a peek inside the fishbowl

24 Jun, 2017

Weekend reading: June 24 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

I can’t even remember when we bought Mark his portable charcoal grill. It may have been Father’s Day last year. Or maybe his birthday? Regardless of when, I do know that it’s been gathering dust in the basement, despite repeated declarations that it was going to be used. Soon.

Well, SOON finally happened this week. (Someone had to take matters into her own hands!) I picked up some seasoned kebabs at Farm Boy (spoiler alert: they were AMAZING), a few other things, and packed our bags.

The original plan was to find a picnic table and some shade at Britannia Beach but it quickly became clear that we were not going to find a parking spot, anywhere. Plan B, was a little further west: Andrew Hayden Park. I held my breath as we pulled into the lot because there was no Plan C! Phew. I needn’t have worried because there was plenty of parking to be found here. It’s not as popular a spot – maybe because there’s no beach here – but it’s just as pretty.

We parked the car and set up at a picnic table overlooking the water. This was our view:

The view from our picnic table, Andrew Hayden Park

Boats dotted the sparkling water, ducks landed and took off, and we got some serious side eye from the resident gulls. And of course, there were the geese. The goslings are probably due to leave the nest very soon:

The geese at Andrew Hayden Park

Mark assembled the grill and lit the coals while got everything ready. (Note to self: always travel with a Swiss Army Knife):

Hot coals!

Stuff for the picnic!

Here’s a tip: grilling over coal can take a while, so bring something to eat while you’re waiting. (We had Farm Boy chips and fresh salsa. Next time I will buy more than I think I need because the family will devour it.) Also, pick something that doesn’t take too long to cook. The skewers were a perfect choice:

Farm Boy beef and chicken skewers

While dinner was grilling, the four of us simply enjoyed our surroundings: the people, the wildlife, and the view. There was a church group at the amphitheater, so we even had some distant musical entertainment!

Finallyyyyy, dinner was ready:

Dinner is served.

It was easy peasy. DIY souvlaki was what I was going for here. Pita, plus meat of choice (beef or chicken), topped with a drizzle of simple yogurt sauce (plain yogurt, garlic, seasonings), pickled red onion slices (vinegar and sugar I mixed up at home), and romaine lettuce. Grape tomatoes rounded out our meal. I can’t describe how delicious it was. There is something about eating food prepared on a charcoal grill, that makes it extra smokey and delicious isn’t there? Every bite was like, OMG!

After dinner we had dessert. Nothing fancy here:


… and then watched the sunset.

Watching the sun set at Andrew Hayden Park

My only disappointment was (a) the days are shorter from here on in and (b) the fact that we’d never done this before. I guess we’ve just never made the time, which is just plain sad. I will say this, it was The Best Way to spend the longest day of the year. I definitely think we should grill our dinner at the park more often.


To review: every other Tuesday is my day off and I’m trying to use this time to recharge my batteries. No work, no meetings, minimal errands. Last time around I paid a visit to Ritchie’s Feed and Seed and did a bit of gardening.

It was our eldest daughter’s last day of school on Monday. And when I say “last day,” I mean, last day of high school, forever.

Guess who just had her last day of high school ever? (!!)

A post shared by Andrea Tomkins (@quietfish) on

So, of course, when Tuesday rolled around I knew who I was taking to the special media preview of the newest gallery to open at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

First, allow me to backtrack for a moment. Ottawa folks may remember that the Museum of Nature was renovated a few years ago. The permanent galleries were overhauled as well, and they didn’t all reopen at the same time. Well, drumroll please, the Arctic gallery is the last of the permanent exhibit spaces to open. Called the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, it’s been years in the making. It opens to the public today, so I was happy to bring the eldest along to get a sneak peek yesterday!

The underlying idea of the gallery, at least to me, is that the north isn’t just a place, it is a people, and it is all of us. Of course, the museum explores those biological connections in the way they do best, by guiding our path to learning and showing us the flora and the fauna that are found there. But there’s a bit of a departure here, as the exhibition also shines a spotlight on the people who have called the north home for over millennia. This aspect reminded me of a past exhibition at the museum called Whales Tohora. (Remember that?) It also paid homage to the indigenous culture, but in that case it was that of New Zealand. But I digress.

Of all places perhaps, life in the Arctic is so inextricably connected. It’s a complex ecosystem. How can anything survive? The answer is, of course, that people, plants, and animals have found a way to extract energy from whatever they can in a region that is so famously hostile.

The folks at the Museum of Nature is really good at educating the masses in a fun way, and they always do it with a variety of interactive displays, information boards, pictures, and things to see and touch. The addition of videos gives us the opportunity to learn from researchers who are in the field, almost eye-to-eye, to great effect.

Arctic, at the Canadian Museum of Nature

Of course, there are things both Great and Small to behold as well:

ARCTIC, at the Canadian Museum of Nature

One of the most compelling displays in the Arctic gallery is an installation called ‘Beyond Ice’ that greets visitors at the entrance. At its very core, it is a film that is projected on slabs of ice, but that would be a poor way of describing it because it is really cool (both figuratively and literally):

Beyond Ice, at the Canadian Museum of Nature

Imagine a dark room. It feels a bit cool, but at first, you’re not sure why. That’s when you realize that, glowing in front of you, are large slabs of ice that are clearly meant to be the focal point of the room in which you find yourself. The ice slabs (and yes, it’s real ice, and visitors are encouraged to touch them) have custom-built freezers at their core. They will always stay cold, and condensation is continuously created and frozen on the surface. They look like icebergs that have been heaved up at the water’s edge, and it is across the face of these slabs that a looping film (a co-production between the National Film Board the Canadian Museum of Nature) is projected. Sounds, images, shapes, and video give you a sense that the ice is telling you its own origin story. And it’s a complicated story, an old story with a very special sense of place. What is the future of this place? Where is it going? How is it changing? These questions have been tumbling around my brain ever since.

Another point of interest, a giant mural by Inuk artist, Nancy Saunders.

Entering the Canada Goose Arctic Gallery

This remarkable piece, titled Ilurqusivut (Our Ways), spans seven walls. It’s an optical illusion; the proper term is actually anamorphosis. The work is fragmented but appears as a single piece when viewed from one angle. (There are footprint decals on the floor that indicate where people should stand.) It’s a two-dimensional work presented in three dimensions. It represents so much of the rich northern culture but also, in its own way, the challenges northern Canadians have faced. It reminds us there is no one way to understand or experience northern life and culture; no single lens that can view it all. There are only pieces that we can try to put together in order to better understand the whole.

(You can find more information about the new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery on the Museum of Nature website.)

After poking around the gallery, the eldest and I decided to stay for lunch. Have you ever been to the Nature Cafe at the Museum of Nature? It’s actually pretty good. We had a chicken wrap and grabbed a pasta salad to share. We ate it outdoors, on the quad that is right next door to the cafeteria. Here was the view, looking up:

Looking up, at the Canadian Museum of Nature

It was a gorgeous day and I was loathe to cut it short so we walked around Elgin Street. Top stop on this part of the tour: Boogie + Birdie. It’s quite possibly my new favourite shop. Have you ever been? Ack. There was SO.MUCH.GREAT.STUFF that I am already planning a return visit. The eldest bought a coffee mug (she’s thinking ahead to university cereal consumption) and we went back home.

All in all, it was a pretty good day, for a Tuesday.


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

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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 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!


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