a peek inside the fishbowl

10 Jul, 2019

One moment en route to Paris, from Toronto

By andrea tomkins in travel talk

I knew the airplane breakfast was going to be an issue for the older gentleman sitting next to me in the aisle seat. He was French (“like FRENCH FRENCH” which is how we sometimes describe someone from France but not from Quebec). He and I didn’t exchange a single word during the entire flight but I felt like I knew him a tiny bit. His choice of in-flight entertainment consisted entirely of old Charlie Chaplin films and jazz. He listened to music with his eyes closed and I never knew if he was asleep or just listening very deeply.

When I saw the cheery flight attendant handing out breakfast I watched to see what my neighbour would do. He arrived at our row, tray in hand and a friendly and eager-to-please expression on his face. The tray in question contained what I can only describe as a gas-station muffin, a rectangle of cheese, fruity imitation yogurt (I refer to it as imitation yogurt because it’s a thin shadow of what real yogurt is really like), orange juice, and water. There may have been another item in there, but that’s what I recall.

In essence, it was the antithesis of a French breakfast.

I watched with bated breath. Would my neighbour accept this awful interpretation of the first meal of the day? If he did, which of these items would he eat?

The flight attended looked at him expectantly. “Monsieur?”

My neighbour raised his right hand in one swift and decisive motion. I heard only one word: “Non.”

The flight attendant leaned in. Hushed words were exchanged, in French, so I don’t know what was said. He reached back to his cart, grasped a silver urn, and poured my neighbour a coffee. Black s’il vous plait. And that was that.

I am posting this from Thailand (!), reason being that I wanted to get it online before the bulk of summer gets away from us. If you are looking for something fun to do in Ottawa this summer, read on! 

I’m not a very sporty person but I’ve certainly played my share of organized sports. I was a competitive swimmer in middle school and into high school, and made the basketball, volleyball, and flag football teams in ninth grade. Of course, this list doesn’t include the hundreds of team games I played when I was a little kid. If we weren’t playing hide and seek until the street lights came on, we were playing road hockey, soccer, and of course, baseball.

This is what I was thinking about as I sat in the stands at a recent Ottawa Champions baseball game: The sun in your eyes, the dusty grass, the crack of the bat, and for me, the excitement and fear that a hard-driving ball was moments away from rocketing straight towards me and that me and my borrowed baseball mitt weren’t going to contain its power.

This is what it looked like when we arrived. Our group was early to meet some of the players:

Baseball in Ottawa

Outside of middle school games, I’ve never actually been to an actual baseball game here in Ottawa. Saturday June 23 was my first game ever – it was via a media invite – and I’m a little sad that it took me this long to get around to it, for many reasons!

I’ve been to Sens games and Redblacks games, not really as a fan but as an observer. 100% of the time I’ve lucked into tickets through my work or Mark’s. But Champions baseball is a whole kettle of fish for someone who (a) doesn’t like being crushed by crowds (b) enjoys spending time outdoors in an entertaining way that (c) doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. For those people – people like me – the Ottawa Champions is pretty near perfect.

Me at the Ottawa Champions baseball game

The experience here is surprisingly low tech. Advertising hasn’t taken over and viewers aren’t swamped in messaging and video and sponsorship and a deafening multisensory experience. In Sens games I often find myself distracted by the digital displays and the sheer busyness of it all. In fact, I catch myself watching the game on the screen when I should be looking at the ice. Someday I won’t be surprised to hear the following statement on the loudspeakers: “Stadium Air is Brought to you By Dyson: Clean Air! Clean fun!” It’s just too much.

The pace of baseball is so refreshing. It’s calmer; a tense stillness punctuated by a burst of excitement. It’s a flip phone vs. a Playstation. It’s kids playing with cardboard boxes and sidewalk chalk instead of a VR headset.

There is one screen is at the other end of the field and I had to squint to see it. There were occasional updates and birthday greetings over the loudspeaker without every other second being filled with a blast of a horn or a snippet of a song everyone liked 20 years ago.

They played Sweet Caroline (in FRENCH) as a singalong and local beer was available by the can for a fair price.

Is baseball better for my overstimulated brain? This is something I thought about as I ate my hot dog, enjoyed my cold beer, and watched a group of young men organize themselves on a diamond-shaped lawn as the sun slowly made its way across the sky.

It’s an inexpensive outing, and although this is not a glam word to describe it, it was all so accessible and I really liked this aspect of it. I saw all kinds of fans: young and old; groups of young men and gaggles of girls; families with little kids. I saw elderly people and several individuals in wheelchairs. The players made themselves readily available for autographs and high fives. Honestly, it’s a treat to see the world through this lens. It simply seems … friendly.

If you follow me on Twitter you might already know what happened during the game but it’s too good not to share here too. The organizer of the media event, Lyne from Ottawa Mommy Club, let our group know that Saturday night was “ladies night” and would we be interested in participating in something called the, er, Diamond Dig. I let her know I was up for anything and when we got there, a few of our group put our names down and got the scoop about what this actually was. To summarize Diamond Dig: each participant gets a plastic spoon and after the game there is a chance to dig – and win – a pair of diamond earrings. Alrighty! I’m in!

Nine innings later, a few members of my group were standing at the gates, laughing and stretching our “digging” muscles. To be honest, I still wasn’t completely sure about what was about to happen but here’s how it went down. While all of our backs were turned – there were about 30-40 of us – about 100 (I am guessing at this amount) small piles of “dirt” were spread over the baseball field. ONE of them had a golfball-sized plastic diamond buried in it and the goal was to find it using only our spoon. Whoever found the diamond got to swap it out for the prize, which was a pair of diamond earrings from Alyea Jewellers.

3, 2, 1… GO. I felt a surge of power through my legs and hoofed it to the closest pile. I leaned over, swept through the pile, nada. I stood up and looked around. Everyone else was digging near me so I decided to go long. I set my sights on a pile near the Champions mascot, dove for it, shoveled through it with my spoon and VOILA, the DIAMOND WAS THERE. The rest is a blur. I held it up triumphantly, channeling my internal Olympian. There was an announcement, there was cheering. I saw many happy faces, I hugged the mascot, people took photos, I babbled something into a microphone that was handed to me, a kind soul eased the plastic diamond out of the clutch of my hand and replaced it with a jewelry box, and then we left the field. There were more cheers and hugs as we made our way back to the suite. It was definitely a night to remember!

Me at the Ottawa Champions... Diamond Dig winner!!

Here’s a quick little video Sandi of Canadian Blog House grabbed of my triumph. (That’s her hollering by the way. You might want to check your volume before you hit play!)

I was the big winner at the Ottawa Champions game! (Video by Sandi of Canadian Blog House!)!

It was a very fun surprise and a really cool way to end a pretty great afternoon.

If you are looking for something to do this summer, you should make a point of checking the schedule for an Ottawa Champions game and trying it on for size if you haven’t already. It’s fun for the whole family, and who knows, maybe you’ll come home with valuable memories… like I did! :D

* My game day admission, snacks, and beverages, were covered by the Ottawa Champions but my views are my own.


30 Jun, 2019

General Life Update

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you probably already know what I’m about to say but I feel like it has to be said here too: THINGS ARE HAPPENING. I can only describe these last few weeks as A Whirlwind of Emotion.

Item one: The youngest daughter has graduated from high school. We attended her commencement ceremony this past week. Some aspects of commencement drove me absolutely bonkers and dare I say, pushed me into a state of near rage. Ticket purchasing was awful, standing in line before the ceremony so painful it was comical, the parking was bad, and parts of the ceremony itself were disorganized, but I was able to overlook those things because (a) OUR DAUGHTER is awesome (b) she’s so darn smart (c) hello list of ACADEMIC AWARDS (d) I was able to connect with people I hadn’t seen in a long time (e) one of her teachers said so many nice things about her I almost melted with pride.

Sidebar: How on earth did we suddenly become parents of kids, er, YOUNG ADULTS who are now out of the public school system? It really wasn’t that long ago that I watched her and her big sister walk off down the street. Now they will be walking together down a different road, as they’ll both be at Queen’s in the fall. Sigh. Also, Mark and I will be empty-nesters. (!!)

Item two: I’ve left my job as managing editor of the Kitchissippi Times and am passing the torch. This is a biggie for me as I’ve been at the helm of the paper for almost six years. I think I counted 132 folders on my hard drive, which corresponds to 132 issues. Honestly, I can barely process this. It was a dream job from the very beginning. I met so many great people and learned so much during my time there and I will miss it very much. But…

Item three: I’ve accepted a job offer from the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. A few weeks ago I was practically vibrating with anxiety. I was attending multiple interviews and playing out multiple scenarios in my head. To add to it all, at one point there was another job offer for a different job in there too. I don’t say this as a humblebrag, only to paint you a picture of the state I was living in for a while. Should I take Door A or Door B? Or stay where I am? Where do I want to be in five, ten, fifteen years? In the end, I had to go where my heart is, and that’s the Royal. I was thrilled to meet their team. There are big brains at work and I loved the idea of contributing in a meaningful way. I’m stepping in to their communications team as a writer, by the way. Not to discount what I have been doing up until now, but I really want to do my best work in the best place at this point in my life. Does that make sense?

Item four: The youngest and I are leaving for a grand adventure to Thailand. Thailand, a country on the opposite of the world. I have never travelled this far. We leave July 4. I have a to-do list a mile long and have been oscillating between feelings of panic and joy.

24 hours of travel time.
Tiny airplane bathrooms.
Leg cramps.
Heat and gastro bugs. (You wouldn’t believe the pharmaceuticals I’m bringing with us.)
Foreign languages I will never understand. e.g. how will I ask for directions???


Travel time with my daughter.
Memories of a lifetime.
Amazing food and cheap beer.
Miles of beaches and ocean.
Seeing a totally different part of the world and learning something new.

So you can imagine how many lists I’ve had on the go, both in my head, written out in my agenda, and tapped out in the cloud (and therefore accessible to all devices in case of emergency jottings). Ack! All that being said, I would like to update this blog while I’m away but I’m not sure what the situation will be like while I’m there. Fingers crossed. xo.

22 Jun, 2019

Weekend reading: June 22 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

On the nightstand: Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

21 Jun, 2019

Moment of bliss #0024

By andrea tomkins in Moments of bliss

I made a promise to myself to be more active, and one of the ways I do this is by taking brisk walks. Once upon a time I tried running, but I realized I hated it so I reverted back to walking. If I can pull it off, I try to get in at least one 5K powerwalk every week.

I charge up my phone, set up my “MapMyRun” app, load up a new podcast, and go. I think what I like most about my powerwalk is (a) simply being outdoors (b) the opportunity to listen to a good show and learn something new. But this process is all business. I don’t actually think much about it anymore. I don’t think about my route, what I’m wearing, or how much I’m sweating. I am a machine made out of skin and bone! This might sound like I don’t enjoy my power walks but they are strangely devoid of joy. Does that make sense? I like my power walks well enough – I certainly don’t hate them –  but I don’t get the same feeling I do when I’m coasting down a hill on my bike. You know, the sensation of the wind in your hair as the landscape races by. (The only way I could possibly improve upon that feeling is if I had a baseball card in my spokes and streamers flying out from the ends of my handlebars.)

Today I was inspired to veer off my walking route and take a peek at Maplelawn Garden, which is a walled garden right next to Keg Manor on Richmond Road in Westboro. At first I was going to give it a pass, after all, I had things to do! A list to whittle down! Calls to make! Emails to write!

Little did I know that one of my favourite quiet spaces in Westboro was about to take my breath away. It is wall-to-wall flowers there right now. I sniffed them, admired them, pet them, and wandered amid the kind of beauty that we just don’t see every day. It’s the kind of place that calls out to you, and then says, hey, it’s ok to linger here. Let’s enjoy this while we have it.

Maplelawn, 2019

Maplelawn, 2019

Maplelawn, 2019

Maplelawn, 2019

Maplelawn, 2019

You see, I have a to-do list a mile long and I’m haven’t been handling it very well. But while I stood there, the stress that had been building up behind my eyeballs suddenly dropped away. I remembered to breathe deeply and let this fleeting beauty fill me up, and maybe even tide me over for a bit.

(Big news coming your way soon. Stay tuned.)


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). 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. 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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