a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Jan, 2015

Weekend reading: January 17 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

14 Jan, 2015

Further to yesterday’s post…

By andrea tomkins in Ottawa

Another thing I learned, or relearned in this case, was how much I enjoy skiing.

On Saturday we revisited trail #26 in the Stony Swamp vicinity of Ottawa. I realized that cross-country skiing is not unlike riding a bike. You never really forget. And as soon as my boot clicked into the ski I felt it. It’s as if that click sends a signal to my brain. HERE. WE. GO.

The girls have gotten so good they practically leave us in the dust. Of course, I’m always bringing up the rear, because I like to stop and take a photo. Or two. Or four.

First ski of the season. NCC trail #26

NCC ski trails


NCC Cross country ski trail, Stony Swamp

It wasn’t a sunny day, but the weather was fine and the snow was snowy.

It so want to remember these breathless and beautiful moments, and how fortunate we are that we can do this kind of thing so close to home.

I tried skiing mindfully, with all of my senses this time around. Seeing, hearing, breathing. Skiing is a sensory activity, although you’d be forgiven if you didn’t make that connection right away. It is magical. The only thing that could have made our excursion better? A thermos hot coffee, enjoyed right at the end. (Note for next time!)

You want to know something cool? As we were leaving we encountered an unusually large group of people getting ready to head out on the trail. Normally people tend to ski in much smaller groups, even solo, so seeing a dozen strapping on their skis at once was a bit odd. One of the gentlemen asked Mark to take a photo, and of course he obliged. As it turns out, this was a group of recent immigrants on an intro-to-skiing adventure, with participants hailing from all kinds of different countries in the middle east. They’d never been on skis before. I’m so glad there are people who (a) are offering this kind of experience for people and (b) are adventurous types who go along for the ride, even though the idea of strapping sticks to your feet and sliding through the forest might seem a little unfamiliar and otherworldly.

A quick ski in the woods is quite a lovely welcome though, don’t you think? Welcome to Canada, welcome to Ottawa, welcome to winter.

13 Jan, 2015

Things I Have Learned Recently

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I do love my watch!

For no reason whatsoever…

  • No-name Q-tips are TERRIBLE. You might save 50 cents on a package of 500, but it’s really not worth it and you risk puncturing your ear drum.
  • We bought a new garbage can for the upstairs bathroom awhile back and it’s made me ridiculously happy. It’s rectangular and fits the space perfectly. Most importantly, it’s larger than our previous one, so no more dental floss hanging over the edge! No more balled-up tissues spilling out! It’s a godsend. HALLELUJAH.
  • I am wearing a watch again. Mark gave me the watch pictured above for Christmas and it’s been great. No more digging for my phone to check the time! Who knew it could be this easy? (Don’t answer that.)
  • Tea is better than coffee while I work. Remember how I mentioned I have been dividing my day into work segments? I force myself to take breaks away from the computer every hour, if nothing but for the sake of my posture. I put the kettle on the stove and walk for five minutes on the treadmill while I wait for it to boil. For some reason this tea ritual is much more satisfying than making a coffee. It seems to be better for my gut too.
  • Scones don’t have to be chalky pucks of dough! (Long story.)
  • I taste tested a new yogurt brand against my usual Activia plain sweetened. It was the “sweetened” part that was bugging me, but then I compared it to Astro plain 2% and hoo boy, is that stuff tart. No wonder it’s “great for baking” as per the label. I will continue with my Activia plain until something better comes along. Gah. Now I have a huge tub of yogurt to deal with. But what should I bake?
  • There’s a new Panera Bread in town. They sent me a hot lunch the other day and it made my tummy very happy. It’s on West Hunt Club Road near the Lowes. Have you ever been?
  • If you’re using a stand mixer, making two batches of this pizza dough recipe is ridiculously easy. Divide each in half and you have FOUR thin crust pizzas. Four dinners! I stick three in the freezer in separate Zip-loc bags and defrost on the day I need them.

(Tell me, what have you learned lately?)

10 Jan, 2015

Weekend reading: January 10 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

09 Jan, 2015

About happiness and self-improvement

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

It was a sparkly day in Ottawa today.

I know what you’re thinking. OH GOD. Not another post about New Year’s/Happiness/Resolutions. I know. There’s a lot of this stuff floating around out there but I can’t help myself. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot lately because I’ve been taking steps to get my life in order. Funny, as I write that I feel like I need to point out that it’s not as if I believe my life is out of order or in a State of General Disarray. I guess I’ve merely come to the conclusion that I didn’t like some things, and change was needed. And you know who’s standing in the way of positive change? Me. I’m my own obstacle. How stupid is that?

What didn’t I like: Feeling tired. Feeling scattered. Did I really want to live the rest of my life feeling this way. (Hint, the answer is no.)

Recent lessons learned:

  • When I’m feeling happy, I noticed that I’m also not feeling tired. When I’m Not Tired, I’m happy. Strange. Removing the TIRED part of the daily equation has made my life a whole lot better. It’s amazing.
  • It was a smart move to step up my steppin’ with my Fitbit. You’d think it’d leave me more tired, but it has had the opposite effect. (Related: I found myself baking muffins last night. MUFFINS. If you know me you know how strange this is. (a) I don’t bake. (b) I don’t do these kinds of things at night because I’m always so bagged at the end of the day. CRAZY.)
  • An unforeseen result of the treadmill intervals is that I’m not easily able to read on the treadmill any more. I thought this would be annoying, but I find my mind wandering instead. This is not a bad thing. This is where ideas are born. I’m also happy to be spending less time glued to a smartphone.
  • Then there’s the Litebook. It’s a biggie. BIG. A few days ago I raised it up a bit so it shone on my face slightly differently and the effect was almost instantaneous.
  • I’m also back to using the MyFitnessPal app for the next while. Tracking food intake in a diary is always an eye-opener, and you can’t help but learn a few things about yourself during the process. I can honestly say that if I skip breakfast I end up craving junky “filler” foods at the end of the day. It’s as if it takes 12 hours for my stomach to realize it’s been mislead. Also, tracking food makes me realize exactly how much mindless zombie-like eating I’m doing. For example, eating the kids’ pizza crusts if they leave them on their plates. I hate wasted food, but does that mean I should be hoovering it up on their behalf? Gah. How annoying.

I’ve also been trying to add a little more structure to my work day by carving it up into very specific work segments and focusing on one job for that segment. This will sound completely obvious to some people, and completely insane to others. I wear a number of different hats, and during the work day I used to do All The Things, jumping from job to job, task to task. This left me feeling scrambled and dizzy (metaphorically speaking) at the end of the day and I found myself constantly worrying about work-related things. Laser focused chunks of works with mandatory “get off the computer” breaks in between has been helpful. I am able to get more done, and in the end I’m less worried about it all. This is all very new for me so I hope I can stick to it. I will say this, it’s very easy to get off track and get buried in email. Sigh.

The next thing I need to do is GET GLASSES. I know I need them, but I’m procrastinating like crazy. Perhaps I need a glasses stylist. I have no idea what kind of frames would look good on me. Where’s a great place to go in Ottawa?


Now that we have turned the page on a new calendar year I’ve decided to track my reads in 2015 and see how many I can squeeze in, and possibly (hopefully!) read even more. Here’s my strategy: I’m going to read more books this year by (a) maintaining some good reading habits and (b) finding new material.

1) Protect my reading time. I read every night before bed. It really helps clear out and calm my busy brain and relax me for sleep. If I’m very lucky I sometimes sneak away to read in bed on the weekend. This is my idea of heaven, especially if there’s a cup of tea or a bowl of popcorn in it as well. Here’s me, feeling very happy:

Selfie with my e-reading device.

2) I will continue leaving my smart phone on the charger outside the bedroom in the evenings. I know this way I’ll be able to spend more time reading and less time on Facebook. It’s crazy how tempting it is to drop the book and check Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. Sigh.

3) I will always have a book at the ready on my night stand. Whether it’s paper or e-book, I can’t let myself run out of things to read!

4) I will continue to make good use of the library, both for borrowing and for checking lists. The Ottawa Public Library is great for this. It’s very easy to find a book (paper or digital) and put it on hold. If you haven’t already, make sure you download the OPL app. There some really helpful aspects to it. For example, did you know you can scan a book (say you’re at a friend’s place) and it will automatically look it up in the library catalogue? At that point it can be yours in a click or two. Also helpful: I can very easily track holds, fines, due dates etc. There’s also a copy of my card right on the app in case I forget to bring it with me to the library. I love it.

5) I have been a sluggish adopter, and many of you are probably using this already, but I will be using my new Goodreads app to log my completed books and find new ones to read. I just got started and am finding my way. So far I like it very much. You can read more about the Goodreads app right here.

6) Other places to go if you’re looking for great book recommendations: book club pages such as this one on the Chatelaine website, or, if you’re a fan, Oprah’s. (Here’s a PDF of Oprah’s complete book club list!) You can also follow what your favourite bloggers are reading, like I do right here. :)

7) Book picking tip: I think it’s important to think outside your favourite genre. I like all kinds of fiction, including Young Adult, but have also enjoyed many biographies/memoirs and non-fiction books.

8) Book picking tip #2: if you’re looking to add to your reading list, consider catching up on classics you may have missed. There are some great lists out there! Here’s one that someone compiled of New York Times Best Seller Number Ones, listed by decade. And here’s another interesting list, the top books of the last decade on Amazon.com. (There are some surprises there for sure.) Here’s the Guardian’s list of top 100 books of all time.

9) Book picking tip #3: Go straight to the experts on Twitter. Tweet the folks @ChaptersIndigo and they’ll help select your next read. Just tweet your question with #AskIndigo!

Phew. That’s a lot of books eh? I’d love to hear what you’re reading right now!


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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

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  • peter: Interesting post. This is something that used to cause me a great deal of stress. I have been self employed my entire working life. When I worked I
  • Peter Boyle: Dear Andrea, Count your blessings when you have the time to follow your heart's desire. Yours truly, Peter Boyle.
  • Lynn: Agreed, as well. I often wander into my office and start working at all hours, when the rest of the family is doing something together - it's hard to
  • Javamom: So a year or more later my house has no interior walls. They came down today! :) I'm on the hunt for recommendations of shower/bath etc faucets and sa
  • Cath in Ottawa: I struggle with this all the time - I love the convenience associated with my 7 step commute as well as the ability to pick up a sick child, throw a l
  • andrea tomkins: I know! I just keep watering it and it seems to be doing fine. This was was a late bloomer this season. The red leaves started coming out a little aft
  • andrea tomkins: Cam: I can't say that I have had the same experience, but I do think the points fluctuate. Some weeks are really good, other weeks less so. It's a

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, Capital Parent Newspaper, 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 – 938 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.


  • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • I have a new post up at the MediaSmarts blog this week. It's my response to a question that I'm asked quite often: What’s the best age to give a kid an iPod touch?

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On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

On this date in the archives

Got kids in Ottawa? These posts might be worth a click too:

All hail the mighty Twitter