a peek inside the fishbowl

14 Jan, 2006

The big reveal!

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Memes/blog awards etc|Oh! Things!

First, my own giftie!

As I write this I still do not know who the sender was. Poetic, funny, with telepathic powers, who could this be?? I have to tell you, I love getting packages. But then again, who doesn’t? It was thrilling to open it and reveal the contents, piece by piece.

Here’s a photographic overview of the contents.


I think my favourite item was the microwave kettle corn. There were three servings, the first of which I shared with Mark on the first night. The next night, Mark heard me in popping away in the kitchen, came in, and asked me a very foolish question indeed:

?You?re making it again? We just had some last night??

YES MARK. I?m making more. And I?m NOT SHARING WITH YOU!

True to my word, I didn?t share the second serving. Nor the third. Now I am sad it?s all gone. I like popcorn, a lot, but kettle corn is a whole different experience altogether.

You KC virg!ns have no idea what you?re missing.

My tied-for-first favourite item was a bunch of wonderful wonderful paper. Art paper! Sheets of lovely fine paper! I am an addict. How on earth did you know, dear spoiler, that I would love it so much? To tell you the truth, I?m not sure if I can bring myself to use it. I do tend to hoard these kinds of things.

The other items were lovely too, homemade hot chocolate, tiny worry dolls, art supplies? wow, do I feel lucky.

Thank you secret spoiler, for your generosity and the time that you spent pulling all these items together. I need to find out who you are so I can thank you properly.

* * *

this part originally written December 13, 2005

Dear me. So. Gifts are bought.

When I realized I had been assigned Marla of Hello Josephine (a site I check thrice daily despite that she posts less frequently than I do) I did a little skip and gave a little WOOT of excitement.

[Warning: due to excessive feelings of excitement, the following text contains giddiness and overuse of capital letters, exclamation marks and ellipses.]

Marla Marla Marla. I?ve been reading her blog for eons now, ok, maybe for a year or so. I don?t remember how I came across it but I am glad I did.

As I sit here and think about what I want to write I realize there are very few people out there in blogland who I would like invite over to my house to share a plate of baklava and mugs of coffee. I’m talkin’ ’bout Baklava that I slaved over and was willing even to share! Marla is one of those people. I know, that sounds stalker-like, doesn?t it? But it?s true. It is hard to find people that are like you, um, no, like me, you know what I mean, don?t you?

She makes me laugh. And there have been many times that I read something of hers and thought ?hey ME too!? Isn?t that part of what makes a blog worth reading? The synchronicity found within it?

So when I read the answers to her questionnaire I thought, HEY, this is going to be a piece of cake? seeing that she likes, like, EVERYTHING that I do!

But this was MUCH harder than I anticipated. Much.

I was shopping and came across this really really nice pair of underwear. I bought it. In a large. It?s been sitting on my dresser this entire time. Waiting. For me. To make a decision. [edited to add: you know which ones I mean, right?]

I happen to think that underwear makes a great Christmas gift. I love getting underwear! Correction, I love getting nice underwear. And I?m not talking about the crotchless kind, not THAT kind of nice you pervs, I mean PRETTY and COMFORTABLE in a scampish kind of way. But Marla? She doesn?t like getting underwear! I know, I can hardly believe it myself! It seemed impossible to me, but she even said so. On her own blog no less:

?? I do not like getting socks and undies for Christmas, because I think that would make the baby Jesus cry. Gold! Frankincense! Myrhh! A little kid drumming for me! That’s what I want!?

So I guess that she wouldn?t like this pair as much as I do? Besides, the more I thought about it the more I realized that size could be an issue. I bought large, assuming that it would fit the largest variety of rear ends? the lowest common denominator so to speak. If I kept this pair it would fit me fine, and I don?t have a large rump. Urm, at least I don?t think so.

But what about Marla? The panty situation made me think more about her as a person, the actual physical human being who is on the other end of that blog. I know there is one, and she?s in Toronto? which is actually not that far away. I don?t recall ever even seeing a photo of her. Does she write like a tall person or a short person? Small or large? Ok. Forget the underwear.

So far I have spent more time shopping for Marla so far than my own poor family.

From what I know of Marla she has a penchant for funky and eclectic stuff. And to tell you the truth, reading the countless estate sales she’s been to freaked me out. She probably has TONS of way cooler stuff than I do. I?ve never been to an estate sale! And why not? GET ME TO AN ESTATE SALE PRONTO!

But I digress.

I thought I might find something at one of the four second-hand shops in my neighborhood. I?m a pro. So I took my over-confident pro-self to all four and came out emptyhanded every time. I was half-looking for vintage Christmas ornaments (sorry if it?s tacky to talk about the presents you ?almost bought?) but what I was seeing was Awful. Note the capital A on the word awful. Awful!

Those were a pretty depressing couple of weekends. But I had a sudden flash of inspiration and went to a local store called ?Heavens to Betsy? which specializes in a little bit of everything, especially funky retro kitsch.

As I entered the store I immediately loosened my scarf and removed a layer of clothing. There were so many things! So many cool cool things! And then I started REALLY thinking. What if I bought her something she already has? How on earth can I realistically expect to buy something she likes? How well do I really know Marla? For chrissakes, I don?t know whether she?s small or tall! And I?m a tall person! How can I shop for a small person?

Calm.Down. People are staring!

I decided that Marla and I (I was already tossing around phrases like ?Me n? Marla? and ?Marla n?me?) liked the same general sort of things. I would buy things that I liked and then cross my fingers and hope that she liked them too. Underwear issues aside of course.

And so, it was at this store that I bought:

1) A business card holder. I know I know, this sounds horribly boring. And corporate. And boring! Yeee-uck! Trust me, I had my reservations, but I?m here to assure you that the one I chose was something I would have bought for myself ?even it was just to keep my grocery lists from getting crunched in the bottom of my purse. It?s stripy and bright. Sooooo happy! Creative people like Marla should have something like this, don?t you think?

I also spent an evening creating special business cards so Marla can have something to share, in case she didn?t have her own. Have a peek at a PDF version here.

2) Salt and pepper shakers. It was either this or a container of bandaids with a skull and crossbones design. I hummed and hawed over the shakers all the while the shopkeeper was wondering: why is that girl talking to herself? And who is this Marla person? Anyway, note that these aren?t just ordinary salt and pepper shakers. Well, see for yourself. Do you or do you not agree that they are functional, AND playful AND cool to look at? Like Marla? (Remember also my personal mission to surround myself with beautiful things? Well, this fits the theory.) Not only are they classic and playful, but they also hold the spices we use the most in our everyday lives! I fleetingly worried that she might already have salt and pepper shakers (most established households do) and she probably has 100 pairs that she picked up at various estate sales, but perhaps she could make room in her heart for one more pair. Perhaps the next time she?s having a dinner party, she can give each person their own set of S & P?s to use! What a great conversation starter! HEY, nice shakers! :) I could not deny the lure of the shakers.


After about 45 minutes of browsing I left the store. I resisted buying myself hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise: funky handbags, robots, wind-up tin chickens that lay plastic eggs? Frankly, I don?t know how I was able to find the strength. I had to create a new mantra on the spot: this is the season of GIVING! This is the season of GIVING! This is the season of GIVING! No wonder the saleslady was looking at me funny.

I tripped back across a busy intersection, neverminding the cars, happy I finally found something to send. But as I saw it all assembled it still felt a little bare to me. The budget was blown anyway, what?s a few extra things going to hurt?

I also added:


  • vintage cookbook
  • container of bubble juice [the GOOD kind!]
  • old Richie Rich comic book
  • new cowgirl chewing gum
  • a parachute bunny
  • Here’s an overview shot:

    I do hope she likes it all.

    I will end this by saying Marla, thanks for being you. It?s been a pleasure getting to know you a little better. Thanks as well to that other Andrea for organizing. I’ve had a lot of fun.

    So shall we do it again next year? :)

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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.

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