a peek inside the fishbowl

05 May, 2018

Weekend reading: May 5 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

We have a winner! Was it you? Scroll to the end of the comments.

You know what’s great about Spring in Ottawa – aside from the sunny warm weather of course – is the multitudes of people who suddenly appear outdoors. It’s kind of amazing. The winter layers disappear and we are walking, biking, running, skating! Crowds of people are out walking their dogs and teaching their kids how to ride a bike. Teens dig out their basketball nets, skateboards, and scooters out of the garage and kids are chalking up their driveways and sidewalks with hopscotch grids. Everyone wears the exact same “I am so happy to be outdoors” grin on their faces. It is, in a word, glorious.

This is the time of year when many toys come out of hiberation too: Frisbees and kites and skipping ropes and bouncy balls and bubble wands and squirt guns and rocket launchers. Some would say it’s the best time of year to get outside and play.

I’m very pleased to let you know that longtime Fishbowl patron*, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s is having a big store-wide sale May 17-20. 20% off everything in store and online. (!) Whether you’re looking to get active outside, refill that bubble juice for some quieter kind of fun closer to home, or you’re more of an indoor sort who’s got a hankering for a new board game, you will definitely want to check it out.

BIG BONUS: I have one $100 gift card for one lucky person to spend at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s in time for the big sale. Interested? Please read the following carefully:

  • This giveaway is for one $100 gift card (for in-store spending only) and will be given to one individual. It can be used during the sale or anytime afterward.
  • In order for your entry to qualify, tell me in the comments below what toy YOU or your family, is playing with right now! (Well, maybe not RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND but I would love to hear about a favourite toy or game.)
  • One entry per email address, please.
  • A BONUS second entry goes to folks who leave a comment on this Facebook post as well. Just make sure you come back and let me know in a second, separate, comment that you did so.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • If you can’t post your comment for whatever reason, you can email it to andrea at quietfish dot com. Please note, I cannot be responsible if your entry is misdirected or gets stuck in my Spam folder.
  • I will draw the winning name using Random.org at noon EST on May 11, 2018. I’ll contact the winner via email at that time and post the name here as well. If I don’t hear back within 24 hours of emailing I will pick another name.
  • The winner will need to pick up the gift card at a Tiggy’s location of their choice in a timely manner. In the Glebe, Rideau Centre, or Westboro store.

Good luck!

* Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s is a longtime patron of the Fishbowl and my go-to place to shop for fun stuff. If you haven’t been yet, you definitely need to check it out. :)


02 May, 2018

Bike goals 2018

By andrea tomkins in Ottawa

I’ve declared – at least to my image in the mirror this morning – that this is going to be the summer of cycling. Of all the “active” things to do in Ottawa, this is in my top three, right after walking to the pub and hiking in the woods. ;)

Have you seen the new Bike Ottawa interactive cycling maps? You can access them all right here. If we are serious about making Ottawa a bike-friendly city, this is definitely a step in the right direction. Biking is cheap, healthy, and good for the environment. As a city, we need to do everything we can to make it as safe as possible and get more people out there. The more people who bike – and talk about biking – the more people will try it for themselves.

This really interesting article in the New York Times got me thinking more about cycling as transportation, not recreation. To summarize: A new study shows that “people often overestimate the time required to commute actively, a miscalculation especially common when someone has secured a parking permit near the office.” Mark, who commutes to work on his bike from May-November, agrees. He’s talked to a lot of people who say it would take too long to bike to work/downtown. In fact, their end of the conversation often goes like this:

“I WISH I could bike to work. Sigh.”

Well, you probably can! What if you tried biking to your work on a weekend to see what it’s like in terms of distance and time? (Hint: use the Bike Ottawa maps to plan your route.) If it works, you’re set.

Surprisingly, it takes Mark LESS time to bike than it does to bus or drive. As an added bonus, he also gets to reap the benefits of biking e.g. extra time to decompress that you can’t get while stuck in traffic. Also, he doesn’t need to hit the gym or watch what he eats in the summer because he’s burning so many calories.

I would love to ride my bike to work. The distance is no problem, the route is fine, but there is no comfortable place to change there. The office washrooms are less than ideal. I suspect this is the issue for many.

Here’s my bike, parked at my workplace, one of the rare times I’ve ridden it there:

My Bike

Last summer Mark and I cycled to Stittsville just for the heck of it, and it was a very positive experience. I am a middle-aged woman of average fitness and I spent a lot of time worrying whether I could do it or not… and I did! You can read about that trip and see some photos here. Highlights included an extremely flooded pathway and a lovely lunch at Quitter’s Cafe but the most notable thing about our adventure is that we biked to Stittsville from Westboro almost entirely on bike paths. (!) There was almost zero traffic! It was positively thrilling to find out that we can do this.

My preferred destination involves food, so this is a big factor in choosing a destination for summer 2018. Maybe this is the year we bike to Alymer. Or Carp. I’ve heard good things about Alice’s Village Cafe so maybe that’s going to seal the deal. Hmm.


Many of my Facebook friends are posting old headshots of themselves right now. It’s kind of a jokey thing but it’s actually been fun to see everyone’s photos. (Also, interestingly, there are more than a few people out there whose various social media profiles are sporting photos that are a decade old! Update your headshots people!)

Whether it’s web or business card design, accounting, writing, or photography, I have always believed it’s a good idea to delegate business needs to other pros when needed. Professionals need to look professional, right?

I take lots of photos of people – both in my personal and work life – but I hate having my own photo taken. Perhaps it’s because I’m self-conscious, or I’m feeling awkward or unlovely sometimes, but usually when I’m having my photo taken I feel like I’m being punished for past sins. I’m not sure if I’m pickier than most but I rarely like a photo that’s taken of me. Perhaps that’s why Mark has given up taken photos of me and there aren’t actually that many pictures of me in our massive photo library. Sigh.

So, when someone asks me for a headshot, you can imagine that it sends me into a wee panic because it’s not like I generally have anything on hand.

This one goes back a while, but for a time, this was one that I used for conferences and media stuff. Mark took it on our back porch by the way:

Take two

Later, I used a photo that was taken of me when I became editor of Capital Parent Newspaper. I used it for absolutely everything. (The photographer was Jason Code.)


Then I used this photo of me – that I still love – by Ottawa photographer Jessica Deeks. It was for a fun story that ran in a special edition of Ottawa Magazine that basically described my perfect day in Westboro:

A peek at the Ottawa Magazine special "Neighbourhoods" issue. I was Ms. Westboro!

For a while I was also using a photo that Sara McConnell took during a family photoshoot in 2015 at the Experimental Farm:

Head shot from 2015

Fast forward to today. Although three years doesn’t seem like a very long time to go between headshots, I don’t feel like I’m the same person I was when those photos were taken, so I thought I was due. Does that make sense? Also, I wear my hair very differently now!

What was the rush? Well, I needed to submit a photo for the Westfest festival program (I’m emceeing for a bit on Sunday afternoon!) as well as for the relaunch of the Kitchissippi Times. I asked my colleague, Ted Simpson, to take my headshot. He’s a really great Ottawa photographer who has been part of the Kitchissippi Times longer than I have. I’ve always liked Ted’s style and relaxed attitude so I figured this would be a winning combo for a successful photo session. (I was right.)

Context is everything, so we opted to shoot at SuzyQ Doughnuts. Their nicely-lit coffee shop setting would make the photo feel authentic. (I love their donuts AND coffee, after all.) We settled in a couple of seats near a window, chatted a bit, and then the camera came out. Egads. Of course, having one’s photo taken with onlookers and staff isn’t ideal, but we made the best of it. And you know what? It wasn’t awful! In fact, it was actually pretty fun.

My donut was excellent, by the way.

He sent me a few photos and I chose this one (which some of you have already seen on Facebook, LinkedIn, and all the rest):

New headshot!

What I like about it is that (a) I feel like it looks like me, dare I say it’s even a little bit flattering (b) the lighting is nice. I think it looks like me, but it also represents me well, if you know what I mean.

After it was all done, Ted asked me how I felt about portrait retouching – which I appreciated – because I don’t actually like headshots that are overly airbrushed. I want to keep it real, within reason, of course. I told him I embrace my grey hairs and wrinkles (both have been earned, IMO) but to feel free to make any blotches or fly-aways disappear.

Some time ago I heard of a website where you can submit your photo if you’re wondering what kind of impression it will make on your business connections on LinkedIn. It’s called Photofeeler, and it was mentioned in a marketing/branding podcast I listen to so I thought I’d try it out.

Basically, you go through and “rate” other people’s photos according to some easy criteria and if you do enough of them, other people will rate yours. According to my Photofeeler results, here’s how my new headshot compared with one of my older ones:

My Photofeeler results

I guess the gelato I’m holding makes me much more likable, however, my “competency” scores quite well in the new one.

Voters can leave comments on the photo as well. Someone wrote: “I find the arms a bit dominant and I would prefer it if there were no other people in the background.” Regardless of the arm issue, I think I’ll keep this one for awhile. ;)

28 Apr, 2018

Weekend reading: April 27 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

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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 two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). 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... 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!


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