a peek inside the fishbowl

Piper on Valentine's Day

Despite the subarctic temperatures and lack of skiing/skating/outdoor activities I declare our Valentine’s/Family Day weekend a big success.

It began, of course, with a PD day on Friday. I worked while the girls lolled around and binge-watched a string of Veronica Mars episodes. Valentine’s Day was Saturday. Mark made me my morning coffee. I made his. We exchanged cards and as a family we unveiled a new little piece of art for our mantel.

This heart art is by Alison Fowler (a former Fishbowl patron!). She had over 150 of these on display at Twiss & Weber over the weekend. It was quite the amazing collection, and now we now have two of our own:

H'art by Alison Fowler

Mantel view

I should mention that the BEST part of Valentine’s Day was Mark shaving off his beard and fixing our dishwasher. (!!)

After breakfast the four of us piled in the car and drove to the Glebe to pick up a part he needed. While we were there we took the opportunity to check out Lansdowne for the first time… the Whole Foods, the Sporting Life, and the LRT showcase in the old cattle castle. It was pretty cool. The best part of it was the full-sized model of the City of Ottawa’s new light rail train.

Cattle Castle at Lansdowne

LRT showcase at Lansdowne

Checking out the new LRT

Old Ottawa bus

Dial it up

We took a detour on the way home and dropped in to T&T Supermarket to pick up a few things. We got stuck in the snack aisle for quite awhile, and also brought home some pretty adorable custard buns:

Piggy custard buns

Piggy custard buns from T&T

For dinner we had sushi from MHK and afterwards shared some Sweet Georgia Browns from Purdy’s.

We spent Sunday in relaxation mode with Mark’s parents. Monday was busy. Mark had to work so the girls and I met him for lunch at the Rideau Centre. Sarah and Mark had burgers from Big Smoke Burger and Emma and I had grilled cheese sandwiches from MLT DWN. Everything was delicious and filling. The food court (a.k.a. the Dining Hall) at Rideau is seriously the best in Ottawa! Have you been?

After lunch the three of us shopped around a bit, first at Rideau, then at Neon Clothing in the Byward Market, which has a fantastic selection of Converse:

Inside the Rideau Centre

Buying Converse at NEON

We eventually wound up at the National Gallery, where we checked out the Jack Bush and the MC Escher exhibitions. Both were excellent.

Inside the National Gallery

Jack Bush at the National Gallery

MC Escher exhibition at the National Gallery

Inside the National Gallery

We also dropped by Forty-part Motet in the old Rideau Chapel, which is a very moving audio installation. I could spend a lot of time in this room:

The Rideau Chapel

All of this made me miss our family membership. I wish we could come here more often! I just love it here.

We were at the Gallery for so long that we were able to meet up with Mark again after work. We all drove home, where we collapsed in a big heap and only emerged for chicken wings and salad for dinner.

It was a winner of a weekend, weather be damned!

14 Feb, 2015

Weekend reading: February 14 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

Are you doing anything big for this coming long weekend? I wish we were, but at the moment our plans are rather minimal. Regardless of what we end up doing, I will, however, take the opportunity to spend a bit of time in the kitchen and make some kind of treat for the family.

My MIL found this easy recipe for salty/sweet caramel corn online. We made it last weekend and I tell ya, it’s a keeper. I think I might have to make it again!

Carmel corn is heavenly.

This combination of salt and sweet is The Best Thing Ever.*

Important question: would you add peanuts to this? I would, but I don’t think my kids would like it very much. (It’s worth mentioning that if you added peanuts to this recipe it would taste exactly like Cracker Jacks.)

I’d never made caramel corn before this, and frankly, I don’t understand why. I suppose, in my mind, it’s always seemed like a difficult thing to do. This batch banished that idea forevermore. It’s easy to make and the recipe doesn’t require a special trip to the grocery store. It is a surprisingly simple process, and I do love that magical transformation that happens when you put butter and sugar together. It’s alchemy! I should point out that even people who have a fear of scalding hot sugars (er, people like me) should rest reassured that this process is (a) totally manageable and (b) will result in your kids undying respect and admiration. (Ok, at least temporarily.)

* I realize I have a thing for this kind of flavour combo. Are you the same? If so, you might want to have a peek at these recipes:

  • “Skor” bars (They’re made out of CRACKERS. It’s downright crazy.)
  • The butter tart squares don’t require the usual pastry work and are very good.
  • This maple taffy is amazing, and it only requires one ingredient: maple syrup. It’s the perfect edible kitchen project for your family day weekend!

10 Feb, 2015

Is your mood in your way?

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Sunset near Dominion Station, Westboro

I’ve written about my fitness goals here before and many of you already know that I made a promise to myself to do at least 20 minutes of walking on the treadmill every day.

I have an appointment with myself every morning, and amazingly, I am able to keep it. This appointment includes:

  • A GREAT cup of coffee.
  • 30-minutes with my Litebook.
  • A healthy breakfast (it’s the same thing every morning so it’s a total no-brainer).
  • Treadmill time.

Well, everything was going fine up this morning until the last thing on my list. For some reason it was a real struggle to get on that treadmill and do those 20 minutes. As I slogged along I thought about why it was so hard – today of all days. After all, I’ve been doing this for over a year. I’m not sick. I had a decent night’s sleep. I ate breakfast. So what the hell is my problem?

It was my mood. I wasn’t in the mood to do this very simple task, and my mood became a huge barrier to getting it done. When I really think about it, the idea of “mood” as an obstacle is not something new. I’m frequently not “in the mood” to cook dinner or go grocery shopping, but I’m able to do those things because other people rely on me to do them. And if I don’t do them my family might starve. Or at the very least, I’d have to put up with their complaints, and I don’t want that.

Here’s the thing, moods aren’t real. Not really. It’s not like I’m a marathon runner who is suddenly faced with an impossibly high wall across her path. Mood is not a wall, it is a curtain. A sheer curtain at that. It may appear to be in my way, and it might even be blocking my view of the path, but it’s not impassable. I have the power to push it aside and move forward.

So there I was, stewing about all of this while watching the time tick slowly by on the treadmill when this article by Leo Babauta appeared in my feed: What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It.” It was exactly what I needed and it solidified a lot of ideas that have been floating in my head of late. Maybe it will help you today too?

09 Feb, 2015

An early start to the week

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

For some reason I booked a checkup at the orthodontist’s for the eldest child at 7:40 this morning. Why did I do that to myself? I think someone should invent a calendar app that asks you “are you sure you want to do that” when you find yourself doing something stupid like making early dental appointments.

At least Piper has the right idea today:

Piper shows her stuff.

Oh Piper. I wish I could be you today but it’s going to be a busy week. Pass the coffee!


07 Feb, 2015

Weekend reading: February 7 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


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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  • Jen_nifer: I love your weekend reading lists, keep them coming!
  • Glenn Allen: OK, not disturbing, just bothersome!
  • Glenn Allen: A couple of disturbing thoughts on this. Three, really. First is that GT works the "one-way, all-the way" store layout marketing strategy (like IKEA)
  • coffee with julie: I received the "secret" invite and admit to being intrigued but also feeling anxious ... what would I be getting myself into??! I immediately thought
  • andrea tomkins: Thanks for your comment Kelly. Good point about the foodie angle. I wonder... did this event do a good job of raising awareness about GT, or not? A
  • Kelly Rusk: HMMM.. Don't know how I feel about this. Particularly as someone who both works with influencers on behalf of clients and someone who has been invited
  • Misty Pratt: I cycled to Cornwall all in one day last year for the MS ride :) Totally doable! And yes to skiing being magical/therapeutic soul-food. Have I mention

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 – 970 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.


  • So I was feeling a bit ranty and wrote this post about raising children in an age of zero privacy in the hopes it will start some conversations! Please leave your two cents 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.

    - #
  • 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!

    - #

On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

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