Find your holiday spirit in the Fraser Valley

The holiday season is the perfect time to curl up by the fire, spend time with family, and partake in all that seasonal cheer. However, it’s not without its stresses, particularly when it comes to shopping. So how can you enjoy your holiday shopping without the stress?

12 years ago, a guide called the Passport to Christmas was created to help busy people in the Fraser Valley take the stress out of shopping. This year, the handy passport can be downloaded to your phone or tablet. Use the online e-guide to lead you through the local experiences that will elevate your holiday spirit! Spend this holiday season enjoying and exploring the events, entertainment, fine foods and unique shops of Abbotsford.

The hard to shop for

Here’s a list of local’s favourite stores where you can find the perfect present for that “hard to shop for” person in your life…

Glenda’s Christmas Cottage has been a partner of the Passport to Christmas since its founding. The store offers a vast selection of one-of-a-kind ornaments let you to bring the Christmas merriment home with you. Tanglebank Garden Center prides themselves on specializing in German handmade Inge Glass and Nutcracker Collectibles, also check out the many events and courses they're holding this year. Start a new Christmas tradition after with a visit to the Nutcracker Ballet, which will be held at the Abbotsford Arts Center or the West Coast Christmas Show and Market at Tradex this weekend. Still can't find that one gift? We're sure Clayburn Comforts Soap will have that memorable present.  

Hostess and Host Gifts

Open houses, company Christmas parties, family Christmas party, the list is endless. With all the parties, it is hard to keep hostess / host Gifts fresh and different. Here are a couple of options that will make you seem like a gift-giving master.

Pumpkins and cranberries are so passé. Check out Onnink’s Blueberry Farm which offers a variety of products such as Blueberry Bon Bons, Blueberry tea and Blueberry coffee, and pre made decorative baskets that will be a hit with everyone you know. Sip, savour and enjoy this Christmas season with any of Abbotsford’s local wines and beers. Local wine from Singletree Winery and Mt.Lehman Winery make for a truly distinctive Fraser Valley hostess gift. More of a beer lover? Pick up a growler from Old Abbey Ales and celebrate the season with one of their 26 different Belgium beers on tap.

For the foodie

These people can turn any evening into a culinary adventure. Their kitchen looks like it’s out of a magazine and their meals look like they should have their own show on TV. What do you buy these kitchen gurus? 

Sweet, delicious and gone too soon, nothing improves a recipe or inspires creative creation like a jar of Campbell’s Gold Honey. Wine, fudge, pies and don’t forget the jams, jellies and other preserves that are all crafted on site at Maan Farms Country Kitchen. It has a great play area for the kids while you peruse the market. Let the kids run off their excitement and energy while you browse the large selection of local products for sale. Looking for local produce and farm to table products? Take a visit to Lepp Farm Market.

When all of the hectic holiday shopping, planning and cooking is done, the last thing you want to start doing is thinking about New Years. So, Tradex is taking care of the party planning for you. Join Tradex for the Fraser Valley First Night 2016. This family-friendly New Year’s celebration will offer up fireworks, rides, entertainment and both the East / West coast countdowns. Join in the fun on December 31, doors open at 5 p.m.

Share your holiday adventures in the valley by tagging #ExploreAbbotsford on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. After you have completed the Passport to Christmas, take the survey

A Guide to Afternoon Tea: Three Places in Abbotsford to Relax in Style

Let’s face it: we’re all busy. Who has time to take a break let alone fuss with the pomp and circumstance surrounding the practice of afternoon tea?

But maybe we should make the time. Brian Haber, owner of Clayburn Village Store and Tea Shop, refuses to serve afternoon tea before 2 p.m. to leave adequate space between patrons visiting the tea room for lunch and those coming to observe the ceremony of afternoon tea.

The Basics

Afternoon tea, also called high tea, has its roots in British culture and has been served in upscale hotels like the Fairmont Empress in Victoria since the early 1900s. Now popularized, afternoon tea can be found in hotels, boutique bakeries, and tea rooms across North America.

My original understanding of tea came from a working holiday as a nanny in England. The area I lived in used the term “tea” to mean dinner. Afternoon tea was lunch leftovers, and cream tea featured a variety of scones, savories, sweets, and other desserts. An essential part of tea is Devonshire cream, which is clotted cream served on scones with preserves.

In North America you will find afternoon tea served between lunch and dinner on decorative chinaware. Although afternoon tea can take many forms, in general the food consists of miniature sandwiches and quiches, fancy pastries, and cakes.

Where to Enjoy Afternoon Tea

Abbotsford offers a variety of ways to indulge in afternoon tea. For an authentic experience look no further than Clayburn Village Store and Tea Shop. Enjoy the handcrafted spread featuring Edwardian sandwiches, salmon pinwheels, and a variety of English pastries. Served between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. you are encouraged to leave your cell phone off and use tea as a time to reflect on your day. Afternoon tea is an extravagant ceremony and must be booked 48 hours in advance.

For a customized high tea experience, Tracycakes Bakery Cafe offers a variety of packages so everyone can take part. It’s Tracycakes’ policy to have high tea available for walk-in orders, but since the kitchen needs 20 minutes to prepare high tea, reservations are encouraged. They also offer a take-out version if you’re hosting high tea for a bridal shower or other event.

Served in-house, salon cafe Little White House offers afternoon tea as a regular menu item featuring elegant finger sandwiches, hot savories, scones served with artisan preserves and Devonshire cream, dainties, pastries, fancies, and more.

Host Your Own Afternoon Tea

With tea time what you serve is as important as how it is served. If you’re hosting afternoon tea have fun with it. Here are a few tips to get you started.

The Table

Your table’s focal point should be a tiered cake stand. If you don’t have one use your best serving dishes and crockery. Under this should be a decadent table cloth (stripes or florals are best), a liberal use of doilies, folded napkins, and (of course) nameplates.

The Dishes

Aim for floral chinaware, but don’t worry about things matching. You should make sure to have a teapot, teacups, silverware, cake slicer, dessert plates, and cream and sugar dispensers. Your jams, preserves, and clotted cream should be plated in fancy serving dishes with utensils.

The Food

Although luxurious, afternoon tea isn’t meant to be a meal. Think small and dainty for everything. Your tiered cake stand should have a layer of miniature sandwiches, a layer of scones, and a layer of teacakes. Also good to have are a variety of savoury and sweet items like pastries and desserts.

The Drinks

Hot tea is assumed but iced tea is also appropriate with afternoon tea. As well you can create special Pimm’s cocktails and mimosas if you so desire.

For your hot teas offer a variety, everything from Earl Grey to fruit. If you have loose leaf now is the time to bring it out! Brew your tea between three and six minutes to maximize the flavour and health benefits.

The Etiquette

Most venues have a relaxed dress code for afternoon tea but this is the perfect excuse to dress up.When eating place your napkin on your lap, not on the table. Since the food is miniature it’s acceptable to treat it as finger food. However, if it’s messy use a fork.

And yes, there is a right way to stir your tea. Place your spoon in a six o’clock position in the cup and fold the tea towards the 12 o’clock position (without clinking!). Hold the handle of your teacup using your thumb and your first one or two fingers. Avoid blowing on the tea and when you’re not drinking tea, place the cup on the saucer.

I can’t think of the last time I took time to savour the moment. Enjoying a decadent afternoon tea seems like the perfect way to slow down and reflect on my day.

Robyn Roste lives and works in Abbotsford. She loves telling stories and learning more about her city.

Three Unique Breakfast Diners in Historic Downtown Abbotsford

There are many reasons to visit Historic Downtown Abbotsford. Crafty gift shops, one-of-a-kind retailers, and, my favourite, breakfast diners. Here are three of my favourite places to enjoy home cooking and local flavour.

O’Neills Home Cooking
33771 Gosling Way

Found just off the beaten path this breakfast and lunch take-out joint is best-known for the O’Neill Classic--a homemade (every morning) sweet potato bun topped with egg, cheese, ham, mayo, and honey mustard. Owner Vernon O’Neill promises if you eat there once, you’ll bring a friend next time. What more could you want?


Mitch Miller’s
33758 Essendene Avenue

Located in the heart of downtown, Mitch Miller’s offers a huge breakfast menu including a wide selection of omelettes, pancakes, and sizzlers. With gluten-free and vegetarian options as well as classic breakfast choices, there’s something for everyone at Mitch Miller’s.

Ann Marie’s Cafe
33771 George Ferguson Way

Abbotsford’s only 50s-style diner serves classic eggs benedict, omelets, and skillets. Pull up a stool and escape the daily grind in this friendly neighbourhood eatery. Read any review and you’ll learn about the great service, customer loyalty, and the must-try dishes. Come in person and take the first step in becoming a regular.

I can never get enough breakfast so if there are any great restaurants missing from this list please let me know! I’ll make sure to check them out.

Robyn Roste lives and works in Abbotsford. She loves telling stories and learning more about her city.

Outdoor Activities for Brisk Autumn Days

If the brisk autumn weather makes you crave the outdoors, there are some lovely and local farm stops you have to make before the season ends.

Taves Family Farm - Applebarn

Just north of the border on Gladwin road is the sprawling Taves Family Farm, also known as Applebarn. A popular destination for artisan food lovers and families alike, there is something for everyone at this stop on the Circle Farm Tour.

Owner Loren Taves showed me around his farm, explaining how they continue to grow each year, adding attractions like a petting zoo, a corn maze, hayrides, jumping pillows, and a zip line. Catering to the under 12 crowd, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy all day long.

But before you forget, Applebarn is still a working farm. With acres of greenhouses, apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and a country store, you can find fresh-grown apples, peppers, eggplant, pumpkins, squash and more along with homemade honey and cider.

Your armband is all you need to access all the activities on-site but if a quick trip is all you’re interested in you can also visit Applebarn at the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market.

Abbotsford Farm & Country Marke

Until Christmas, Saturdays from 9-1, at the end of Montrose Avenue off George Ferguson Way becomes the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market.

Market manager Bruce Fatkin told me one of their unique features is when you speak to a vendor, you’re talking to a person directly involved in creating the product you’re purchasing.

The Abbotsford market carries a variety of fruit, vegetables, jams, baked goods, soaps, jewelry, and more, all from local vendors selling in season. If you’re looking for organic, local, artisan products at competitive prices make sure to visit the market.

Bruce said one difference between farm markets and grocery stores are the amounts you buy. At a market you tend to purchase what you’ll consume in a week whereas at larger stores your tendency is to purchase food in bulk.

Watch the market website for the addition of local wine, beer, and spirit sales, expected to join the vendor list in the coming weeks.

Robyn Roste lives and works in Abbotsford. She loves telling stories and learning more about her city.

From Farm to Market to Fork

by Robyn Roste

Farming is woven into the fabric of this community from east to west, north to south, and back again. This week the Circle Farm Tour took me from one side of town to the other.


Just off the Abbotsford-Mission Highway sits Lepp Farm Market. I arrived as it opened for the day, already bustling with shoppers coming for groceries, breakfast, and morning coffee.

The farm, best known for its homegrown pork and chicken, has market butchers to ensure top-quality meat. Co-owner Charlotte Lepp gave me a glimpse behind the cooler door to see how their meat is processed.

Charlotte explained their farm philosophy is centred on cooking good food and sharing it with people you love, which is why they post recipes and blogs on their website and host cooking classes with celebrity chefs.

They stock the ingredients you need to cook dinner. Their products must meet strict criteria—would Char serve it on her dinner table? If the product is local, top quality, and beautiful, you will find it at Lepp Farm Market.

Right now apples, squash, and all sorts of gourds and pumpkins fill the white tents outside the market, with many more pumpkins ripening in the field behind.

Camplbells Gold

Nearing Aldergrove off Lefeuvre Road is Cambell’s Gold Honey Farm and Meadery. This is extraction season for the busy beekeepers but co-owners Mike and Judy Campbell took the time to show me the heart of their farm (the hives) and their business (the honey).

I was instructed to stay calm as I approached the bees, which I suppose was as much for the bees’ protection as for my own safety. Watching honey bees work is fascinating—they extract moisture from the nectar while adding enzymes to create honey.

Judy then took me to watch an extraction where I learned more about honey and the Campbell’s Gold country market, which carries honey and hive-related products. The mead and honey wine display is especially enticing.

The back of the red barn is filled to the brim with holding tanks filtering uncapped honey and fermenting fruit for wine. The back vineyards are producing pears, apples, elderberries, grapes, currants, blueberries, and raspberries.


Towards the Sumas border crossing lies the Bakerview EcoDairy, home to mascot Vicki the Cow. I arrived as an afternoon strike camp commenced in the upstairs play area.

In partnership with Science World, the 80-acre demonstration dairy farm caters to elementary-aged children with a mind to help them discover the technology behind where their food comes from. The interactive displays allow you to milk a cow, see a cow’s digestive system, and learn about manure.
The dairy also boasts a robotic milking machine where cows practice voluntary milking. I lingered here, watching the cows line up for milking. Lucy Johannsohn, the marketing manager, told me the machine tests the milk for bacteria, quality, and more. If it doesn’t meet their standards, it is kept separate.

When you visit the EcoDairy you can tour the dairy, visit the petting zoo featuring goats on the roof, calves, turkeys and pigs, and spend time on the picnic grounds.

Discover Downtown Abbotsford

Discover Downtown Abbotsford

One of the best things about living in Abbotsford is the opportunity to do so many different things and explore so many unique neighbourhoods.

One of my family’s favourite places is Downtown Abbotsford where we can wander among both modern buildings and historically restored shops. We love identifying the buildings we’ve seen in movies and TV shows over the years. We’ll be watching this holiday season for the movie “The Christmas Secret” that was filmed around Spruce Collective on Montrose earlier this year. We were there when they were filming with artificial snow and Christmas trees in March! Did you know that our old downtown is a much sought after filming location? Kinda fun right? You never know when you’ll see a film crew in our community.

Heading out early on Saturday mornings to the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market has become a family tradition. My kids love the giant pretzels from Gesundheit Bakery’s big van and our dog loves wandering the market because lots of little ones stop by to pet him. Being a fox terrier he’s low enough to the ground that he’s the perfect height for greetings from toddlers. They sometimes “accidently” share their treats with him too! I love being able to speak to the farmers who grow the beautiful produce; it’s so reassuring to know that the food I’m feeding my family is organic and spray free. From fresh bread, local honey, delicious cheeses, organic produce, beautiful crafts and so much more – the market is THE place to be on Saturday mornings. Plus, we always run into someone we know – it’s a great place to see friends. The market is on every Saturday through December 20th (in the fall they move inside the United Church) from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. The market is located at the foot of Montrose Street.

After exploring the market, we head up the street to Duft & Co. Bakehouse for a fresh croissant or muffin and hot chocolate for the kids, coffee for the Mr and me! Fresh baked every day, Duft & Co. has made a huge mark on the community. They’ve become so popular that often they are completely sold out of everything by mid-afternoon. Baker Tyler Duft told me that he’s up a 4:00 a.m. each day to start creating his delicious breads, pastries and other treats. It’s definitely worth a stop for a quick bite, a longer lunch (they serve lunch weekdays) or to grab something delicious to take home.

Just a few steps up the street from Duft & Co. you’ll find Spruce Collection. This beautiful store is owned by five talented women who came together to share their love of vintage with the community. You’ll find gorgeous furniture, home furnishing and accessories here, plus paint and hardware to finish that perfect project. You can also rent their furnishings for photo shoots, weddings and special events. This unique shop has quickly become a “must see” shop for anyone who wants to add a unique flair to their home.

Whatever your interests, I know you’ll find something in our beautiful downtown to suit you. Whether you’re a music buff, love books, beads or fitness – you’ll find something just for you! You can find out more on the Downtown Abbotsford website. Enjoy exploring – maybe I’ll see you downtown!

Get out and have some fun in our great community. Share your discoveries and photos on our Facebook page – we’d love to know what fun you’ve found.

Adventures on Sumas Prairie

By: Robyn Roste – a friend of Mrs. Abbotsford

As I studied the Circle Farm Tour map I noticed although the self-guided tour is spread well across the city, the farms seem to be grouped in threes. I decided visiting farms in groups of three would be an easy and fun way to explore my city.

Granny & Grumpa's Antiques

I started at the beginning. In this case, Granny and Grumpa’s Antiques located on Sumas Prairie.

Turns out this impressive collection housed in the heart of the Fraser Valley is only 13 kilometres out of central Abbotsford. And even if I hadn’t seen the giant sign from the road I could have followed the traffic. It seems everyone else had the same idea as me.

I had no idea what to expect, but after the initial shock of how huge this place is (multiple barns, filled with every antique you can imagine) I wondered what treasure was hidden within for me. Wandering from barn to barn I scanned thousands of items like wheelchairs, a room of dolls, and a wall of 2,300 different pop bottles.

Upon exiting Grumpa stopped to make sure I enjoyed my visit. We chatted for a bit until another visitor approached, looking to barter. Grumpa waved me off as he engaged in the lively banter.

Birchwood Dairy

Five minutes down the road was my next stop, Birchwood Dairy.

This thriving family-run dairy farm operates a country store and wholesale business. The scale of their operation, which includes milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese, means they use every drop of milk their farm produces plus some to help meet the demand for their produce.

Kayla, the store supervisor, toured me around the operation pointing out all the areas the farm has open to the public, including a viewing room into the milking parlour where cows come at 3 p.m. every day.

Behind the store and silos is the maternity barn, where visitors can see cows a few weeks out from giving birth, and calves who aren’t quite ready to join the rest of the herd.

After my tour I ventured back to the maternity barn for a little more visiting with the calves. If they didn’t keep trying to lick me I may have stayed longer. Also I had a sudden craving for ice cream.

FV Trout Hatchery

Turning towards town I drove another five minutes to the Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery.

I arrived as one of the many Learn to Fish programs commenced. I watched the children tear around the education centre exclaiming at the different fish before gathering in the amphitheatre.

Sport Fishing Development Co-ordinator Mike Gaas and Outreach Co-ordinator Tanya Laird showed me some of the 40-acre property from the fry troughs and stocked ponds to the complete pool renovation to help the hatchery operate with greater energy efficiency.  

The goal of the non-profit organization is to create ethically responsible anglers while helping people connect with and appreciate the outdoors. Their Learn to Fish program is the main way they educate future anglers, but their self-guided tour is also educational.

This hatchery is the hub in BC, responsible for raising more than 2.5 million trout and stocking a couple hundred lakes each year. They depend on partnerships with the province, BC Hydro, and corporate sponsors.

These three stops were a great way to start my tour!

Robyn Roste lives and works in Abbotsford. She loves telling stories and learning more about her city.