a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Dec, 2014

This past week

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Are you doing the Friday dance? I am, even though it’s going to be a work-ish kind of weekend for me. Here’s what the past few days looked like, more or less. :)

Hallway art at Canterbury HS.

Whatever dawg.

Do you know the story behind this Ottawa statue?

Cool x-rays of fish

Selfie with polar bear

Wooden playing cards, from The Modern Shop.

As some of may already know, I’m a bit obsessed as it pertains to collecting PC Plus points. (Read my original post if you’re looking for tips and tricks on how to maximize your points and save money.) Last year I did a big shop on December 23 and the points that I had saved up to that point covered the bulk of our holiday groceries, which made me really happy. (I mean, hello, FREE GROCERIES during a very expensive time of year would make anyone happy!) But it also inspired me to do something bigger. And so, because I am the type of person who enjoys a challenge and counting/accumulating things, I made sure Mark had a card linked up to the account and we started saving all of our PC Plus points. Which brings us to today.

Not that this is a competition or anything, but I am totally winning this. This is a screenshot of my current holdings, not bad eh?

PC point collecting!

I’m pretty sure we’ll be at $500 by the end of December. Woot!

So how did we earn so many PC Plus points? Well. As you can imagine, a family of four goes through a lot of groceries, and we probably do 85% of our grocery shopping at Loblaws and the Superstore, which helps. With a bit of practice, I was able to alter my shopping habits to accumulate the most points I could during any given trip.

We will definitely have more than enough to cover Christmas groceries (think turkey and all the trimmings, and extra food-related treats). As for the rest, I’m gearing up to buy gift cards: gift cards for our own use around the holidays, and gift cards for stockings. But until today I had no clear idea what gift cards Loblaws sells (and the Superstore for that matter). I asked their customer service folks on Twitter, but they apparently don’t have a list to share. Perhaps it varies from store to store – which is why they weren’t very forthcoming –  but I can say with certainty that when I checked yesterday afternoon, some of the gift cards for sale at my local Loblaws included ones in various denominations from iTunes, Le Chateau, Garage, H&M, Winners, Forever 21, Hudson’s Bay, Cineplex, Indigo, Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Xbox, LCBO, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Esso, Future Shop/Best Buy, Canadian Tire, Home Depot, the Keg, and all kinds of fast food. They may vary slightly store to store, but I bet the selection is fairly similar at other stores.

I think I’ll redeem our points in areas we’re most likely to feel spendy over the holidays. So that means LCBO, and maybe Cineplex might be the best choices for us. Anything extra will be going into the kids’ stockings!

How would YOU spend your PC points? :)

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for your entries!

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.20.57 PM

Into the Woods will be released in theatres Dec. 25, 2014 but I’m giving away tickets to a special advance screening: four admissions to two families!

Into the Woods is a modern twist on several of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few of the best-known stories and exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. It follows the tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy)—all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), and their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them.

Take a gander at the trailer right here!

Would you like to win? Please take note of a few details before putting your name down.

  • These tickets are for the Ottawa screening, which is taking place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 17 at SilverCity Gloucester. Please don’t enter if you aren’t sure if you can make it!
  • This is important: this film is recommended for children age 10 and over.
  • To enter, all you need to do is leave a note in the comments below.
  • For a bonus entry, leave a comment on this Facebook post.
  • I’ll do a random draw from all the comments at noon on December 12. I’ll announce the winners here and via email, at which point I’ll forward electronic passes to the two winners. (Each winner will receive passes to admit for people to the film, just so we’re clear.)

30 Nov, 2014

Weekend reading: November 30 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

The gift of books! This series has been a favourite in our house: The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detective – #1

This giveaway is over and we have a winner! Thanks for your entries everyone!

Regular readers have already heard all about terra20; they’re a Fishbowl patron and also happen to be one of my favourite places to shop in Ottawa. To summarize: terra20′s mission is to encourage a healthier, sustainable lifestyle. Check out their holiday flyer. It’s gorgeous, and will give you an idea as to the kinds of products they carry if you’ve never been.

terra20 is committed to a number of key values that are important to me, and one of those has to do with supporting Canadian businesses. I love to buy Canadian products, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so. I prefer to shop closer to home because I like knowing that my purchase helps our economy, don’t you? There’s a host of great reasons to buy Canadian, which are expertly outlined right here. (I guarantee there’s at least one aspect of shopping Canadian that you haven’t thought of yet!)

terra20 is Canadian (in fact, they’re an Ottawa-based company!) and over a third of the products they carry are made in Canada. There is a lot to choose from, more than any other store I’ve visited in recent memory. And thanks to a smart system of icons, I can see, at a glance, what the product costs, whether it’s sustainable, green certified, and Canadian made. (Yay!)

Some of my personal fave Canadian brands include Cate and Levi and ecojot. I’ve also been eyeballing these Artech recycled beer bottle glasses, and Whitewater Premium eco-soy candles (grapefruit and rosemary for me please!) and I’m seriously thinking of buying a pair of Preloved children’s mittens for the Christmas tree because they’re so adorable I can hardly stand it.


So here’s the good news! terra20 is giving Fishbowl readers a chance to win a $100 gift certificate, just in time for the holidays.

Interested? Please read the following carefully.

  • This giveaway is for one gift card with a value of $100.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • In order for your entry to qualify, take a look through the terra20 online store and tell us how you’d spend your gift card if you won. Leave a link so we can pad our own Christmas lists! :)
  • For a bonus entry, leave a second comment with a link to a different, Canadian-made product you’d like to see under the tree this year. (Hint: the best way to do this is to start in the “Made in Canada” category.)
  • Please note, the winner of this giveaway must pick up their gift card at terra20 in a timely manner at the location of their choice (Pinecrest or West Wellington).
  • 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 December 5, 2014. I’ll contact the winner via email at that time and post it in the comments below. That’s it! Over to you!

p.s. terra20 is very much a local success story here in Ottawa, and I was thrilled to find out they’re participating in the Shop the Neighbourhood campaign. (You can read more about my participation in that here.) The first 50 people in the Wellington West store on November 29 will receive a $10 terra20 gift card. All the more reason to drop by and get your holiday shopping underway!

Fourth grade me.

As someone who snaps an awful lot of photos of my kids, you might be surprised to learn that I secretly love school photos. And despite the fact that a part of me is annoyed at forking money over every fall, I keep doing it. Every year. There is one main reason for this: the posed portrait is a moment in history that’s worth keeping. It’s been so since the dawn of photography.

Photography has changed dramatically since the days of film, hasn’t it? Our eldest was born at the tail end of the film era. Mark and I took lots of photos, even before she was born. I remember how expensive it was, how careful I had to be with the images to which I committed a snap of the shutter. Rolls of 24 and 36, printed 5 x 7 WITH borders via a mail order service; it added up. (What can I say? I had high standards even back then.) The move to digital changed the way we take photos. We are no longer so discriminating. Continuous burst means hundreds of photos can be shot in one single moment. Suddenly, photographs weren’t reserved for holidays and birthdays anymore. This is how we accumulated thousands of photos documenting the lives of our children; not just on special days, but every other kind of day. Yet I still make room for the school photos.

The beauty in the school photo lies in the inconsistent consistencies that arise from year-to-year. On one hand, all of the photos have a few things in common: they are posed, with even lighting and backgrounds, kids facing the camera and sitting up straight. But that’s where the similarities end. The subject might be wearing a favourite outfit along with a smirk or a smile or a funny face. Or maybe the camera caught them by surprise. Maybe the hair got brushed that day, maybe it didn’t. Maybe the collar was itchy or the sleeves were dirty because of a playground incident. Maybe there’s a gap-toothed grin or first glasses or shiny braces. They mark the years, and children’s personalities, in a way I can’t quite give up on.

The prints become a tangible reminder of the passage of time. As those wallet-sized photos collect in our wallets over time, we are able to witness your children’s growth in a way that a scroll through thousands of digital snaps might not satisfy.

These are the photos that will linger in boxes and in scrapbooks, be tucked away in their respective envelopes and eventually divided up and handed down to our children’s children, I’m sure, amid exclamations and squeals of surprise. My kids marvel at my crazy punkish grade ten haircut and they appreciate the story that goes along with it. They find it hard to imagine a time when their father had long hair. We still laugh about how Mark fainted during his class photo one year, although I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time. (The photo caught him mid-fall if you can believe it.)

I’m glad we have our school photos, and I’m sure they’ll be glad to have theirs too.

Related stories for your amusement and distraction:


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Saunders Farm annual passes for family fun!

Arctic Voices, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Holiday shopping at terra20 - Ottawa

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 – 898 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.


  • 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.

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  • 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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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