a peek inside the fishbowl

Shop The Neighbourhood

Many of you Fishies already know how passionate I am about shopping locally. It’s something I’ve written a lot about here before and try to do whenever I can. It is a perfect fit with my shopping philosophy:

Buy fewer things, that matter more.

I do what I can to be a conscious consumer, and part of that means supporting local businesses. I’m a local business too, and local businesses help pay my wage, so this topic is important to me. When I spend my money locally I am keeping dollars in our community, and ensuring that my neighbourhood stays the vibrant, fun place that I want to live.

A few months ago I was one of five bloggers across Canada who was hired to write about seven different shops in our respective neighbourhoods for a very special campaign. Shop The Neighbourhood is an initiative of Yellow Pages, a company that has a very long history of working with Canada’s small businesses. The Shop The Neighbourhood campaign encourages Canadians to support the small businesses in their communities by making a local purchase on November 29. (You can learn more about the campaign on their Facebook page.)

My job was to visit each local gem in the neighbourhood, interview the owners, and take photos at each stop along the way.

Pizza love #latergram

Cha ching! #latergram

Cardamom and Cloves

Ruffles. #latergram

It was really cool to get to know the people behind each store and hear their stories; their challenges and successes. I’m very happy to (finally!) be able to tell you that their stories are now online at the Shop The Neighbourhood website. I’d love it if you clicked over and had a peek. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new place to visit?

The other part of Shop The Neighbourhood is actually shopping, instead of just reading about shopping. :) I’d be so happy if you marked your calendars and chose an independent shop – any shop in your neighbourhood – and made a purchase on November 29. Whether it’s an early Christmas card, a stocking stuffer for the child/chef/gardener/golfer/cyclist in your life, or something bigger, your support of local merchants will make a big difference. What better way to show how much you love the city in which you live?

Tell me, what’s YOUR favourite local store? Leave a link below and let me know. I’d love to hear about it!

I have been known to procrastinate as much as the next person, but there are a few things on my list that I simply must do, and I’ve been putting them off, worrying about them, and then putting them off some more. Gah!

I’m sharing this list here so I can hold myself accountable.

  1. I need to offload the 5000 photos on my iPhone.
  2. I really need to make a doctor’s appointment, for myself and for the girls. I can’t even remember that last time we all had a checkup.
  3. I need to give blood again. (Did you know you can make appointments online? No excuses here.)
  4. I really need to have my hair coloured. And speaking of grooming:
  5. I really need to get Piper trimmed and groomed.

It boggles my mind that I haven’t been able to see these things through. It’s such a short list. What on earth is my problem?

Who’s got something on their list they need something to strike off? Shall we do it together?

12 Oct, 2014

Piper gives thanks

By andrea tomkins in dog stuff

Piper is thankful for…

Sunny spots:

Sunny spot

Squeak toys:

Squeak toys are THE BEST

Chewy things:


Having family who helps out when life throws you a curve ball, or a bunch of burrs:

It's not a good morning if you spend some of it with burrs in your furs. #dogsofinstagram #wirefoxterrier

We can learn so much from our furry friends, don’t you think? Piper reminds me every day to be thankful for the simple things in life.

I’m off to find a good sunny spot! Happy Thanksgiving!

p.s. fans of Piper should know that she has her own Instagram account. :)

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.


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!

Click me!


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects



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  • andrea tomkins: I'm grateful too, very much so. Our day had a happy ending. Mark arrived home from work, the girls came home from school at the usual time, and it
  • Safe and Sound: To me and no doubt others out there, the thunderous gun battle video is incredible because we see law enforcement officers running towards this hell.
  • andrea tomkins: Hi Brenda, I suggest you contact PC Plus about changing your account information. You can do that right here:  https://www.pcplus.ca/loyalty-help.
  • Brenda: I always received an email saying it ws time to Load My Points for the week and it was very simple to just make one click of the mouse and my bonus po
  • andrea tomkins: The winner is commenter #52, Lynn Vandenbroeck, who wrote: "I host weekly board game nights. I would love to allow the group to enjoy some new boa
  • Elnaz S: I would splurge on board games! Apples to Apples, Pandemic, Trivial Pursuit..so many to choose from!
  • Mel: my kids love playmobil. This would help with the Christmas list. thanks for the chance!

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 – 845 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