a peek inside the fishbowl

02 Dec, 2017

Weekend reading: December 2 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: Daughter of Fortune: A Novel

01 Dec, 2017

University student care package #2!

By andrea tomkins in Oh! Things!

I sent a second care package to our university student earlier this week. (Here’s the first one, in case you’re curious.)

University care package #2

This care package contained:

  • a container of homemade fudge, made with love by my mother-in-law
  • Smarties (because she’s SMART. Do you think she’ll get the joke?)
  • knee high socks from Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s (I’m obsessed with socks.)
  • hair elastics
  • A Me to We Rafiki bracelet I received in this amazing little package and wanted to pass along.

Not pictured: candy vampire teeth and fake candy blood. Nothing says lovin’ like candy teeth!

I packed it all up in an empty cereal box. My package must have been a bit smaller, or a bit lighter, than one I mailed before. As the post office lady was weighing it she told me that to send it Expresspost would only cost eight cents more. Next day delivery for a few extra pennies? Sign me up! That being said, it was still $14.00 to mail via Canada Post (in case you were wondering).

Perhaps I should have remembered that we’ll be dropping by for a visit soon. Hmm.

Related: I just learned that Queen’s University has its own care package service! Take a look.


I’m continuing my exploration of gift ideas here on the blog because I think that everyone needs a little bit of help in the gift-giving department. If you’d like to read part one and two, this link will display the list so far.

I believe it’s time to reconsider the idea of Houseplant As Christmas Gift. Plants aren’t exactly the kind of item that is traditionally given as a gift, unless it’s for a housewarming party. Is it because houseplants can be impractical? Or is it because they generally aren’t considered very hip or cool? Violets aren’t exactly cool, nor are spider plants, for example (although I have both). BUT, I recently purchased a very cool-lookin’ plant for myself and it got me thinking that it could make a nice gift for someone who could use a bit of greenery in their lives.


Air plants!

It’s an air plant! I love the look of it. It’s spiky, but not in a prickly cactus kind of way. The spikes make a different kind of statement: They say, I ain’t no shrinking violet. I’m a tough sonofabee.

It’s hard to tell by the photo above (I’m a bit too zoomed in there), but the glass container is a teardrop shape that fits in the palm of my hand. It sits flat (which is great for me and my shelf) but it can also be hung by a loop in the glass. I can totally picture it suspended on a curtain rod over the kitchen sink or in a bathroom window. And guess what, air plants don’t need soil! This eliminates a whole host of problems: over watering, spilled dirt etc.

Here’s where I confess that I’m not exactly a green thumb as it pertains to living plants of any kind. I have killed one of these air plants before, chiefly because I didn’t know how to care for it. Now that I have discussed air plant care with someone who knows what they’re talking about, I feel fully qualified to be the owner of an air plant and recommend them to others.

My other air plant died because it wasn’t getting enough water. It IS called an air plant, and you’d be forgiven if you assumed that it will get all the moisture it needs from its immediate environment (in other words, from the air). Well, friends, that’s not the case. It’s too dry here, so air plants need human help. Spray misting is insufficient! (This was my mistake.) Watering is an easy task: Just take the plant out of its container and soak it in water for about 15-20 minutes, once a week. I’m doing it on the same day I water my orchids so I won’t forget.

I purchased this one for $15 at a holiday pop-up show and sale last weekend. The expert who helped me out and gave me the confidence I needed is from a shop in Russell called Beyond the House. I just took a look at their website and I may have to motor out there at some point. In the meantime, I’ve seen air plants at all kinds of flower shops; most recently, at Tivoli right here in Westboro. Buy them in a pretty terrarium or improvise with something you already have lying around the house. I really like these elegant wire air plant hangers. There are a ton of air plant-related ideas on Pinterest, but if you click you will be sent down the rabbit hole, so consider yourself warned. You can read more about caring for air plants on the HGTV website.

Generally, I wouldn’t advocate for the kinds of gifts that need extra care, but these are so easy! Surely we can make an exception?

28 Nov, 2017

Close to home

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I’m trying very hard not to let the news about the most recent shakeup in the media industry get me down, but it is disheartening, to say the least. Did you know this was one of the largest mass closures of newspapers in Canada’s history? As for myself, I continue to chug along at the Kitchissippi Times. As some of you know, I’m the managing editor and associate publisher. Fortunately, KT is independently owned and supported by MANY amazing local businesses. I’m not directly impacted by Postmedia and Torstar’s swaperoo (TBD by the Competition Bureau, by the way) but I am heartbroken for all of those talented people who are losing their jobs and for the communities who will lose their newspapers.

I’m saddened by some of the negative comments I’ve seen floating around online. People who debate the value of community newspapers really aren’t looking at the whole picture. To those individuals I want to say, well, maybe community news isn’t important to YOU, but it’s important to me, and to a lot of people like me. Someone needs to tell the stories that get missed by the big guys; to shine a light on the people, grassroots initiatives, and events that are important to the residents but would not normally get much notice. Someone needs to ask questions, dig around, and hold people accountable. Someone needs to give the people a voice, too. One of my favourite things about KT is when I receive thoughtful letters and submissions. This stuff is important.

Readers – and I am referring to people who read online and offline – are consuming more content than ever. The desire to know what is happening in one’s own backyard hasn’t changed, and it never will. What has changed is the revenue media owners earn from those newspapers. The media landscape is in transition and there is no easy fix.

How can you support local media? Well, for a freebie like the Kitchissippi Times, you can browse the website, click on ads, or share a story online on your social media channel of choice. Send a letter to the editor. Talk about us. Like us on Facebook! If an ad catches your attention and leads you to a store sale or opening, tell them you’re there because you saw their ad in the local paper. Trust me, all of these small things actually make a big difference.

My husband also works in the media industry. To have two incomes/two people working in an industry that seems to have no end of cutbacks and restructuring is stressful if I let myself think about it too much, so I don’t think about it. What will Ottawa’s media landscape look like in five years, or ten? Will I even be part of it? What am I, who am I, if I’m not writing? I am broken up about all of this and I’m not even in the line of fire, a.k.a. laid off from a job I love.

So, for the moment, I’m doing the only thing that I can do, and that’s put my head down and get work done.

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day for giving and volunteering which takes place after Black Friday. It’s a day for organizations and individuals to take some action and rally around their favourite causes. For Giving Tuesday, I wanted to let you know about a charitable initiative that’s happening close to home. A group of local shop owners has issued a call to action they’re calling Pay It Forward to help women in need, right here in Ottawa. (You can read more about that here.) For shoppers, it involves picking up a tote bag, filling it with a few items, and dropping it off at a participating shop. It’s a great way to get people shopping locally and discover a few new shops, and also, get some much-needed items to women who could use them.

I filled up a bag and dropped it off at Flock Boutique the other day. They gave me a t-shirt I added to the bag as well:

Pay it forward, this holiday season

I should mention, I consulted Cornerstone’s helpful “what’s needed” list before I went shopping and this is what I ended up buying for my donation (in case you’re looking for some ideas!):

  • nail polish
  • hairbrush
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • new facecloths
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • soap
  • hand lotion
  • deodorant
  • chocolate
  • lip balms
  • sketchbook

It’s not much, but I think if a few Fishbowl readers do it too, I know we can make a difference. Sometimes small things add up to big things; something I try to remember as I move through the routines of my busy days.

25 Nov, 2017

Weekend reading: November 25 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

terra20 Ottawa

Expert lice removal services in Ottawa with Lice Services Canada

Click me!


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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!


E-book alert!

Shopping Embargo e-book promo

My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

Piper is on Instagram

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter