a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Sep, 2019

Weekend reading: September 21 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

14 Sep, 2019

Weekend reading: September 14 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: Then She Was Gone: A Novel

The other day Mark and I – plus the pooch – went for a walk from Westboro Beach towards Remic Rapids. I had heard there was a little pop-up bistro here and wanted to see if it was still open. And guess what, it was.

It’s definitely worth a visit. It turned out to be a very pretty place to sit and enjoy a pint. There’s a short menu with hot dogs and gelato and the like but we were there primarily to enjoy a beverage and a view. And as an added bonus, dogs are allowed!

NCC Bistro at Remic Rapids, Ottawa

NCC Bistro at Remic Rapids, Ottawa

NCC Bistro at Remic Rapids, Ottawa

NCC Bistro at Remic Rapids, Ottawa

It was a very nice outing but for one thing… There are portapotties on site but I’m not sure if this was a weekend issue or not but at the time of our visit they were, er, seriously subpar.

We were there during the day but I’m betting it’s equally nice at night. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every night but the grill closes a little earlier. The page on the NCC website doesn’t mention what day it will close for the season but I think the fellow behind the grill said they’d be running until October.

(Looking for other fun stuff to do in Ottawa? Take a look at my Ottawa bucket list post for ideas… )

08 Sep, 2019

Patong Beach

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

In the previous post in this series, we battled traffic and scary intersections while coping with jet lag and extreme heat.

Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

We timed our first visit to the beach for late in the day to avoid the worst of the heat. I was glad we did. It was still very hot but we didn’t fry under the glare of the sun, which is very intense here. When the sun was on us I was sure I could feel my skin sizzling, despite all the SPF I had applied. I felt as if I was made of white bread, and when I was outside I was exposing myself to an industrial toaster… one that was cranked to 11 unless the sun was down or it was raining.

Clouds were a blessing, to say the least.

This is what the main entrance of the beach looks like (looking back toward the road):

Entrance to Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

(Protip: Click to photos to view them in a larger format.)

Patong Beach itself is a long noodle of a beach and comfortably wide. A line of trees, and in some places, restaurants, divide the beach from the road. (A note to travellers: this entrance has the only washroom on this end of the beach and you pay to use it!)

It wasn’t busy during that first visit, but I could envision the scene during peak season.

It is pretty here, to be sure. The sand is fine and smooth and the water is warm.

View of Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Patong Beach, Thailand

The safe swimming areas are clearly marked but I didn’t plan on going in past my knees. We walked to the southern-most limit and turned back around.

There were some vendors who strolled the beach but they weren’t as aggressive as the ones we’d encountered in the Dominican Republic. Jetski rental and parasailing were the top offerings here.

We sat on the beach and gathered our strength. We had to save the swimming for another day. I’d only had a nut bar for lunch. It was all I could stomach at the time and I felt my energy reserves beginning to sag. After awhile we dusted ourselves off and went back the way we came. This time it was easier to navigate everything and we didn’t feel as overwhelmed. I felt a little bit of hope. Surely we’d get better at this.

The road to Patong Beach

By the time we got back to our place the sun was setting and the sky was alive with colour. We ran up to the roof to snap some photos. The jungle sang at our back and the city glowed before us. It was a wonder.

Rooftop view behind our AirBnB in Patong

Rooftop view from our AirBnB in Patong

Rooftop view from our AirBnB in Patong

That night before bed we went for a dip in the pool to cool down. I floated on my back, face up towards a blackening sky. There was a bright crescent moon but no stars. The last birds of the day swooped overhead – just dark silhouettes, really. The bats would follow soon. The smell of wood burning drifted in the air. Everything was still, and here I was, part of that stillness, suspended in a pool of water that was almost as warm as the air, half a world away from everything I’ve ever known.

(Want to read the previous posts in the Thailand series? Click here.)


02 Sep, 2019

another milestone

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Piper amid the moving boxes

If you’re a friend of the Fishbowl you may have read the post I wrote when our eldest went away to school. Full disclosure, I teared up re-reading it right now. I am feeling all the same feels now that the youngest is away at school. My goodness, our baby is gone and I can’t believe it.

Our. BABY. Longtime readers read about HER BIRTH.

When did this baby grow up to be one of the best people on the planet? Smart as a whip, with a big heart, and a big laugh? Somehow it happened.

Here she is all packed up and ready to roll. She looks pretty happy here, eh?

Packed up!

Packed up!

Mark rented a van and we drove her to Kingston on Saturday. Amazingly, the gridlock was not nearly as bad as it was the last time we moved a kid into residence at Queen’s. Another contrast, it was a gorgeous day; blue skies without a trace of rain.

University Avenue was a fun experience. If you know Kingston you already know this is student central. Traffic was stop and go; plenty of time to take in the scene. There were tons of young people milling around outside, homemade banners flying from windows, music blaring.

“HONK IF YOU LOVE QUEEN’S!” screamed a bunch of girls.

Mark’s hand hovered over the horn.


He honked. They cheered. Then he donned his Queen’s ball cap and they cheered again. We drove along and the next group of young people were giving car passengers a chance to throw a ping pong ball into a cup, beer pong style (but with no beer for me), from the comfort of the vehicle. I had two tries and failed each time. (It goes without saying that the youngest had rolled up her tinted window and was trying to pretend this wasn’t happening.)

The eldest daughter – now in her third year – met us upon arrival. Having the extra pair of hands was very helpful. Once again, as per protocol, we had to unload the van and immediately park it on the other end of campus. This meant that Mark helped unload, drove away with the car, while us girls schlepped everything upstairs. No biggie though. We managed.

The number of people coming and going was mind boggling. Thankfully, there were many Queen’s students on hand to answer questions and direct visitors to the right place. It was highly organized chaos.

Packed up!

The youngest had been worried about her residence but it turned out ok. She has a private room in a central location. There’s a big sunny window and a tree out front.

Packed up!

Packed up!

Her room has all the essentials: a bed, a desk, a couple of chairs, and decent storage. We brought along a small fridge too. The washrooms are shared by the entire floor (there are plenty of them but they could use an update). I had a bit of a chuckle when I saw the floor kitchen:

The kitchen at Chown Hall

We helped her unpack and get settled in. It would have gone perfectly smoothly if it wasn’t for a hiccup with the Wi-Fi, but she figured it all out with the help of her sister the following day.

Before we left we went for a walk around campus, then down by the waterfront, which is gorgeous, and only a block away from her residence.

By the waterfront

After we said our goodbyes Mark and I parked the car closer to downtown. And wandered aimlessly. We poked our heads in a few shops and walked down to the farmers’ market near Kingston City Hall but nothing inspired a purchase.

When I had originally envisioned this moment I pictured us high-fiving each other and cackling like loons at the top of our lungs while we sped away, dodging tourists and hot dog vendors like a scene from Cannonball Run. We did it, we’d shriek. Two kids in university! VICTORY IS OURS. Wooooot!

Instead we had a quiet beverage while we people-watched and became part of the scene ourselves for awhile. There were very few high-fives, if any.

Pop stop

We opted for an early dinner at Diane’s Fish Shack, where I ordered fish tacos that had somehow lost all of their flavour despite being doused in hot sauce.

Fish tacos at Diane’s

Mark’s fries were good though.

The road home was flanked with farm fields that waved and glowed in the setting sun. It was a lovely view, but at the same time there was a hush of melancholy over the scene as we thought about how different our lives our now.

What more can I say? It was a good summer but these last few weeks haven’t been easy. We are in a period of upheaval and I am trying to take it day-by-day. But such is life, eh?


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.

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!


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