a peek inside the fishbowl

23 Oct, 2020

Bedtime routines for grown ups

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Why is it considered lame if you go to bed early?

If there have ever been young children in your life you probably already have a keen understanding of the importance of going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Let’s be frank. When our kids didn’t get enough sleep, they were, ahem, rather hard to live with the next day. The interesting thing about bedtime is that the events leading up actual bed time (bath, teeth brushing, story, changing into pjs, dimming of the lights, etc.) were an important part of that too. Those things were a cue for their small bodies. A signal that it’s time to wind down and get on that train to Dreamland.

At what point did my own bedtime routine fall apart? I can’t even say. I do know that for many years, my routine consisted of me, falling asleep on the couch while we watched a show. Sometimes I simply dropped my weary body into bed. I bought face wipes for the times that I didn’t even have the energy to wash my face.

It occurred to me that I’d solve a lot of my problems, and dare I say, improve my life, if I just gave myself a bedtime, like we used to do with our kids. So every night around 9:30 p.m. (YES, REALLY) I put my phone on the charger and head upstairs to begin my bedtime routine.

By starting my routine a bit early, at a time which might seem a bit early to many, it meant I suddenly had time to do the things I wanted and needed to do, things I wasn’t really doing before, like flossing and writing in my journal and adhering to a proper skin care routine. When I’m in bed early, it also means I have more time to read before I pass out. This is a real treat.

It’s worth noting that I am almost always asleep by 10:30 p.m.

Going to bed early also means that I am able to wake up a bit early and do the things I want and need to do before I start my work day. I enjoy a leisurely coffee, do a 10-minute guided meditation, a yoga routine*, eat breakfast, and go for a brisk walk on the treadmill or outdoors if it’s nice enough.

On most days, I feel rested and better equipped to deal with stress or worry. I’d call that a win!


*This is just a fancy way of saying I do some stretching, but it’s really helped me. More about this later!



15 Oct, 2020


By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

From time to time I experience a wee identity crisis as it pertains to this blog. Now is that time. What I’m doing here? Who is reading? Why do I keep it up? What’s it all for, anyway? Sigh. I ask myself all these questions and then I talk myself down from the ledge.

If you’ve been reading long enough you know that I don’t exactly stay on topic. In fact, there is no topic. The “what am I doing here” question is hard to answer. I do know that when I’m really into cooking I post recipes, when I’m thinking about my health, I post about that, when we’re doing fun stuff around town I write about that. It’s an unpredictable hodge-podge for sure, but that’s just a reflection of what’s going on upstairs (*taps brain*).

I used to earn a good living off this blog, for sure, but it started from a different kind of place. A place where I just wrote about… us. Now it seems I’ve come full circle. I am happy about this. The Fishbowl is my place, my space. It is my living room, workshop, and water cooler. I don’t know exactly who’s reading anymore, but I see there’s a core group of Fishies who keep coming back when I post something new. It’s like it was in the very early days. I’m glad you’re here, my friends.

Can I confess something to you? My secret fear is that all of my writing will be lost. And honestly, I’m not sure how to preserve 20+ years of blog posts. I am so afraid that I push it away and refuse to think about it. Let me know if you have any advice to share.

When the blog started, almost 22 years ago, it was all about our baby. Then there was another baby. Amazingly, those babies grew up to be pretty amazing young adults. You catch a glimpse of them sometimes, but I don’t write about them in the way I used to.

They live their own lives and have their own stories. If they want to share those stories, they can. And they do, but in their way and on their terms.

That being said, a lot of you have been reading for a long time. You watched my babies grow up (!), and for those people, and because this blog is ultimately a family diary of sorts, I want to share a general update here.

Our youngest is studying art history at Queen’s. She just called me (on the phone! not a text!) to tell me about a great shift she had at work. She’s living in a house with some friends right now, not far from campus, but since 100% of her classes are online it turns out that location doesn’t matter very much. This group has become her “bubble” and it sounds like they’re making it work and are safe about it. From where I’m sitting, she’s doing really well, and by DOING WELL I mean, she’s cooking and eating and caring for herself, as well as her collection of houseplants. She is keeping everything alive, including herself… and others! She has regaled me with stories of how few vegetables her roommates eat, which does my heart good because it means SHE LEARNED SOMETHING FROM ME THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT.

The eldest daughter is living at home with us, this year. She’s in her fourth year of the concurrent education program at Queen’s and has one more year to go after that. Her classes are also all online, and there’s no need to be on campus, ever. She’s here because her housing situation collapsed over the summer due to unforeseen circumstances. I think she was bummed that it came to this. We have always talked about independence and making it on your own etc. etc., so to find yourself at home after living on your own steam for a few years must be a shock to the system. Selfishly, I’m happy to have her company. She also has a very good collection of houseplants. We’ve been doing puzzles together, which is awesome because doing puzzles alone is kind of lonely. We watch movies in the evenings sometimes and have good discussions about them. She is good company.

The days are pretty quiet here at Casa Fishbowl. Weekdays find me at my desk, downstairs, in our home office. The eldest is in her bedroom, doing schoolwork and participating in Zoom groups with her classmates. Mark is often at his dad’s, who has lately needed a bit more care. At the end of the day we sometimes come together, crack open a beer, cider, or a can of fizzy water, and do the New York Times crossword together. It’s become a bit of a thing, and I like it. I make dinner. We walk the dog, wash the dishes, make popcorn, and watch something on Netflix. And then we do it all again the next day.

In my previous post I wrote about the second wave and what we’re doing to get ready for it. This past summer I’m sure you heard about the global shortages of inflatable pools, kayaks, and bicycles. I think we’re now looking at shortages of skis, snowshoes, and wool socks as people get ready for a long winter ahead.

How are we going to weather the second wave? I guess the trick is to think about what we enjoy doing, or might enjoy doing, and go with that.

We’ve always been bird nerds here at Casa Fishbowl, which is why upgrading our bird feeder(s) and bags of seed was a good idea for us.

I received a new window feeder for my birthday this summer. It’s attached to our family room window and it’s amazing to see how many birds come to that thing. It’s a parade of cardinals, chickadees, a few different kinds of finches, nuthatches and woodpeckers. We have recently been discovered by this rather bold blue jay.

We also have a bird feeding station with three different feeders hanging from it. (YES. We are clearly over the top.) We invested in the patented Advanced Pole System (APS): “a revolutionary concept and the foundation for successfully attracting birds to your backyard” and I love it. We bought it at a local biz, Wild Birds Unlimited. It’s very sturdy, and totally expandable/customizable. We are using our own feeders and bought a few different types of seed designed to attract different kinds of birds.

We also bought a baffle (so the squirrels won’t climb the pole and eat all the seed) and a plug-in water warmer (!) for our ground-level bird bath, which we’ll install when it gets a little frostier outside. This might sound extreme in terms of creating a better backyard habitat for our feathered friends, but there’s a pandemic going on folks, and I am looking for alternate forms of entertainment. And I have to say that when I’m working in view of the feeders, it’s nice to take a moment to focus on something that is not a computer screen. It’s restful, both for the eyes and the soul.

Of course, if you want to build a better habitat for birds you don’t have to throw money at it if you don’t want to. There are a lot of good ideas out there if you’d like to do it on the cheap, eg. smearing stale bagels or pine cones with crunchy peanut butter and hanging them from a tree, making feeders out of milk cartons etc.  I like the idea of making suet & seed wreaths and will probably do that again this year.(In fact, this is something I wrote about for Canadian Family Magazine awhile back.)

Hello weekend family project!

I should point out that it took a few weeks for the birds to get used to our new set of feeders, so if you want to be entertained this fall and winter, you better get started!

Birding is a really lovely thing to do as a family. Even our grown-up kids enjoy seeing who shows up at the feeder. You would be forgiven it you thought that backyard birding was boring, but it’s anything but. It’s not just nice birds coming to have a nice quiet snack before flitting off to other places. There is often comedy or drama involved! We’ve seen a gang of birds viciously beat up a smaller one (this was later ruled to be a homicide.) We see finches bully chickadees into giving up their spot at the feeder. Sometimes we spy a tender moment between Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal. We’ve watched dishevelled toddlers pester mom and dad for feedings and then feed themselves, acrobatic swoops, noisy arguments, and blissful wing stretching, preening, and sun bathing.

It is lovely, to be sure. I am almost looking forward to staying home. ;)



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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 dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. 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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