a peek inside the fishbowl

17 May, 2019

Three cheers for the community builders

By andrea tomkins in Ottawa,Yaktivism

Last night, Mark and I had the pleasure of attending the 19th annual United Way Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala at the Shaw Centre. I’ve been a few times and it’s always a great event. Good food, good chatting, and of course, a chance to learn about some of the people and the organizations who are doing such great work in Ottawa. There is always a person or a group I have never heard about introduced during the presentation part of the evening. When this happens it almost always unfolds the same way in my brain. I get their back story and I think, YES. WOW. PEOPLE DOING GOOD. Sometimes I feel myself welling up and I remember I didn’t bring a hankie.


The gala was – and is – the perfect antidote to all the dreary news we’re bombarded with all day long. It’s so uplifting to meet people – regular people – who are making a positive change in other people’s lives, right here in the city we live in, and making it a better place for everyone. Honestly, it did my heart good. I overfloweth, hankie issue notwithstanding.

I hope you take a minute to read more about the award recipients on the United Way Ottawa website. They are inspiring, innovative, and giving, and I applaud them. If you ever have the chance to attend the Community Builder of the Year Awards gala, you should go, because it might change you (in a good way)!

And speaking of people who are making this city great, I have some news to share soon about Cornerstone Housing for Women. Stay tuned for that!

11 May, 2019

Weekend reading: May 11 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

07 May, 2019

More about mushrooms

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Last week I shared a quick recipe for mushrooms on toast. I deeply regret not running out and shoring up my mushroom supply because I have a serious craving at the moment.

That post got me thinking more about mushrooms. You probably didn’t know this about me but I really like mushrooms. Like really really. They are just so interesting! In fact, my eldest actually bought me a book to help me identify the mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada, which I find myself turning to more and more frequently.

I like nature in general. I like being outside, but there’s something about mushrooms that really captures my fancy. Some mushrooms are edible, even delicious, while others will make you hallucinate or send you into spasms of pain and/or raging diarrhea and vomiting. There are some mushrooms you can’t consume with alcohol. Some varieties, if ingested, will damage vital organs so slowly you won’t even know what hit you until days have gone by and your innards have melted. By all accounts it doesn’t sound like a peaceful way to go (e.g. convulsions leading to death). After consuming a bite of Cortinarius orellanus, there may be no symptoms for weeks. The first thing you might notice is intense thirst and frequent urination, followed by muscle pain, nausea, and a headache (at which point I imagine many people just think they have the flu) but surprise! Your kidneys are failing and before you know it you’re in a coma!

One mushroom I looked up the other day can be eaten by some people but not others. (“It is often eaten but has caused numerous deaths.” Er. Alrighty then!) This one is called a False Morel and I found one in the woods the other day. I didn’t know what it was but I thought it was cool because it looked like a little brain:

A false morel (mushroom)

The photo doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s only a few inches in diameter. Next time I’ll bring my good camera and a quarter for scale.

Mushrooms seem to grow out of thin air, don’t they, even appearing in weird places overnight. My neighbour has a regular mushroom bloom on her front lawn after a couple days of rain and there is nothing she can do about it. SHE IS AT THEIR MERCY. I also find it interesting that mushrooms grow and thrive in conditions inhospitable to plants, like on a forest floor that doesn’t get much sun.

They also have pretty cool names, and they sure paint a picture: Devil’s Urn, Elfin Saddle, Dead Man’s Fingers, Witch’s Butter, Fairy Thread, Bleeding Tooth, Chicken of the Woods. I could go on! The colours and shapes are equally fantastic and some of them look positively alien. While many have that typical dome plus cap appearance of mushrooms, some look like yellow slime, birds nests, ocean coral or little white, er, puffballs:

Puff ball mushrooms

As much as I like wild mushrooms (honestly, what’s not to like about fungus!) I am very wary of eating any of them. I am alarmed by the descriptions in my book that point out that the “Common Yummy Mushroom” I am admiring is perfectly edible but is easily confused with “Common Harbinger of Death Mushroom.” So I won’t be making mushrooms on toast with anything I find unless I’m accompanied by someone in the know. Speaking of which, I’m eagerly following Forged Ottawa on Facebook and hoping there’s a woodland walk coming up in the near future.

p.s. I am also very interested in moss and lichens. But maybe I’ll save that post for another day.

04 May, 2019

Weekend reading: May 4 edition

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

04 May, 2019

Mushrooms on toast

By andrea tomkins in Recipes and Food

When your family is away and you can eat WHATEVER YOU WANT, what meal do you make for yourself? Of course, this is a prime opportunity to serve yourself something the fam doesn’t like. (Which I prefer to eating cereal over the sink.) In the past, I’ve made myself big salads with candied salmon, enjoyed stinky cheese, or made something with tuna fish or beets, but more often than not it’s probably something made with mushrooms.

Mushrooms for toast

What got me thinking: I enjoyed mushrooms on toast at an event recently and I remembered how terribly deprived I am of mushrooms. I am the only person in my family who likes mushrooms, so we rarely have them here at Casa Fishbowl.

So yes, I am just a tiny bit obsessed right now. In fact, I’ve had mushrooms on toast twice in the last two days (once for lunch and once for dinner) and I’m debating whether or not to run out and buy another bunch and make it this weekend because they are just so good. One feels a little bit fancy eating mushrooms on toast, but it’s also very humble fare when you think about it – not to mention rich, earthy, savoury, meaty – this dish has it all.

Mushrooms on toast

– 1 shallot, finely diced
– blob of butter
– 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, washed and chopped
– 1 TB or so of chopped fresh parsley
– 1 TB or so of full-fat sour cream
– sliced baguette

Grab a big frying pan and sautée the diced shallot in butter over medium-low heat until well-browned. Turn up the heat a bit and dump in the chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and reduced. Maybe 10 minutes. Add parsley and sour cream. Stir until well-combined. Divide across toasted baguette slices. Sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste. Eat! Enjoy! And if you’re like me, make it again tomorrow.


Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!

Mrs Tiggywinkle's - the best toy store in Ottawa

Click me!


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Jinjer: I love that dog figurine so much!!!!
  • Dani: It's morrel season. Woot! https://photos.app.goo.gl/bE76iBETEpkDGU7w5
  • andrea tomkins: I will definitely check that out Tiana!
  • Yana: There is one near the train in Carleton Uni
  • Tiana: Oh there's a great book, if you haven't read it already - Gathering Moss by Robin Wall-Kimmerer.
  • Quail: Mushrooming is a fantastic hobby. Take a course in late September. These fun fall outings are usually very productive and often led by keen experts.
  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive More about mushrooms - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] week I shared a quick recipe for mushrooms on toast. I deeply regret not running out and shoring up my mushroom supplies because I have a se

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!


E-book alert!

Shopping Embargo e-book promo

My right hand is actually a camera

Connect with me at these places too!

Piper is on Instagram

On the nightstand

On this date in the archives

All hail the mighty Twitter