a peek inside the fishbowl

Have you ever been part of a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture is a wonderful way of supporting areas farmers and eating seasonally, closer to home. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea, but never really followed through, mostly because I wasn’t sure if making this kind of Committment to Vegetables could actually work for my family.

For those who are new to the idea, when you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of produce from a local farmer. CSA members pay for the season’s produce up front and receive a weekly delivery throughout the summer and early fall, ultimately sharing the season’s bounty as well as the risk (of blight, of drought, etc.). It also means living a little closer to the land and truly knowing where our food comes from.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Michael Milsom, the man behind Mike’s Garden Harvest, a CSA here in Ottawa. Here he is:

Mike's Garden Harvest

He asked me if my family and I would like to sample his produce throughout the season, so we set up a time to chat about it a bit more. This guy is incredibly passionate about feeding families. His CSA had 32 members last year and almost all of the families returned this season. He’s growing (no pun intended) and this year he’s prepared to feed 125 local families.

As I see it, there are a few very big benefits of buying a share in a CSA:

  • This is locally grown, organic (!!) produce that is harvested at peak times, ensuring ultimate freshness.
  • It will reduce the amount of time I spend at the grocery store. Also, my regular grocery store doesn’t have great produce and sometimes I find myself going to multiple stores to get what I need. Home delivery of fresh veggies = more time to do other things. Woot!
  • There are also different varieties in play here, which I’m VERY excited about. Let’s look at the 2015 list of lettuce, for example: Flashy Trout Back, Muir, Baby Oak leaf, Concept, Ridgeline Romaine, Jericho Romaine, Crispano, Rhazes. (Do yourself a favour and see the whole list right here.)

I’m excited that we’re going to be eating a more diverse array of veggies. And who knows, maybe the girls will find something new they like… especially if they know it’s from “our” farm friend. And if we get too much of something? I will be gifting it to our neighbours. (WATCH OUT NEIGHBOURS!) :)

And so we chatted, and I agreed to the generous gift of a share, because who can refuse fresh veggies delivered to their door and the promise of wonderful meals for an entire summer? That being said, I’ll be tweeting a show and tell of each delivery and posting it on my Facebook page, along with my thoughts and observations of that week’s bounty. You may also see an influx of veggies in my Daily Lunches too. I’m also hoping that my family will have an opportunity to visit the farm at some point over the summer too, so we can really get the inside scoop. Stay tuned!

Have you ever tried a share in a CSA? Why or why not? I’d love to hear about your experience. Would you be interested in getting a share of Mike’s harvest this year and trying this veggie experiment with me for a season? If so, he still has a few shares available. Check out the options right here.


11 Apr, 2015

Weekend reading: April 11 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

10 Apr, 2015

How do you find joy when you feel like crap?

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

It’s easy to find joy when you’re feeling great, isn’t it? When you’re well fed, well rested, and feel like everything is going wonderfully in your life, you probably find yourself tripping over joyous moments as you stop to smell the roses. Joy begets joy.

Here’s a question, how do you find those moments when you’re not feeling so hot?

I say this only because I feel like I’ve finally gotten to the end of a rather crummy week. Not that anything awful has happened, but I’ve been tied down with a head cold and not sleeping particularly well. Add to that the gloomy weather we’ve been having and a kitchen full of dirty dishes and a trip to the grocery store that awaits. Something as simple as a trip to the store isn’t so simple today. It feels like someone has asked me to climb Kilimanjaro in flip flops. CAN I DO THIS?

I feel drained, like a wrung out old sponge, one with a whiff of mould about it no less. I desperately need a haircut and colour and some kind of wardrobe injection. (Scratch that, I actually need a stylist and someone to tell me, “YES, YOUR BUTT DOES LOOK TOO BIG IN THOSE PANTS LADY.”) My current roster of footwear is depressing the crap out of me right now and frankly, when I think about it, I realize, more than anything I’d rather be eating a tray of brownies in bed right now thankyouverymuch.

I am struggling to find the joy today, but I will. I will buy ingredients for brownies while I’m at the store, and watch the robins hop around in this April bluster, and I will cuddle with Piper, and I will push past this and patiently await the coming of sunnier days.

This giveaway is over. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Sometimes it feels awfully hard to find something to do together with kids in Ottawa, and other times someone does all of the work for you. (I am hoping this is one of those times.) Have you heard of Kidsfest? It’s a consumer event that takes place at the EY Centre. Super stroller-friendly, it is full of kid-friendly entertainment (HELLO Splash n’ Boots and Peppa Pig!) and information that is useful to parents with kids under the age of 12. For example, representatives of various schools, summer camps, and other kid-related business and organizations are there, ready to chat! It’s a great opportunity to meet the people, ask questions, and get the scoop on the issues that are important to you.

You can read more about who’ll be at Kidsfest on the official website.

I have four passes to give away to one family. Interested? Read on!

  • In order for your entry to qualify, please leave a comment below. That’s it! One entry per person please.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • If you can’t post your comment for whatever reason you can email it to me for posting at andrea at quietfish dot com. Please note, I cannot be responsible if your entry is misdirected or gets stuck in my Spam folder.
  • I will draw one name using Random.org at noon EST on April 9, 2015. I’ll contact the winner via email, who will have to pick up their prize at the “will call” booth at Kidsfest. I’ll also post the name here, so please check back!

If you didn’t win, you can buy your tickets online with the promo code ‘quietfish’ … this is absolute rock-bottom pricing and you won’t snag a cheaper ticket price online or at the door. The promo code shaves $8.00 off the price of a family pass and $3 off adult tickets purchased separately.

Good luck!

p.s. I have one other giveaway going on this week. Ottawa board gamers – young and old – will definitely want to enter!


If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling squirrely and eagerly anticipating the annual Opening Of the Garden Centre. To combat this rather grey state of mind I started some chive seeds in egg shells awhile back (in fact, the project was in the April edition of Capital Parent Newspaper) and I’ve been happily tending them ever since. Watching things grow is very satisfying, isn’t it?

This project is perfect for those of us who don’t have a lot of space to start seeds indoors. Egg cups don’t take up a lot of real estate on a window sill, and all you need is egg shells, a bit of dirt, and some seeds. That’s it! Here’s what our eggshell planters look like now. They provide some pretty spots of green and I am already looking forward to our first harvest. :)

Our chives are growing!


I suppose this segues nicely into a bit of Capital Parent news. The publication has been sold and I’m no longer editor. I was looking over two years of covers (they’re all listed here) today and feeling a tiny bit wistful. Contracts come and go, and as a contractor I totally accept that, but this was a very fun run. I was writing about topics I am passionate about (Ottawa! Kids! Crafts! Food! Parenting!) and working with some really great people. One of my favourite things about this job was the opportunity to bring new talent into the fray, and I think I did that at Capital Parent, not only with new writers and photographers but also with a regular feature that shone a spotlight on Ottawa bloggers.

There are few dream jobs that come along in life and this was definitely one of those. It was fun, and challenging, and it gave me exactly what I needed at the right point in time. If anything, I’ve very glad it lasted as long as it did. I am thrilled and honoured that I was trusted to give this publication a fresh voice. And with the help of a great team of people, I think we definitely created something special.

All that being said, I’m not feeling too shattered about this new development. I think this is largely because I’ve been working freelance for so long that I am better equipped to accept the highs and lows, the feasts and famines, that goes hand in hand with this line of work. ANYWAY. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to reveal publicly and I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with the publication in the future. In my own head I’ve probably assumed too much already. I am however, still gainfully employed with the parent company, and my other gig with our local paper is still intact.

It is exciting to wonder what the future will bring. I also would like to thank all the Fishies who supported me during this part of my journey, whether it was with a retweet, a recommendation, or a listening ear. THANK YOU! xo


04 Apr, 2015

Weekend reading: April 4 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

p.s. Take your family board games up a level and enter this giveaway from Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s!


NAC Ottawa family events

Saunders Farm annual passes for family fun!

Arctic Voices, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Sustainable shopping at terra20 - Ottawa

Visit tThe Village Quire in Westboro Ottawa!

Joan of Arc Academy in Ottawa

Picture of a boy with the Parenting in Ottawa bilingual logo. Ad links to Ottawa Public Healths Parenting in Ottawa website.

Click me!


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • doris pellerine: great store shop at super store
  • Rocky: Very informative article on CSA! Thanks for sharing!
  • andrea tomkins: Thanks all! I just heard that Mike's Garden Harvest will have a booth at the Westboro Farmer's Market! This will be a good opportunity to meet and ch
  • Wanda: We did a CSA and loved it. Because of job and life changes we stopped but were thinking of getting back at it again. I love cooking, so I found it e
  • Pierrette: My husband and I have just signed up for our very first CSA membership with Mike from "Mike's Garden Harvest". We are looking forward to this experien
  • June Schiavoni: I am member 11337 1890 7068. This is the third time I have to write to inform you that I am no longer receiving my grocery list online to let me know
  • Ginger: We did a CSA one year. It was amazing and overwhelming. We would get an entire cooler of food each week plus berries or potatoes or onions (dependin

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 (15) and Sarah (13). I am the editor of 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.


  • So I was feeling a bit ranty and wrote this post about raising children in an age of zero privacy in the hopes it will start some conversations! Please leave your two cents right here.

    - #
  • My latest post on the MediaSmarts website is up, and it's about family social media accounts. (Yes! It's a thing! And I think it's pretty neat.) Is this something you do as a family? I'd love it if you left your two cents on the topic.

    - #
  • I'm sharing some of my favourite lunch-related items over on the terra20 blog today. Whether you're packing a lunch for work, for your kids, or just eating at your desk at home, I bet there is something there for you. Check it out!

    - #

On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

All hail the mighty Twitter