a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Jul, 2015

Things I am loving: MEC bike light

By andrea tomkins in Oh! Things!

This bike light from MEC has knocked my socks off. I used it for the first time in total darkness riding home along the Ottawa River after Bluesfest and was amazed at how much light this thing generated. It has a ton of good things going for it: it’s compact, it’s sturdy, it’s inexpensive, it’s not overpackaged, it’s BRIGHT (three settings: bright, brighter, and flash), it’s easy to put on and take off, and it’s rechargeable via USB.


20 Jul, 2015

One afternoon at Ottawa Bluesfest

By andrea tomkins in Ottawa

Lonely chairs at Ottawa Bluesfest

I have to confess, I’ve never been to Ottawa Bluesfest. I generally don’t love crowds, sweating, or standing around… so really, there is little reason for me to go. The music festival scene is such a big part of summer in Ottawa, and I’m perfectly content to stay out of it. Isn’t that awful? Anyway, Mark and I were offered passes for the Saturday shows and we decided We Had To Go Because if We Didn’t We Totally Suck at Being Ottawans.

Spoiler alert: we had the best time.

We decided to bike to Bluesfest, which was Awesome Decision #1. It’s an easy bike ride down the river and supervised bike parking on site was quick, friendly, and efficient. (Not to mention free/by donation!) We simply shoved our helmets into Mark’s pannier, exchanged our bikes for tickets, signed the book, and went on our merry way.

Entry to the concert area was similarly quick and efficient. Tap your card on a turnstile and go. I was really happy to see the layout of the stages. Crowd-phobic visitors could easily control how close they wanted to be to the action and how much space they needed around them and still have a pretty good view, thanks to a couple of really good viewing screens. (Yay!)

Food concessions were a sight for sore eyes. Gone are the hot dogs and hamburgers of yesteryear! Okay, they’re still there, but in a diminished capacity due to the plethora of fantastic food choices that were available. Mark and I both opted for Pad Thai, which was Awesome Decision #2. No lineups either!

A decent pad thai, found at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

In hindsight I wish we’d brought a blanket or foldable stools to sit on, but this was no biggie.

First in our lineup was Interpol. I’d never actually heard of them, but quickly realized this was going to be good listening:

Interpol at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

Interpol at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

We had an hour to kill before the next show, so we sauntered over to the other stage, where Air Supply was playing. They aren’t exactly my brand of music and I found it all quite humorous. We bought drinks and wandered the different areas and exhibits, while they crooned in the background. This is a view of Air Supply from the roof of the War Museum (I had no idea one could wander up here):

View of Air Supply at Ottawa Bluesfest, from the War Museum

DJ at Bluesfest Ottawa, 2015

Eventually we made our way back for Simple Plan. At first it appeared as though we were the oldest people there in a 20-metre radius, but I was ok with that. (I later realized the older folks were almost all at the back.)

I think this photo is my favourite of the bunch. (Click to enlarge. Look for the guy with the blue-tinted glasses taking a crowd selfie):

Simple Plan at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

I am fascinated by crowd dynamics and the psychology of crowds. How do they behave, and why do they do what they do? I probably spent as much time watching people as I did the band. We were fairly close to the stage (although not as close as we could have been) and halfway through the concert, two girls pushed their way into the crowd and stood directly in front of us. They were so close their hair was brushing my arm. And it happened to the people next to us as well. It’s clear, that at these kinds of concerts, if you have any visible space in front of you, you run the risk of someone coming in and filling it. The funny thing is, I didn’t say anything when the new people stood in front me and obstructed my view. And the people next to us were visibly annoyed and didn’t say anything either. I would never have the wherewithal to assert myself and push through a crowd to get a better view in this way. Yet many people do it, and when they’ve done it, they pretend they didn’t just do it, and that they’re not blocking anyone’s view even though they almost always are. Weird.

Simple Plan at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

Regardless, it a was youthful and fun and Simple Plan put on a very good show. The audience loved them, and Simple Plan seemed to enjoy themselves too:

Simple Plan at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

Next in the lineup was Deep Purple. Mark and I decided it was a good time to pack it in and ride home. Bike pickup was painless and we were soon on our way. We drove home along the river in the dark, which was cool. We saw shadows of geese on the river and the odd firefly in the grass.

We passed cyclists with no light on their bikes. Crazy!

Downside of Bluesfest for me was the smoking. There’s no smoking allowed in the music area but there were a lot of people who were smoking on the down low. And the clouds of drugs and public drunkeness don’t inspire much confidence either, but that’s what we’ve come to expect at this kind of event. There will ALWAYS be one girl, sitting on the ground, sobbing in the arms of a police officer. (I’m not even kidding.) Other than that, our one day at Bluesfest was pretty good. Although I do wonder that happened to the sobbing girl…

18 Jul, 2015

Weekend reading: July 18 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: A Good American

We were at my in-laws on a hot day last week when we were alerted to the fact that there was a crow hopping around the front lawn. Correction, it was hobbling, in a rather ungraceful kind of way. So of course, being the bird nerds that we are, we had to investigate. Turns out it was a juvenile, you can tell by the blue eyes:

Baby crow wonders WTH

Baby crow

He was a little rough around the edges, that was for sure, and we quickly found out why… there were burrs in his underfeathers, which was probably making life really uncomfortable for him. Mark picked him up and we removed the burrs. It was hot, and he looked pretty thirsty (basically, he was hanging around with his mouth open), so we filled a small bowl with water and placed it in front of him. He wasn’t really drinking – and we weren’t sure if it was because of the bowl – so we got a paper towel, dipped it in the water, and wrung a few drops into his mouth. He seemed to like that.

Baby crow gets a little drink

Not pictured: the little bits of cherry and bits of dog kibble we offered up as a snack. After awhile Junior decided the water dish wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was a rather comfortable place to sit:

Baby crow finds a comfy spot in a water dish

Afterwards Mark looked up some info about baby crows, and found out some good information which I thought might be useful to share here.

1) If you find a young crow hopping around the ground, don’t worry, this is just a natural state of things. The fact that they’re staggering around like a drunken sailor doesn’t necessarily mean they’re injured, they’re just not great at walking. Like many birds (robins, for example), young crows will leave the nest before they are able to get a good grip on flying. This seems counter-intuitive, but the nest is really just a cradle, not a playpen for young birds. This one just happened to land in a bunch of burrs on the way down.

2) Juvenile crows know well enough to hide in the bushes away from predators, such as household cats. Its parents are probably keeping an eye on it, if not the parents, other adult crows, because crows have complex social structures and look out for one another.

3) This is why calling animal control is a bad idea. Your intent is good, but ultimately you’re removing the crow from its home and family. It’s best just to leave them alone.

So what happened to our baby crow? It eventually hopped away. We heard adult crows cawing in the distance, and spotted a family of three sitting on a lamp post nearby. Hopefully, keeping a watchful eye on the youngest member of their flock.

I’ve mentioned bubble tea on the blog before but since it’s one of our favourite things to do in Ottawa during the summer months I thought it deserved a fresh mention!

Step one: drive to Somerset Street and park the car.
Step two: walk, and poke your head into any shop that tweaks your curiosity along the way.
Step three: acquire bubble tea.

Have you had bubble tea? It’s cold, creamy, sweet, and delightfully chewy. There are a number of places to buy it, but we like My Sweet Tea.


My sweet tea

Bubble teaYou can also make your own bubble tea if you’re up for it!

Feeling munchy? You can pick up four spring rolls for a dollar at Kowloon Market just up the street (712 Somerset):

July 10 #dailylunches - Spring rolls in the driver's seat

Related: a trip to T&T Supermarket (224 Hunt Club Rd.) is also an excellent diversion. And it’s air conditioned! Also: there’s also sushi to be had there, so maybe you should time that one over lunch. :)


Many moons ago I was interviewed for an article about blogging. This, in itself, is not that unusual. Sometimes I’m interviewed and I never hear about it again or see the resulting article. Other times, people start tweeting and emailing as soon as the publication hits their mailbox. This was one of those times!

Costco Connection magazine (Canada)

The business of blogging: Costco Connection magazine (Canada)

15+ years ago, people were asking me: “What is your BLAW-g about? And why would anyone read it?” Today, there are millions of blogs, being read by millions of people. Whether they’re product reviews or restaurant recommendations or political rants, blogs are having an impact on Life as We Know It, and will continue to do so as long as people have a voice and an Internet connection.

We sure have come a long way, haven’t we? :)

My part in this article is a small one but it’s very nice to be mentioned – and recognized – nonetheless. I’m very happy that Costco decided to shine a spotlight on some great Canadian blogs. Apparently Costco Connection is the highest circulation publication in Canada, so if blogs weren’t totally mainstream and legit before, they certainly are now!

What’s YOUR favourite Canadian blog to read? I’d love for us to come up with a good list…!

Edited to add: You can read the article online right here


NAC Ottawa family events

Saunders Farm annual passes for family fun!

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Joan of Arc Academy in Ottawa

OMS Ottawa Montessori schools

Sara McConnell photography Ottawa

Rethink Tires - Community Renewal Fund

terra20 Ottawa

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  • Laurel: Hugs! A lot of them!
  • Natalie: Thanks Andrea for the recipe! I made it, subbing honey for maple, and for the dried fruit - 1/2 c both dried cherries and apricots. A huge hit in our
  • Rosalind: So well said Andrea. I fear for myself and my family too. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend but a very good reminder that we have to stop living
  • Misty Pratt: (and I don't mean that your friend dying is a gift...only that the sorrow we experience in life can sometimes help to illuminate things we couldn't se
  • Pamela: Sorry for your loss. She will live on because she has woven her life into those she loved and loved her.
  • Misty Pratt: I'm so sorry to hear that you lost this good friend. I think we all ask ourselves if we are living our best lives, but it is the daily "grind" that so
  • Anne: So sorry to hear of your loss. This post helps us all remember to try to enjoy each moment as best we can.

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 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

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The #dailylunches project – 1000 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.


On the nightstand

... check out past nightstand reads right here.

On this date in the archives

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