Friday, March 31, 2006

Crime Beat Report:

"You f------ b----!" the cantankerous catwalker shrieked yesterday inside her Park Ave. penthouse apartment, accusing her maid, Ana Scolavino, of stealing a pair of $200 Chip & Pepper jeans, sources said.

Like one of those dreams where you think you're back in high school sweating over a math exam not studied for, the name Chip & Pepper rushes back into Sheena's consciousness after a merciful decade-long respite.

These frost 'n tipped Winnipeggers have been able to re-invent themselves in the high-end jean department after a nasty crash 'n burn bankruptcy and legal battle over "the brand" back in the early '90s.

Flashback 1987: Chip 'n Pepper riding high with their flourescent faux tie-dye Grand Beach wear, dressing high school student council nerds from St. James to Trashcona. Blonde big shots throwing out free drinks to hot chicks at the Rory Street Marble Club. Sheena and her sidekick The Beast ingratiate themselves with the clones and find themselves cruising up Portage Avenue with the pair, not having any idea which was which.

High point of the night? Lighting up a few of the roman candles the Fosters handily had stashed in the back seat and chucking them out the car window.

Naomi! Give your head a shake!
Supermodels should never go to jail over Canadian jeans. Or Winnipeggers dressed up like beach bums.

The Fosters may be dorks, but they ain't dumb. PR like this just can't be bought.

Or can it?

What Men Like

What Do Men Like? The distaff members of Sheenaville, as a general rule, don't worry their pretty little heads about such arcane matters, but this question has surfaced on more than on occasion.

The matter came up this week, and it reminded me of one of the more thorough explorations of this issue we conducted during a focus group meeting last summer.

A gruelling day long session of VQA market development was more than one committee member could take, so she exclaimed, "Boy I could use a cigarette". None of us were smokers, and she only smoked after focus group meetings, so supplies were not at hand.

"I think the boyfriend has some stashed at home", another participant offered. It must have been the bottle of Maui Blanc we had for dessert, but a wave of concern wafted over the room.

"We can't just steal his smokes and not pay him for them"
"You're right, but I didn't bring my purse"."How about an almost full Subway card"? "All I have is a British pound and a US dollar" "And some stamps too"

But! Sheena exclaimed.. We can't just give him crap. What Do Men Like? Let's give him something he'll like. Men like sex, men like candy, men like tickets to the game. But most of all, we realized that Men Like Bacon.

So our meeting facilitator ran to the kitchen, opened a pound of bacon, and lovingly placed each individual strip on a cookie sheet into a hot oven. (This way they cook perfectly straight - no curling up). The smell was amazing. The impact of our market research efforts intensified the aroma to an almost impossible level of porkish beauty. When perfectly crisp, the strips were removed from the stove.

Just one taste... Me too... There's lots.... move over... quit pushing..stop grabbing.

Then True Eternal Wisdom hit us like a Manolo between the eyes. What Men REALLY Like are happy women. And, well. That works for me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


An acquaintance and style moocher asked me today, "Sheena: What will you miss most about leaving Ottawa for Toronto"?

1. The Aloha Room. Dead Kennedys, Littlest Hobo, Lemon Balm Mojitos and Chairs from the Montreal Forum.

2. Shawarmas after 1am. Marroush, Elgin Street, Hull.

3. Prescott Hotel: Meebs & Pints, Square Pizzas and Cinquante by the Quart.

4. Lucky Ron. "Number 4!!!!"

The City that Fun Forgot? Nah.. The City that Boring Assholes Never Got to Know.

Has Wings. Can it Fly?

Top Story out of Myrtle Beach: Hooter's Air Goes Ti...err never mind. Not much shedding of tears to hear that Hooter's Air has lost its support. Sagging sales and escalating fuel costs sucked cash flow. A failure to push-up market share and a growing cleavage between staff and management are cited as factors in its demise, as impending labour disputes could not be nipped in the bud. Market projections failed to keep abreast of changing demographics and missed the opportunity to capitalize on this year's Spring Break bounce.

Sheena's crack investigation team is also researching this story: 1000-person staff reduction announcement from Delta Airlines this week.

Better known as "Doesn't Ever Leave The Airport", few people realized that Delta was under contract to provide maintenance and other services to Hooter's Air. Sometimes, important facts like this are learned the hard way.

In Atlanta airport last year. One day meeting. Booked on a Delta flight home. No checked luggage. Can't use auto-checkin because final destination is Canada. So the helpful check in clerk points Sheena towards the "International" check in desk. This is not going as planned, is the thought recalled most vividly. The lineup was a couple hundred people deep. "But! I'm just going up to Canada, have no luggage to check and I'll miss my flight if I get into that lineup!". After hemming and hawing the attendant did me a big favour. She pointed to the near-empty lineup under the big clock. Sheena walks over, inspects the situation and looks backwards. "THIS lineup?" as though some tragic error had been made. "Yes... THAT lineup". I looked at the sign under the big clock and there it was. Hooter's Air.

Sheena got in line. Feeling the burning laser-like glares of the women who walked past her, she refused to make eye contact with any other business traveller. Once fully ticketed and security checked, yours truly whipped out the cell phone and proceeded to call any and all female associates to ensure they were aware of what their choice of carriers meant.

Ah... the wings of the butterly.


WHO's 'Ten things you need to know about pandemic influenza' is a rather grim view of the projected spread of H5N1. It is not Avian Flu, however, that is the concern in here in Sheenaville; it is Scurvy.

A condition characterized by general weakness, anemia, gingivitis, and skin irritations, the disease is often the result of lack of Vitamin C in the diet. Alarmingly, scurvy is now increasingly seen among the malnourished elderly population. In light of this threat, specific measures to alter traditional habits have been adopted since completing my field research at Guero's, in Austin Texas.

At Guero's, the margaritas are all made with fresh, hand-squeezed lime juice. No bar mix, no powders, no concentrates. Pure, saliva-inducing sour goodness. Throw in a shot of good tequila, serve over ice in the kind of juice glass you used for OJ along with your pancakes as a kid, and you're good to go. With dinner, or even a breakfast taco before starting the Congress Street crawl.

Now, regretfully, my brand-spanking-new Christmas gift blender has been relegated to daiquiris only. Nary a marg shall ever be artifically processed ever again. Squeeze, pour, stir. Amen.

Watch this space for next week's health advisory, "Malaria Prevention: Why Gin isn't Just for Breakfast Anymore".

Monday, March 27, 2006

Goes Down Fighting

A defiant moment in a hard-luck Prairie city yesterday. "Winnipeg Arena Goes Down Fighting".. Yeah. Like it would have been any other way.

This event didn't cross Sheena's radar until yesterday afternoon, when it was already too late. (Shout out to my 'Pegger readers... you suck. Why didn't you TELL me. I might have been able to pull some strings.) The completion of the downtown MTS Centre pretty much was the spray-paint on the walls for this venerable institution, but to hear suddenly of its violent demise has put a heavy shadow over Sheena's cold ashtray of a heart today.

When the Jets left, back in 1996, NHL Hockey became dead to me. Ottawa was 'home' that year, but that didn't stop Sheena and her evil minions from plowing through a couple of 2-4s and making long-distance dedications to the 'Save The Jets' campaign. Jim Silver can kiss my ass.

The Jets were one of the few consistently good things back in those formative years. The singular piece of common ground with dear old Dad. The go-to subject of dinner conversation that the whole nuclear family understood. Bobby Hull's retirement. Dale Hawerchuk as the second coming of Christ. Peter Marsh's too-tight leather pants that were questionably appropriate for the kids' fan club meeting on Saturday morning. My first painful crush in Grade 4 on the son of the then-Swedish captain who played my husband in the elementary school play.

The night I was in the stands and Jimmy Mann broke the jaw of the Pittsburgh guy and was charged with assault. And how I followed the court case all year and wrote an essay in Social Studies on the justice system with it as my centrepiece.

Watching the Arena defy the first round of explosives made me proud. Cheering the underdog. The bastards had to bring in the Plan B and draw and quarter the old man to bring it down on schedule. Went down Fighting. Like Mann, and Fergie, and Domi before he became a Leaf.

Sheena, people often ask. What is your most prized possession? Not the first edition of Howe's J.A. Macdonald bio. Not my black pearls. Not my Gucci purse. Not even my secretly stashed four-year-vertical of the Dead Arm Shiraz. Nope. It's an authentic Winnipeg Jets hockey puck. I caught it with my bare hands at the age of 13. I probably saved my father from being blinded or brain damaged that night. He didn't see it coming. Serge Savard smacked it over the boards in that odd year out-of-retirement before he was signed to manage the Habs. I soaked my hand in ice water until the wee hours that night and couldn't write at school the next day.

Went Down Fighting.


Another piece of my childhood ripped down and carted away.

Alma Matters

Dirty little secrets come in all shapes and sizes. I've never met anyone else with this particular hidden angst. It is something that has never been publicly discussed. Until yesterday. Still not sure why it was blurted out.

My Bachelor of Arts degree has a spelling mistake on it.

"with all the rights and priviliges thereto appertaining"
Now, Sheena is a bit of a stickler for good grammar and spelling. Clear and effective communication is essential in the 21st century knowledge-based economy. The ability to convey one's thoughts and get a point of view recognized is a skill in increasingly short supply.

It took a couple of years to put my finger on exactly what was wrong with the Diploma. Instinctively something seemed off. "Privilege", according to is:

A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste. Such an advantage, immunity, or right held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others.
One would expect that a piece of paper signed and sealed by the Chancellor, the President, the Director of Records and the Dean might actually have been proofread. But perhaps one of the advantages, immunities, permissions, rights or benefits enjoyed by the aboveforementioned academic executives is usage of the Damilic M750.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My Closure Includes the Sound of a Slammed Door

Disturbing trend which surfaced quite dramatically yet again this week. The War on Terror Oprahized. The loss of the Queen of the North now approaching Springerville. The words "Thank You" and "I'm Sorry" have moved out of the realm of basic decent human conduct and have become charged with politics and power struggle. Senior battle-hardened British military leaders slighted because of an insufficient display of self-immolation on the part of the recently rescued hostages in Iraq. The plucky and courageous survivors of the BC Ferry wreck suddenly unable to move on with their emotional recovery until the Captain apologizes.

What ever happened to the intrinsic satisfaction of a job-well done? Mission accomplished. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Beating the odds.

Somewhere in our culture this the balance sheet has become skewed. Now every transaction contains a line item of emotional debt. And the media has become the skip tracer, hunting down the owers of thank-yous; the dead-beat sorries.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Because I Like Hard News

One of Sheena's legions of obsessed-but-not-in-a-stalking-way readers recently asked, "So, what is your favourite TV show". Hmm... this gives me a chance to test drive Via Rail's new OptiFi wireless service. All of the Via 1 club cars in the Corridor are now wifi-enabled and well, not much else to do as one hurtles through the suburban sprawl between Pickering and Bowmanville on a snowy Saturday morning eating dried out turkey sausage and weird grey omelette gravy.

Now, some lifestyles are not conducive to regular TV viewing habits. It's difficult to get too attached to any one show when one switches time zones on a regular basis and many a prime-time hour is spent nose deep in free newspapers in airport lounges.

I became quite enchanted with "Lost" last year, jumping on the bandwagon right from episode 1. (Sheena is somewhat obsessed herself with all things airplane-crash related). But the demands of the world soon intervened and I wasn't able to keep up from week to week. Haven't seen a full episode at all this year and regret that. Sometimes it's hard to remember when Wednesday is.

Being aware of what's going on in the world is a very important thing, so it is common to see CNN, CBC Newsworld, CTV Newsnet as recurring white noise Chez Sheena. But my favourite of all is Fox News. I love it, love it, love it. I'll do a separate discussion on my Fox News theory, but suffice it to say that any channel that employs a morning news correspondent named Eric Shawn is tops in my books.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Competitive Intelligence

Played Pub Trivia with some friends and assorted hangers-on at The Duke of Gloucester on Yonge Street yesterday evening. Nicknamed "The Stinky Duke" by yours truly a few years back as a way to differentiate it from the Duke of York which is also a semi-regular haunt, we stumbled into the secret world of Pub Trivia. No one in the group was aware that Thursday was Trivia night, and the bartender went out of his way to make sure we felt uncomfortable about sitting in the tables "reserved" for regular quiz participants.

A couple of us are occasional NTN Trivia players and had our curiousity piqued by the real-life human quizzer, quite a different approach from the interactive computerized quizzing we were more familiar with. But mostly, it was we were too lazy to get up and move tables.

Now, Sheena has a competitive streak, and when the quiz card was slapped down on the table by the unkempt surly bartender, a little adrenaline coursed through the veins. My visiting redneck acquaintance got a similar glazed look in his eye and I could see a vein throbbing in his forehead.

"Oh come on.. Let's play".

Half of the table looked bored and uncomfortable, but we had already dived into purses and briefcases looking for black medium point pens. And backup black medium point pens.

The Quiz Master took the seat of power behind the table directly under the TV, thus ensuring all eyes were on him. "Question 1..." he began. By Question 4 it became apparent that part of the intellectual challenge of the evening was going to be correctly interpreting his very thick Irish brogue. When one hooligan began cursing him and yelling for someone who spoke Canadian, we looked amongst ourselves and wondered if it was part of the act.

The quiz was conducted in two parts. By the end of round one, we were only 1 point out of the lead. Not bad for newbies. Felt like we were back in grade 3. Passing our papers to the neighbouring table to mark the answers.

Our strategic failure was the lack of under-30 token representation. Sheena failed in her mission to play young hipster and blew the opportunity to distinguish "Black Eyed Peas" from "Outkast". By the end of round two, we remained in second place though now trailing by 4 points. Not a good close.

But a lovely time WAS had by all. And I think at least one of us will be back for Round Two.

Hey Yah!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Learn Something New Every Day

Today Sheena learned that New Mexico has a wine industry. Yes, New Mexico.

This stunning discovery was intitiated by a visit to the Wine List online menu at the historic La Fonda hotel in Santa Fe. The current hotel was built in 1905, but apparently historic records confirm that a La Fonda hotel has existed in Santa Fe almost back to its founding in 1607.

Clicking around the menu section, naturally Sheena inspects the wine list. Don't particularly care much for the fitness facilities, pet amenites, or valet parking services when I travel. My requirements are simple, I figure. A variety of good value, high quality, imaginative wines that are designed to complement the food offerings. I respect an establishment that makes the effort to showcase local ingredients and food styles. I'll always go for the local microbrew on tap, even if it's shit, just to give it a chance.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon Gruet Winery, located near Truth or Consequence, NM. Neat. Focused on good quality bubbly, they've been producing since the late 1980s and are up to about 80,000 cases/year.

Looks like my off-day is now officially filled. Watch this grogspot for a full review in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

Exhausted the last "OK to drink this year" bottle in my YYZ secret stash.

With pork chops, mashed potatoes and frozen corn. And one dark chocolate dipped fig from the Harrod's snack pack I brought home with me.

I wish I could remember where I bought it and how much I paid.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sheena's Brazilian Experience

I do this every couple of months or so. Not at all painful, despite the rumours you may hear in the uneducated press.

Much easier on the legs than the Canadair CRJ 200. More knee room, certainly better for tall people, particularly those of us with 3+ inch heel affinities.

Air Canada has been operating the Brazilian made Embraer 175 since August 2005, and Sheena has made its acquaintance several times now, usually on the non-leisure Toronto-USA short haul routes.

According to the official corporate mission statement:

Embraer's business is to satisfy its Customers in the Aeronautical and Defense markets, completely meeting their needs by providing competitive and innovative solutions with high technological standards, to maximize shareholder gains, and to promote the development of its employees and their communities.

Embraer will continue to grow to become one of the main global forces in the Aeronautical and Defense markets, leader in the market segments where it is present and recognized for the levels of excellence of its entrepreneurial action.
I remember commenting to someone in the aviation business that I thought right at the moment of takeoff, the Embraer had a bit of an odd sensation, quite distinctive from other small jets that I frequent. "What do you mean odd"? "Well, I said... it was kind of a wiggle. A wiggle at the back. Kind of like if a thong was stuck up your crack".

He didn't buy it.

But DID confirm that one of the advantages of the ERJ is its ability to safely navigate to the narrowest of all landing strips.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

(Summer patio at the Drake, Toronto, Canada)

Wow, did I pick the wrong week to sign a lease in the 'ole M6J. The Queen Street W. strip between Ossington and Gladstone appears to be in the midst of a gentrification skirmish (because we don't call them civil wars anymore). This week's issue of NOW Magazine scrapes away a little of the muck surrounding the recently hot Drake/Lot 16 strip of what remains a decidedly mixed neighbourhood. Starbucks, formerly on the 'good' side of the franchise fence is now the intruding virus, threatening to attract the Young and the Wireless. Guess the vandals are Corrie fans at heart.

So as part of Sheena's Neighbourhood Watch Routine, an obligatory stop was made in "The Lounge". Just to check it out. Brought a paper, had a glass of wine. Aye... there's the rub. The service was horrid. Waitress was no where to be seen, so the first round was ordered directly from the bartender, second from the busboy. Wine list was decidedly pedestrian. Token VQA offerings from industrial juice pumpers Inniskillin; Sauvignon Blanc limited to a drinkable but eye rollingly boring Deakin Estates.

Martini list (unsampled) seemed innovative, mostly in a "Saw It Last Month in Manhattan" sort of way. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Now, Sheena has imbibed at the REAL Drake Hotel several times.

And YOU Drake Toroto are no Drake Hotel.

Perhaps Sheena is being overly harsh, but it is just difficult to think of "Drake" without the peeing angels overlooking one's shoulders. Chicago can grow on a girl that way.

Ah well... the new apartment looks great, and the neighbourhood looks perfectly safe in the daylight. Perhaps I just need time to settle in and get to know the locals. Skip the yuppie hangouts and meet the neighbourhood lifers. Maybe drink Labatt 50 on tap at the dives. Buy a coffee and slice of pie at the greasy spoon. Pick up some smokes at the corner store. Hmm. Actually... I could use a new car stereo, maybe a DVD player too. And like the old saying goes, Good Neighbours Make Good Fences.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Frequent Fly-hos

If one needs to check on seat availability or flight costs on the formerly branded Northwest Airlines, one goes to If one needs to get to get their fix on gangsta rap pioneers, Ni**az With Attitude, one goes to "the webs leading authority on NWA" [sic].

Certainly easy enough to confuse


And that:

I"ve wondered about this odd rebranding since it happened back in 2003, but have never really tried to dig into why such a move was made. The commercial airline industry took a devastating hit post-911 and the economic downturn that hit mainstream airlines dependent on business and full frill leisure travellers. Was it Northwest's attempt to rebuild a hip youth-centred image? Were they taking advantage of their urban music hubs in Minneapolis and Detroit to appeal to a different market? Was any thought given to the gun-toting, misogynistic culture promoted by their namesake?

Found this very interesting 2003 article from the San Francisco Chronicle which confirms my gut instinct that whatever focus groups were used during the branding exercise must have been very skewed in demographics.

"We've been known as NWA for many years," Northwest spokeswoman Mary Stanik told Chronicle reporter Carolyn Said, when asked about the shared initials. "I've never even heard of this rap group. I'm just stunned."

Vince Carra, another partner at TrueBrand, said the connection with the rap group didn't come up within focus groups. "People didn't make the connection."

But a news item I saw today makes me rethink all of my criticism of NWA the airline. Turns out they were just early to the game in anticipating the evolution of air traffic control communication. I just pray to God that US Federal air marshalls in Miami operate on a different frequency.

Peace Out.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Never to Be Made Again

3 hours into the obligatory St. Patrick's Day pub crawl, Sheena lost her patience with the short people bumping into her pint glass and a thoughtful companion steered her to a known "happy place" in the form of The Fat Cat Wine Bar on Roncesvalles.

Another cozy tapas style place with focus on interesting wines, including some rare treasures from the Niagara region. Meal was lovely: breads with 3 dips (no, not my dining companions), mixed Charcuterie plate, seared duck breast... mixed it up with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to start, then switched to reds (Hillebrand Trius Red 2003 and an Argentinian Malbec).

The highlight of any visit to the Fat Cat has always been its dessert cheese plate. An ever-changing selection of mostly Quebec artisanal cheeses, provided by the whiz kids over at The Cheese Boutique. Last nights choice was the 5-cheese sampler. Lovely nibbles of unripened this, ash-aged that, on the yummiest fruit and nut crackers.

And then there was the 10 year old Cheddar from Quebec.

The menu described it as something rare and special. "Never to be made again!" Now, Sheena loves to have things that nobody else can have. Exclusive in its truest sense. A way to separate those in the know from those who are not.

It sat there on the plate not quite fitting in with the rest of the selections. A hard pale lump in the sea of white and blue fluffy cheese pillows.

It looked a little sweaty. Defensive even. Like a big bully who was mean just because nobody loved him. I took a bite. I felt like Ralph on the Simpsons. "It tastes like burning", I told my companion.

It actually hurt. Stung, prickled, numbed my tongue. Cheese is not supposed to be painful.

"Never to be made again". And now we know why.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Neko Case: Closet Bohunk?

I was turned on to the amazing vocals of Ms-Don't-Call-Me-Alt-Country Case by someone very dear to me who has built an entire cottage industry around the obsessive compulsive stalking of the abovementioned red haired singing vixenette.

Her discography is an eclectic evolution from goofy girly honky tonk to the haunting lyrics of love, loss and longing. "Look for Me" from her 2002 Blacklisted album has cracked Sheena's Top 3 List of Songs to Sulk By.

Luckily, she has strong roots in North of 49 as one of the premier members of supergroup The New Pornographers, and is a regular on the Toronto touring scene. Was honoured to be able to attend the taping last year of her live album The Tigers Have Spoken, with guest stars The Sadies:

(Guys.. really.. would a bit of soap kill you?)

Earlier this month, Neko's long awaited next solo project "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" was released to adoring fans world wide, and she's been front and centre promoting the project, with a guest appearance on Jay Leno AND a page in this month's GQ.

What is the Fox Confessor? Ms. Case's inspiration for the album comes from the recollections of some of the traditional Russian fairy tales she heard growing up. Trickery, flattery and treachery abound in these tales of darkness and foreboding....As the sly vixen attempts to coax the reluctant rooster from a safe perch, the prey is tempted by the false friendship....

O holy mother fox, your mouth is as honey, your words are kind, your
tongue is sweet! But will you save me if you devour my body?"

"I do not want your body nor your colored garment. I want to pay you back an old favor."

A lesson to be heeded by wayward girls out in the big world. But why the Russian fairy tales? Why not Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen? Well, my pretties. Neko Case is Ukrainian.

Yep. A Perogie Princess. A Borscht Babe. A Kapusta Queen.

From a 1999 Interview in Edmonton:

Case is a Russian last name?
No. Our family is Russian/Ukrainian, but "Case" is something we got slapped with when we came through immigration in the 1940's. It's Shefschenko. Total Uke. They certainly didn't feel like spelling that! They probably wouldn't have named me Neko if we still had Shefschenko. It doesn't really flow. I like it. I would be happy if I still had it. I thought about changing it back, and then I started making records and it's just kind of easier to keep your name the way it is.

Suddenly. All is illuminated.

Hey Baby, Got any Irish in You?

Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all. To think a year ago I was standing in a blazing hot parking lot at Mother Egan's pub, drinking beer and listening to the dulcet tones of Chatham County Line at Austin's SXSW music festival. A stark contrast to St. Patrick's day two years ago, which was spent scrambling in Brisbane department stores trying to find a suit for next day's meetings because my luggage was missing in action. Australian Target rocks.

Chicago sounds like it would be a fun place to spend March 17. The whole colouring-the-river thing is hilarious, though now I wonder why they don't do it red for Valentine's day. Or black & orange for Halloween. Perhaps the latter colour scheme is better suited to Alaskan wildlife preserves.

Everyone seems to be a Guinness drinker these days. I think I understand why. The parent company of the brand, liquid giant Diageo has been on a pretty targeted campaign to gain market share here in Canada.

A quick glance of their North American strategy reveals a comprehensive PR initiative to get Canadians drinking their Liffey Water. Now all those goofy petitions and coasters make sense.

"Guinness also enjoyed a surge in popularity in Canada, on the back of our most successful ever St Patrick’s Day campaign. With over 47,000 hits on our website, 105 print articles, 4.5 hours of TV and radio coverage, the statistics demonstrate how Guinness and St Patrick’s Day fire the imagination of Canadian consumers. "

The now-defunct pub at the end of my street used to have one of those official Guinness St. Patrick's Day countdown clocks. It used to give me a queasy sense of foreboding. Sitting there, tuning out conversation, staring at the wall, watching the seconds of my life slip away. Great campaign.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Foie Gravitas

Dinner in Kingston on Tuesday night. Made a point of stopping into long-time institution Chez Piggy. Excellent wine list. Innovative cocktail menu. My chaperone started with the "Bloody Dane". A twist on the Mary using aquavit and horseradish. I had the "Hunter S Thompson". Grapefruit juice and premium tequila which according to the menu was "stirred with a dirty knife". There was no such dirty knife behind the bar, so my chaperone whipped out his Swiss Army knife and took care of business for me.

Then I spied the wine list. Oh! The Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. The epitome of the beloved fruity grassy New Zealand character. First discovered it in New Orleans in 2002 and the sipping white of choice whenever it surfaces, often in the most unexpected of venues.

Decided to do an appetizer meal, mixing and matching. Everything was lovely: the mussels, the spring rolls, the garlicky caesar salad (just the right hint of real anchovy). But the star of the night was my little foie Gras. Lightly seared with grapes in a brandy demi-glace. 12 bucks. Just a little pink in the middle. It was like warm butter in my mouth. Melted away without even chewing. My chaperone was equally blown away.

It surpassed the lovely appetizer done at Ottawa's 18 bistro. That's where I introduced a squeamish semi-vegetarian American friend to this indulgent pleasure. She who has "texture issues" with her food now will order it anytime it's on the menu.

I brought back a tin from Harrod's last year. Served it with a late harvest Pinot Gris when some friends were visiting. Felt particularly decadent when I polished off the "leftovers" the next day with port jelly and pancakes.

Bird flu should worry all of us. Especially those who count on imported fowl to keep us supplied at reasonable prices. Last week the federal government put restrictions on ducklings from France, limiting the availability of the preferred species for cultivation in Quebec's emerging foie gras economy.

The Globe and Mail outlined the concerns of local producers and the difficulties keeping the supply of the preferred hybrid species open in the wake of avian flu threats in Europe.

I forgot to ask where Chez Piggy gets their supply. I know I meant to. Must have been that "Last of the Mojitos" (no sugar) that made me forget.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wigging Out

Dumped again. Abandoned. Packed the old kit bag with no forwarding address. A two year relationship thrown away without any explanation.

I've been through this before. I'll survive. In fact, I'm pretty sure I might have met someone new tonight. Someone I'm willing to try again with. Tend to go through this pattern every couple of years. Always start out a little shy, hesitant. Afraid to ask for what I really want deep down. Over weeks and months, the trust builds up and finally I can be myself. Confess my fantasies. Aspire to be the person I really think I could be.

And then Poof.


Not even a Dear Sheena letter. In fact it was worse.... intimately detailed cards were apparently taken or destroyed on a whim.

I suppose I can understand it to some extent. I had admitted to seeing someone else on those weekends in Toronto. Or when I had an important event to attend and our schedules didn't mesh. But we could have talked about it. I might have changed, if I had known.

Rot in hell Kristie. You cowardly hairdressing bitch. No more 20% tips from me should your sorry ass ever cross my path again. Darlene was there to pick up the pieces. You're dead to me now.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The End of Civilization As We Know It

Read this bit of news over brunch this morning from Saturday's Globe and Mail. I nearly choked on my smoked salmon eggs benedict. Thank God I had a mimosa handy to wash down the bile.

EU and U.S. toast wine deal to end 20 years of haggling

The European Union and the United States signed a new wine deal yesterday that allows the United States to export wines made using practices many European vintners shun.

Talks on a "more ambitious" agreement are slated to start within 90 days, as both sides build on last September's breakthrough that recognizes each region's wine making practices after 20 years of haggling.
Americans will now be able to sell wood-chip-aged wines throughout Europe, a move some European wine makers fear will undermine their traditions as they face aggressive competition from a host of New World wines.

While the upside is that previously categorized "generic" nomenclatures such as Champagne, Chablis, and others will now have better protection in the US, it means the floodgates of cheap assembly line produced central California plonk will find a broader market.

Rather than investing in the expensive oak barrels for traditional aging, more and more low-rent California producers are using stainless steel tanks and chucking in a few buckets of WOOD CHIPS to get the simulated toasted vanilla oaky undertone.

I almost never drink California chardonnays for precisely this reason. The forced oak undertone actually invokes my gag reflex just by the bouquet. Don't even have to taste it to know it is unquaffable. The cartoon wine bandwagon further exacerbated by the Yellow Tail and Little Penguin phenomenon leaves me worried.

A glimmer of hope does exist. Some creative minds in the Niagara region are looking to put unique regional stamps on the wines produced here in Canada. Check out Featherstone Estates who have started producing a Cherry Barrel aged Cabernet Franc. Very limited production (23 cases) but the unique aging turns the inherent cherry undertones of Franc into something quite magical and stunning.

There is also an interesting experiment that is picking up steam using Canadian Oak barrels for aging. Canadian Oak, because grown in colder climates than American or French oak, is much tighter grained, thus lending much more subtle slow-release oak influences. Lailey was among the pioneers and I have a few of their first Canadian Oaked Pinot Noir stashed away for a rainy day. Can't see any downside to building a locally sustainable cooperage industry using environmentally sensitive forest management techniques.

Life is too short to drink shit wine. Support your local producers and stop encouraging the destructive factory farming and production techniques of the industry giants. It's your palate. Treat it with respect. Choose your wines like you'd choose your fruits and vegetables. Think about how it gets to your table and decide accordingly.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

See me, Feel me, Touch me, Heal me

During a recent trip to the UK, I saw a TV commercial for a product not yet available in North America. The ad was for a new mouthwash, and the brand tag-line is "See the Evidence, Feel the Freshness". Huh? See the evidence? What would they mean by that?


They really do mean that.

While disturbing on multiple levels, it is the next logical step in the progressively compulsive climate of introspection in which we live.

Biore skin strips allow you to proudly wave the output of your pores for your friends to see. Clearasil was on the forefront of this evolution of self-care products, bringing teenage facial dirt into the public domain.

Perhaps more research is in order, but I suspect this trend could be traced back to the design of German toilets in the mid 20th century. Traditional health practices include the belief that one's waste is the first clue to impending health problems, thus the shelf-style bowl. Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has argued that this "reflective thoroughness" is in fact a key indicator of social and political outlooks and has broader implications than simply the degree of ceramic slant. If Zizek's theory is used as a predictor of political shift, Sheena will stop by Ernie Coomes bookie shop when in Greenwich next and a put couple of quid on David Cameron.

Cuvee 2006

The Canadian wine community honoured its own last weekend at the annual Cuvee awards.

Press Release

RED WINE - Sponsored by Scott Laboratories
Pillitteri Estates Winery Cabernet Franc Family Reserve 2002 GOLD
These guys often win for the Franc Reserve. I've tasted earlier vintages and they are spectacular, but $50ish a bottle.

LIMITED EDITION RED WINE - Sponsored by Osprey Media Group
Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Merlot 2002 GOLD
Haven't tasted this one, but good for Creekside. I like them, consume their Sauv Blancs by the case and they regularly sell good basic decanters way cheaper than most of the other vineyard retail shops.

WHITE WINE - Sponsored by Scott Laboratories
Peller Estates Winery Andrew Peller Signature Series Chardonnay Sur Lie 2004 GOLD
When the Hillebrand/Peller monolith opened up the Peller tasting centre a couple of years ago I chalked it up to another mass produced plonk distribution hub, but I ate my words when I did a couple of tastings of their Andrew Peller premium brands. Don't recall tasting the surly chardonnay, but their Francs are amazing. And if you need a general purpose decanter dryer, they have some for 10 bucks.

Niagara College Teaching Winery Chardonnay Warren Classic 2003 GOLD
Grrr.. why do I keep forgetting to hit the Teaching winery for a tasting. On my to-do list. Jim Warren is the whore of Niagara, but still have a couple of his co-branded Meritages he did with Daniel Lenko and the Cab Franc he did for Kacaba.

GENERAL LIST RED WINE - Andrew S. Brandt Award
Creekside Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2002 GOLD CSPC# 669424
SCORE!!!! I acted as a reference for a friend who was job-hunting and when he got hired he bought me a bottle of this. Haven't opened it yet.

GENERAL LIST WHITE WINE - Andrew S. Brandt Award
Colio Estate Wines Estate Pinot Grigio 2004 GOLD CSPC# 503391
I never buy these wines because the name reminds me of E.Coli. They need a rebranding in my humble opinion.

SPARKLING - Sponsored by Metro Label
Hillebrand Estates Winery Trius Brut NV GOLD
My go-to sparkler when real Champagne not in the budget. $21-24 average price depending on the province. A tour of the Hillebrand Brut cellar is a must do. Apparently if some act of god scale accident caused all of the stored bottles to break at once, all the carbon dioxide would kill everyone in the building. Neat.

Other Notable Mentions.....

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Reserve Baco 2004 GOLD
Henry of Phlegm rulz on baco. I still have some old stuff from the mid 90s which might finally be drinkable. Big fan of their Speck Family premium brand and their rosé bubbly.

Vineland Estates Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2004 GOLD
I need to check this out. I'm a Creekside fan and have never tasted any other Sauv Blanc nearly as good in Niagara.

Malivoire Wine Company Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer 2004 GOLD
Nice pick. My sis's favourite Niagara white. Love their pinot gris and Ladybug Rosé too. Check out their Rosemary infused wine syrup.

Bill Lenko
Bill Lenko is my future father-in-law. His son Daniel just doesn't know it yet. Only barrier is that mama Lenko wants his wife to know how to drive a tractor and I'm not sure I have any sensible shoes that are farm-equipment appropriate.

Coyote's Run Estate Winery Riesling Icewine 2004
Never tried the ice wine, but in the top 3 of my favourite new places (others are Flat Rock and Stratus)

Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Mais oui...

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Cuvee Catherine Brut NV
Ahem.. see above.

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2002

Mike Weir Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2002
WTF? Need to check this one out.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Look up... Look w-a-a-a-y up...

Earlier this week I had a couple of pints with some people and it struck me that one guy I've known for a while is wound up pretty tight lately. So I said to someone else, "Like, is he gonna snap or what? Pretty frickin' bitter these days, eh?".

And then I immediately shifted the topic of conversation to one of my never-fail conversation ice-breakers. "So, what's your favourite potential sniper-tower?".

I always have my eye on potential sniper-towers. You never know when you have to watch your back. And one always needs to keep one's head up. Harry Whittington smells what the Sheena is cooking.

"The Forks" never existed as a must-see destination when I lived in Winnipeg, so seeing this structure was a bit of a shocker.

So far the Investors Group building in Willowdale is up near the top of my Ontario list. I never get an Eastern exposure at the Ramada hotel across the street.

Sheena By Numbers

"Sheena", an acquaintance asked, "why do you drive a shit-box car?".

Here's the math:

Since January 1 2006, I have spent approximately 47 hours on 7 different aircraft models, 15 flights in total on 3 different carriers. Since January 1 2006, I have spent approximately 9 hours in my car, calculated under the assumption that I would spend an average of 30 minutes per day in my car during those periods when I reside in the same postal code as the abovementioned shitbox.

My vehicle's rusty edges, lack of power steering, broken passenger-side door handle stress me FAR less than the recent developments on certain short haul flights. As astounded as I was this January on United Express, receiving zero alcohol service on some 3+ hour flights, I have been sent reeling in recent weeks coming to the grips with the fact that Air Canada Rapidair between Toronto and Ottawa has now abandoned bar cart service.

Yes. Abandoned.

AC #464, 7:10pm from TO to the National Capital Region is full of politicos, power brokers, tech barons and functionnaires, many of whom, I have often speculated, are probably not allowed to drink at home. In recent days I've seen a few temper tantrums not to mention the many rolled eyes and audible teeth-sucking.

I confess I don't get this. I know that the spectre of de-regulation made many wonder about the inevitable Americanization of Canada's commercial airlines, but this is beyond the pale. I mentally excused the United Express situation by rationalizing that the Washington DC-Austin TX route was cut off because of some Bush Twins incident that ruined the fun for everyone else.

Thank God a new fiscal year is upon us and a new stack of upgrade coupons are in my hot little hand. Sheena predicts that the next armed attack on the forward cabin will not be a secondary wave of terrorists, but steerage making a move on the Business Class secret stash.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"That's A-Moray"

My Toronto readers please take note.

Sheena recommends you skate over to Barrio on Queen St. E. Last night I stopped in with a few chums for a lovely evening of good wine, food and atmosphere. A tapas bar with porpoise, Barrio is featuring the lovely works of a local photog until April 1. The themed exhibit opened last weekend and at all counts is going swimmingly so far.

The wine list is far from crappie, offering a fine choice of VQA and international selections by the glass. An imaginative tapas style menu offered several possibilities, meaning we had to mullet over for a while before making the choices. The wait staff was cute and attentive, background music innovative and varied. And when one of the group was worried that the tuna was drowning the conversation, she quickly and cheerfully accomodated the request.

So take the bait. Get off your perch and head over. You'll roe the day you missed this opportunity.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Sometimes I dream about it. I can still smell it in the back of my mind. I miss its touch. The soft worn edges, couple of threads just barely beginning to fray.. the seam between the credit card slots worn into a fistula from repeated card insertion and removal.

I bought my baby in May 2002. Holt Renfrew, Calgary Alberta. Paid No PST, which made her all the sweeter. I lost her in September 2005. She was my constant companion. My drinking buddy. Elegant, sophisticated, but never complained about the occasional beer dunking or mauling by jealous compadres.

Rest in peace my love. May your abductor/murderer rot in hell.

2002-2005 - Sheena's Pride and Joy

Monday Morning Armchair Slingback

Please find enclosed herein the inevitable Oscar commentary post. Also note that the author has not seen ANY of the films nominated this year.

The disturbing moments started when Dolly Parton came up the red carpet and my gut reaction was "Holy Shit She Looks Like the Joker". Look closely at the shape of her mouth. My nightmarish fear of clowns resurfaced last night.

During a real-time chat last night, a few shared their winner predictions. Didn't really know what to say, so offered my picks for Felicity Huffman for Best Visual Effects. And Heath Ledger for Best Original Score.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but twice I wondered if Jessica Alba had hair plugs.

Everyone tells me I need to go see Crash. I'm sure I will. Didn't even realize there was a Canadian connection until last night when Paul Haggis won for writing. I thought it would have been funny if David Cronenberg took out Haggis and ended up on stage to accept the award.

Weird how Thandie Newton won supporting actress for Crash at the BAFTA Awards last week, but not even nominated over here.

I thought the most cringe worthy moment was Cathy Schulman's fake hair. Why are extra long ponytail falls still sold to grownup professional women is beyond the comprehension of this observer.

Odd and ultimately unsuccessful Oscar commercial: the Mission Impossible 3 trailer with Tom Cruise and Seymour Philip Hoffman. I understand wanting to ride the coattails of SPH's recent success and now win, but positioning him as an action villan while millions of viewers still have Capote Voice in their heads made my tummy feel icky.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Getting Tough on Chime

At some point over the last couple of weeks, someone has put up a set of windchimes within earshot of my apartment. I am not entirely sure if it is another suite in this building, or the one across the street. What would possess a person to inflict the urban noise pollution version of Chinese water torture on nearby tenants and neighbours?

Practitioners of feng shui believe the dulcet tones have a healing energy for our bodies and souls; enhancing the spirit/body/mind connection. My neighbour will need this healing energy if the f**cking chimes aren't down by the end of the day.

Progressive urban centres such as Markham Ontario have explicitly banned windchimes between the hours of 7pm and 7am. This is a reasonable compromise, and a way to ensure better fitness of its citizens as the twice daily ritual of chime-on/chime-off is established among households.

Unfortunately, some jurisdictions, like the City of Victoria, have amended their noise bylaws from an annoyance based system to a decible based system, thus rendering legal recourse useless against the vexatious and brain destroying clinks and clangs which haunt my every waking moment.

The online retailer offers a unique "Wind Chime Necklace" for sale. Not necessary, really. If my neighbour wants a set of chimes wrapped around his neck, he need only tip me off to his suite number.

Posh Becks

Canada's Rebecca Eckler has long been one of my favourite columnists. Critics call her a Princess Diarist and the online world is full of jealous bitches who hate that she gets paid decent $$ for the fluffy name-dropping nonsense she is able to pull out of her yogacized ass. Good on ya, I say.

Though I haven't read her book, "Knocked Up", in which the aforementioned party girl finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, I have started to worry because starlet Anne Hathaway (of Princess Diaries I and II fame... and soon to be star of The Devil Wears Prada) has just been signed to star in "Knocked Up" a movie written and directed by Judd Apatow (he of Ron Burgundy and 40 Year Old Virgin fame). I have found no apparent link to Eckler's book of the same name.

Is Anne Hathaway stealing Becky's life? The coincidences are quite stunning. Better get Rigorous Intuition on this. STAT!

Eckler's new blog Nine Pound Dictator outlines the trials and tribulations of the unmarried mother struggling to stay relevant in the modern world. Already the jealous bitches are shitting all over it, but I say Blog On Becks. Clearly I am the only one who has seen genuine humour in a gal who has a Filipina Prada-hand-me-down-addicted nanny named "Imelda".

Hello World

I suppose it is time that Sheena joined her brethern and cistern in the wankosphere.

I enjoy reading a wide range of blogs: politics, media, humour, princess diarists, but I also believe that there remains a wide open playing field to even further plumb the depths of self-absorption.

Welcome to my world.