a peek inside the fishbowl

26 Mar, 2020

The importance of chocolate

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Earlier this week we placed an order for grocery pick up at the Superstore. I had figured we might not get the toilet paper we wanted, or the disinfectant wipes, but I did NOT think the store would run out of chocolate. I ordered a couple Lindt bars and didn’t get them! The store normally makes a substitution if one item isn’t available, for another item that is similar. Well, there was no substitution made so we had nothing. NO. CHOCOLATE.

I should clarify that I’m not exactly a huge fan of chocolate. Generally speaking, if there’s a bowl of potato chips in front of me, and a bar of chocolate, I’ll take the chips, but since we are living in Unprecedented Times, anything is possible.

Thankfully, our lives haven’t been entirely devoid of chocolate. The youngest baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies that fit the bill. Here’s the recipe she used. IT IS VERY GOOD.

We also got our chocolate fix another way. I placed an order online with terra20** and tossed some Camino chocolate bars into the cart at the last minute. My friends, this chocolate is da bomb. (I ordered this one but they’re sold out for now. Boo! But there are other flavours still available if you are having similar cravings.)

All this got me thinking again about the groceries we’ve been buying, the lists we are making. There’s lots of good stuff in in those lists, bothperishable and non-. Healthy foods! Foods that can fill us up! But I realized it’s also important to make sure treats are part of that list too, just so we can feel a bit more normal.

**terra20 is promoting free same-day shipping if you make your purchase M-F and order more than $50 worth of merch. Details are here.

24 Mar, 2020


By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

It’s interesting how much we think about contagion now. I think about it when I press the button to cross the street, touch the handle of a donation bin as I drop a bag of clothing inside, touch anything. I even thought about whether I needed gloves to handle the grocery bags that were loaded into our car yesterday. (In the end, I did put on gloves. Mark and the youngest unloaded them and washed their hands afterwards.)

On Twitter I mentioned picking up garbage while on our daily walk outdoors. I thought this was such a productive, community-minded thing to do. In response I got a couple of warnings about catching something. I seriously doubt that there is coronavirus lurking on the Tim Horton’s cup that was buried under four feet of snow all winter. Besides, if/when I pick up litter I would wear gardening gloves and use our garbage-picking claw anyway.

Another time I talked about resurrecting the lost art of letter-writing. Again, people responded with trepidation. For the record, postage stamps are self-adhesive now. But the envelopes? Maybe postcards are safer.

Another time I wrote about dropping books off at a mini-library. You know the ones that people put on their front lawns, for neighbours to take a book or leave a book? Most people thought this was a bad idea.

The coronavirus story is changing on an hourly basis, so it’s hard to be confident about how we move around in the world right now. But maybe it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?


23 Mar, 2020


By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

How are you getting your groceries? How often are you going out to get them? We placed our first order with Click & Collect at the Westboro location of the Real Canadian Superstore and I picked it up today. The process was fairly simple, and I would do it again.

BUT, here are a few things you might want to consider if you want to do try this service:

  • Although I ordered toilet paper and disinfecting wipes, I didn’t get any. I guess that means that the website is not automatically updated when there are shortages. Same goes for a whole bunch of other stuff, like canned fruit. There was also NO CHOCOLATE. (!!) I wonder if this is because we were picking up on a Monday and the shelves weren’t stocked from the weekend. Regardless, the next time I place an order it will be for a midweek pickup.
  • Sometimes there were substitutions, and they were ok for the most part. For example, one brand of eggs was swapped for another, but in this case the price was comparable. Obviously I only pay for what is delivered to my car.
  • The quality of the produce was pretty good.
  • I found ordering through the web interface to be a slow process. We also made some mistakes because we didn’t pay attention to the sizes of some items. (This is why my father-in-law now has a 1.3lb tub of coleslaw in his fridge, instead of the smaller one size.)
  • I appreciated the fact that I could add items to my order until the day before pickup.
  • Orders have to be placed days before you will actually need the stuff, so a bit of planning is needed. I just checked and the earliest you can get a time slot at this point is Thursday April 2.
  • The pick up part was so easy! They sent me a text and confirmed my 60-minute window for pick up. I parked in a specially-marked spot in front of the store and called the phone number. Within five or ten minutes a nice young fellow was loading my groceries in my car.

I’ve been cleaning out our freezer a bit at a time. This is a surprisingly satisfying process. I discovered a bag of edamame pods, which made a good healthy snack earlier this week. A half-bag of frozen pita made good crisps (here’s a quick how-to). We used up a bag of haddock making fish and chips last night and are using the leftovers for fish tacos today. I also found a container of peaches I had the foresight to chop up last summer, which made pretty good smoothies. So all in all we are doing ok on the grocery front. (Although if you asked the youngest she’d probably disagree. She doesn’t think we’re stocking enough snack food!)

I’ve heard good things about Produce Depot on Carling Avenue. I’m tempted to go there for fresh produce, but I am really trying to stay put and minimize my contact with the outdoor world now that community spread is a thing.

I’d love to hear your grocery stories! Let me know how it’s going for you.

On the nightstand: The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah

I got a journal for Christmas and it’s been sitting on my bureau in our bedroom, unused. I saw it this morning and I realized that I do actually need a journal for something right now … tracking our family’s life and movement during this pandemic.

When someone gets sick with a communicable illness like COVID-19 they’re always asked about their movements and who they may have come in contact with. If you asked me where I was the Tuesday before last I wouldn’t remember. Did I grab a coffee at the cafeteria that day? Who picked up the milk after I did? Is that the day we did a grocery run after work?

So I’m going to start jotting things down in a diary format, and not just my movements, but that of my family currently living at home here at Casa Fishbowl. I’m choosing to undertake this project with pen and paper instead of a digital format (e.g notes on my iPhone).

Also worth noting: Mental health experts say journalling is a great – not to mention cheap – way to sort out our thoughts. Just getting our feelings out on paper is recommended as a way to clear a busy brain. Writing is a cathartic act.

I will keep calm and write on! And for the record, I refuse to let any feelings of perfection get in the way here. This diary, and the contents, will not be fancy. No blossoming literary great here! And if I’m feeling uninspired I promise to be satisfied with simple bullet points and the occasional doodle. (Confession: the reason I don’t write in paper journals is because I don’t like my penmanship. It’s pretty dumb, eh?)

And who knows, maybe some time down the line someone will read my chronicle  and, well… I don’t know. Maybe it will open someone’s eyes one day to what it was like. After all, we are living history right now.

Related: If you’re thinking of starting a journal and want to treat yourself to a pretty new one, might I suggest one of these for sale at The Village Quire? This lovely, independent Westboro business had to close its doors temporarily and needs our support. (Thank you!)


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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.

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!


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