a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Apr, 2015

Weekend reading: April 18 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

… share it with the whole world, of course. :)

I wrote about family social media accounts awhile back on MediaSmarts.ca and I wanted to post an update on what has become a truly enjoyable project: our dog’s Instagram account.

Piper on Instagram

Each family member was invited to manage Piper’s Instagram account. At the outset we all agreed on the premise: this is Piper’s account (and we were only posting on her behalf) so everything had to be from her perspective: photos, comments, and follows. What would she show her friends? What would she say? What point of view would she take on this issue?

Out of the four of us I’m the one who contributes the most, but everyone is reading and enjoying the project all the same.

Piper is almost at 500 followers now, and they come from all around the world. Some of the comments from her fans are truly hilarious and adorable. It’s a never-ending source of amusement for us, and it continues to be a really great shared family project.

Every once in awhile I like to look at Piper’s collection of photos as a whole. Although I know full well that WE are the ones who are putting words in her mouth, she is such a funny little creature. Her feed is full of fun and family jokes. Add to that the comments and the interaction… it all makes me so happy.

Some dog accounts have a staggering number of followers: ichaity, thiswildidea, tunameltsmyheart. Not that I expect Piper to ever reach those kinds of numbers but I am amazed at what we’ve reached at this point. I’ve been thinking about how and why pet accounts get to be so popular. Some of these have fabulous photos, others have endearing story lines, but I think it comes down to the subject matter. Dogs are lovely and innocent, and people love their dogs unconditionally. Perhaps it’s this love that forms the basis of the wild success that is #dogsofinstagram. Is there a pet account you follow? If so I’d love to hear about it!

Have you ever been part of a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture is a wonderful way of supporting areas farmers and eating seasonally, closer to home. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea, but never really followed through, mostly because I wasn’t sure if making this kind of Committment to Vegetables could actually work for my family.

For those who are new to the idea, when you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of produce from a local farmer. CSA members pay for the season’s produce up front and receive a weekly delivery throughout the summer and early fall, ultimately sharing the season’s bounty as well as the risk (of blight, of drought, etc.). It also means living a little closer to the land and truly knowing where our food comes from.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Michael Milsom, the man behind Mike’s Garden Harvest, a CSA here in Ottawa. Here he is:

Mike's Garden Harvest

He asked me if my family and I would like to sample his produce throughout the season, so we set up a time to chat about it a bit more. This guy is incredibly passionate about feeding families. His CSA had 32 members last year and almost all of the families returned this season. He’s growing (no pun intended) and this year he’s prepared to feed 125 local families.

As I see it, there are a few very big benefits of buying a share in a CSA:

  • This is locally grown, organic (!!) produce that is harvested at peak times, ensuring ultimate freshness.
  • It will reduce the amount of time I spend at the grocery store. Also, my regular grocery store doesn’t have great produce and sometimes I find myself going to multiple stores to get what I need. Home delivery of fresh veggies = more time to do other things. Woot!
  • There are also different varieties in play here, which I’m VERY excited about. Let’s look at the 2015 list of lettuce, for example: Flashy Trout Back, Muir, Baby Oak leaf, Concept, Ridgeline Romaine, Jericho Romaine, Crispano, Rhazes. (Do yourself a favour and see the whole list right here.)

I’m excited that we’re going to be eating a more diverse array of veggies. And who knows, maybe the girls will find something new they like… especially if they know it’s from “our” farm friend. And if we get too much of something? I will be gifting it to our neighbours. (WATCH OUT NEIGHBOURS!) :)

And so we chatted, and I agreed to the generous gift of a share, because who can refuse fresh veggies delivered to their door and the promise of wonderful meals for an entire summer? That being said, I’ll be tweeting a show and tell of each delivery and posting it on my Facebook page, along with my thoughts and observations of that week’s bounty. You may also see an influx of veggies in my Daily Lunches too. I’m also hoping that my family will have an opportunity to visit the farm at some point over the summer too, so we can really get the inside scoop. Stay tuned!

Have you ever tried a share in a CSA? Why or why not? I’d love to hear about your experience. Would you be interested in getting a share of Mike’s harvest this year and trying this veggie experiment with me for a season? If so, he still has a few shares available. Check out the options right here.


11 Apr, 2015

Weekend reading: April 11 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

10 Apr, 2015

How do you find joy when you feel like crap?

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

It’s easy to find joy when you’re feeling great, isn’t it? When you’re well fed, well rested, and feel like everything is going wonderfully in your life, you probably find yourself tripping over joyous moments as you stop to smell the roses. Joy begets joy.

Here’s a question, how do you find those moments when you’re not feeling so hot?

I say this only because I feel like I’ve finally gotten to the end of a rather crummy week. Not that anything awful has happened, but I’ve been tied down with a head cold and not sleeping particularly well. Add to that the gloomy weather we’ve been having and a kitchen full of dirty dishes and a trip to the grocery store that awaits. Something as simple as a trip to the store isn’t so simple today. It feels like someone has asked me to climb Kilimanjaro in flip flops. CAN I DO THIS?

I feel drained, like a wrung out old sponge, one with a whiff of mould about it no less. I desperately need a haircut and colour and some kind of wardrobe injection. (Scratch that, I actually need a stylist and someone to tell me, “YES, YOUR BUTT DOES LOOK TOO BIG IN THOSE PANTS LADY.”) My current roster of footwear is depressing the crap out of me right now and frankly, when I think about it, I realize, more than anything I’d rather be eating a tray of brownies in bed right now thankyouverymuch.

I am struggling to find the joy today, but I will. I will buy ingredients for brownies while I’m at the store, and watch the robins hop around in this April bluster, and I will cuddle with Piper, and I will push past this and patiently await the coming of sunnier days.

This giveaway is over. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Sometimes it feels awfully hard to find something to do together with kids in Ottawa, and other times someone does all of the work for you. (I am hoping this is one of those times.) Have you heard of Kidsfest? It’s a consumer event that takes place at the EY Centre. Super stroller-friendly, it is full of kid-friendly entertainment (HELLO Splash n’ Boots and Peppa Pig!) and information that is useful to parents with kids under the age of 12. For example, representatives of various schools, summer camps, and other kid-related business and organizations are there, ready to chat! It’s a great opportunity to meet the people, ask questions, and get the scoop on the issues that are important to you.

You can read more about who’ll be at Kidsfest on the official website.

I have four passes to give away to one family. Interested? Read on!

  • In order for your entry to qualify, please leave a comment below. That’s it! One entry per person please.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • 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.
  • I will draw one name using Random.org at noon EST on April 9, 2015. I’ll contact the winner via email, who will have to pick up their prize at the “will call” booth at Kidsfest. I’ll also post the name here, so please check back!

If you didn’t win, you can buy your tickets online with the promo code ‘quietfish’ … this is absolute rock-bottom pricing and you won’t snag a cheaper ticket price online or at the door. The promo code shaves $8.00 off the price of a family pass and $3 off adult tickets purchased separately.

Good luck!

p.s. I have one other giveaway going on this week. Ottawa board gamers – young and old – will definitely want to enter!



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

Joan of Arc Academy in Ottawa

Picture of a boy with the Parenting in Ottawa bilingual logo. Ad links to Ottawa Public Healths Parenting in Ottawa website.

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  • Sarah McCormack: food is an important part of any holiday for me, I must admit :) This buffet looks really nice, but I tend to prefer an a la carte sit down for dinne
  • CB: I've taken my eldest to the kinderconcerts - so much fun! My youngest has yet to go to the NAC though.
  • Holiday to Punta Cana, part two. The food! >> a peek inside the fishbowl: […] (Psst! Read the first part of this post here.) […]
  • andrea tomkins: I do too binkee! But it sure is nice to get away from it every once in awhile. :)
  • lynn clayton: ive never taken my son to the nac so this would be a nice first for us
  • Molly van der schee: We would absolutely love the chance to go! What a great opportunity for us all to try something new!
  • Sarah at Journeys of The Zoo: I have taken my kids to the NAC for Culture Day 2014 and they loved it. We have never been to a show but it's on our bucket list. Our whole family lov

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 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 – 1000 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.

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  • 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!

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On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

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