a peek inside the fishbowl

This is my view for many minutes at a time on weekends, but only when I don’t feel like I have (metaphorical) ants in my pants (which is frequently).

Sundays during a pandemic

The dog got a bath. (Last weekend I sewed her some bandanas, if you can believe it.)

Piper's new bandana

I read my library book. I have been reading lots of library books.

I received a pair of sneakers that I ordered online.

I did some laundry.

We visited an elderly individual in our circle who needs support.

We went for walks.

We shovelled the driveway.

We watched the Lego Movie.

We watched a few episodes of Call My Agent. (Highly recommend! It’s on Netflix.)

We watched the action on our bird feeders.

I tried out this “no-knead” bread recipe and IT WAS GOOD.

Someone decided to bring some Sea Monkeys to life. Stay tuned for the Sea Monkey report.

There’s a puzzle that’s been sitting out since Christmas that still needs to be done.

I miss spontaneous trips to a pub.

I miss work life at the office.

I miss ordinary interactions with people.

I miss the freedom that comes with simply walking out the door and not worrying.


When our daughters went away to university I discovered I liked making care packages for them.

Here’s one package, and another, just to give you a sense of the kinds of things I sent.

Of course, these were created and sent in the Before Times. It was a process. Building a care package took time, dare I say, weeks. I’d pick things up here and there on my shopping travels, always in person, never online. I’d slowly accumulate a nice collection of stuff and then when I had enough, I’d pop everything in a box I’d saved (cereal boxes were pretty good), and run it down to the post office to have it weighed and shipped.

And then Covid came along and ruined everything. Suddenly, those care packages weren’t so easy for me to pull together. I supposed I COULD order a bunch of junk on Amazon, but that’s not quite the same as a package that developed over time with items sourced from local shops. For the most part, I’ve been avoiding bricks and mortar shops altogether. And when/if I am in a store, it’s likely a grocery store at a time when my brain is in a different gear altogether. Add to this, I haven’t been to the post office since before Christmas. I didn’t have a great experience when I was there and I’m not eager to return.

So what’s a mother to do when her youngest kid is having a rough week?

Sidebar: I won’t go into details about her particular situation but I will say that although many people are having a tough time, my heart really goes out to teens and young adults. They are supposed to be busy living their young lives, and instead, they are staying home and wearing masks and being responsible and afraid and also missing out on the typical milestones and experiences and shenanigans the rest of us older folks look back on with a mixture of fondness and abject horror.

ANYHOO. I wanted to cheer the kid up but my tried and true care package tradition wasn’t happening. And that’s when I remembered all the conversations I’ve seen this past year about Instacart. If you aren’t in the know, Instacart is a grocery ordering service that is available in larger metropolitan areas. I never used it because we’d been doing ok with curbside pickup at our usual store, but I suddenly saw a use for it. I could place an order and have it delivered to the kid, in Kingston.

And so I did! I ordered her usual grocery staples but also some treats (chocolate, ice-cream etc.), and a box of frozen chicken wings for her to share with her roommates.


It was very easy to download the app and place the order. I had the option to have it delivered that evening, which is what I did because I knew she was going to be home. Instacart is like a grocery store Uber, in that once I place my order, someone in Kingston is contracted to do the groceries and deliver them. Interestingly, like Uber, the shopper can send a message to me through the app. I wasn’t sure about this feature at first but it came in handy when a couple of the products I ordered weren’t available and last-minute substitutions had to be made.

I realized Instacart also solved a problem I’d always had with traditional care packages sent by mail: you can’t send perishable food. I mean, chips, chocolate, and homemade cookies are nice to send but sometimes a gal just really craves avocado toast, you know what I mean?:)

The price of my grocery order was comparable to what I’d normally pay. Delivery cost an extra six bucks (and I also  tipped). It’s worth pointing out that even though there is an extra cost associated with grocery delivery, it was still cheaper than sending a package by Canada Post.

I was very pleased by the whole process. And the kid? She was very surprised! I told her to expect a delivery of SOMETHING around 5 p.m. She had no idea what it was going to be, and was thrilled and cheered by it all, even the broccoli.

26 Feb, 2021

Read this one thing today

By andrea tomkins in Weekend reading

“We can’t hold on to damaged things forever. But we can renew their purpose.”

>> rebuilt: on searching for answers to the only question that matters

18 Feb, 2021

It was a happy Quarantine’s Day

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

FYI, we had a very nice Quarantine’s Day Valentine’s Day here at Casa Fishbowl.

In many ways, it wasn’t that different from a typical Valentine’s. Mark and I don’t generally go to a restaurant on Valentine’s, we are much more likely to order from our favourite sushi place or make a special dinner at home.

This year, is not a typical year. I walked down to Mamie Clafoutis first thing in the morning to avoid, er, people. Everything was covered in a fresh layer of snow and the walk was silent but for the sound of my breathing and my boots in the snow. This, in itself, was a gift. I think I was the first one in the shop. (Note! Their COVID-related precautions were very good.)

I bought three croissants for breakfast, a baguette for lunch, and a heart-shaped baguette for our dinner.

Heart-shaped baguette for Valentine's Day

I wasn’t planning on buying dessert but the sight of a chocolate caramel hazelnut tart in the display case was too tempting to refuse.

After coffee and croissants, Mark and I went for a walk down by the river. It was a sunny and beautiful winter day. I feel like we are walking way more than usual this year. (Is there anything else to do??)

Walk by the Ottawa River

After our return I assembled a charcuterie board and we had a long lunch. (SO.MUCH.CHEESE.)

For the rest of the afternoon I read my book in a puddle of sunshine, stretched out lazily like a cat. It was bliss.

Mark cooked up one of his specialties for dinner: mussels in a creamy leek sauce. And of course, we had the baguette to go with it. We drank wine, walked the dog, and demolished the tart. I gave him Valentine’s themed socks (from the Village Quire in Westboro!) and he gave me a card with a thoughtful note. It was a day to remember, for sure.

29 Jan, 2021


By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

Sometimes I really embrace my routines and other days I think they are THE WORST. I drag my weary body out of bed thinking: THIS? AGAIN? WHY?

I feel like I haven’t left the house in ages but when I think about it I know I actually have left the house, but it’s only been to walk the dog or pick up groceries via “Click ‘n Collect.”

My mantra: We are safe at home, not stuck at home. Safe at home, not stuck at home.

I am happy to say that I am still making my bed every day and reading lots of books. I don’t want to oversell it, but the making the bed thing is kind of life altering in terms of how happy it makes me. Did I mention I am just finishing a Dry January? Yes. Yes. I am.

I mentioned awhile back that we bought a new duvet. It was an excellent purchase and I congratulate myself every night I slide underneath it. Our other exciting “big but-not-so-big” purchase recently was a humidifier for our bedroom. (God, I’m old.)

I just felt so… dry. Dry lips, dry skin, dry eyes, dry nose. Mark also bought some tiny humidity and temperature monitors. They’re just over an inch long and came in a pack of five so our latest home entertainment has been all about measuring humidity in different parts of the house. Occasionally I’ll shout something like: “It was 41% when we woke up but it’s 37% now,” or “Did you know it’s 57% in the bathroom?” Mark was having a shower and while he was in there I stuck one on the shelf in the shower, JUST BECAUSE.

In conclusion: I am now measuring the weather INSIDE OUR HOME. Sigh.




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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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