a peek inside the fishbowl

05 May, 2016

When you look, you see

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I was going to write up a wee story, a true story, of how someone we know donned a dark dress, drove out to a visitation, got lost (or thought she did), was almost overcome by road rage, and THEN realized it wasn’t Wednesday like I, er, she, had thought. It was Tuesday. Sigh.

Instead, I’m going to share some photos of a few things that are making me happy this week: ferns unfurling, bees buzzing, and tulips shining. So there.

ferns unfurling

stumbling and bumbling


02 May, 2016

About that bucket list

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I woke up this morning with a pain in my neck and wisps of a bad dream in my thoughts. I dreamed that I was very very lonely. I felt it deep inside myself, like a rock rolling around in my gut. I saw myself standing at a wall overlooking a beautiful view. I am so alone, I said, to the person beside me. She/he (?) took my hand and held it tightly.

I am not alone. I know this, but I felt it so keenly in my dream. I’m not sure what to make of this.


I have lost my mojo today, and frankly, I’m finding it hard to put one foot in front of the other.

One of my peers passed away last week and I can’t stop thinking about it. She was only 48 – a wife and mother of two – but of course, so much more than that. I don’t know how she died but I do know there are a lot of people who are absolutely gutted by the loss and are in a great deal of pain right now.

Today I feel like I am treading water but not really going anywhere. Everything feels pretty pointless at the moment and I am questioning my priorities. Am I doing enough? What is enough? The rational side of me understands that we just can’t realistically live our lives as if we’re going to be dead tomorrow, but still, that feeling niggles at me. I am flooded by the injustice. To leave this world before the trees break into their cloaks of green; before the crab apples and tulips and peonies come into bloom; before Mother’s Day, surrounded by the people who love you most, who you love most… seems to be the biggest tragedy of all. Did she have a chance to say goodbye? The mere thought is haunting me.

Perhaps what we need to do, in order to honour those who have left us too early, is to live a little more fully, a little more mindfully, and with a little more love.

30 Apr, 2016

Weekend reading: April 30 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

29 Apr, 2016

Overcoming fear

By andrea tomkins in Publishing/writing/career stuff

I’ve been taking photos for a long time but over the past decade or so I’ve been doing it in a work capacity. Some of you Fishies will remember the few years I worked as a family portrait photographer. I came to a crossroads because I had to decide whether I wanted to write or dedicate more hours to photography. I opted out of growing the photography side of things, but still do a bit of it. I am lucky to have found a good balance in that respect.

I don’t take photos for every issue of the newspaper, just like I don’t have articles in every issue. Every once in awhile I find myself taking photos for a story we’re running in the paper. This can happen for several reasons: (1) I’m the person writing the story and I’m already there (2) it’s a story I’m interested in personally (3) there is no photographer available or (4) I’m going to be over budget.

Here I am, taking photos for a story we ran recently about the new festival in Westboro, called Westboro FUSE.

Someone shot the shooter

I used to be a shy photographer. Waves of anxiety would rise to the surface and get the better of me. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often anymore. The anxiety faded over time, which was a relief because I was convinced my nerves would be frayed forever. Who wants a lifetime of twitchy eye and heartburn? Hint: Not me.

What happened – other than the fact that I was taking hundreds of photos and learning from my mistakes – was that I adopted a work persona. I basically pretended I was someone else when I needed a bit of extra courage. I knew Andrea the Regular Person had moments of paralyzing shyness, but Andrea the Photographer did not. Andrea the Photographer kicks ass and does whatever she needs to do in order to get the shot. That might mean asking someone to do something unusual like stepping up on something or hugging a tree, touching people (“pardon me while I fix that stray hair”), sitting in the front row like a keener, or just getting up in front of a lot of people. Andrea the Photographer is bold! What also helps is having the name of a publication that she can whip out when she needs to: “Oh sorry, am I in your way? I’m just taking photos for…”) This helps convince her subjects that she’s not a crazy person.

She’s not rude, but she is assertive and smart. She knows that if she doesn’t nail the photo now, she’ll regret it later. Part of this is the courage to accept that she doesn’t know everything about everything and she doesn’t have to imply that she does. She’s not afraid to ask someone to wait a minute so she can double-check her camera settings. She also knows that people are happy to help her if she needs it and that it’s ok to ask. So what if she looks like a dummy for a second? She doesn’t care!

It’s quite liberating. You should try it.

On Monday we put the latest issue of the newspaper to bed and sent it off to the printer. It’s always so gratifying when that happens! Tuesday was supposed to be my “day off” but you can probably guess what happened instead: LIFE. I would have liked to turn off my brain and refill my reserves but the day involved an ortho appointment, grocery shopping, a photo shoot, writing and web work. I am still behind on my emails! (Gah. Sorry EVERYONE.) Mark and I, however, did get to squeeze in a nice bit of distraction. In the evening we went over to Mill Street Brew Pub to attend the launch of their new West Coast IPA. (Fruity! Hoppy! Serve it with cheese!) It was fun.

From last night's IPA launch at Mill Street

This past weekend I attended the BConnected Conference. I hosted a series of roundtables on Saturday but managed to get in some learning and networking as well.

One of the highlights for me was Julie Cole’s breakfast keynote. I’ve seen Julie speak at other conferences and I always enjoy hearing what she has to say. If you’re not familiar with Julie and her history with Mabel’s Labels you can read more about it here, but to summarize: four mothers hit a breaking point in regards to their children’s constant stream of misplaced shoes/water bottles/mittens and decided to make labels. Worth noting: what started out as a basement business was bought by Avery earlier this year.

Julie’s presentation was primarily about the growth of the brand and how central customer service is to the company. (I can vouch for this. What’s more, the labels do exactly what they promise to do: (a) hold fast and (b) help recover lost items. We’ve even started using them on our yard and garden tools (!) but I digress.)

One of the conference attendees asked Julie a very good question and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. I am paraphrasing here, but it was essentially this: How do you spread the word about your business to your friends and family without sounding like a jerk?

Julie laughed and told us that she had NO PROBLEM hitting up her friends to buy labels and help spread the word. I thought this was really interesting. So many entrepreneurs (and I’m including writers, photographers, and other creative types here too) are reluctant to toot their own horn for fear of offending their friends.

Here’s where I confess that I don’t think I talked very much about my work – my writing or my blog – to fellow parents at daycare or later in the school yard. I never wanted to dominate a conversation or draw too much attention to myself. That’s rude! I also never want to appear braggy.

So the question remains, how do you talk about your business with other people who, let’s face it, may or may not help you achieve your goals? Actually, I take that back. ANYONE can help us achieve our goals, and do it in ways we never even considered. It might be as simple as a mom at daycare telling her neighbour about you and your services… a neighbour who happens to own a large company doing Exactly That Thing That Fits Your Goals and Needs.

Related: As I am tapping out this all out I am remembering something I posted awhile back about The Ask. What I’m writing about today is essentially the same thing. If you need something, just ask. It sounds simple, but as we know it’s never that simple. We don’t ask, or don’t talk about ourselves, because we’re afraid of looking weak or needy or rude.

So, going back to the blogger who asked the question during the conference, I am assuming she wants more people reading her blog and she’s reluctant to bring it up to the other parents at her kid’s school. I definitely think there’s a sincere way to slip it into a casual conversation without seeming overly aggressive about it, don’t you? It can be something as simple as: “Hey, since we’re on the topic of clothing for kids, did you know I’m a blogger and I write a lot about family life? I posted a review of some really great children’s shoes on my blog the other day and I think you’d find it interesting.”

I’m a big fan of business cards for this purpose. So, if you’ve just introduced the idea of your blog and the other person asks for the web address, instead of scrambling in your bag for a pen and a scrap of paper you just serenely pull a card out of your pocket with the URL already on it. (The small MOO cards are perfect for this.)

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re a blogger or entrepreneur. On a scale of 1-10, how good are you about talking about your business and services? What holds you back?



NAC presents the Mozart Experience

Annual pass at Saunders Farm!

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Joan of Arc Academy in Ottawa

OMS Ottawa Montessori schools

terra20 Ottawa

Dinosaurs Canadian Museum of Nature Ottawa

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  • michael: After spending over 60 dollars and getting 0 points. I stopped using my points card.
  • pokies games free: Most on-line casino gaming sites accessible will enable payments and withdrawals using this service.
  • coffee with julie: Thank you for writing this. I haven't really been able to express anything intelligently around the sudden loss of such a beautiful person.
  • can ho cao cap: There's definately a great deal to know about this topic. I really like all the points you have made.
  • Arif: Thank you Andrea, Look forward to meeting you soon.
  • Misty Pratt: I recently finished the book "When Breath Becomes Air"...it's devastating, and yet so beautiful. Death slaps you right in the face while reading it, a
  • binki: It's funny the way you describe yourself as anxious, with "paralyzing fear". I was at an event a year ago where you were interviewing some folks.

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 (16) and Sarah (14). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times, and a regular contributor to MediaSmarts.ca. 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!


My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

The #dailylunches project – 1000 lunches and counting

Every day I eat lunch and take a picture. Here's the latest:

Created with flickr badge.

Click the photo for details: what it is, where I ate it (if it's worth a mention!) and how to cook it (if there happens to be a recipe). You can also read more about this project right here.


On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter