a peek inside the fishbowl

07 Mar, 2018

Things I am loving: Frasier Fir hand lotion

By andrea tomkins in Oh! Things!

I will get right to the point and say: WOW. I love it when my hands smell like Christmas.

Under normal circumstances, I am not a huge fan of scented products. I find most products overscented and I am pretty picky about the scents that I do like. It’s a pretty short list, especially in terms of products that I use on my body. I like citrus smells and coconut. I usually like vanilla too, but that depends on how strong and/or fake it is.

But then came along a hand lotion which upgraded me from Occasional User into Regular User. The brand name is Thymes, and it comes in a very pretty container that sits on my office desk.

Frasier Fir hand lotion by Thymes review

I’m an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kinda gal. If it’s next to me, I remember to use it. I want to remember to use it so I keep it right next to my keyboard, as you can see.

It is the perfect consistency for a hand lotion. It’s thick but not gloopy; it has heft but doesn’t leave your hands feeling like you dipped them in a bucket of paint. As a bonus, it has the absolute best scent. The scent is one I never thought I’d like as much as I do: Frasier Fir. It smells like a peaceful walk in the woods with my favourite people. It’s camping. It’s ALL THE CHRISTMAS THINGS: finding a tree in the lot and bringing it home; waiting for it to defrost in the hall before setting it up; decorating, gift unwrapping, happy faces … all of that and more. This lotion smells like love, to me.

Funny how closely memories and smells are tied together, isn’t it?

That being said, the Christmassy scent eventually dissipates. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I suppose one shouldn’t smell like a tree ALL the time. Besides, more and more public places (gyms, hospitals, offices, etc.) are becoming scent-free, which I support. I do hate the feeling of my throat closing up while I’m stuck in an elevator with someone who’s drenched in product.

Anyway, this stuff makes me happy. I am quite certain I’ve never said that about hand lotion before, HAND LOTION, of all things. It was a gift, but I know for a fact that you can find it at The Village Quire in Westboro. Drop by and give it a sniff. And if anyone looks at you strangely, just tell them you want to smell like Christmas too.

06 Mar, 2018

Whole 30: Day 5-6 update

By andrea tomkins in Recipes and Food

Here’s an image: me, trying to write while the youngest daughter makes herself a giant bowl of buttered popcorn and then sits down next to me. Sigh. Strangely, corn in any form is not allowed on Whole 30. I thought popcorn was a healthy grain! I’m bummed about not being able to eat it for 24 more days but hey, this is what I signed up for. It’s funny how deeply this particular snack has embedded itself so deeply in my life. I would feel sad and deprived if I couldn’t eat popcorn in a movie theatre, for example. It’s weird when you think about it. It’s just CORN! Why feel sad about a lack of corn in one’s life?

You are probably wondering how I’m feeling today. According to the Whole 30 timeline, I should be feeling some kind of inner rage. I can’t say that’s the case with me. My feelings towards my fellow man hasn’t really changed at all. I am not, however, feeling 100%. I hesitate to use the word ‘woozy’ because a couple of people reading this would immediately jump on the phone and tell me to eat some carbs, but perhaps a better word to describe it is ‘fatigued’ in a way, or like someone has thrown a wet blanket over my brain that comes down behind my eyeballs.

I am feeling better this morning, but for the last couple of days I have not been operating at full physical and mental capacity, especially in the afternoons. Does my body need more energy? Or is it reeling from the fact that I’m withholding sugar and most carbs at the moment? Case in point: I walked to a meeting yesterday and felt oddly low, and this was after a good-sized breakfast with plenty of protein. I have been telling myself that this feeling is just my body is working hard to digest fat stores from new places in order to power itself. This makes me feel hopeful.

Overall, I do feel a little less jiggly, but it’s hard to know how much weight I’ve lost because Whole 30 followers are not supposed to weigh themselves for the duration. BUT I do sense that my pants are a little less snug. I feel quite full after meals but not bloated anymore. This is a good thing.

That being said, the idea behind the Whole 30 isn’t necessarily about weight loss, it’s about hitting a reset button on eating habits and cooking more at home, which we are DEFINITELY doing.

Here’s a lunch I enjoyed the other day:

Whole 30 big bowl of veg with sunshine sauce

It’s spiralized zucchini tossed with a handful of coleslaw mix, bean sprouts, chicken breast, nutty “sunshine sauce” and topped with a dab of guacamole, cilantro, and cashews. It was delicious and so full of flavour.

Whole 30 hasn’t been easy so far, but it hasn’t been too hard either. I think this is because we started off from a relatively good place in terms of what we were already eating for dinner, which was almost always some variation of lean meat with veg.

We are not big pop drinkers at all but I have a feeling that people who are habitual (read: daily) consumers of soda/pop would have a much tougher time with this kind of healthy eating challenge. Regularly ingesting a burst of liquid sugar and (possibly) caffeine must wreak havoc on one’s system. What happens to a mind and body that is used to being fed a constant stream of sugar? I bet it is a tough habit to break.

If you’re wondering what I’m eating, I’m tracking it all on this page (with links to recipes if I have them).


So far, so good. The only bump in the road was my mother-in-law’s baking. Let the record show that I did not sample any of this freshly-baked temptation:

Freshly baked cookies. Sigh.

Going into this I thought one of the hardest things about doing a Whole 30 would be giving up my breakfast routine. I love my breakfast routine and have the same thing every day. I make a fancy coffee and enjoy a bowl of plain yogurt with fruit and homemade granola. It’s a healthy habit that I really look forward to but Whole 30 rules meant that my favourite routine had to undergo a dramatic change. No more dairy, no more grains. (You can see what I’ve been eating on this page. I’m jotting it down as I go.) This is a bit of a no-brainer, but bigger breakfasts with more protein fill me up in the morning (doh) and, surprisingly, almost eliminate cravings that tend to pop up later in the day.

Here are a couple of my breakfasts. They made me surprisingly happy.

This is a fried egg on leftover pulled pork with a bit of salsa:

Whole 30 breakfast idea

And this is avocado “toast”: Guacamole on sweet potato slices. It was, dare I say, absolutely delicious.

Avocado "toast"! Guacamole on sweet potato slices.

Simple stuff, but as I eat I find myself truly enjoying this food. We really are fortunate to be able to eat so well.

The other thing – and possibly the most important thing – about breakfast routine is COFFEE. Saying a temporary farewell to my usual brew hasn’t been exactly fun, but I’m surviving. Sometimes it’s more about the HABIT than the actual food though, isn’t it? One of my favourite things to do on a weekend is to brew a coffee and settle down with a pile of weekend reading. For a moment this morning, and yesterday morning, I thought longingly about how much I enjoy hunkering down on the couch with a hot beverage in hand. And then I immediately dismissed it. For this month, at least, food is fuel. So instead of my usual cappuccino, I have been making espresso and drinking it straight up in a pretty little cup that I don’t use very often.

Whole 30 coffee

Before I started this I thought I couldn’t possibly give up my morning brew for 30 days. But after thinking about it I realized that I CAN. There are many things in life I can’t do, or can’t control, but I certainly CAN do this. No question. I have been thinking about what I really meant when I said: “I CAN’T.” What I really meant was “I WON’T” give up my coffee or “I AM NOT WILLING TO DO THIS RIGHT NOW.” But I know now that I can.

03 Mar, 2018

Weekend reading: March 3 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

01 Mar, 2018

March 2018 = The Whole 30

By andrea tomkins in Recipes and Food

As many of you regular readers know, I like food. Scratch that, I love GOOD food and it may even be that I like food more than most people out there. I like food, a lot. That being said:

I don’t like Oreos, but I love freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies.
I don’t like ordinary sliced bread but I love a freshly baked loaf of sourdough.
I don’t like fish sticks but I love a thickly breaded slice of haddock with a side of perfectly done french fries and mayo for dipping.
I don’t like Nescafe but I love a cappuccino.
I don’t like candy bars but I love good chocolate.
I love potato chips. Any potato chips. :)

Some would probably call me a food snob but I would counter with the idea that the foods that call to me are the ones that are made by me, and by people who can read a recipe. The foods I love come from a kitchen rather than a factory.

Don’t get me wrong. We eat plenty of processed foods: bacon, jam, All-bran, beans, KD, condiments, salsa, potato chips… and this is just the top of my head. I’ve been known to buy frozen lasagna, perogies, premade meatballs, taco shells. I COULD make all of these things myself, but there is a finite amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen. Also, I should mention that as much as I love good food, I don’t loooooove to cook. I like it well enough, but too often it is the kind of thing that ends up in the chore column. Perhaps I’d feel differently if (a) everyone in my family loved everything I made (b) we had identical taste buds and all liked the same things. It’s disheartening to spend the time to plan, shop, and cook a meal only to have your diners grimace at the thought or make a big deal out of some offending ingredients. I get it though. I wouldn’t be happy if someone served me a plate of fried liver and mushy lima beans and insisted I’d like it IF I WOULD ONLY TRY ONE BITE.

Truth be told, there aren’t many foods I dislike, so I don’t have many issues in this regard. I’ll try anything once. (Remember the time I ate crickets? There’s video evidence in case you don’t believe me.) I don’t like organ meats, although I like pâté. I don’t like olives, but I do like tapenade. I don’t like overcooked vegetables, but I think this isn’t an unusual food preference.

Which brings us to THIS:

The Fishbowl goes Whole 30

If by any chance you aren’t aware, Whole 30 is a monthlong dietary reset. It’s pretty much ALL YOU CAN EAT meat, vegetables, and fruit. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Oh yes. You can’t eat grains, dairy, sugar, or booze.

I was debating whether or not to take the Whole 30 challenge when I suddenly spotted the official cookbook on a display table at a used bookstore for five bucks. Clearly, it was destiny calling! That sealed the deal for me, and by extension, the rest of my family. I should explain that I’m not dragging my husband kicking and screaming into this. I think he welcomes the idea of a spring trimdown but he was not pleased to hear about the “no beer” rule. My argument: We have the rest of our lives to drink beer! It’s not impossible to avoid it for 30 days. My own challenge is giving up milk in my morning brew, and my morning yogurt and granola. But this too, is not impossible. What IS impossible: asking me to cure cancer, stop a bullet in my hand, or leap over a tall building in a single bound. Leaving milk out of my coffee is not impossible. (Also, this strikes me as a first world problem for sure.)

My hope is that by the end of the month I’ll lose 5lbs as well as that sluggish and bloated feeling I’ve been dragging around with me. I’m hoping to regain some energy along with a sense of well-being that’s been missing in my life this past while.

I’m not sure how much I’ll be writing about it here on the blog. I guess that depends on how much I have to say about it. I will be tracking my daily meals on a page I’ve set up here. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you, especially if you’ve done it and lived to tell the tale. If you’d like to join me, I’d welcome that too. ;)


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  • Amy: A friend of mine makes tomato soup by taking a can of tomatoes, blending them a bit, and thickening it with flour or cornstarch.
  • James Hale: Long time, no speak. Jo and I love Terra20. Looking forward to your writing there. Speaking of diets, we've been doing keto since October, feeling gre
  • andrea tomkins: Lisa, I just LOVE the idea of cheeseburgers for breakfast. Sounds like the perfect hot meal, especially for growing kids!
  • andrea tomkins: The amount of sugar in grocery store products is positively astounding. Caesar salad dressing! Pita crisps! Ketchup! Battered fish! I wish I had a bet
  • Amy: I've recently been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it's made me take a lot harder look at all the sugar in my diet. Even though I was trying to
  • Lisa from Iroqouis: I have no problem with ribs for breakfast. I love leftovers in the morning. No fuss no muss. Isn't that what leftover Chinese food and pizza is for
  • andrea tomkins: Food traditions are so interesting! I could continue to eat like this, but meat is my stumbling block. I would prefer to eat less of it, not more. I c

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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