a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Apr, 2010


Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy

Longtime readers might remember our experiment with messages in bottles.

To summarize: we filled two plastic bottles with two messages and dropped them in the Ottawa River. One of which was actually found. In hindsight we should have known that the Island Park bridge – although pretty – was not the best place to do this because the river gets strained of debris at Domtar in Gatineau. It was a neat experiment, even despite the short distance our bottle had travelled.

Anyway, I might get flack for this (someone had taken issue with our polluting the river with plastic bottles) but I wanted to post about a new message-delivery system we tried out yesterday … tying messages to balloons.

We had extra balloons floating around from Sarah’s birthday party last week (YES, that is how long they’ve lasted) and instead of having them die a slow death we decided to do a little experiment.

The girls each wrote a short message (which included our family email address) and put them in lightweight sandwich bags which we stapled it to a shortened string. And then we got ready to let them go.

balloon message

We went outside and bid a fond farewell.

Here’s where we learned a useful lesson about wind. It can snatch your balloon and send it drifting into the waiting arms of the nearest tree.


And guess what, it’s still there!

We are hoping that someday the tree will release the message.

Sarah went inside and wrote another one, tied it up, and sent it flying. Happily it seemed to clear the neighborhood trees. (Although it looked iffy for a few moments.) Phew.

Both balloons were heading eastward. So if you’re in West Wellington or Hintonburg (or maybe as far as Gatineau again!), please drop us a line if you find them. :)

11 Responses to "B-mail"

1 | bushidoka

April 18th, 2010 at 7:49 am


A buddy of mine in NS released a bottle off of Cape Sable Island at the southern tip of NS, and a number of years later got a letter from Bermuda from the person who found it.

2 | betsy mae

April 18th, 2010 at 10:20 am


Oh my gosh (to the comment above) how neat!

We have fifteen pink balloons here from Bug’s bday party yesterday, I wonder if I can coax her to release one or two of them with a message!

3 | C

April 18th, 2010 at 1:28 pm


The idea is cool but the balloons often land in ponds and kill turtles and other wildlife…glass bottles are more environmental…if they break they sink to the bottom and become sea glass…there’s too much plastic in the waterways already.


April 18th, 2010 at 3:56 pm


I hate to pop your balloon too – but 3/C is right, the effect of balloons on animals & sea life really is a problem. Check it out:

I love the idea of releasing notes though – it’s fun. Not sure what the most environmentally friendly way would be.

5 | andrea

April 18th, 2010 at 4:18 pm


Yes, you’re both right. But I’m willing to wager that if you use and throw away plastic bags of any kind (ETA: grocery bags, Ziploc bags, bread bags etc.) they pose the exact same risk to wildlife.

6 | crunchy carpets

April 18th, 2010 at 4:24 pm


but most of us are now trying to not use plastic bags so yes…the balloons make me shudder. a nice idea but with islands of plastic floating around, I try to make my house a no balloon zone.

7 | Pamela

April 18th, 2010 at 5:14 pm


First I thought, what a cool, fun idea for the kids, but then after reading the previous few comments, I guess maybe using balloons isn’t such a great idea after all. Perhaps, the glass bottle suggestion would be the most environmentally friendly. Or, maybe you could try sticking a message into the pocket of an article of clothing you’re going to donate, or putting one in a library book or book donation – that way you wouldn’t have to feel bad about wasting resources and the note would still get to someone?

8 | Emilie

April 18th, 2010 at 6:33 pm


This post reminded me of this one from cribchronicles http://cribchronicles.com/2010/04/06/reach/ and got me thinking how what she did was a very cool way to send her message out to the world and get something back.

I wonder if you and your daughters could come up with something similar? The impact is low-harm to the environment and hugely positive for human interaction. :)

9 | Shan @ the fairy blogmother

April 18th, 2010 at 9:07 pm


My 7 yo got a helium filled balloon for her birthday last summer. She let it go, accidentally, outside and the same thing happened. It got stuck in a tree across the street. She was beyond devastated. The guilt she felt from having lost a present from her Aunt and Uncle just crushed her. For over a month after she would burst into tears about it. She refused to sleep in her room because she could see the balloon from her bedroom window. The balloon was way to high in the tree for us to do anything about it. And almost a year later, it’s still stuck in the dang tree. Deflated now, but it’s still caught up there. A forever reminder of the balloon that ruined her life. The whole thing was pretty intense.

10 | betsy mae

April 18th, 2010 at 9:07 pm


It’s AWESOME that everyone is so concerned about the environment, and I’m not being sarcastic in the least..promise. I absolutely don’t want to take away from how dangerous balloons (or plastic of any kind) are to our wildlife, environment, and people for that matter. I just hope that commenters won’t be scared away from commenting about the idea of sending messages (or receiving them) as I think it’s really interesting. Everyone has some great alternative ways to send messages out to see how far they travel. I still think that the balloon idea (Bmail) is neat.

11 | cgb

April 19th, 2010 at 7:59 am


I love the idea of sending message, but also agree with the above posters who shudder at the thought of releasing balloons… Love the idea of sending notes in library books though! I look forward to reading further comments on other ways we could send messages out!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). 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. 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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