a peek inside the fishbowl

It’s October out there, but it certainly hasn’t exactly felt like it, has it? I, for one, have been in my happy place, weatherwise. I feel so energized! This weather makes me want to go out and DO IT ALL. It’s the perfect time to get outside and catch up on family time! Not too hot, not too cold, and NO BUGS. (Well, flying, biting bugs anyway.)

I am very happy to bring you the latest news AND a giveaway from Fishbowl patron, Saunders Farm.

Saunders 26th haunting season features the largest new attraction in five years. It’s called THE COVEN (I honestly got goosebumps typing this out right now) and it’s a witch-themed indoor and outdoor experience in which thrill-seekers explore a swamp, a forest, and an old witch’s house. (CUE, THE SHIVERS) The Coven will be open during the daytime as a Witches Village and at night as a full-blown Haunt.

There is a lot of other new stuff going on too:

  • The Canada 150 Corn Maze. The corn maze attraction is in a four-acre field and features games, puzzles and an impressive observation bridge. Check out this video of the maze (or should it be maize – haha!) but make sure you watch to the end. It will blow your mind.
  • Bunnyville: an adorable bunny-filled town. I repeat. BUNNY.TOWN.
  • An all-new puppet show written and produced by Ottawa’s off-Broadway New York star, Ben Durocher.
  • A new original stage show called “Archie in Love”
  • New street theatre shows around the Farm
  • Two new jumping pillows! Saunders replaced both pillows and I’m told the new ones are extra bouncy!
  • New expanded pedal cart track
  • **Expanded routes** on the daytime and nighttime Haunted Hayride (a favourite of ours!)
  • A very rare Friday the 13th eeks-travaganza!

Thanks to Saunders, I have two pairs of admission tickets to give away to TWO lucky winners. You have one week to enter because I want to make sure you get them before Friday the 13th. :)

  • This giveaway is for two pairs of tickets and will be awarded to two different winners.
  • In order for your entry to qualify, let me know (a) if you’ve been to Saunders before and (b) the first thing you’re going to do once you get there if you win.
  • One entry per email address please!
  • If you can’t post your comment for whatever reason you can email it to me for posting at andrea at quietfish dot com. Please note, I cannot be responsible if your entry is misdirected or gets stuck in my Spam folder.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • I will draw one name using Random.org at noon EST on October 12, 2017. I’ll contact the winners via email, who can pick up their tickets at the Saunders ticket office. The name of the winners will be posted here as well. So please check back!

This is not part of the entry, but I really recommend you subscribe to the Saunders Farm e-newsletter. It’s a great way to find out about ticket deals and special events!

Over to you. Good luck! Happy Thanksgiving! And happy haunting!

I’m not very musical.

When I was five or six I got an electronic keyboard for my birthday. It was pretty cool. I could make music! It was PURPLE and portable, and I remember spending hours sprawled out on the living room floor, picking out the notes to Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Another childhood memory from around the same time: my father played the guitar, and he was pretty good. Guitar playing and singing folk songs around a campfire is a pretty big deal in the Czech tradition and my parents carried it with them when they immigrated to Canada. One time, I remember him playing a song and singing. It was just my parents and me in the living room. He was strumming and singing, and to me, the song sounded like it could be an echo song, the kind where you sing a line and the other person repeats it. He sang for awhile, with me, interjecting where I thought it was fitting. We sounded beautiful and I was very happy to weave myself into the music and be part of it. It was going very well (or so I thought) until he told me to be quiet and stop singing. In hindsight, I recognize that he was probably just trying to learn a song and I was being a pest, but his words really stung.

I liked to sing. In fourth grade, we had a music teacher named Mr. Allard who taught us songs that I’d never heard of, like Yesterday by the Beatles, and The Logical Song by Supertramp. He also taught us a radical song called TODAY. I think he made it up, but we loved it. It had lots of wild piano accompaniment and went like this:

I don’t want to go to school today.
I said today. TODAY.
I think I’ll stay in bed today.
The teachers ain’t cool, with all their rules,
Mama won’t you let me stay home, TODAY?
*piano solo*

We screamed this song at the top of our lungs and shook our hair LIKE HEAVY METAL SUPERSTARS during the piano parts.

In high school, we had to choose between band and vocals. I went with vocals. I was a loud singer. I remember heads turning in the front row to see who was belting out the tune in the back row. I think I was in ninth grade when I sang Ave Maria, which I loved, at a school assembly. I sang it with two other students, in a gymnasium packed with parents. Even at that time, I had a feeling I was given this special privilege because I was a good student and a hard worker, not because I was a particularly good singer. Because I know I’m not a good singer.

I have never, in my life, sang karaoke. I secretly fantasize about getting up on stage and belting out a tune and blowing everyone out of the water, but (a) I’m way too shy to do that and (b) I could never ever do that.

Some of you might remember a post I wrote around my birthday about growing and learning. To summarize: I’ve made a commitment to learn something new every year. This year, it’s the ukulele.

The ukulele is a pretty red thing we bought for the youngest when she was in her elementary school ukulele club many moons ago. But guess what, it’s been sitting in her closet ever since.

I downloaded a nifty app to help me tune it (it would be impossible for me, otherwise) and got to work. Every night I close the bedroom door and practice my chords. Sometimes it’s just ten minutes, other nights it’s an hour, or I start off saying “just ten minutes” and the next thing I know it’s time to go to bed. And you know what’s weird, I’m actually making music! I have a long way to go, a long long way to go, that’s certain, but sometimes the chords actually sound like chords. Chords I can eventually put together and make a song out of. (!)

And strumming patterns? WHO KNEW. I feel like I’m learning so much here, and that’s only one part of why I’m enjoying it so much.

Some observations:

  • It has been surprisingly easy to find the time to do this. The good news: I’m watching a little less Netflix. The bad news: I desperately need to catch up on my laundry.
  • I’m fascinated by the idea of achieving something with tiny, incremental effort. Journeys of a thousand miles begin with one step etc. The “baby steps” frame of mind is something I’ve tapped into other times too, such as when I trained to run a 5K, wrote my book (er, I’m still working on that one) or lost weight. Small changes are actually big changes in disguise because they add up. This is how I’m approaching ukulele practice too.
  • I know a few chords. I even have favourites (imma looking at you C and G)!
  • The tips of my left fingers are numb all of the time, but hey, that’s a small price to pay, right?

I’m happy to be finding my way back to music in a way, even though it’s been a very bumpy road so far.

30 Sep, 2017

Weekend reading: September 30

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

“WHEN YOU EAT AN ORANGE, EAT AN ORANGE!” I shout this to my teenage daughter, not angrily, just as a reminder. (If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, read the first part of this post.) She is barreling down the stairs while reading something on her phone. It’s most likely a Snapchat from a friend. She knows exactly what I’m talking about, so she slides her phone in her pocket for now.

Honestly, there is no limit to number of situations the “orange” rule can be applied. We shouldn’t need to remind our kids not to use the phone while they’re crossing the street, but we have to. Tweens and teens think they’re invincible, it’s just part of the natural teen brain: Oh mom! Nothing’s gonna happen! I always watch for traffic! Which may be true, until a poorly timed message from a friend trumps all sense and reason. Sigh.

Cultivating patience, and learning to put the device away has to start at an early age. I don’t want my kid driving and texts because they can’t resist the siren song of that text notification sound. Do you?

So, to answer the original question I posed in the first part of this post: When should you do you give your kids their first smart phone? If we want healthy kids, with a healthy sense of self, there are a few questions you may want to discuss with your partner first, even before bringing the kids into the conversation.

Read the rest of this entry »

23 Sep, 2017

Weekend reading: September 23 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

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  • andrea tomkins: We have a winner! It's commenter #3, Sarah, who wrote: My daughter’s (6 and 3) love the My Generation dolls and accessories! I would use the gift
  • andrea tomkins: Comments are closed to new entries. Stay tuned for the winner!
  • Angela Emerson: I'm eyeing the B.Hellophone & B.Fun Keys ... those are necessary items sooner than later for our 20mth old who's obsessed with hitting all the ala
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  • Sonia: If I won I would purchase a family board game-Things In a Box looks like a fun game:)
  • Donna Hynes: Love the Melissa and Doug hangman game !! Getting it even if I don't win !!
  • Kimberley Graham: First thing I would buy with the GC would be https://mrs.tiggywinkles.ca/collections/4th-birthday/products/snoopy-sno-cone-machine. I have been lookin

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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