a peek inside the fishbowl

I have kayaked. I am definitely not an expert but it’s something I really enjoy. We rent them when we go camping in the summer, and that’s the extent of my experience. I will say that as long as I’ve lived in Ottawa I’ve wanted to rent a kayak at Dow’s Lake and go for a paddle.

Sidebar: once when the girls were small we rented a peddle boat there. I remember it being a bit challenging as it got stuck in the weeds but it’s probably a good option for people who want to be on the water but have never been in a boating situation before.

A kayak is not a peddle boat. First of all, kayaking is a much more serious water sport. (I’m willing to bet you haven’t watched any competitive peddle boating lately!) It’s a workout too. You’re using your arms/shoulders/core. Second, you have much more control and you can go faster, but that comes with a wee risk of tipping. For what it’s worth I’ve only tipped once, and even then it wasn’t a full tip into deep water as I was in the shallows. It was because I was in a very lightweight kayak designed for speed and I was trying to juggle too many things but that is not part of this story.

Dow’s Lake kayaks are not THOSE kayaks.

Anyway, Mark and I got out early before the heat of the day and motored over there. This was the scene when we arrived.

Kayak rental at Dow's lake

Kayak rental at Dow's lake

It’s all very well organized and we didn’t wait long to be assigned our vessels. You fill out a waiver, hand over some ID for them to keep so you don’t take off with their watercraft, and they mark down your departure time. You pay when you exit in case you go past your allotted time. (We chose to go with the one hour rental and it was sufficient.)

We brought our own life jackets because I hate the idea of wearing a grimy old life jacket that has absorbed the sweaty bodies of a thousand people, but from what I saw, their life jackets seemed to be in good shape. We were given paddles, helped into our kayaks (which is only mildly awkward as you clamour down into the water), and pushed off into the deep.

Kayak selfie, at Dow's Lake, Ottawa

Gosh, it’s hot out there on a summer’s day. It goes without saying that you should sunscreen up and consider your hydration needs beforehand.

It was a very enjoyable activity. And isn’t it cool we can kayak, on a lake, in the city?

We went in a big circle, starting on the Arboretum side, exploring the water’s edge almost all the way to Carleton. We spotted lots of ducks, a turtle sunning itself, and I rescued a frisbee… which I threw AT someone on the shore whereas I was only meaning to throw merely IN THEIR DIRECTION as an offering. (ie. “Hey I found a frisbee! Here ya go!”)

Kayaking at Dow's Lake, Ottawa

Kayaking at Dow's Lake, Ottawa

Kayak under the bridge, Dow's Lake

It is very tranquil… the sound of the water, the sound of the city. We made our way across to what I refer to as “the tulip side” and enjoyed some people watching. It was nice to just sit there and watch the world go by from this vantage point.

Before we knew it we were back where we started. Climbing out is a bit easier than climbing in (just a bit) and it didn’t take long to settle up.

At this point I was thinking ahead to lunch so we hopped back in the car and made our way to the Glebe. We grabbed burritos at Mad Radish and brought them over to the canal for an impromptu picnic by the water. They were absolutely delicious and we congratulated ourselves on a well-executed plan.

Bucket list item: ACCOMPLISHED.

FYI, here’s the link for info about boat rentals on Dow’s Lake: www.dowslake.com/summer_rentals.php.

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10 Jul, 2022

A road trip to Rideau Antiques

By andrea tomkins in Oh! Things!,Ottawa

Back in April we were loaned a Ford Escape PHEV for a week and we were keen to put it to the test here, there, and everywhere. I have more to say about this vehicle and have been mulling over a post but for now I will say: WE BOUGHT IT. (!) But that, my friends, is a story for another day… maybe 7-8 months from now when we get the car? Sigh.

One of the places we went to during our Test Drive Week was Holly’s Hot Chicken. It’s not far from our place so really we went there with the excuse of learning how the vehicle handles in bad weather driving in an urban environment. Of course, we had to take it for a spin somewhere further out. Enter: RIDEAU ANTIQUES. They’re located between Lombardy and Rideau Ferry, 10 km south of Perth, and 10 km southwest of Smiths Falls, in the heart of Rideau Lakes. Their website says: “Please feel free to stop in and browse our large collection of treasures.”

That one statement does not accurately describe what awaits you at Rideau Antiques.

Sidebar: my parents dragged me on Sunday drives when I was a kid, which were incredibly long and boring and always ended up in a dusty old antique shop. I hated it at the time, so I am now quite surprised to find that I enjoy this kind of activity.

I knew we were in store for adventure the moment we pulled up to the place. I think there is parking in the back, but we parked on the road near the front entrance. This is what it looked like:

(By the way you can click on the photos in this post to see larger versions of them.)

Entrance of Rideau Antiques

Here’s a tip, leave your bags in the car, because there is little room to move here. Look how narrow this aisle is! (!!)

Narrow aisle at Rideau Antiques

Here’s a video I took of myself while we were there:

How can I describe Rideau Antiques? It’s a cross between grandma’s house and 50 years of yard sales piled on top of one another. You will undoubtedly feel like a visitor from another planet, another time, exploring what it means to be human. It also reminded me of an archeological dig.

Piles of cutlery, Rideau Valley Antiques

View of Rideau Antiques

Kitchen tins and stuff at Rideau Antiques

At Rideau Antiques >

Collector's heaven at Rideau Antiques

I lost Mark more than a few times…

Spot the person...at Rideau Antiques

It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

Mark and I walked around in amazement. Strangers we met in the aisle looked similarly bewildered and we shared knowing looks and OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS PLACE type statements. For some, this would be a paradise, for others a nightmare. (As Google reviews suggest.) My take on this is that you have to see it to believe it. And if you think the inside is full of stuff, you should see the outside.

How does one find anything… Underneath these piles? I think that was my main question as I walked around, but apparently the people who work there have a keen memory of their inventory. So if you go in there looking for a vintage drawer pull or doorknob to match the others in your possession, or special commemorative spoon or whatever, they’re able to find it because somehow, THEY KNOW WHERE IT IS.

Outside at Rideau Antiques

Windows and more windows! At Rideau Antiques

I know you’re thinking: ANDREA, DID YOU BUY ANYTHING?

The answer is yes. I bought something. I paid too much for an ashtray with a dog on it. And no, I don’t smoke. But this is what happens in places like this. You will inevitably find something that charms and delights you.

I saw it in a pile of china figurines. **An actual pile.** I’m not even exaggerating. It was the world’s scariest game of Jenga. I saw the dog’s face peeking out amid china birds and cherubs and wanted to take a look but there was no way I was going to disturb this very fragile and jumbled pyramid. I beckoned to the fellow behind the cash and asked him to extract it on my behalf. He looked at what I was pointing at and said: THIS IS MY LEAST FAVOURITE CORNER OF THE ENTIRE PLACE.

It was a very careful operation but he was successful at (a) removing my new ashtray and (b) not breaking anything in the process. It was a honest to god miracle.

It cleaned up nicely and now it lives with my other knick knacks.

New-to-me ashtray! :D

Was it worth the drive? I say yes, for me it was. We combined it with lunch in Smiths Falls at a place called Harvest Social which we followed up with a visit to ANOTHER antique shop in Franktown, which was more curated and tidy. It was a nice little weekend getaway.

I’ve decided we need to make a better effort at Actually Doing Things instead of letting time slip though our fingers. So I’ve made a list of OTTAWA THINGS I want to do this summer. The good news is that simply having this list means we are doing more fun things. Yay us!

We’ve already made a small dent and I will save those for other posts… but for now I wanted to share our experience at the NCC pop-up bistro at Remic Rapids.

We went for dinner. The weather gods smiled upon us. We had assumed it would be super busy because of Bluesfest, but it was not busy at all.

NCC pop-up bistro at Remic Rapids, Ottawa

What you need to know about the Remic Rapids bistro is:

  • You should really go
  • There is surprisingly good little menu
  • There’s car parking but I recommend biking as it’s right on the path and makes a great destination
  • It’s DOG FRIENDLY (!)
  • There’s a pretty view of the Ottawa River
  • It’s an excellent spot for people watching
  • There’s a porta-potty on site but that’s not part of this review (read: I did not venture that far) but I think it’s important to mention there is a place to go if you have to go.

We made ourselves comfortable on the couch:

Mark and Piper at the NCC pop-up bistro at Remic Rapids, Ottawa

I had a sudden craving for hot dogs so that’s what we ordered, along with some chips and salsa. The salsa was, like, fancy homemade-style salsa, NOT the jarred stuff. I’m not sure what I expected but it was very good.

HOT DOGS at the NCC pop-up bistro at Remic Rapids, Ottawa

Behold the hot dogs. They deserve a close up.

Hot dog!

The hot dog paired perfectly with my plastic cup of Pinot Grigio… which was hilariously filled *right up to the brim*. (But the pic here is after a sip.)

Wine in a plastic cup

It’s a very nice place to chill out. I could have stared at the water for a long time. That row of willows there… so pretty. They were waving in the wind. Honestly, it’s such a tranquil little spot.

View from NCC pop-up bistro at Remic Rapids, Ottawa

After the hot dogs and drinks Mark bought us ice cream sandwiches. We drove home along the river with the windows down. It doesn’t get much better than this, I think.


11 Jun, 2022

Friday after work

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

I was talking to someone recently about creative work and the challenge of cranking out quality material when you feel absolutely brain dead. As someone who writes for a living this can be tough, for sure. When I’m approaching that feeling I try to switch tasks. So instead of writing, I’ll transcribe an interview, for example. It’s a quick fix which I jokingly refer to as procrastinating from work by doing other work, but for the most part, it works. I also have a good idea at what time of day my creative output is stronger, so I try to schedule interviews and writing around those times.

Our conversation turned to “writer’s block.” I find that image to be creatively harmful, if that makes any sense. Blocks seem like an obstacle, and obstacles may loom large and seem insurmountable. Instead I prefer to think of myself as a cup or a vessel that needs to be refilled when I’m running low. (I have written about this before.)

Mark went out last night so I had the evening to myself. I ate dinner in front of the TV, put in a load of laundry, walked Piper… now what? I had lots of options. I could watch more TV. I could read. I could clean something. I could fritter away time scrolling my social media channels. Those things were the easy things to do but I knew that what I really needed was to fill my vessel.

So I picked myself up, changed my clothes, unlocked my bike, and took off. The wind in my face felt glorious.

I didn’t go far. I biked to the beach and hung out for a bit.

Hanging out at Westboro Beach during golden hour

On the way home I detoured to Maplelawn gardens in Westboro, where I observed the last of the poppies. I had somehow missed them in their prime.

Poppies at Maplelawn

Poppies at Maplelawn

While I was there I spied a baby bunny spying on me. A wee mouse. A red-winged blackbird sitting on her nest. These sightings were my reward, I am certain. My cup feels a little fuller this morning.

03 Jun, 2022

Run for Women, the post-pandemic edition

By andrea tomkins in Yaktivism

The 2022 edition of the Run for Women is taking place THIS SUNDAY.

Last year it was a virtual event, meaning everyone ran on their own, wherever they were at. This year, participants had the option to run on their own OR with other people, old-school, in an actual race, just like in the Before Times. (!) So this is what I’ll be doing this year.

The funds from this event support women’s mental health programming at The Royal. As some of you may know, I work at The Royal. I have seen firsthand the amazing work that happens there. These dedicated people inspire me every day! Money raised from this event truly makes a difference to people in our our community.

So think of me on Sunday morning, running to support women’s mental health along with 3000+ generous runners, walkers, and strollers.

If you’d like to make a donation to my fundraising page you can do that right here. Thank you, friends!


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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 dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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