a peek inside the fishbowl

29 May, 2018

Things I am loving: our new patio lights

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno|Oh! Things!

As I wrote about previously, we’ve been busy planting/weeding/chopping stuff down in our backyard. Mark trimmed some trees and took out a whole bunch of branches recently, which is great until you have to clean up/bundle up the aforementioned branches. Sigh. In these cases, it’s helpful to have an end game in mind. Which is: (a) to get ahead of the overgrowth and (b) slowly improve our outdoor space. This has all been rather slow going, so slow, in fact, that it’s taken 20 years to get where we are today. I wish I was kidding.

I’ve been sitting here thinking about what I REALLY want for our backyard (other than a weed-free experience, of course). I would like our shed to be more organized, and maybe some better storage for our patio cushions, but that’s neither here nor there. As a good friend reminded me recently, it’s much healthier to focus on what we DO have instead of what we don’t have. She is right. For starters, we have a great back deck. We have a decent BBQ (natural gas, so no need for propane tanks!), a new/old plant stand, a modular couch (which  we got in 2009), a table and four chairs, and a chaise lounge.

We have so much already but when I really drill down into my hopes and dreams I realize my backyard wish list consists of two things:

(1) A natural gas-powered fire pit embedded in our flagstone patio with some cozy seating around it.
(2) Lighting

Number two has just been stroked off my list, thanks entirely to this new purchase from Costco:

New lights!

I have wanted these ever since I can remember. There is a soft spot in my heart for “Edison-style” bulbs, in other words, clear bulbs with “exposed” filament…

New lights!

… but I was never able to find a string of outdoor “Edisons” that looked sturdy enough to withstand the shenanigans of those pesky Westboro squirrels AND were a good price. Also: I only ever saw incandescent bulbs. LED lights strings are almost always awful. And by awful, I mean cold and blue, the VERY OPPOSITE OF THE FEELING I WANTED TO CREATE. You these a lot at Christmas time. Unsuspecting shoppers buy them thinking they’re going to get something warm and twinkly that reminds them of their childhood but instead they end up with $150 bucks worth of icy glare that induces blindness.

Anyhoo. So, a purchase was made and we skipped to the cash registers with the bulbs and a 3lb bag of Chicago mix popcorn. (I’m sure the cashiers thought we were going to have SOME big party!)

The package states that these are “commercial grade” and they aren’t kidding. This is a heavy, heavy-duty, thick black cabled string of lights. The bulbs are plastic by the way, which was disappointing for about 1.5 seconds until I banged the whole string on the ground and then another dozen times while hanging them. Did I mention they are heavy?

Assembling the set wasn’t a big deal. I screwed in each of the bulbs, then Mark and I spent a sweaty half hour hoisting the heavy cable over tree branches; looping them hither and yon in a way that I think is Pinterest-approved. When we turned on the switch (er, plugged the extension cord into the outlet), this is what happened:

back porch lights!

Success! I love it. It’s hard to tell by this photo but they are actually pretty bright and really illuminate the whole area. I don’t think we’re quite visible from space, but the neighbours will know we are out there. I think Mark is worried it’s a tad TOO bright because he offhandedly mentioned that he was researching outdoor dimmers, but I don’t think such a thing exists. Sorry Mark.

Now get this. All this loveliness – basically, my dream come true – was only fifty bucks. (!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not quite done here. I’m still thinking about buying a few tiki torches and lighting up our table-top lanterns from Ikea to add even MORE light, but I think this is a very good start.

To see other Things I am Loving, click here.


5 Responses to "Things I am loving: our new patio lights"

1 | Jinjer

May 29th, 2018 at 3:33 pm


Since the picture looks amazing, I can’t imagine how beautiful it must look in person!

Mmm did you get Mother Butter’s “Da Mix”? That’s my favorite Chicago Mix. I tried Popcornopolis’ similar mix and it did not even come close to Mother Butters in my opinion.

So now what about #1 on your list?

2 | andrea tomkins

May 29th, 2018 at 3:52 pm


re: Chicago mix. I personally like the PC brand that has spicy popcorn in it! It’s totally addictive.

And number one on the list will have to wait. There’s no budget for it at the moment and there are other things that need to take priority! Booooo!

3 | Brien Marshall

May 30th, 2018 at 4:21 pm


Thanks for the post, Andrea – that is exactly the sort of lighting I’ve been looking for too, but didn’t like the idea of incandescent bulbs. If I have to buy the Chicago mix for the complete backyard experience, then so be it!

4 | Amy

June 1st, 2018 at 11:23 pm


My husband put these style lights in our backyard a few months ago. The first night we turned them on one of our neighbors told us that they lit the place up like a parking lot and he wanted to build the fence a couple feet higher, so we haven’t used them since. Hopefully your neighbors are more understanding. :)

5 | andrea tomkins

June 2nd, 2018 at 10:31 am


Amy, wow. Your neighbours sound, well, a little pushy. :)
Fortunately our yard is well-situated so we won’t disturb our neighbours with the lights too much.

comment form:


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 offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). 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, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. 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!


Connect with me at these places too!

All hail the mighty Twitter