I’ve said it before and it bears repeating, there are some very wonderful people writing blogs and there are some exceptional people who write food blogs. If I had to choose one blog that I thoroughly enjoy reading out of all the blogs I follow regularly, it would be Hotly Spiced. If you have never visited this blog before, run, don’t walk over there.
Every blog post is a daily peek into the life of a busy wife, mother and author. Her enthusiasm for life makes us all want to be more like her.
The brains behind the blog belong to Charlie Louis who began life in Wellington, New Zealand. I know because it’s in a blog post she wrote last year about why her name really is Charlie Louis. Read this one post and you’ll be hooked. I was. I will admit that I like the quirky name Charlie Louis better than Jean.
Charlie’s family moved permanently to Sydney when she was only 12. After finishing high school she seriously considered becoming a professional cook but that would have meant she lived close enough to college that she could live at home and that would never do for one so ready to explore her world as an adult. She chose a nursing degree instead because that meant moving out on her own.
She’s always loved cooking, even as a young girl she enjoyed making cakes from a box . Her mother always said yes but in the back of her mind she knew her daughter would never clean up properly. I didn’t often get a chance to cook when I was young and I wish I had. I had to learn by watching because my mother knew I’d make a huge mess. (I probably would have but I’d have had a great time.)
If you read the About page on Hotly Spiced, it gives a huge insight into why Charlie started her blog. She’s a writer down to the deepest corners of her soul. Cooking is her therapy and writing her blog is as necessary for her as beating her heart or breathing. It comes through every post.
Over the past ten years she’s written several manuscripts and submitted them to publishers and was told that they couldn’t consider her because she wasn’t popular. How short sighted. I’d buy her book in an instant and then stay up all night reading it – under the covers with a candle if necessary. She often thinks about self-publishing but that’s a huge job to not only write it and publish it but there’s the enormous effort to promote a self-published book. Nobody would want to write a book that only a few people got to read.
In addition to Hotly Spiced which must take a huge amount of time, Charlie is also married to Carl, loves the letter A for her gorgeous children, Archie, Alfie and Arabella, cares for Rosie the dog, looks after the house, has a dance card that’s always filled and still finds time to swim nearly every day and keep up with her friends.
If that’s not enough, she’s also a regular writer for Village Voices, part of the parenting and pregnancy resource site, Kidspot. Her most recent post there is for a mouthwatering meatloaf to help Charlie recover from taking Arabella to the child psychologist to help her deal with her “issues”. Issues being parents, of course.
Honestly, you see these women on TV who do it all and have it all? That’s Charlie. Before you start to hate her (we all hate women who are gorgeous, talented and have it all, don’t we?) the BEST bit is that she shows us in her writing that her life isn’t always perfect, her home isn’t always perfect and her children are not always (but mostly) perfect. Her life is as wacky as all of ours — combined.
Like the time she was walking to the vet and got sprung by an ex-boyfriend (a now well known barrister) while wearing old stretched out jeans and a baggy cardigan. That post earned us lamb shanks with gremolata. You KNOW we want to look like a million dollars when the ex-boyfriend sees us. “See what you missed?” Apparently that didn’t come up at this chance meeting.
When asked how she possibly keeps up with all of it, she admitted that housework, sleep and TV time have all been reduced. I don’t know a food blogger who can’t say the same thing.
I follow her blog by email but just before bed I always take a quick peek to see if there’s a new post up before the mail notice arrives. I think that says it all. She makes me laugh.
As quickly as I write that though, her own favourite post is Remembering a First Kiss that was touching and warm and sad all rolled together. It was a post that affected a lot of people, including me and many people wrote to her privately to tell her they were touched.
All her posts have the most fantastic food. Charlie is a brilliant cook and I’m not surprised that she once considered becoming a chef.
Humour comes right back when I asked her which two posts were the most popular. Recently we lived through Arabella choosing an extremely expensive dress for her formal only to decide that she needed two dresses and could Charlie dash her off to a tailor on the other side of town who would make this gorgeous dress she had imagined in her head. As any mother who could, would, they dashed across town, ate dinner with the tailor, went back for a second fitting, and picked up the dress with about 30 seconds to spare before the formal. We were all cheering for Arabella when she got “the glange”.
The other popular post was Nudity has Its Advantages where Archie, away at boarding school ended up flashing his wedding tackle when the housemaster burst into his room to see why he’d missed the nightly house meeting. Now consider that after a story like that, Charlie needed to segue into a Mediterranean Frittata from organic eggs given to her by fellow blogger Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.
She and Carl love to eat out but he often dreads her critical eye. She swears it’s just being observant. I can relate to this so much. My husband only notices things that are important to him. So this conversation could be had on a date night at my house too but this was Charlie and Carl:
A fine dining restaurant and the waitress had a tongue piercing. When she talked she opened her mouth really wide so everyone could see the stud in her tongue and she kept running her tongue over her teeth with her mouth open.
Charlie: That’s really putting me off my food.
Carl: What is?
Because Charlie’s blog is so good, I asked her if she had any tips for promoting a blog. Ever humble she said that she’s still trying to get her head around social media so her approach is to write material that people relate to, giving them a reason to come back. No hype, just write a good blog. Expert advice.
Why Hotly Spiced?
I was going to call my blog something completely different and it had a much longer name but I received some advice from a guy with 10 years experience in a real estate blog who told me I needed a name of no more than two or three words that will be easy for people to remember. I wanted a word that related to my stories and a word that related to the food. I thought of ‘Hot and Spicy’ but that had been taken so I went with Hotly Spiced. I made that decision in a nano-second and I think I got lucky.
Any Do’s or Don’ts for new food bloggers or bloggers wanting to improve?
Apart from good content there are a few things that can help fast-track success. Make sure you have a very user friendly site so readers can navigate through it easily and will therefore want to come back.
For those on Blogger make sure you have the URL/Name option in your commenting system. Many WordPress bloggers are unable to comment without that option.
I love sites where I don’t have to endure the captcha word verification process.
I remind myself that no one has come to my site to read something the length of War and Peace. I try to limit the length of the story part of my posts to less than a thousand words with 700 being ideal.
Blogging is not just words, it’s a visual medium so include a few images.
Proof-read three times before hitting publish.
Build and develop relationships by engaging with those who leave comments. It’s good to reply to all comments and visit their blogs. Other bloggers can be your biggest fans.
Don’t leave a comment if you didn’t read the post!
You post every day.
I set a goal at the end of last year to post everyday but I don’t always manage it due to schedules and commitments and the unexpected that take my attention. I think like everyone else I aim high and if I manage to get nearly there I tell myself ‘well done’.
I know she’s right about every one of these, especially that proofread one. This post is terribly guilty of being too long. I apologise but the recipe has a lot of words too and those don’t count, do they? A story about Charlie couldn’t possibly fit in 700 words. You can follow Charlie on Pinterest.
I always end every interview asking about food memories and Charlie shared her mother’s lovely Bacon and Egg Pie. Her mother used to make this pie when Charlie was a kid and then take it to a nearby beach to be eaten warm.
I will admit that before moving to Australia, the closest I’d come to bacon and egg pie was a quiche. This is my husbands favorite pie.
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 4 rashers of rindless bacon, finely sliced
- 1 brown onion, finely sliced
- 4 roma tomatoes
- 10 eggs
- 100ml thickened cream
- ½ bunch parsley finely chopped
- 10 sheets of filo pastry
- 60gms melted butter
- Pre-heat oven to 180C, fan-forced, 200c if not fan-forced.
- In a medium-sized frying pan gently heat olive oil. Add bacon and onion and stir until bacon becomes slightly crisp and the onion softens.
- Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add tomatoes and remove once skins have begun to split (about 1 minutes). Peel tomatoes and discard skin. Chop tomatoes and add to the bacon mixture and cook until liquid (from tomatoes) has reduced.
- Crack 4 of the eggs into a medium sized bowl. Add the cream, season, then whisk. Add parsley.
- Brush 6 sheets of filo pastry with butter, fold in half and use to line the bottom and sides of a large pie dish. (Mine was 27cm in diameter). Pour in bacon and tomato mixture. Pour egg and cream mixture over the top. Crack remaining six eggs on top of the cream mixture. Seal with remaining sheets of filo pastry brushed with butter.
- Fold over edges of pastry to seal the pie filling.
- Optional: Lightly beat an egg and brush over the top of the pastry. (I like to do this because it makes the pastry go crunchy in texture and golden in colour).
- Place in oven for 40 minutes.
- Serve hot or cold with a salad.