a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Nov, 2017

Weekend reading: November 18 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: The Island Walkers

Speaking of gifts… did your parents send you care packages while you were away at college or university?

In my post about life with one less kid around the house I mentioned that I have found a tiny bit solace in sending care packages to the eldest while she’s away at university. I thought it might be fun to show what my most recent mailout contained.

University care package ideas Canada

What’s inside this care package!

  • A small package of freezies that I picked up on super sale (50 cents, I think!) at the grocery store. Just because summer is over doesn’t mean it won’t be appreciated.
  • An enamel pin from Mrs. Tiggy Winkles. The cat is drinking bubble tea, a favourite treat around here.
  • Itsy Bitsy stickers! They are also from Mrs. Tiggy Winkles. They are tiny and adorable.
  • A Click Clack koala pen I purchased at The Village Quire here in Westboro. You pull down one ear for one ink colour, the other ear for a second colour.
  • Reusable handwarmer, which I also bought at The Village Quire. Perfect for pockets!
  • Vitamin D…. because I’m a mom.
  • Gum and Tic-Tacs.

I stuffed everything in a small cereal box. Luckily for me, a friend was visiting her daughter at Queen’s and saved me the shipping.

I don’t buy all of these things at once. The easiest thing to do is to buy things here and there while I’m out and about and collect them in a box until I’ve got enough to send. Some of the things – like the freezies and the candy – are items I’ve found in clearance bins in the grocery store.

Other things I’ve sent along in past packages:

I always include a card with a short note too.

I have a loose list of the things I am thinking about sending in future care packages: Tylenol, clean (new!) underwear, hair elastics, magazines, a new sewing kit, bandaids, hot chocolate packages, popcorn, homemade cookies. Any other ideas out there? I’d love to hear them! What would YOU like to receive in a package from home?


Last weekend I went on a girls-only expedition to the All Saints Catholic High School Craft Fair in Kanata. This particular craft fair was new to me and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, as we approached the school I realized there were an awful lot of cars lining the road and more than a few pedestrians coming to and fro. In fact, the school parking lot was overflowing. Ah ha. Clearly, this was going to be a biggie.

The school gym was packed with vendors, as was the cafeteria, main hallway, and the front foyer. There were people selling all kinds of giftie things one would expect at a craft fair at this point in the season: home baking, all kinds of knitted goods, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, home decor, art, soaps and bath salts, jams and jellies and salsa and hot sauces. And that’s just scratching the surface! There was a lady selling double-sided cloth napkins that were shaped like Christmas trees; someone else selling homemade dog treats that sold out before we even got there; rows of lovely woven blankets made out of yak fur (is it yak fur, or hair?); personalized backpacks for kids; walking sticks carved out of branches; intricate pop up cards – hundreds and hundreds of items – the majority of which were handmade by someone here in Ottawa.

The one thing I was looking for didn’t seem to be there: doggy bandanas. (Piper needs to upgrade her wardrobe!) I think I will try my hand at sewing my own instead. However, I didn’t go home totally empty-handed:

new mittens!

I bought mittens! These ones come with a bit of backstory. You see, I’ve been looking for this particular vendor for YEARS. About ten years ago, the maker of these mittens had a booth at our school’s holiday craft fair. I bought a pair at that time and they’ve been my favourite mittens to this day. I liked the traditional Nordic-style pattern, and thanks to a tighter weave, they’re warm yet breathable, which prevents mitten sweats. Basically, they are a Very Fine Mitten.

So you can imagine my surprise when I spotted the mitten lady in Kanata at the All Saints Fair. Now I know that my old mittens (and my new mittens, above) are made by MAGS Knitting. (They’re on Facebook too!) I’m pretty sure they thought I was a little nutty because I practically pounced on their pile of mittens when I spotted them. After I calmed down we had a good chat about Quality Mittens. So of course, I had to buy another pair.

I bought these for myself but I think they’d make a great gift. Is there such a thing as too many quality mittens? I think not. Warm hands are a gift that keeps giving!

As I wandered the 150+ tables it occurred to me that if people are serious about shopping locally, well, it doesn’t get more local than this. Admission to this particular craft fair was $2 or a donation of non-perishable food. Food donations go to the food bank and the money goes to Christmas Hampers for families in need, right here in Ottawa. Beyond that, craft fair purchases support local entrepreneurs, crafters, and artisans, whether it’s their full-time occupation, retirement income, or side gig. Whether you like to shop locally for environmental reasons or economic ones, or maybe you just like a nice pair of mittens, I urge you to drop by your local church or school holiday craft fair this season. Who knows what great stuff you will find there.


11 Nov, 2017

Weekend reading: November 11 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

07 Nov, 2017

How much do you pay for dog dentistry?

By andrea tomkins in dog stuff

Guess who had a dental appointment last week? Our favourite four-legged family member, Piper:

For dogs, a tooth cleaning isn’t a simple appointment involving a chatty hygenist and a lecture about the importance of flossing. It’s kind of a big deal. First of all, it’s an all-day appointment that requires bloodwork beforehand, anesthetic, IVs, and monitoring. Our vets have always insisted on x-rays because you can’t see if there are issues under the gum line. I want to trust them. I do. After all, THEY are the experts and I am not. That being said, it’s important to remember that pet care is a for-profit business.

If you are a pet owner, you know how quickly all of this adds up and how expensive it can be, especially as it pertains to dog (and cat!) dentistry. Heaven forbid there needs to be an emergency extraction done while the dog is lying on the table. Unforeseen issues can add hundreds of dollars to a relatively routine cleaning (although it’s anything BUT routine, seeing as they put the dog under while they do it).

Here’s the dog dental cost breakdown (after tax) of our most recent appointment:

  • Hospitalization:$62.33
  • Anesthesia: $282.50 (This includes exam, medications, monitoring, recovery and care.)
  • Fluids: $95.46
  • Dental eval and clean: $139.67
  • Full mouth dental x-ray $207.92

The total for our appointment was $787.88, which does not include the $180 for bloodwork we paid the week before. Sigh. The reason I am sharing the costs here is that I think it’s time to have an open dialogue about the cost of these particular veterinary services. Is this what other pet owners in Ottawa have experienced? Is it more, or less, than the average? My mother thinks it might be cheaper in rural areas, but I’m not sure about that.

Don’t get me wrong. The staff at our vets are so great. They’re very kind and caring, and I do believe Piper has been treated well, but I’m hoping that other Ottawa dog owners will find this post and share the price of their dental care for (a) a cost comparison and (b) a good discussion.

Related: Some vets recommend these Dog Oral Hygiene Chews for her teeth. At the very least, this brand appears to be getting good reviews from Amazon customers, so I may pick up a bag in order to supplement her nightly brushing. (YES. We have committed to brushing her teeth every day. Does everyone do this? We just can’t afford not to, and of course, we don’t want Piper to lose any teeth.)

We always get asked about pet insurance at the vet’s, which we don’t have. What we DID do was skim a bit off each paycheque and sock it away in a TFSA. I think it’s better than pet insurance, although we’ve drained it now and need to start all over again. Sigh.

I’d love to hear your two cents about dog dentistry in Ottawa, or where ever you are!

Tags: , ,


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

terra20 Ottawa

Expert lice removal services in Ottawa with Lice Services Canada

Click me!


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • SJM: My father sent epic care packages when I was at Uni - one per term. It included a 6 pack of beer and lots of food. This was when postage was much chea
  • andrea tomkins: I KNOW. It's crazy that we are now the parents of an adult. I can hardly believe it myself most days! :)
  • Allison: What!!??!! How is your daughter in university?!! That just cannot be!!! So glad to hear she is adjusting well and having fun and enjoying her classes
  • andrea tomkins: Great ideas Joy! Especially the POST-its! They're actually an expensive purchase for a student, so they'd make a nice addition to a care package.
  • joy: cute and fun - I would love to receive things like this! How about notebooks, magazines, post-it notes, seasonal treats, lip balms, gift cards for fav
  • andrea tomkins: Ooh! Good one Alison! A good (long!) phone charge cord could be welcome as well.
  • Alison in Ottawa: Another pair of ear phones. My daughter can never keep track of them.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). 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!


E-book alert!

Shopping Embargo e-book promo

My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

Piper is on Instagram

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter