a peek inside the fishbowl

This past month I’ve mentioned a few items that might make that special someone a nice Christmas gift: mittens, gifts that help break the cycle of poverty, an air plant, home cooked meals made via Supperworks, and the gift of an experience.

I wanted to share another idea with you in case you’re still looking for a little something: A digital, instant-read cooking thermometer. Mark received this one from Lee Valley for Father’s Day and it’s become our secret weapon for juicy and perfectly cooked meats.

We used to have an old-fashioned meat thermometer with a dial on the top. In fact, we had a bunch because we kept buying new ones because we weren’t happy with the old ones. They’re all the same. You stick it in, pray you don’t hit bone, and watch as it slowwwwly tells you whether your entree is raw in the middle and whether the rest of your side dishes will dry out while you wait.

I’ve found our new digital thermometer to be handy for all kinds of foods, especially when I’m frying up chicken burgers or sausages on the stove, which always tend to look done to me but really aren’t. ALSO, I don’t ever want to eat undercooked chicken or pork. I’ve also used it while making yogurt. Getting the milk hot enough without it boiling over is critical.

The thermometer is easy to clean and folds away neatly. We’ve been using ours so much that we don’t bother putting it in the drawer anymore. It’s got a magnet on the back so its new home is on the side of the toaster, within arm’s reach of the oven.

But here’s the thing. This is not exactly a traditional gift. What’s worse, giving a digital thermometer may even be dangerously misinterpreted. For example, you might think you’re doing a kindness by giving one to your parents or inlaws but they may end up being insulted. The last thing you want on Christmas morning is a mother-in-law in tears because she thinks YOU think she can’t cook a turkey. So, it’s your call. :)

p.s. Speaking of turkey, you MUST watch this quick little video that shows the best way to carve a turkey. It’s genius.

16 Dec, 2017

Weekend reading: December 16 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

Some of you have seen this already, but my most recent Buying Smart column for Costco Connection magazine is about buying experiences over things and outlines some of the cool ideas available at the Costco warehouse and on their website. (You can read that article over here. You might be surprised in terms of what kind of tickets and gift cards are available. I know I was!)

I really like the idea of giving tickets to experiences! Don’t you? Memories last a lifetime. Talk about gifts that keep giving!

There are many different ways you can go with this gift idea.

  • Restaurant and movie passes. There’s a dealio if you buy them at Costco but the Cineplex and Landmark cinemas aren’t the only game in town. Don’t forget the Mayfair and Bytowne too.

Movie night at the Bytowne Cinema

  • Museum and gallery memberships: There are so many in Ottawa! How about passing along a hint to grandma and grandpa re: a family membership to the Museum of Nature (there’s a new butterfly exhibition!) or the renovated Canada Science and Technology Museum museum? Actually, this family  membership gives admission to THREE Ottawa museums. Check it out.
  • Fishbowl patron, Saunders Farm, has annual passes and gift cards available too. They come with great perks too! Read more about it on the Saunders website.
  • How about a Brew Donkey tour?
  • … or a sightseeing flight in Ottawa?

The tricks is to find out what your recipients will get the most joy out of and start from there. If they’re art lovers, perhaps a membership to the National Gallery. Music and theatre buffs might appreciate a gift card to the NAC.

Got any ideas to add to the list? I’d love to hear if YOU have received the gift of an experience!

I am feeling merry. Mark and I picked up our Christmas tree at the Royal Ottawa Hospital last night. Woot!

Did you know that this year is the 30th annual Christmas tree sale at ROH? I had no idea, but I DO know that proceeds from the sale of trees go to programs at the ROH. And that’s something I can totally get behind.

Christmas trees at the Royal Ottawa Hospital

It was SO COLD last night. Cold, but pretty. I felt so sorry for the fellows who were helping customers with their trees.

We let our tree defrost in the mudroom last night. We picked out a tall green, prickly popsicle but woke up to a real beauty; a seven-foot air freshener! I am very excited about it.

You should know that Christmas trees at the ROH will be available until December 23 or until they run out (whichever comes first). Get the details on the ROH website – including sale hours – so make sure to check it before you head out.

Last week I had the opportunity to check out the new Farm Boy at the Rideau Centre before it opened to the public.

I arrived a bit early and milled around the entrance near Shoppers. I waited five or ten minutes and in that time at least a dozen regular Rideau shoppers stopped to poke their heads in the door – like, they actually opened a door to what is obviously a construction area – to sneak a peek. If they saw a human being on the other side, many of whom were construction crew, they’d ask if the store was open yet.

This is how excited people were to welcome Farm Boy to downtown Ottawa.

New Farm Boy in Ottawa, Rideau Centre

When they first announced the new location I wasn’t actually able to wrap my head around it. There have been so many changes at Rideau that I couldn’t picture where it was going to go. Well, if you’re standing on the corner of Rideau and Sussex, the main entrance is a stone’s throw down Rideau Street. If you’re inside, the other entrance is ground level next to Shoppers Drug Mart. Also, it’s right next to the future LRT entrance/exit. (!) Frankly, this location is quite the coup for Farm Boy as thousands of people will be walking past it every day.

New Farm Boy in Ottawa, Rideau Centre

New Farm Boy in Ottawa, Rideau Centre

You have to descend a few steps to get into the store. (Note that it is also accessible via a small lift on the right side of the staircase):

New Farm Boy in Ottawa, Rideau Centre

I would describe the downtown Farm Boy as a compact version of the store with major emphasis on takeaway. There is a big hot food bar and salad bar, as well as the kind of grab & go coolers you see at other locations. There is sushi, as well as their famous pizza oven, which bakes a fabulous thin-crust pizza in a matter of minutes. (If you haven’t tried it yet, I must insist you do.) Speaking of hot meals, I chatted with Chef Josh Drache while I was there. He’s the executive chef at Farm Boy. THIS is a guy who is passionate about food. In fact, talking to him makes me very hungry. The thing he seems the most excited about, and rightly so, is the installation of a super grill at this location. There’ll be an ever-changing menu of grilled foods available: sausages, burgers, stir-fries, GOURMET GRILLED CHEESE etc. Oh, did I mention the grill will be open early for breakfast Monday to Friday? Commuters and other early birds can drop by at 6:30 a.m.

Also, check out the fantastic price on coffee:

Coffee at the New Farm Boy in Ottawa, Rideau Centre
A latte for $2.49? That is a deal and a half!

There’s also a butcher, fresh produce, cheese, and other grocery items, including a selection of their house-brand products.

Inside the New Farm Boy in Ottawa, Rideau Centre

Farm Boy gelato

Not pictured here: a small seating area at the front end of the store. So you can hunker down and eat your pizza right on the spot if you so desire.

I think the jury is still out regarding volume. I couldn’t help but wonder what it will be like if they’re making 50 pizzas and 30 stir fries for hungry people at 12:05, but they are already working on ways to ease potential bottlenecks if they arise. The goal is, of course, to make it easy for people to grab breakfast or lunch, and a few groceries for dinner too.

All this to say, it was a whirlwind tour but I am looking forward to going back.

Have you checked out the Rideau location of Farm Boy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. If you’re thinking of outsourcing Christmas dinner this year and looking for a review of the Farm Boy Christmas dinner, you can find that post in my archives. I’ve had a number of people ask me about it so I thought I’d drop the link here.


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.

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