May 312013


The past several months have been jam packed with activity. Between finishing up school, coaching soccer, lambing, and the farmers markets there has been little time to play. And what’s life without a little play time. So I decided to take a couple of half days off and drive down back country roads snapping photos. Ah, what total bliss!


 Posted by at 7:23 am
Aug 012012

For years, our business had a web site with a blog on the side. Our site was professional, informative, and well, not exactly cold, but not warm and engaging either. Bored with our static online presence I was looking for something more dynamic. It was time to give our blog center stage. But that meant I was going to need a continual stream of interesting photos for our new show and tell format.

So I was on the hunt. I read every web site and article I could find on cameras and food photography. I finally decided on an older model Canon EOS 550D with a 50 mm f/1.4 lens. The price was right and the added features of the newer models were not needed for what I was doing.

lamb chiliBut who would have guessed there was so much involved in still life photography. I think my photos are getting better or at least I hope they are. I find I am naturally starting to think my way through how I want to style a dish as I am cooking. But when the time comes for the photo shoot, there is still so much to consider. What dish shows off the food best? Does it need accessories to better cue the viewer about hidden ingredients? Is the light right or are the shadows too dark? Oh, darn, is that frig in the background too distracting? The list seems to go on and on.

So I have been practicing by taking photos of all the dishes we make in the kitchen for the farmers markets. These won’t necessarily be added to the blog but I can use them as marketing tools.

The shoot the other day included Three Bean Lamb Chili, one of my favorites. This dish is full of great ingredients including a stout beer. My kitchen window has the best light, so I snapped the shots there and then ran to the office to download the photos. It had been a busy day so after a quick look, I returned to the kitchen and finished cleaning up. It wasn’t until later that I sat down to review each photo.

I had simply spooned the chili into the bowl, not really moving any of the ingredients around preferring a more natural look. Or so I thought. But then I began to really look at all the photos. How is it that all the tomatoes are on one side of the bowl and all the kidney beans on the other? I mean, how is that possible! It’s hardly noticeable from the front shots, but my favorite shot, of course, is an overhead picture that clearly shows my blunder. Ugh!

three bean chili

It wasn’t a total loss, as I’ve unquestionably learned the most from my less than successful photos. For example, never, ever rush. Take a breath if necessary, and just enjoy the moment. And always take an extra minute to focus on each of the different elements of the photo.

Who knew there would be so much to see thru the lens.

 Posted by at 12:00 pm
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
Jul 152012

Chicken is one of my favorite proteins. Nothing beats a good chicken stock and nutritious soup when feeling under the weather or brings everyone home for Sunday dinner like a slow roasted chicken with root vegetables. And when the heat spikes in the summer it is the go to meat for an easy and light salad.

Here are two of my favorites.

orchard chicken salad

Orchard Chicken Salad

  • 5 boneless, skinless cooked chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  • 2 medium apples, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • salt & pepper, to taste

In a large bowl toss chicken, apples, celery, raisins, and cranberries.

Season with celery salt, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix in mayonnaise.

Serve chilled in lettuce cups or on brioche rolls.

curry chicken salad

 Curry Chicken Salad

  • 4 boneless, skinless cooked chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 cup celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green  parts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
  • 1 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 tablespoons chutney
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder

In a large bowl toss chicken, celery, scallions, raisins, and nuts.

For dressing, mix mayonnaise, white wine, chutney, and curry powder in medium size bowl. Blend until smooth using a hand whisk.

Add dressing to chicken and other ingredients, stir gently until thoroughly coated.

For best results let sit in refrigerator for an hour to allow flavors to blend. Serve chilled in lettuce cups or on brioche rolls.

Here in the South, we don’t have to look hard for a good reason to get together for a summer tea with finger sandwiches. These salads work great on sliced mini croissant rolls or served in preformed wonton cups. Both were a favorite at our local garden club luncheons.

Going to a summer get together? What sandwich tops your list?

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
Jun 292012

I’ve been working in the garden all morning and decided it was time to take a much needed break as well as grab some lunch. I am afraid those beautiful days from earlier in the week of low humidity and highs of 80 are gone for the summer

I thought I would share some of the photos of my gardens from last spring. First I should warn you, I have my gardens subdivided into several smaller gardens. I am definitely a perfectionist by nature and perhaps a bit of a control freak. This allows me to keep my sanity by being able to get in and work in agarden finishing whatever needs to be done. I also like to focus on different types of plantings in different areas. Let’s see, there is the…

  • Raised bed vegetable garden — unfortunately, time got away from me this year and I only have a few herbs and tomatoes planted.
  • Perennial sun garden — mostly drought resistant plants.
  • Hydrangea garden — that boosts a gorgeous dogwood along with ferns, spring bulbs, and a liriope border.
  • Deciduous garden — with an oriental feel, it is full of beautiful specimens of dwarf cypress, evergreens, and a Japanese maple.
  • Shade or hosta garden — mostly hostas, astilbes, and bleeding hearts.
  • Bird bath garden — partial shade/sun, really a mixture of plants, mostly spring perennials and summer annuals.
  • Echinacea garden — small area near the shed where I decided to focus solely on all the beautiful types of echinacea.
  • Butterfly garden — with three butterfly bushes as well as other wonderful flowers all chosen to attract butterflies.
  • Rose garden — lines the front of our fence with roses, boxwood, and hostas.

And one garden that is still under construction — the fragance/herb garden. Someday on the list would be a night garden (only white flowers) surrounding the back patio and a small fruit tree orchard. I am thinking 2 apples, 2 pears, and 2 peach trees along with a handful of blueberry bushes. I have to admit though, being so spoiled by all the wonderful fruit and orchard vendors at the farmers market this one might not happen any time soon.

spring garden

Small Garden


hosta garden

Hosta Garden


chicken in garden

Chicken Garden Ornament

 Posted by at 2:02 am