Aug 112012


August is county fair season. And I can safely say that I have never missed a county fair in 25 35, okay, 40-something years. I mean ever! I was born in November and by the following August I was in a baby stroller attending my first fair. From the age of 9 to 19 I showed Jersey cows. Every year my family loaded up bags of feed, hay bales, straw, pitchforks, buckets, brushes, halters, hoses, cattle clippers, and portable milking equipment and headed to the county fair. We would arrive at the fairgrounds with a trailer load of cows from 6 months to 12 years old, filling half the barn. It was always a family affair including grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles and cousins galore. My Grandfather Bob, along with my father and uncles built many of the barns still there today.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Jerseys, they are a beautiful fawn colored dairy cow. They can be brown and white or can range from very light solid brown to almost black. I should also mention that I grew up in a family with a very sarcastic sense of humor. So what would start off on Monday as very informative answers to common urbanite questions often gave way to quick wit and humor by the end of a very long and exhausting week. One year we had a black Jersey cow in the show herd and by Friday my uncles had convinced most of the innocent city folk passing through that she gave chocolate milk.  Sigh…

cookiesGetting married didn’t end my county fair career, it only perpetuated another generation of county fair goers. Like me, Corey grew up attending his county fair every year. His Grandfather David was fair president and his Grandmother Boots (the other side of the family) manned the information desk for years. As newlyweds, we exhibited purebred sheep and before long our children were following our footsteps showing livestock of their own. They have shown dairy cows, beef cows, sheep, hogs, rabbits and goats. This year my youngest daughter will be showing her very first chickens.

The county fair is so much more than animals, barbeque chicken dinners, carnival rides, and funnel cakes. Oh, don’t misunderstand, those are all important necessities. But the county fair is also the time of year when the whole community comes together to socialize, reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen in years (or since last year) and sharing stories with neighbors. It is the very essence of community.

Inspired by fellow blogger Tara Weaver of Tea & Cookie, I decided to reflect on the community I live in and offer my neighbors some face to face handshakes and hugs. I have met so many wonderful people through my food blog and Twitter. But I also need to remember to take my passion for food, bake a batch of cookies, stir up some sweet tea and share myself with my offline community too.


When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, there is simply nothing better than the real thing. I always follow the Original Nestle Toll House recipe as reprinted below.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate morsels

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combineflour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  5. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

 Posted by at 8:04 am
Jul 262012


I found this old newspaper clipping of my dad and uncles in a Hecht Company ad in the Washington Post dated 8-19-1957. Left to right, Michael Stiles, Kenneth Stiles, and Dad, Blair Stiles, getting their calf, Playmate, ready for the Montgomery County (MD) Fair.


 Posted by at 1:23 am
Jun 132012

How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? — by Dr. Seuss

How is it possible that June is half way over. Let’s see, what we have done so far…

Both my daughter’s high school soccer team and my boys’ team made it to the state tournament. I think we’ve seen all of Virginia from the valley of Stuarts Draft to the beaches of Northampton to the mountains of Radford. We are so proud of both teams. The boys made it to the quarter finals and the girls to the semi-finals. So now we bid a farewell to soccer season. I have washed and counted uniforms and stored away all the equipment until next February. How I miss my team when soccer season is over.

With our minds so preoccupied with sports, I think I am going to need a machete to weed the gardens. (I have to admit, that might be why I am on here writing a blog entry!)

We’ve been to both our county fair and state fair weigh-ins. The kids will be showing lambs and goats again this year. For those of you who have heard about the VA State Fair bankruptcy, don’t fret. Virginia has a fantastic network of livestock breeders, ag businesses, extension leaders, and advocates. Juniors will still be able to show at the 2012 Virginia Junior Livestock Expo. Corey is serving on several of the committees and reports that preliminary planning is going smoothly.

This past week we lost one of our favorite ewes, Crazy Carl. Named appropriately because she was always so hard to catch. She was thirteen last February — which is very old for a sheep. We also lost one of our lambs to what appears to be an immature coyote kill. Needless to say, bush hogging the fields just moved up on the priority list.

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 Posted by at 7:58 pm