a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Oct, 2008

cover girl – [updated]

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life


>Subject: You’re famous

Until the emails (and phone calls!) started coming in yesterday I had no idea that the article was actually going to be on the front page. There was no way I was going to let another minute go by without seeing it for myself. Sarah and I biked down to the pharmacy to pick up a copy. I showed her the photo. She laughed and laughed. I’m still a bit unsure about the photo (is that really me?), but I do know one thing. When I set out to start this blog back in 1999, I never thought it would come to this.

Anyway, yes. That’s me. And if you’ve arrived here via the article, welcome.

I feel a bit silly at the moment, like I’ve just opened the door wide open and am welcoming 20,000 strangers  into my kitchen, but I think the feeling will pass soon enough…


Finally, here is the text of the article:

Digital diarist
Exploring life inside ‘the fishbowl’ with Westboro’s leading blogger

by James Hale

If you want to find a contemporary equivalent of Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf – women writers who capture the social mores and manners of village life – you might want to look online rather than at a bookstore. Today’s literary diarists are blogging, and their observations of life around them are unfolding for all to read.

A case in point is 36-year-old mother-of-two Andrea Tomkins, whose keen impressions of Westboro are the central topic of her blog, ‘A Peek Inside The Fishbowl’ (www.quietfish.com/notebook).

A web developer, photographer and freelance writer who has lived in the neighbourhood since 1997, Tomkins writes unself-consciously about her love of new sheets, her urge to tell teenaged boys to hitch up their hip-hop jeans and her dislike of cell phones. She provides tips about great new stores in the neighbourhood and puts out calls for help for Thanksgiving supper recipes. One senses that she’s connecting with other young mothers as she muses about prom dresses and the awkwardness of bumping into ex-boyfriends.

A tall, animated graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program, she says that she occasionally pulls back from an unspoken line, and uses her journalistic background as a meter. “I’ve never been one to write about things that I wouldn’t say to a person’s face. I don’t think that’s fair. Even if I’m upset by something I have to sit back and say, ‘Would I say this to their face?’ The answer has to be ‘Yes’ to go ahead because my name’s attached to it.

“It’s like writing an article or a letter to the editor; putting your name on the blog gives it both a sense of authenticity and objectivity.”

The same isn’t true of those who write back, and she admits to being stung a couple of times by comments she has received. Some people took offence at a scene she painted of some middle-aged men ogling young girls at Westboro Beach, while someone else took her to task for teaching her daughters to drop messages-in-a-bottle off the Champlain Bridge. She chalks it up to the price you pay for life in the public eye.

Her blogging adventures began in 1999, as a way of sharing information about newborn daughter Emma’s early months. “I didn’t want to be one of those parents who was always foisting pictures of the new baby on unsuspecting friends, so I’d post photos of her on my website and write about things that she was doing, and suddenly people I didn’t know were commenting on photos of her or providing advice and encouragement. This started providing a much-needed creative outlet for me, and there was always something going on with her that I could write about.”

Surprisingly, she wasn’t someone who obsessed over a diary as a young girl. “I was never good at it. I tried, but I was never good at keeping it going. I was never into scrapbooking. I hate scrapbooking, which is weird because a blog is really just a digital scrapbook. I mean, I’ve got years and years of funny stories and anecdotes of things we’ve done as a family stored on there now.”

Unlike bloggers like Emily Gould – whose misadventures in exposing dark corners of her life on her blog ‘Emily Magazine’ landed her uncomfortably on the cover of the New York Times Magazine in May – Tomkins is wary about shining the light too brightly. “Would I want someone reading something truly sad or personal about my family? Sometimes it is just a case of too much information. There are some very successful bloggers who write about their lives warts and all, but I don’t know if I could do that or want to do that, because it does have an impact. It affects the way people view you, and – although it may be cathartic to write about – there’s a real chance you take by putting yourself out there like that.”

What she is enthusiastic about doing is revealing how her young family interacts with a neighbourhood that is increasingly teeming with activities geared to people her age. A board member of the nascent Westboro Community Association, she is passionate about issues like the flourishing of so-called ‘monster houses,’ and is joyfully moved to blog about a new sushi place or the arrival of Roots in Westboro.

“What has changed with blogging is my ability to get information in the whole Kitchissippi area. There are some really good local bloggers like Miss Vicky (Vicky Smallman) and Bob LeDrew. I think the blog is a great way of sharing information about the neighbourhood that mainstream media just doesn’t cover and it’s a great way to get information out and get information from other people. It’s a great grassroots way of sharing things about where you live.”

18 Responses to "cover girl – [updated]"

1 | Lex

October 24th, 2008 at 9:43 am


Right where you belong – front and… well… a little to the left.

Is there an online version for those of us too far away?

2 | J.

October 24th, 2008 at 9:53 am


congrats! You look great! I can’t wait to read the article

3 | alison

October 24th, 2008 at 9:57 am


Congratulations, Andrea!

4 | Mary Lynn

October 24th, 2008 at 10:03 am


Cool! Would love to read the article, too!

5 | mrsgryphon

October 24th, 2008 at 10:09 am


So fun… hope there’s an online link to the article somewhere (off to Google I go!) Congrats, Andrea!

6 | Chantal

October 24th, 2008 at 10:53 am


Cool, I will have to see if they posted it online!

7 | andrea

October 24th, 2008 at 10:57 am


Hi guys,
The paper doesn’t have a website with a digital archive. I now have a Word copy but for some reason I’m having an issue with cutting and pasting the text. But I think I can still send it out. Let me know if you’d like me to shoot you a copy by email. :)

8 | Sonya

October 24th, 2008 at 10:59 am


I’d love to read it! Congratulations!

I was going through an old copy of Chatelaine magazine a few weeks ago and found an article about blogging…and they quoted you! lol I guess you’re no stranger to press coverage. ;)

9 | Alison in Ottawa

October 24th, 2008 at 11:12 am


Word copy please i f possible , I live in a different area of Ottawa from you and get the Nepean one.

10 | Natalie

October 24th, 2008 at 12:02 pm


Congrats Andrea!

11 | Bob LeDrew

October 24th, 2008 at 12:51 pm


Congrats indeed! A very pleasant surprise at the bus stop this morning.

And don’t forget to check out the other bloggers that were so kindly shouted-out in the article [cough cough].


12 | Mary Lynn

October 24th, 2008 at 1:22 pm


I’d love to read a copy if you can send it by email. Thanks!

13 | Ginger

October 24th, 2008 at 1:31 pm


So exciting! Congratulations! I would love to read the article.

14 | Patti

October 24th, 2008 at 3:18 pm


We had about 100 copies of your face on our coffee table last night before my son delivered them. You are our local blogging gal. Congrats!

15 | The Veg Next Door

October 24th, 2008 at 3:41 pm


I was just at Dovercourt and saw the newspaper and didn’t pick it up. I usually read anything that’s free and I can get my hands on. That’s how tired I am today! I didn’t recognize you on the cover. You have your serious blogger look. :-)

Yes, please send me the Word document.

16 | Frank

October 25th, 2008 at 11:51 pm


I did not recognize you at first, but great article. You know that young women will complain most about older men ogling, when they stop doing just that. Congratulations!

17 | The Veg Next Door

October 26th, 2008 at 4:34 pm


I think it’s a great article. Kudos!

18 | Ann D

October 27th, 2008 at 6:22 pm


How fabulous to be the cover girl. I hope you bought up all the copies in your neighborhood (subtly, of course) so that you can frame one in your office; give copies to the girls when they get older; mail a few to the relatives; etc. You should be very proud of yourself!

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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.

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