a peek inside the fishbowl

The thing about getting older is that you get better at knowing yourself. It took me awhile to figure it all out but I now know that there are some things I need to do in order to keep myself happy and healthy. I need to eat well, I need to exercise, I need sunshine, I need to get a good night’s sleep, I need a really good coffee in the morning, and I need time to decompress. Mark and I also need some time away together doing these things.

And so, with that, we booked a restful weekend for two at Le Canotier.

Le Canotier is a couples-only cottage nestled between forest and water, a bit north of Wakefield. It’s owned by a former co-worker of Mark’s and we’d been meaning to check it out for ages.

The owners, Janet and Don, are exactly the kind of people from whom you’d want to rent a cottage. They’re incredibly thoughtful and considerate, responsible cottage owners. I had a good chat with Janet about our visit afterwards and she said something that has stayed with me. They see Le Canotier as their cottage, and they want other people to visit and love it as much as they do… which I thought was pretty awesome.

After weeks (months?) of waiting the time had finally come. So on the big day, it was with some degree of excitement that Mark and I loaded up the car, dropped off the kids, and set out on our merry way. It was a gorgeous sunny Friday morning and the car was packed full of treats. This was going to be awesome.

A couple of hours later we found ourselves bumping along a tiny, one lane road, peering into the woods for any sign of civilization. I’d call it a dirt road but it was incredibly rocky, with a significant amount of encroaching bush. I gripped the safety bar above the window as we bounced over every bump and gully, imagining the headlines…. because this is how all these news stories begin:


We passed a fellow on an ATV – twice – who gave us a curious look. (Understandably so. We were a married couple bumping along a trail in the middle of nowhere, in our Prius, loaded down with beer and coolers full of food.) Did we ask for help? Of course not.

We eventually reached a ditch that intersected the road and would have been too dangerous to cross, so Mark skillfully executed a 300-point turn and we went back to the main road. THAT’S when we decided to check Janet’s written directions (suffice it to say we barely had a signal). It didn’t take us long to figure out what had happened. There were two roads with the same name. The GPS picked the wrong one and we didn’t double check it against the directions that were provided to us. Lesson learned! I can’t believe I’m confessing it here either.

On the bright side, the drive to the correct destination took us though some really beautiful scenery, and included the crossing of a massive hydroelectric dam and lunch at one of those casse-croûtes that YOU KNOW makes some killer fries:

Chez Jo Jo

Well, the dramatic lead up was worth it. We finally got there, after turning on to a different kind of country road… one that was a lot more welcoming:

The road out front, Le Canotier

The sun shone, the trees rustled, and we pulled into the driveway with a light heart, knowing we’d found our home for the next two nights.

I’ll write more about our visit in my next post. :)

11 Oct, 2014

Weekend reading: October 12 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

A bit ruff, but hey, it’s FRIDAY, and that is something to celebrate.

My coworker and I had a ruff patch yesterday, but we had each other so it was ok.

Thanks for your entries everyone. We have a winner!

We’re huge fans of Saunders Farm here at Casa Fishbowl. Saunders is a Fishbowl patron, and we’ve visited in the summer and the fall … we’ve made so many fun memories there. We have our favourite attractions – the jumping pillows, the mazes, and of course the haunted hayride – but we also like how there’s something new to be experienced at Saunders every year.

I was looking through our photo library and I realized we must have a thousand photos from Saunders Farm. We’ve been going since the girls were very small. It’s hard to narrow it down to a single favourite (besides, I’ve posted many of them over the years!) but this one is definitely in my top ten.

(Click to embiggen.)

Lost in the maze at Saunders Farm

This is our eldest. She’s always loved the different mazes. I love this photo because it really sums up what it’s all about here: happy kids exploring fun stuff outside. And this makes me happy, not just as a parent, but as a grown up kid. :)

I like how there’s two sides of Saunders: the daytime fall fun side, and the scare-your-pants-off nighttime side. We’re not quite at the nighttime stage yet, but we are getting close. This year Saunders has expanded their night-time offerings and made it especially frightening with FIVE different fright sites to visit: the Barn of Terror, Camp Slaughter, the Shambles, Haunted Hayride, and the Graveyard Zone. You can read more about them right here (and check out their chainsaw ratings as well). :)

Here’s the good news: I have four passes to give away!

Interested? Read on:

  • This giveaway is for four one-day admissions that will be given to one lucky winner. They can be used either for day or for night. In order for your entry to qualify, just tell me which time of day you’d use them for – daytime fun or or nighttime scares  – and a bit about something you don’t want to miss at Saunders Farm this year.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • If you can’t post your comment for whatever reason you can email it to 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 the winning name using Random.org at noon EST on October 14, 2014. I’ll contact the winners via email at that time and post the name here as well.

That’s it! Over to you. Good luck!

04 Oct, 2014

Weekend reading: October 4 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

ZenKitchen is open!

ZenKitchen is open!

I am both happy and sad to report that I had my first meal at ZenKitchen the other day. I’m happy to have found this Ottawa treasure and sad, well, I’m sad because it took me so long to figure it out.

ZenKitchen is the newest patron to join the Fishbowl family, and I am thrilled to bits. I want to show you one of my new favourite dishes:

ZenKitchen Pad Thai, photo by Yannis Souris

It’s a gluten-free Pad Thai and is served with tofu made two ways, seasonal vegetables, cashew-lime dressing, vegetable spring rolls, and tamarind dipping sauce. It is So. GOOD. (It goes without saying that I’m drooling as I type this blog post. Ack.)

I had a lovely chat with David Loan, who founded ZenKitchen in 2009 along with Chef Caroline Ishii. The restaurant closed unexpectedly this past May due to some tax issues and was resurrected under new ownership at the end of July. (For interested parties, the new owner is Michaël Gazier, who you can read more about here if you’re keen.)

The focus here is the food, with a side of great service. David is so passionate about it all, and the restaurant truly goes above and beyond; everything is fresh fresh fresh, and much of it is handmade using all natural ingredients. There are no GMOs, preservatives and chemical additives, it’s organic and as locally sourced as possible.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot in the days since my visit: what do I want out of my restaurant experience? It’s a big question.

There’s something else you need to know – and some of you may know this already – ZenKitchen is a vegan restaurant, in fact, it was the first entirely vegan restaurant in Ottawa. Their mission is to provide vegan comfort food that satisfies everyone, including omnivores such as myself, and also caters to the gluten-free crowd and those with allergies.

Sidebar: I actually debated mentioning all of this, because for me it’s almost unimportant, and I worry it might freak some people out. (I hope I don’t offend any vegans who happen to be reading. Sorry vegans! For a vegan or GF family, to have a comfortable place to go and trust the food is VERY important, and I don’t want to diminish that at all.) I’m not a vegan, but I certainly get it. I just want food, good food, that’s prepared and served with love and care and passion and will make my mouth sing and my tummy happy. And you know what? I don’t need a huge slab of beef on my plate in order for that to happen.

Will carnivores like eating at ZenKitchen? Yes. Definitely.
Will he/she miss his/her meat? I seriously doubt it.
Is eating more veggies a good thing? I think we all know the answer to that. (!)

Other things that are good to know:

  • David is a sommelier and has a lot to say about wine, so a visit to ZenKitchen is a great opportunity to try a glass of something new. Don’t be shy, just ask! Seriously. You will be so glad you did.
  • ZenKitchen is re-launching their lunch and brunch menu in the coming weeks. Look for a #dailylunches pic from there soon!
  • The best way to stay on top of happenings at ZenKitchen is via their Facebook page. For example, you may want to keep up to date about their new Wednesday night jazz series, new menu items, and other special news.
  • They’re on Twitter too!

And here’s something cool, Fishbowl readers have a special password they can use at ZenKitchen. WOOT. The next time you’re at ZenKitchen, use the code word “fishbowl” for a complimentary dessert with a purchase of an entree. You may find it strange to whisper this strange phrase to your server, but hey, if there was a slice of their peanut butter and chocolate pie on the line I’d get over that pretty quick. ;)


NAC Ottawa family events

Fall family fun fun at Saunders Farm!

Creatures of Light Nature's Bioluminescence at the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Litterless lunch solutions at terra20

Zen Kitchen is open! Use code FISHBOWL for free dessert

Nepean Visual Arts Centre

Visit tThe Village Quire in Westboro Ottawa!

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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 – 824 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.


  • 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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  • I have a new post up at the MediaSmarts blog this week. It's my response to a question that I'm asked quite often: What’s the best age to give a kid an iPod touch?

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  • My latest post at the MediaSmarts website is about passwords. Is this something you've talked about with your kids? Given the proliferation of devices in households (often one per person now) it might be an important topic for discussion. How have you handled passwords in your household?

    - #

On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

Got kids in Ottawa? These posts might be worth a click too:

All hail the mighty Twitter