a peek inside the fishbowl

03 Jul, 2018

Canada Day 2018

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Canada Day fireworks on Parliament Hill

How was your Canada Day? Ours was low-key, to say the least. We spent the afternoon lounging around my inlaws swimming pool and trying to stay hydrated. By the time the evening rolled around and we were home again we were too hot and tired to eat the BBQ dinner I had planned.

The heat wave put a bit of a damper on things on July 1. I just couldn’t bear the idea of going downtown to watch the fireworks even though it’s been a family tradition here at Casa Fishbowl ever since I can remember. I was the one who suggested we stay home, yet I think I am the saddest about not going.

I like the fireworks, but Canada Day fireworks, for me, is about more than just watching colourful explosions in the sky. I find the unity of it all very moving. The fireworks begin and the chattering crowd is silenced. There we all are, gathered in a crowd, with our faces lifted to the night sky, watching the same thing and feeling the same thing. It’s remarkable, really. The people here are young and old, rich and poor, new Canadians and longtime residents. For some, it’s their first time experiencing it, for others, it’s old hat but somehow made new every year. Somehow, people from all points along the political, religious, and economic spectrum share the same moment in time in pretty much the same way: with wonder, and joy in their hearts. Maybe because, for a short time, we are transported back to our childhoods. We ooh and ahh and elbow our friend or family member and say DID YOU SEE THAT and then look back up to see another burst that is somehow bigger, louder, more beautiful than the one that preceded it. How do they do that, anyway?

Too soon, there is one last hurrah and then it’s over. The black sky is grey with smoke. There’s applause; sometimes a spontaneous singalong of the national anthem. The crowd, which a moment before was a single unit, starts to dilute and separate. The shared moment is over, and I wonder, when will we all come together again?

30 Jun, 2018

Weekend reading: June 30 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

29 Jun, 2018

The first day of summer holidays

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

… well, it’s not really the first day of summer holidays. Yesterday was the last day of school for many of my friends with younger kids but the eldest has been home from university for some time now and the youngest had her last exam of grade 11 last week.

For a few years, I had a blogging-related tradition that involved “live blogging” the first day of summer holidays. Mark reminded me of this post that I wrote on June 26, 2008. I had totally forgotten about that day.

Fast forward 10 years, to June 26 2018.

I got up, made coffee and had breakfast long before the girls got out of bed. They were binge-watching Queer Eye on Netflix while I decided whether to do my usual 5K powerwalk or go down to Westboro Beach to swim a few laps. I’ve never actually done that before. We’ve gone swimming there many times of course, but I’ve never gone alone with the intent of Swimming for Fitness. I put on my bathing suit, threw a coverup over top, and went on my way.

It was a pleasant walk, and it was quiet at the beach, although there were already a few families with buckets and shovels who’d obviously been there awhile. I spotted Robot Missions doing some testing, but there was no one in the water. It was early and the lifeguards weren’t on duty yet. I left my belongings in a pile on the sand and went in the water. It was cold at first, but after the initial dunking, my internal temperature stabilized.

I swam four laps along the back of the partitioned swimming area and called it a day. It’s weird. I used to enjoy swimming, a lot. I swam competitively when I was in middle school and part of high school. I used to love the feeling of the water, the steady rhythms of it all, but those feelings left me long ago and I can’t seem to bring them back again. I will also admit that  I am out of shape. The strength I used to feel cutting through the water was gone and it wasn’t even fun to try anymore.

I got out of the water, toweled off, and sat on the hill overlooking the beach while I dried off a bit. I walked back home, feeling slightly woozy and tried to figure out what the rest of the day would look like.

As it turned out, the rest of our “first” day of summer was pretty good. Us three girls (plus Piper) packed a lunch and set out for Lime Kiln Trail. (I should mention that I picked up freshly-baked croissants from a new bakery in Westboro called Mamie Clafoutis, which made the basis of some stellar ham and cheese sandwiches.)

We’d been to Lime Kiln lots of times as a family, but it was especially nice going back now that the girls are older. It’s a totally different experience. We walked past the ruins and completed the trail loop. There were garter snake sightings and lots of birds. We tried feeding the chickadees and nuthatches but they weren’t too interested. (What’s a group of nuthatches called? A NUTBATCH. Haha! #Familyjoke) It was hot and dry, and we were all bushed at the end of it. But like with any walk in the woods, there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

A walk in the woods

In the evening we walked to MHK for sushi. We swore not to stuff ourselves again, but somehow we always end up breaking that promise. The food is too good here. We waddled home, happy and full. I’d say that was a pretty good first day of summer.

25 Jun, 2018

Moment of bliss #0023

By andrea tomkins in Moments of bliss

I am sitting on the back porch with my pen and notebook and the last of this year’s peonies. It’s hard to narrow it down to a list of TOP floral favourites, but if I had a top five, let’s say, peonies would be on it, along with violets, mini-pansies, tulips, and lily of the valley.

We have two kinds of peonies: white and pinky-purple with layers of ruffled petals.

The last peonies

The peony plants were here at the house when we first moved in, 21 years ago, and I gather they’ve been in the same spot for many years before that.

They grow happily along a south-facing wall, and as a result, they flower early. Some years, when I haven’t forgotten about them or they haven’t been pummeled by rain, I fill up all of our vases with bouquets of peonies. Sometimes I remember to shake the ants out of them.

It’s impossible not to love peonies. They are just, so, cheerful, but when I think about it, I realize that’s the reason all of those other flowers are on my list.

Every once in awhile their scent drifts towards me. The wind is softly rustling through the maple tree. The air smells fresh, and here, in the shade, I feel protected from the heat of the day. The neighbourhood is quiet for a change – no drills or circulating saws or heavy machinery today – just the occasional flip-flop of passers-by or the whir of a bike or the drone of a car. Even the birds have taken a break.

I am reminded of a promise I made to myself to live more mindfully. It’s easy to do in the shady oasis of our backyard. Even though I’m often frustrated by squirrel damage and my struggling tomato plant, or overwhelmed by weeds and watering, it’s probably my Happiest Place. Why do I have a tendency to forget this simple fact? Why can’t I find a way to spend more time here?

24 Jun, 2018

Weekend reading: June 23 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

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  • andrea tomkins: Great suggestions! Thank you!
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  • Lynn: I think this is becoming more common in our age group, with the way life is so busy. I value my down time and I can't handle the stress right now of a

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 (18) and Sarah (16). 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... 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!


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