Archive for September, 2012

Sirota’s Alchymy Martial Arts and Life Skills Centre

Monday, September 24th, 2012

There’s a new martial arts centre in Steveston.  After eighteen years at its former location, this past summer Sirota’s Alchymy Martial Arts & Life Skills Centre moved and expanded to a 6,300 square foot space, and is now the biggest Taekwondo school in Metro Vancouver. 

Master Michael Sirota, owner of Sirota’s Alchymy, had searched for over a year to relocate his business when he discovered the building was slated for demolition in the rapidly changing Olympic Oval area. He found the perfect new home for Sirota’s Alchymy on Trites Road.  With extensive renovations now complete, Sirota is thrilled with the spacious facility which includes a fully matted deluxe floor, new training equipment, a lounge with televised ‘live’ training, and complimentary Wi-Fi for parents.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Sirota moved to Edmonton when he was young and relocated to Vancouver as a teenager.  As a child he took up Taekwondo and began competing in national-level championships. He smiled when he told me that after high school he did exactly what he instructs his students to avoid; he bypassed post-secondary education and pursued martial arts training. At age 22 he opened Sirota’s Alchymy and has never looked back. In fact he has been so successful with his business that he started a second Vancouver location (on Victoria Street) two years ago.

What is alchymy? Sirota defines it as the art of transformation through personal empowerment which is the heart of his company’s philosophy.  For Sirota, this encompasses self-esteem, self-confidence, inner drive and personal pride.  The centre has various programs and requirements integrated within the curriculum to see each child grow. This includes development at school, hence the lawn signs you may have seen “martial arts for all…. kick your child’s grades up.” 

Sirota emphasizes that parents should do their homework to find the best martial arts program for their child. He often hears stories about children who registered in a class based on a facility’s proximity to their home or the fees, and notes this can backfire as the chosen martial arts centre may not have the resources to work with that child.

Sirota’s Alchymy was the first martial arts centre in Richmond to introduce pre-school age martial arts classes.  The Tiny Tiger program is designed to teach young children how to achieve their personal best, as well as foster self-confidence and courage at an early age.

A variety of classes are also offered for children, youth, and adults.  Family classes, scheduled twice weekly, are a unique way for children and parents to enjoy physical activity together. The selection of classes is vast and one wonders how Sirota manages to carve out enough hours in a day, let alone run two martial art centres. In a gentle way he laughs and makes it seem effortless. Not only does he teach, along with his highly skilled instructors, but he is also responsible for much of the administrative work including applying his savvy marketing skills.

Sirota has been in the forefront of pioneering, creating and implementing martial arts and self-defense programs for people with various special needs and disabilities honouring his company’s goal to facilitate personal empowerment in all members of society.  Taekwondo is the most popular martial art in the world and Sirota was proud to see it become recognized as a full medal sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics.  He is actively working towards seeing the same status applied to the sport at the Paralympic level. 






In addition to offering martial arts and self-defense programs at Sirota’s Alchymy, Sirota frequently provides instruction to elementary and secondary schools, corporations, and various others groups and conferences.

Sirota’s Alchymy is also a unique place to celebrate a birthday.  Included in their party package is a private party room, a martial arts class for the guests and the opportunity for the birthday boy or girl to break a board and cut the birthday cake with a real sword.  Sirota’s Alchymy takes care of the set-up, food distribution, gift openings, clean up and child management. Parents, this is your chance to enjoy the party – so bring the food, your camera and sit back and relax.

When Sirota has the chance to take vacations they often involve humanitarian fundraising projects which are very important to him. One fundraising initiative allowed the school to purchase a container of 110 wheelchairs which were distributed in Vietnam. Other money has been raised to benefit orphanages in Mexico, Tibet and the Dominican Republic. Sirota has yet another philanthropic idea percolating which he will reveal imminently.

Master Michael Sirota has many irons in the fire, yet he is a model of calm, which is a testimony to his philosophy of alchymy and it is evident that he practises what he teaches.

Sirota’s Alchymy
Martial Arts & Life Skills Centre
110 – 12280 Trites Road

Steveston Girls’ Night Out

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Ladies, grab your calendar, program your smart phone, whatever it may take to save this date because Thursday November 29th is the highly anticipated 2nd annual Girls’ Night Out in Steveston.  Sponsored by the proud members of the Steveston Merchants Association, this event is destined to be wildly popular again. Round up your pals, your mum, your sister and your office friends for an evening of cocktails, appetizers and power Christmas shopping – last year’s participants reminisced about this night for months afterwards and can’t wait for its return.

Merchants often overhear mothers say that they would like to return to a store without their child in tow, so that they can concentrate fully; while women of all ages feel limited to shopping on the weekends, and crave time to be out on the town past 6pm. Designed for girls who want to have fun, this is a evening where Steveston transforms into a vibrant night-time stomping ground! 

The Steveston Merchants Association hosts many fabulous community events including the Steveston Scarecrow Crawl, the Steveston Scarecrow Hayday, Trick-or-Treating in Steveston Village, Christmas in Steveston Village and the Easter Egg Hunt.  All of these events are extremely popular and well loved by families; however the SMA felt that an opportunity for women to celebrate within their community was missing. 

SMA board member Erinn Bryan (O’Hares GastroPub & Liquor Store) presented her concept of Girls’ Night Out which she thought would be a natural fit for the village, based on the fact that many women love shopping together and parties. The board concurred and created this festive pre-Christmas shopping and dining extravaganza as a win-win opportunity for Steveston women and for SMA member restaurants and businesses.

Women are invited to visit SMA member businesses to shop, dine, connect with friends, old and new, and celebrate the upcoming holiday season.  SMA member restaurants and stores will offer special incentives for Girls’ Night Out shoppers, with many shops offering a gift to accompany a minimum purchase. 

Now, what about your significant other?  He can either stay home with the kids, or book a babysitter and head over to the designated ‘Man Cave’ at O’Hare’s GastroPub.

More details will be revealed soon. Visit for a full list of participating SMA member businesses and stay tuned for Girls’ Night Out news flashes.

Contact your social network and spread the word, Girls’ Night Out in Steveston is back!

Once Upon A Time

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Season Premiere:  Reality and myth begin to merge as the fairytale characters awaken from evil Queen Regina’s broken curse, magic is introduced to Storybrooke, and Prince Phillip awakens his sleeping beauty, Aurora, but discovers that he and traveling companion Mulan will soon have to face a deadly foe, on the season premiere of CTV’s “Once Upon A Time”.

Master storytellers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (“Lost,” “Tron: Legacy”) invite everyone to Storybrooke, Maine, a small town that probably won’t show up on one’s GPS… but it’s a place where magic is coming.

In Season One of “Once Upon a Time,” Evil Queen Regina had cast a curse that brought the fairytale characters into our modern world and trapped them in Storybrooke with no memory of their former selves. Here they languished, ageless for 28 years, until Emma Swan stumbled upon them through her son, Henry, whom she had given up for adoption years ealier. Over time Emma came to understand that she herself was the progeny of fairy tale characters – Snow White and Prince Charming – and having begun to see cracks in Regina’s curse and her hold on Storybrooke, set about breaking both.

In the Season Two premiere episode, “Broken,” reality and myth begin to merge as the fairytale characters awaken from Evil Queen Regina’s broken curse and remember who they were. But to their dismay, they aren’t transported back to fairytale land. To make matters worse, Rumplestiltskin – aka Mr. Gold – in an effort to gain the upper hand in his power struggle with Regina, has introduced magic into the town. In fairytales magic has its place, but in our world it can have unfathomable consequences. Meanwhile, back in the fairytale land, Prince Phillip awakens his sleeping beauty, Aurora (Sarah Bolger, “The Tudors”), but discovers that he and his traveling companion, Mulan (Jamie Chung, “Sucker Punch,” “The Hangover Part II”), will soon have to face a deadly foe, on the Season Premiere of “Once Upon a Time,” SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 (7:00-8:00 p.m., ET) on CTV.

“Once Upon a Time” stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White/Mary Margaret, Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan, Lana Parrilla as Evil Queen/Regina, Josh Dallas as Prince Charming/David, Emilie de Ravin as Belle, Jared S. Gilmore as Henry Mills, Meghan Ory as Red Riding Hood/Ruby, and Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold.

Guest starring are Raphael Sbarge as Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket, Lee Arenberg as Leroy/Grumpy, David Anders as Dr. Whale, Keegan Connor Tracy as Mother Superior/Blue Fairy, Michael Raymond-Jones as mysterious man, Beverley Elliott as Granny, Sarah Bolger as Aurora, Jamie Chung as Mulan, David-Paul Grove as Doc, Gabe Khouth as Mr. Clark/Sneezy, Faustino Di Bauda as Walter/Sleepy, Jeffrey Kaiser as Dopey, Michael Coleman as Happy, Mig Macario as Bashful and Julian Morris as Prince Phillip.

”Broken” was written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz and directed by Ralph Hemecker.

And They Lived Happily Ever After

Monday, September 24th, 2012

by Sarah Gordon.

Once upon a time there was a household of bibliophiles with an insatiable appetite for reading. Book stores and libraries filled them with delight. A new book release would set their hearts racing. They would venture off on a quest for this treasure, and when the stars aligned they would find it beckoning like a brilliant gold coin on the library or bookstore shelf. They had a passion for all books large and small: mysteries, adventures, comedy, non-fiction, and the fairest of them all, fairy tales.

These book lovers, who happen to live in my house, are presently revisiting fairy tales geared toward their ages; one beloved collection is a contemporary Usborne take on the time honoured stories, while the other book is a humorous and slightly gory version of Grimm’s fairy tales.

What is fascinating about fairy tales is their timeless appeal. These stories are often a child’s first literary introduction to good and evil involving a hero or heroine, a villain, magic, and often a happily ever after ending where love triumphs. One author explains that the lasting appeal of fairy tales is their power to help children deal with inner conflicts that they face in the course of growing up (The Witch Must Die by Sheldon Cashadan).

While fairy tales are perennial favourites and have never gone out of style, they are experiencing a huge revitalization and a modern twist, thanks largely to the television show Once Upon A Time. Unless you have been in a deep Rip Van Winkle-like sleep, you are probably aware that this hit show films on our doorstep. A growing international fan base is visiting “Storybrooke” from far and wide to see the location first hand, attesting to the spell this story has cast upon its audience.

The first season of Once Upon A Time was recently released on DVD. Judging by how quickly it sold out, viewers must be anxiously awaiting year two. Last season I watched the show weekly and I have also had the opportunity to view the DVD. I recommend that Stevestonites watch the footage of the story behind Storybrooke. You will see familiar businesses and faces, which makes you feel proud to call Steveston home.

A bonus feature on the DVD spotlights Once Upon A Time’s actors, writers and producers discussing early memories of fairy tales. What I found striking is each of them has strong recollections of their attraction to this world of magic, adventure, suspense, love and hope. In addition, many of the actors discuss how fairy tales left them spellbound as children, and share some insights into how they developed their Once Upon A Time character. A highlight was hearing one of my personal favourites, Robert Carlyle, discuss how he brought Rumpelstiltskin to life.

The writers have the wonderful job of creating “back stories” for iconic fairy tale characters. They cleverly weave dual plots which unfold in separate realities, between our world (modern day Storybrooke) and fairy tale land. This results in many interesting twists, turns and surprises.

The actors cite finding and losing true love, and ultimately hope, as the common themes in many of the stories. There is a belief that a happy ending can be attained, despite Once Upon A Time’s obstacles including a dragon, the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, curses and magic spells. Actor Lee Arenberg (who plays Grumpy/Leroy) says you have to be able to cry if you are on this show. I confess, as a viewer I pulled out hankies several times last season; please don’t remind me of the heart wrenching episode featuring Nova the fairy and Grumpy.

Welcome back to Steveston, Once Upon A Time. Thank you for bringing the magic of fairy tales to life each week. And, thank you for creating a show where imagination is living happily ever after in Steveston village.

A Steveston Halloween

Monday, September 24th, 2012

by Zoe Lee.

There’s a fairytale version of Halloween that lives inside us all. I don’t know if we get it from picture books, movies, television, or if we’re born with this mental image deeply embedded in our subconscious. It goes a little something like this: groups of charmingly costumed children scamper safely through the streets of a pleasant neighbourhood. Little brothers and sisters tag along behind older siblings. Front porches are adorned with carved pumpkins and spooky decorations. Smiling adults wait behind every door with bowls of candy. There’s always that one house at the end of the street that’s a little too spooky for the younger kids, but is irresistible to the older, braver ones.

 I grew up in a rural area, where houses were so far apart that we had to be driven door to door in order to trick-or-treat. I honestly believed that the Halloween I saw in movies didn’t actually exist. Then I moved to Steveston. And let me tell you, a Steveston Halloween is every single bit like the ones you see in picture book illustrations or on TV. Exactly like it. The neighbourhood comes alive with families out trick or treating, homes are lit up with decorations and glowing pumpkins. Even on a cold, rainy night, it’s magical.

Of course, it’s not just a one-night event. Halloween starts early here. Once Thanksgiving is over, Halloween begins. There’s a trip to the pumpkin patch, or should I say, several trips to the pumpkin patch (my kids pick out pumpkins the way a sommelier picks wines, painstakingly, and with exacting standards). We love walking through the village in the weeks leading up to Halloween to look at the decorations and the scarecrows set out by the different businesses. Then there’s the pumpkin carving (my job), the house decorating (my job), the endless revisions to costumes (my job), and the excited jumping and dancing about (kids’ job).

And then comes the actual night. Our most sacred of all Halloween rules is that we don’t go anywhere until we’ve had at least one trick-or-treater at our door. This prevents my children from dashing madly throughout the neighbourhood at four in the afternoon. But once we have our first visitor, we are free to go. We spend the evening ringing doorbells and meeting up with friends on the street. We all have different houses we want to visit and special routes we want to take, and somehow we manage to do it all. The only way we can get our kids back to home at the end of the night is to put them on door duty.  It turns out, that handing out candy is just as much fun as trick-or-treating. We let them keep their costumes on and answer the door until bedtime. Then all the candles get blown out and it’s off to bed.

We hand out hundreds upon hundreds of candies on Halloween. There is an endless stream of children ringing the doorbell – more than can possibly live here. Over the years I’ve met many families that have driven in from surrounding neighbourhoods, even as far as Vancouver, just to trick or treat in Steveston. We always make sure we have more than enough candy for these additional guests. If I had known this type of Halloween village really existed when I was young, I would have begged my dad to drive me in for a real night of trick-or-treating. I may not have made it here as a child, but I’m here now, and I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.