus station on Friday and drove her home on Monday night, which made for a short visit that also had to include a bit of running around for things she’d been missing at school.

The weather wasn’t ideal over Thanksgiving weekend 2018, but it was very nice to hang out as a family of four again. We spent most of it indoors. We watched Solo: A Star Wars Story and Three Identical Strangers (I enjoyed both!) and ventured out on a short hike to an NCC trail near Wesley Clover Park. We get lost every time we go here, and yes, we got lost once again. Sigh. Piper, however, took it in stride:

Piper rides the rails

Hikes in Ottawa

On the Thanksgiving menu this weekend:

  • The turkey
  • Classic Stuffing (courtesy of my MIL)
  • Cranberry sauce, which I made the day before
  • a very decadent make-ahead mashed potato casserole. This was a new recipe and it got rave reviews! It’s a keeper for sure.
  • This cheesy leek recipe via Jamie Oliver. It was good but I’m not sure I’ll make it again. As it turns out there IS such a thing as too much cheese in one dish.
  • Green salad
  • We were supposed to have pull-apart rolls but I forgot to defrost them.
  • Dessert: Pumpkin pie by special request and apple crisp (courtesy of my MIL)

I bought a giant 2L bottle of cider and there was wine and chips and candy. It was a day of excess! In fact, we are still eating leftovers, although we’re finally getting to the end of it all.

Other than the jiggly feeling around my midsection, my DOMINANT feeling is one of gratitude. As we drove the eldest back to Kingtson I thought about all the good things in our lives right now, and there are many.

Thanksgiving weekend

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend!

09 Oct, 2018


By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Thanks to poor planning on my part, I found myself doing a big grocery shop twice in one week. Seeing as though Thanksgiving was only a few days away I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be part of the pre-holiday grocery craziness.

List in hand, I went up and down and back and forth between the aisles, and after what seemed to be a Very Long Time, stood in the line at the checkout. I thought about my very long to-do list, the dishes I was planning on making, and our weekend plans for when the eldest comes home from university.

There was an elderly woman in the line directly ahead of me. She had a walker – the kind with a built-in chair – and was sitting on it when I fell into line behind her. I did a double take. It’s unusual to see someone sitting there; her seated position in the narrow aisle made her that much smaller than the young man behind the register, who had to hunch over and across the counter to speak to her.

He worked quickly. The young man weighed and scanned all of her groceries and announced the total owing. It was just over $11, which he repeated to her several times. From where I was standing she appeared to be hard of hearing but I also noticed that English was not her first language. He repeated himself several times with enormous patience and kindness, even attempting a bit of chitchat.

She pulled out a tiny change purse and started counting out coins. That’s when he raised his eyes, turned towards me, and gave me a look which I interpreted to mean: “I’m sorry this is taking so long.” Or perhaps he was simply assessing the growing line of harried shoppers behind me.

I smiled and gave a quick nod, a silent, “it’s ok.” I may have even winked at the poor fellow. Sidebar: I frequently embarrass myself with uncontrollable winking but I honestly can’t stop it from happening.

I watched as she unfolded a crisp $100 bill and gave it to him with a handful of small change. He quickly pulled the bills from his till and slowly counted them back into her hand with a clarity of language and precision of motion that would do a banker proud. Then he helped her bag her groceries and came out from behind the counter to help her with them.

Then it was my turn. We immediately reverted back to our roles of Cashier and Customer.

“Do you have bags today?” he asked.
I motioned to my bins. “Yep, I’m good, thanks.”

He scanned my groceries in silence and I watched the prices add up on the screen, but there was something between us now. We had inadvertently created a connection that could not go unnoticed. Frankly, I blame the wink for turning something innocuous into something bigger than it was, but I also believe that acts of kindness should be noticed and commended for the good of humankind.

“That was a nice thing you did,” I said slowly. “You were very kind to that elderly lady.” He paused, mid scan.
“Thanks,” he said. “You were too.”

I was surprised he said this. I was thanking HIM for HIS kindness, after all. I was just a bystander who had nothing to do with anything! I suddenly lost my train of thought and I didn’t know what to say.

“We are all going to be old someday…” I said, my sentence dying at the end because I really didn’t know where I was going with all of this.

He smiled. “I believe in karma,” he said.
“You know, I do too,” I said.

I paid for my groceries, took my receipt, and walked away. The bond created by a wink during a shared moment was broken forever, maybe not forgotten.


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

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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... 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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