a peek inside the fishbowl

15 Nov, 2019

A bite of Thai food

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

The Thailand diaries continue! To read past posts in this series, click here.

After our extraordinary time with the elephants, we decided to chill out by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.

Poolside writing

In the afternoon I went back to our 7-11 to pick up a few staples, which included a cup of coffee for yours truly. I knew what I was doing now. I had it down pat! Unfortunately, I threw a wrench into the system by ordering a “signature coffee, hot” off the special laminated menu.

The young girl behind the counter looked puzzled when I placed my order. She looked at the menu, at the big machine, and back again. She pressed a few buttons and something brown poured into a cup. She consulted with her co-worker and the contents of the cup were whisked away. They exchanged a few words… the only ones I understood were “signature coffee.” Clearly I was the first person to order a regular coffee here! The second staffer scrolled through the options on the machine and made a second cup. It had less liquid in it than the first one, it was perhaps 3/4 full. She handed it to me with a single word: “Sugah?” I shook my head no. It was good, but not exactly hot. I was ok with this.

While I was here I also scoped out the beer options, and was surprised to learn about the restrictions on purchasing:

Trying to buy beer at the 7-11, Phuket Thailand

You can only buy alcohol between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to midnight. Later we also found out that you can’t purchase liquor on certain holy days.

I also bought potato chips. It started out as a joke but we made it a personal challenge to try as many Thai flavours as we could during our stay:

Exploration of Thai potato chip flavours in

Hot chili squid chips were surprisingly good!

Speaking of food the youngest and I talked a lot about street food while we planned this vacation – the variety, the price, how much we’d eat and enjoy… well, at this point our holiday was almost halfway through and I couldn’t honestly say that our appetites had returned. I wasn’t sure how much of this was a result of jet lag, or just the heat.

That evening we practically forced ourselves to eat a proper dinner out. We chose a restaurant that was down the road from our residence. I should point out that I am using the term “restaurant” very loosely. It was essentially a few tables and chairs between a few walls and open to the street, with a wall-size poster showcasing all the meal options. Interestingly, they were all meat-based dishes. I only mention this because I had assumed there would be plenty of vegetarian dishes available but what I was seeing here was a lot of duck, some seafood, and different combinations of pork (in soup, noodle, or rice format). I was ok with this, just surprised.

We ordered one dish to share: a crispy pork and rice dish.

It came with a soup. We were able to distinguish it from a finger dipping bowl by the bits of green onion floating on top.

When our main dish arrived we were a little disappointed to see that it didn’t match the photo on the laminated wall menu. But this is a universal thing, is it not? Your Big Mac will never look like the one pictured on tv. All this to say, the main dish didn’t look like much, but it tasted good. And it was only $3.00.

dinner at a roadside resto, Phuket

I think one of my favourite foodie experiences here was at the first true roadside food stand we were brave enough to try a couple of nights before the pork dish pictured above. These food stands are manned by one or two people and seem to return to the same spots during the day or night. This mango guy was parked on this corner almost every night (at least that I could see).

We were a little nervous about flirting with food stand foods, but mango and sticky rice seemed to be a safe bet. I’m glad we took the chance. First of all, it was cool to watch him prepare our dish. I was really impressed by how carefully this fellow prepared our dish, and how thoughtfully he chose the ripest mangoes and cut them up:

Sticky rice and mango, Patong

It was dessert to go!

Here is our mango and sticky rice dish, bathed in the unflattering glare of our hotel room:

Eating sticky rice and mango in Phuket

Half of the rice was dyed a bright green. Apparently this is typical but I’m still not sure why. The little baggy had sweetened coconut milk in it, which you cut open and pour over the whole shebang. The sesame seeds are sprinkled on top.

It tasted a lot like rice pudding, but with the addition of fruit to make us feel a little bit virtuous. They youngest wasn’t crazy about the sweetened sticky rice, so she ate the mango. I’d call it a win, regardless.

In my next post, I will write a bit about dealing with our first health-related issue (and no, it wasn’t a foot or toe infection!). More on that, later.

While many people in Ottawa were anticipating delays on the LRT or scraping the snow off their cars this morning, I was enjoying my usual commute a little bit more than usual:

Walk to work

I walked to work, admiring the scene, enjoying the fresh air, thinking WOW. This is nice. Aren’t I lucky?

What helped, of course, was that I was dressed appropriately. I had dug my hat and parka out of the back of the closet and donned my new boots and mittens.

The weather is a major topic around water coolers everywhere (even virtual ones, like Twitter). We LOVE to talk about it. And we love to complain about it.

I’ve decided to take a different approach to talking about the weather this year. I’m not going to complain about it. Here’s the thing: I don’t actually hate the winter! I like to ski. I like to walk the dog in the snow. I like to go on hikes. I don’t like being cold, that’s true, but you can dress for winter. Winter is a big part of where we live so I am making a concerted effort to reframe the experience.

Complaining about the weather doesn’t really serve any purpose. Sure, it brings about a small moment of connection between people (“OH my god! Can you believe all this snow? How many more days until it’s gone?”), but it might be more positive, more healthy, and more happiness-inducing to connect over something good instead of something negative. Does negativity breed negativity? Does complaining beget complaining? Does it leave a residue on my brain afterward? I have a feeling it does, so I’m not going to contribute to the conversation any more.

So the next time someone comes at me with a negative weather statement I’m going to find a positive counterpunch.

What I do know is that it would help my mental health if I lived in a society where were we all happily embraced the weather, no matter what the number was on the thermometer. Maybe if other people regularly expressed happiness about the weather it would subtly alter my happiness about it too.

What do you think?

p.s. Feel free to ask me about this strategy in March. ;)

09 Nov, 2019

Weekend reading: November 9 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

06 Nov, 2019

Work habits

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

When I was in second grade my teacher showed me that I can cool my body down by holding the insides of my wrists under cold running water. For some reason it stuck with me, and I sometimes I find myself doing it on hot days. I don’t even know if there is any science behind this, but it seems to work, and on a very hot day that’s all that really matters… that it SEEMS to work, right?

When I started working full-time again I decided to use it as an opportunity to add some good habits to my existing routines. I wrote a bit about this in a blog post I wrote for terra20. So far, I’ve been pretty good. Since that post was published I’ve also been taking my vitamin D and getting a daily dose of light with my Litebook. One of the things I also added to the mix is a 7-minute mini-meditation as soon as I arrive at the office. I’ve never been very good at sitting still, or meditating, but the short length and the soothing voice of the podcaster calms my busy brain down and sets my work day on a good path. (Send me an email if you want more information about this!)

So yes, I am a new fan of the mini-meditation, and I try to incorporate the principle of pressing pause during spare moments during my day. You don’t need a yoga mat to spend minute in a moment of mindful reflection. Grocery store line ups, dentist offices, elevators… these are all good places to add a little bit of zen to my day.

Awhile back I heard an idea about mini-meditations on a podcast I was listening to. The idea was to meditate whenever you drank from your water bottle. I tried it (“feel the cooooooolness of the water swishing around your mouth”) and felt very silly practicing mindful hydration. But hey, if it works for someone, who am I to judge? What I’ve started doing, however, is mindful hand washing. I work in a hospital setting and wash my hands a dozen times a day, if not more. One day I remembered my second grade teacher as I rinsed the soap off my hands and discovered it felt kind of nice to linger. The water was warm. The hush of the water was soothing. Why not take an extra second or two while I was here? Now, when I wash my hands, I close my eyes and take three deep breaths, filling my lungs as the warm water runs over my hands. Deep breath in, deep breath out. It only takes a moment. And when I’m done, I feel a little lighter, like some kind of internal reset has taken place.

(All bets are off if there’s someone in one of the stalls though! :D)

03 Nov, 2019

Weekend reading: November 3 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


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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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