14 Years of C&Z: 14 Lessons for Blogging and Life

Hey, you know what I did fourteen years ago, like, to the day? I went ahead and created a blog! About food! And I called it, wait for it, Chocolate & Zucchini. Because it had a nice ring to it, and I liked chocolate, and I liked zucchini (and fortunately still do).

It has been an utterly amazing fourteen-year ride, and most of my life’s blessings have come directly or indirectly from that single decision.

Where and who would I be if I hadn’t created C&Z? It’s anyone’s guess and it makes me a little dizzy just thinking about it, but I can’t imagine possibly finding a more fulfilling, happier life path. (It’s a good feeling.)

To celebrate, I’ve put together this little bonus for you:

First, I want to thank you, whether you’ve been reading for fourteen seconds, fourteen weeks, or fourteen years. None of this would make sense, or even be possible, if it wasn’t for your interest and your readership.

I have done a lot of learning, thinking, and growing over the past fourteen years, and I want to pass on these fourteen lessons for blogging and life. I hope some of these resonate with you. I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts if they do!

Basket of produce at the market

Note: This is a little different from what I do normally. If you’re just here for the food, I can perhaps interest you in this feta and fresh herb quick bread or this aquafaba chocolate mousse. For the others, please pull up a chair!

1. Thrill yourself first

There is an infinity of things you could be doing, exploring, talking about, practising, writing about… How do you avoid overwhelm and paralysis? By using the only relevant compasses: your passion and your curiosity.

When I’m figuring out what to share with you on C&Z, this is always my first question: does it thrill me? If it doesn’t, why would anyone else care?

Now, I won’t say I hit the nail on the head with every single post. But thrill is my editorial line, and I like to think that, over time, it adds up to create a consistent, cohesive source of inspiration that like-minded readers can tap into.

Des Gâteaux et du Pain

2. Be of service

While I believe the motivation for sharing has to come from my own passion (see above), the way I share must be focused on others. Readers are not a mirror held up for the writer to admire how clever and how creative he/she is. I want you to come to me knowing you will leave refreshed, inspired, entertained, having learned something new.

Nothing gives more meaning to life than being in a position to help others, teach what you know, offer your experience, and clear a path for who wants to follow. It is a worthy life goal to find your way to that position, or tweak your current position to be more like that.

3. Connection is gold

It’s going to sound sappy, but it’s true: I am honestly and sincerely grateful for every single individual who comes across Chocolate & Zucchini, stops by to read what I write, gives me permission to send them my newsletter, drops me a line, or takes a chance on one of my books.

The gratitude is too much to hold in my brain all at the same time, but I put it in practice by valuing every connection, however small. I do my best to respond to every comment and every email, and to acknowledge every hat tip and mention on social media. Is it scalable? No. Will I do it until I die really can’t any more? Yes.

Being generous — with my time, my attention, my kindness, my knowledge and, when it comes to it, my money — is the value I hold above all others. Those fourteen years have shown me for certain that the Internet is governed by karmic rules, and you reap what you sow 100% of the time. Best be on the good end of that stick.

Cuillier Coffee Shop at 19 rue Yvonne Le Tac in Paris' 18th arrondissement.

4. Do other stuff

For those of us who pursue a single, all-encompassing passion, it is easy to give it ALL THE SPACE, to live and breathe and sleep and talk and read through it every moment of every day. It’s what we love, right?

As it turns out, holding space for other interests is the healthier thing to do. It prevents you from spinning your wheels or burning out, it creates a sense of balance in your life, and it can in fact fuel your main passion in unexpected ways with a fresh perspective and new doses of inspiration.

This is why I don’t watch any food television, or read very many food memoirs anymore. In between my cooking and food writing activities, I know I need to feed (pun intended) other loves. Maybe it’s drawing, lettering, sewing, going to see art exhibitions, memorizing poems, listening to podcasts… I see such clear benefits when I heed this advice.

5. Give yourself permission to grow

It’s okay to change. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to do things that you swore you would never do back when you thought you knew everything (*cough* pre-kids *cough*). You’re not betraying who you were; you’re just growing, and hey, it’s a good thing. You can stop growing when you’re dead.

One major growth spurt for me occurred, unsurprisingly, when I had children. It is such a ginormous identity shift that it took me a few years to embrace the new me in real life (they don’t tell you that in pregnancy books), let alone in my blogging life.

I remember being uncomfortable about it for a while. I was intent on not changing a single thing, on not becoming one of those bloggers engulfed by motherhood, and I felt stung on the (count ’em, two) occasions a reader told me, in essence, “I liked your blog better when you didn’t have kids.”

In hindsight, I’m only sorry I cared so much. (I was also exhausted all. of. the. time, and that didn’t help with perspective.) In time, I eased into the part of myself who is a mother, and I can now effortlessly decide when it is relevant to mention my children, and when it doesn’t bring much to the topic at hand.

When you change, you win some and lose some. Nothing you can do about it, and worrying about it is a waste of energy. I hope I remember this when I handle the changes that will inevitably present themselves down the road.

It's a new day

6. Try new things

Our modern lives and our modern jobs are such balancing acts. When you’ve gotten into a rhythm, it feels scary to change things up, especially for those of us who are risk-averse. But if you can get into a playful mindset, then you are free to experiment. And that’s what keeps us young and nimble; failure and rejection are just opportunities to learn.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” is a good question to ask, and truly get to the bottom of. No, really, what is the absolute worst that could happen? Is it so bad, and why does it scare you so much?

In fourteen years of Chocolate & Zucchini, I have seen a lot of online trends and evolutions come and go, or sometimes stay for good. Nobody knows what’s going to stick and what’s going to pass, and the experts’ guesses are only slightly better than yours and mine.

So my approach is to look at emerging tools and usages not as commandments (“Thou shalt Snapchat!”) but as new toys to play with.

If I’m curious about them, if I think they may add something to my site, to my message, and to my interactions with you, if I’m in a season of my life when I have time, then I’ll experiment and evaluate: how can I make them work for me without going crazy (more on that below), i.e. what do I need to stop doing to make room for this?

7. Focus

One of my favorite maxims is À l’impossible, nul n’est tenu: nobody can be expected to do the impossible.

This includes: being everything to everybody, having a finger in every pie, pursuing the million different ideas you have all at once, keeping abreast of every news and trend, saying yes to every possible opportunity, keeping up with aaaaallll the Joneses in the world, winning at every social media game.

Nope. Not happening.

Best to apply the Pareto principle (20% of our efforts yield 80% of our results), with some Essentialism and a bit of The One Thing thrown in.

And if it feels difficult to let go of certain opportunities, just recognize that there are seasons to your life — personal, relational, spiritual, professional — and this is going to be your season of just this one project or aspect of your life, and not that and all the other things. You will be setting aside stores of energy and freshness for the next season of your life, when you decide it’s time to shift your focus to something else.

For instance, when I was working on my upcoming cookbook, Tasting Paris, I was thrilled about it yet it was also frustrating to have to let some things slide, or put other exciting projects on the back burner, such as exploring fun collaborations, developing the coaching program I’ve been thinking about… But this is what I was doing then, and I was for sure going to enjoy every minute of it.

And within just a few months, when the finished manuscript flew from my kitchen to my editor’s desk, I was all the more pleased to devote some time to launching my new podcast, Change ma vie.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

8. Prioritize sleep

I used to be slightly neurotic about getting eight solid hours of sleep (would you believe I never pulled an all-nighter in my entire life?). But then I had newborns, and discovered I could actually function on much less (though not comfortably so).

Since then, I’ve often negotiated with myself about bedtime, thinking I can get away with spending just a leeeeettle more time (mostly on the computer) doing this or that, as if those nighttime hours were a free bonus. They are not. It is never a good idea, and I always end up regretting it.

If this is something you’ve also been grappling with, I recommend Sarah Ballantyne’s Go-to-bed program that includes a fun 14-day challenge. The e-book has been illuminating to me on the role of sleep in our overall health and energy, and it offers a lot of actionable advice (food-related in particular) to establish better sleep habits. Again: work in progress, but step number one is recognizing this is a pain point. (Right?)

9. Invest in yourself

I once read in a financial advice column that if you have money to invest, putting it toward your own education and growth will get you the best possible interest rate, if those new skills allow you to make a better living down the road. The article referred to earning more actual cash, but doing something you really like and improving your emotional life are equally valuable in my book.

This notion stuck with me, and since then I have been much more intentional about setting aside the time and budget to learn new things, improve my craft, reflect upon myself, and expand my skillset.

In addition to purchasing (and actually reading) business and productivity books, this has meant signing up for online courses and actually applying the material. I’ve been a long-time member of Food Blogger Pro, I got ah-mazing value from The Food Photography School (they’ve just released new modules that look fantastic), I’ve been going through The Perfect Voice training, and I participate in Brooke Castillo’s coaching program.

Raw Chocolate Truffles

10. Think like a pro

Because I first created Chocolate & Zucchini as a passion project and dreamed up a job description for myself, it took me a while to put myself in a resolutely professional mindset. Let me be clear: I have taken it 100% seriously from day one, but I have sometimes lagged a little when it came to putting systems in place.

The shift from amateur to pro is subtle, but it can mean documenting your processes in detail (so you can analyze and streamline and delegate), actually paying for quality services and tools (if they’ll make you more efficient), or putting together toolkits (real or virtual) and taking the time to set things up before you tackle a task, so that you’re not kinda sorta winging it all the time. (That’s just exhausting.)

I’ve seen it in action with my cookbook writing this time: Tasting Paris will be my fifth book, and one day while working on it, it dawned on me. Hey, I’ve become a pro at this! I really know what I’m doing! The recipe development, the testing, the headnote writing, the sending of the recipes to my recipe testers and analyzing their feedback, the research, the fact-checking — all of this took work for sure, but I had a very clear, systematic idea of how I wanted to conduct the process. All I needed to do was execute, and see the book take shape (almost) on its own. It was quite thrilling.

While much of this comes from experience and you can’t take shortcuts on that, one thing we can all do is think like a pro the moment we start anything new. Having a big-picture view of what we’re doing and establishing systems from the very beginning saves so much time and headache down the road.

11. Build a team

I did everything on my own for twelve years — not counting the priceless support of Maxence — but a couple of years ago I first took on an assistant, and it has revolutionized my work life, making it exponentially better.

Not only can I achieve more and move faster because we have more (wo)manpower between the two of us, but it’s been incredibly gratifying and confidence-building to share what I know. I get to test my ideas on someone else, which brings me a lot of clarity; we can discuss the minutiae of our day-to-day work activities (which only us really care about); and she contributes her own bright ideas and fresh outlook. The team spirit is invaluable.

So if you’re a one-person-band and you’ve been considering possibly maybe bringing someone on board — an intern, a real-life assistant, a virtual assistant — I say: do it! Do it now! Do it yesterday! It’s wonderful! You’ll only regret not doing it sooner!

Happiness is a bunch of tulips

12. Network with your soul

Back when I was a software engineer, I would sometimes leaf through those painfully boring industry magazines I thought I had to read, and find articles about the importance of networking. They would fill me with dread and guilt. I had no network to speak of, and couldn’t see how I could possibly muster up the motivation to create and cultivate this kind of relationship.

Part of it was that I was too junior to grasp the concept; time and maturity would have helped eventually. But more important, I now understand that the best networking is the kind you do spontaneously and for your own pleasure, without realizing you’re networking.

It’s reaching out to people you like and admire; it’s chatting with someone and following up afterward because you just want to say you had a fun time; it’s attending a local event you’re curious about, with no particular agenda; it’s putting yourself out there candidly, and also acknowledging other people who have put themselves out there candidly; it’s reading an article or a quote and sending it to someone because it made you think of them; it’s putting two people in touch because they have a lot in common and you like them both; it’s emailing someone you kinda sorta know to tell them you had a dream about starting a particular project with them (not to be creepy or anything) (it actually works).

In short, it’s about delighting in others and sending good energy in their direction. Not expecting anything in return, but trusting that good things will come to you because you’re such a positive force in the world. (Is that woo-woo enough for you? I believe it so strongly.)

13. Time is elastic

It is natural to imagine that, given more time in the day or week, we can achieve more. But productivity is a fickle thing, and I make much better use of my time if I am actually given fewer hours to do my work.

I was forced into this realization by — you guessed it — the two adorable little humans who entered my life in recent years. When I was home caring for my sons for a few months after each was born, computer time was scarce, and the minute I was able to sit down, I worked with rockin’ efficiency and zero dilly-dallying.

I also noticed that my brain was processing things even while I wasn’t physically at my desk (because nursing and cooing don’t, in fact, take up 100% of your mental bandwidth). I could, for instance, jump in and compose a fully formed email in one go, because the sentences had been floating around and arranging themselves in my head.

This means two things. 1. If I anticipate that I am going to have less time to work on my main or side projects over a certain period, I don’t stress or despair. I know that tasks will, to a certain extent, fit themselves into whatever time resources I do have.

And 2. I try to keep this elasticity in mind when I organize my normal schedule, reminding myself that I can take a half-day off for something fun (going to the pool with my eldest), inspiring (going to see an exhibition), or simply necessary (taking my youngest to a hospital checkup) and that it will all even out over the rest of the week.

If you’re curious about how this works, you may enjoy this bonus I’ve put together for you:

14. Manage your mind

I have become more and more interested in personal development these last few years, and I discovered, as if the clouds were suddenly parting, that we are not our thoughts, that everything we tell ourselves is optional and can be changed, that our thoughts create our reality, and that if we want to feel better we have to think differently first.

This was so life-changing for me that I decided to create a podcast — in French — about everything I’m learning. It’s called Change ma vie and you can subscribe on iTunes today.

Tearing a piece of baguette

I hope you got some valuable nuggets that may apply to your life and/or your passion projects. Please chime in with any reaction you have, I would love to discuss this with you!

A Day In The Life — Sharing a typical day in my food writer’s life,
Building a Successful Bilingual Blog — My interview on the Food Blogger Pro podcast,
How to Build a Blog That Stands the Test of Time — My interview on the Learning with Leslie podcast,
A conversation with my former assistant Anne.

This post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase through them, I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. All opinions expressed are my own. Thank you for your support of my work.

This post was first published in September 2016 and updated in September 2017.

  • Posie

    Congratulations Clotilde! I’ve been reading your blog for several years now and can assure you, your goal(s) of being refreshing, inspiring and entertaining has been reached, and even exceeded, many times over.
    It’s always a total delight to read, and always with the knowledge that some intriguing innovation is just around the corner.
    Very much looking forward to the next however-many-years you continue to write, and looking forward to the next book!!
    Thanks also for the heads up on the book by Sarah Ballantyne.

  • Congratulations! I’ve been following your blog since its very early days, and it’s been such a pleasure to see how much it has grown and the success you have had, whilst still keeping very much to your original friendly feel and philosophy. I love your books as well as the blog, and I look forward to keeping up with your adventures for many years to come! xxx

  • Paula Bruno

    Ah, I love this! I have a blog too (at twoheartswellness.com), and a professional Facebook page (I share your material to it at intervals, in fact) and there are times that I get discouraged. It’s odd–my readership will spike at times, I have people from all over the world–truly, and to the extent that I got stage fright for a little while when my statistics page got fabulously international–but it IS slow going and I AM going through the building stage. My first year, I had almost no viewers (under 500). Now, year two, I have over 2,000 viewers and 4,000-plus views. So poco a poco (little by little as we say in Spanish) but … yes. I do get discouraged at times. But I am very strong in the areas of 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, and 12 that you mention here, so that is incredibly encouraging. And I realize that I can focus on 4, 6, and 11 would be good things to ponder at present. And I’ll save this and come back to it again and see how I feel about the rest in a month or six. Thank you! And congratulations on 13 years–that’s quite an accomplishment!!

    • I’m so glad this was helpful, Paula. It IS slow-going, especially nowadays. I think the secret lies in running your blog in a way that makes you happy, first and foremost, so you can be patient about the return on investment. Does that resonate with you at all?

  • What a beautiful post Clotilde. Congratulations on 13 years of Chocolate and Zucchini, wishing you much continued success in the years ahead!

  • Adina Hodges

    Congratulations, Clotilde! I’ve been reading your blog for many years, enjoyed your books and your newsletter. Loved seeing and hearing you on Periscope. Here’s to many more years of success and good food.

    • Thank you Adina! Most recently I’ve been doing Facebook Live sessions. Are you on Facebook at all?

      • Adina Hodges

        Not on Facebook… :-) Is there a way to watch them without getting a Facebook account?

  • dr_bombay

    congratulations, Clotilde. i’m also one who’s been reading your blog for ages… i remember when you were working on your first book! i love your blog, your recipes, your attitude… it’s inspiring. so thank *you*, and please keep on doing what you do!

    • Thank you Frank! It’s wonderful to have you here and I enjoy our interactions on social media as well.

  • Niv

    lucky 13!

  • SL Grimshaw

    Another most valuable post of note, dear Clotilde. The fruits of your labor, the vegetables of your soul, a generously shared bounty that I have cherished and delighted in these many years. Can’t stop believing, or the blooming. Merci, chère dame, Susan

  • Madeleine Langlois

    Bravo! Toujours un plaisir de vous lire. Votre maîtrise de l’anglais est impressionnante et votre plume coule aisément. Bonne continuation.

  • Paul Siami

    Merci Clotide — though I am a new subscriber, (6 months or so), I really enjoy your site. Thank you.

    • Thank you Paul, I hope I give you reasons to hang around for years to come. :)

  • Agota Medgyesi

    Congratulations and many happy years to come! Have been reading and enjoying your blog for years. Fun and inspiring. You have really come a long way. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Annabel Smyth

    Congratulations. And it says something about you that I can invite a friend who lives in the USA to spend a couple of days with me while she was in Europe on a professional project. She walks into my sitting-room, and sees one of your books there. I say “Oh, do you know Clothilde, too?” Her reply, “Doesn’t everybody?”!

  • marysueh

    Oh, my, a lucky 13 years! I’ve loved following your blog, trying your recipes, & watching your books come to life. I’ve learned a lot along the way too – about cooking as much as about nurturing one’s passion. I’ve told people that while I’ve never actually been to Paris, I have a friend who lives there (ahem, you). Perhaps that seems a little forward, but after reading your blog and books over these years, not to mention the email conversations, the intimacy of thinking about food and writing has allowed a sense of genuine friendship. I am deeply grateful for that, and look forward to another lucky 13! Congratulations for making your dreams come to fruition!

    • Dear Mary Sue, I think you can call me a friend without stretching it at all. It’s an honor to have you read me, and also your help with my various book projects has been invaluable. Thank you.

  • Anne

    I’m so lucky to be a part of it!! <3

  • Congratulations! I’ve loved C&Z for a long time, and learned many great recipes and techniques, cauliflower gratin is still one of my most loved winter recipes.

    My personal favorite “made possible by C&Z moment”: A few years ago, for my wife’s birthday I gave her a copy of “Edible Adventures In Paris” and also told her we’d be going to paris for a long weekend to explore! We used the guide all weekend and had some wonderful experiences, renting bikes and buying cheese, bread and wine and enjoying it in the park, etc. It was wonderful!

  • Larisa Litvin

    Congratulations Clotilde!!!!
    Many-many-many more anniversaries to your wonderful blog!!!!
    Thank you! You are such an inspiration!!!
    Sending love your way.

  • Andreas

    Great post Clotilde and great tips as always!! Congratulations on 13 years of blogging!!

  • I’ve followed C&Z for the longest time (nearly since the start) and I’m so thrilled you are still around! I still remember when you came to speak in Toronto about “Eating Words” – advice on food blogging – and how lovely it was to meet you in person because you were exactly like you sound in your writing! Your blog and books are a constant source of inspiration to me – I hope I’m still around in 6 more years myself! Huge congrats. You are proof that hard work and excellent content pay off in the end. The advice in this post is golden! XO

    • Thank you Mardi, I have come to know and admire your work as well, and I only wish we’d had more of a chance to spend time together when I was in Toronto 5 years ago! Next time I hope.

  • I am new to C&Z but I am learning so much from you. Time and again I’ve said the most talented bloggers are the most generous with their time and tips. Thank you! Congratulations on becoming a teen :-) I’m bookmarking this post because there is just too much information to absorb in one reading. Grazie!!

    • Thank you so much Marisa! It’s great to know this resonates with you.

  • kalynskitchen

    What a great post! I have been following your blog since about 2006 I think, and it’s been fun watching your life evolve. How I wish I could come to that meetup in Paris, but maybe someday I will make it there and we can have a coffee or lunch together! And if you ever make it to Utah, be sure to get in touch!

  • Happy anniversary, Clotilde! Your blog was the first I ever read back in 2004 and it eventually inspired me to start my own. I loved each of those 13 lessons so much I will be sharing them on my Facebook group for budding bloggers. And boy are you so right on karma! Thanks for your kindness and generosity both on and offline xo

    • Thanks so much Estelle. It’s true we’ve known each other for a loooooong time! It’s been lovely to reconnect with you more recently.

  • Congratulations, Clotilde! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Fabulous advice! :)

  • This was a gift to read, thank you Clotilde! I’ve been feeling all over the place since I had my first baby 6 months ago. No one has said it to me (I can’t believe someone would tell you they liked your blog better before you had kids), but I’m sure there are readers who liked my blog better before simply because I posted more. I’ve been trying to keep up the same level of output and it isn’t possible. I just don’t have enough time anymore. I’m realizing more and more that it’s something I have to accept, and even though it pains me in some ways, the reason for it is truly amazing and I can say 100% that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any of the parts of motherhood because I give myself enough time to enjoy it. I’ve bookmarked your post to remind me of so many great lessons. Thank you <3

    • I know what you mean, and can only offer 1- my sympathy and 2- the assurance that it gets better and easier — all of it! You just have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable for a little while…

  • Oui In France

    Wow, 13 years, congrats! Beautiful read!

  • Two Healthy Kitchens

    Congratulations on 13 years, and thank you so much for this wonderful article! It was, in so very many ways, EXACTLY what I needed today! As much as I love being a food blogger, I’m constantly torn between that and my responsibilities as a mom, and I never really feel that I’ve done enough. My to-do list for today is loomingly huge, but I’m so thankful I took the moment to read this – the perspective I so desperately needed! ~Shelley

    • Thank you, it’s great to hear you enjoyed this! How old are your children?

      • Two Healthy Kitchens

        They’re 14 (twins) and freshmen in high school. So many fun adventures through the years, but somehow it never seems to get less busy, just different-busy! As they’re so rapidly reaching college age, I realize more than ever how precious every second is, and it’s so hard to miss even a moment of a soccer game or cross-country meet, or even just a quick conversation with one of them during those endless hours of carpool duty! It will all be over so quickly! Enjoy your little ones – with all the wisdom you’re shared in this post, I know you’re doing just that! :)

        • Thank you for your kind and inspirational words. I feel my sons have helped me develop a much better sense of living in the present moment, and every day I take the time to really look at them and commit to memory what they’re like and who they’re becoming, knowing this is all too fleeting. It didn’t come easily, but a few years in I see I’m getting fairly good at it!

  • Celia

    Congratulations on 13 years of the blog. That is a huge achievement and I love these points that you made. So wise! Also love that photo with the blue door :).

  • perrine

    Thanks for the tips Clotilde, always very insightful!
    Being a free lance literary translator (like your dad i think?!), i’ve been through most of what you describe and find your way of putting it very helpful.
    Longue vue à chocolate & zuchini!

    • Thank you so much Perrine! I’m so glad you relate. Any lesson of your own you want to add to the list?

      • perrine

        Je crois que tout est dit! (et tellement bien dit..)
        Merci encore!

  • Julie Park

    Hi Clotilde! What an awesome post. I’ve only been blogging for one year, so your words of inspiration are definitely great to hear. I know I will be coming back to this from time to time when I feel overwhelmed, stuck, and doubtful about myself or what I am producing. Your life lessons #5 and #6 are exactly what I needed to hear today, as I have been feeling the weight of just trying to keep up at the cost of experiencing joy in what I am doing. Thanks again for the wisdom :)

    • It is so gratifying to me, Julie, that this resonates with you. I feel an important thing to do early on is to identify what you like doing and what you don’t, so you can shape your blog and business with that in mind. No sense in building your own dream job (or side thing) unless it’s to do more of what you love.

  • Shelley

    As a mom of two, #5 was my favorite <3 :)

  • rachelsloan79

    Huge congratulations on 13 years and thank you for such a lovely post, which I read as (quite appropriately!) I was waiting for your plum and walnut tart to come out of the oven. Although I’m not a blogger in the same sense you are, so many of your lessons rang true for me, and I can especially attest to the importance of #4, having once worked for someone who was a major cautionary tale for the costs of ignoring it…! (Also, I was wondering whether you’ve ever read Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi? I read it recently and a lot of it chimes with what you’re saying – you might find it interesting if you haven’t.)

    Here’s to the future of C&Z, which I’m sure will be every bit as exciting as the last 13 years :)

    • Thanks so much Rachel, you are one of my oldest (in the best sense!) readers for sure, and your loyalty and friendship mean a lot to me. I have not read Csikszentmihalyi’s book but will look into it now! (Any hint on how to pronounce his last name? :)

      • rachelsloan79

        I think it’s ‘chik-sent-mee-high’ but perhaps one of your Hungarian readers (I’m sure you have some!) has a better idea?

        • Well, I’m sure it’s closer than what I was pronouncing in my mind. :)

  • TGrant

    Hi Clotilde,
    I am a relative newcomer to your blog, but I would still like to congratulate you on such a milestone! It cannot be easy to maintain a blog for so long, and the fact that you have such a loyal following is proof that you must be doing something (or quite a few things!) right. I am a former journalist and mum-of-one, and I am trying to update my digital skillset by taking an online university course in web communications. I frequently visit your website for inspiration! I can particularly relate to #5 about how motherhood changes your identity, or at least forces you to reconsider it, and there is no guidebook on how to negotiate this tricky path. We can only look to other people who have forged ahead and created a new direction for themselves and try to be as equally as courageous in our own lives. I wish you continuing success and all the best in your future projects.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m glad you relate to my comments on motherhood and identity. Like all things motherhood-related that are not 100% rainbows-and-daisies, I feel there’s a little bit of a taboo around the issue, when in fact all women who become mothers have to go through this identity shift, one way or another. Much easier if we can all be open about it!

      I, in turn, wish you much success and gratification as you acquire these new skills.

  • Bonjour ! J’ai écouté avec attention ton podcast “Building a successful bilingual blog” car j’en ai moi-même un, et je dois dire que c’est très intéressant d’avoir un retour là-dessus et de plus sur un blog qui a tant de recul. Personnellement, je me suis lancée dans une seconde version un peu pour être lue de non-francophones de mon entourage et de mes rencontres de voyage (puisque c’est le thème premier de mon blog), mais j’ai eu des moments où je me suis demandée si cela faisait sens de continuer. Car oui, c’est beaucoup de travail ! C’est pas toujours facile de garder un style sympa, de faire de l’humour ou des jeux de mots quand tu sais qu’après tu devras traduire. Alors écouter ton avis sur ce sujet était vraiment bienvenue. Merci !

  • Penny Twiss

    Good Morning Clotilde, I enjoy your blog hugely, your fun and easy approach is inspiring. Congratulations on 13 years of blogging and sharing your world, it is so delicious enjoying your slice of Paris. Here in New Zealand I am off to make my breakfast smoothie. Arohanui, Penny.

  • NotJoking

    I found Chocolate & Zucchini by googling a recipe for a chocolate and zucchini cake. Some of my favourite recipes went missing when we moved and this was among them and voila! There was Clotilde and the Chocolate & Zucchini blog. What a piece of serendipity!

  • Terramom

    I recently joined your blog, Clothilde, and I’m so glad I did! I read it in English and in French to bone up–I studied French at the Sorbonne years ago, and always loved studying the grammar and listening to native speakers on the street. It’s great to find fun things to read to keep fresh. I also enjoyed your 13 lessons–you are much wiser than I was when I was a thirty-something, and I say that now as a sixty-something. I’m going to order your book on French culinary expressions. As someone who loves so many things about France, French culture, and cooking, I think that is right up my alley.

    • Oh, thank you so much, Connie. It’s lovely to have you here. I hope you enjoy Edible French!

  • Voahangy Steen

    Oh Clotilde, first congratulations on your 14 years blogging! I remember when I first discovered your book in 2005 in a bookshop in Paris, which led me to your blog and the realisation that I was not the only one obsessed with all things food related! I have always loved your approach to cooking, you are always so curious and opened to new things and trends. It is true that your blog has evolved over the years, I noticed the shift to a more plant based diet a few years ago, and a more holistic view recently. I’ll be the first to admit being amongst your readers asking ” what about the food?” and exploring other sites. But then there are so many recipe blogs out there nowadays, I always find my way back to C&Z as it is great to read your posts and feel that I am learning something more than just how to cook a particular dish ( like the links to books, podcasts or even your poetry challenges!!)
    I am a big fan of self-reinvention, either thru a blog or in real life, and I totally agree with your point #5 ( actually I agree with your 14 points, but #5 in particular ): embrace the changes and only look back to see how far you’ve come.
    Here is to another 14 years of success ( blogging or otherwise). V xx

    • Thank you Voahangy! “Only look back to see how far you’ve come” is a great motto to live by.

  • Susan Baer

    Congratulations! You do a fantastic job and have done for all these years. I have profited from your focus and you have brought much happiness to my inbox!

  • Amitha Amranand

    Congratulations! I love this post and can relate to a lot of it. Thank you so much for sharing your nuggets of wisdom.

  • Thank you so much Gina!

  • Ha ha I also have a bunch of things I discovered while nursing my sons. :D

  • Aw, thank you!

  • Thank you Sally, it’s an honor to have you on board!

  • Thank you!

  • Love those, thank you!

  • You’re most welcome Katya. ^^

  • Terramom

    I really enjoyed these nuggets of wisdom from you, Clothilde. i have commented before on how smart I think you are, and you continually prove it here on your blog. I particularly relate to the ones that speak about personal growth, trying doing other things, and being of service.

    I recently retired from teaching struggling readers, although I will soon be working with them just a little bit on a volunteer basis at my former school. Recently I started learning the guitar, so now I’m focusing on that, as well as taking singing lessons again. Although I could always sing, I developed a terrible case of stage fright and hated singing for people. Now I am planning on discovering what my voice can still do at age 63 (it’s still there), learning to accompany myself, and sing for people if that’s where it takes me. I also want to improve my French, in particular my listening comprehension–that immediate translating in my brain. I have listened to one of your podcasts–that’s a good start, although I only get about 75% of it. You do already have a lovely speaking voice. I really do appreciate that your blog is so much more than just recipes. You have so much to share, and I enjoy every post. And I love hearing about your kids. Take care, from Connie.

    • Thank you so much Connie, I appreciate your taking the time to tell me this, and I am very excited for all those wonderful things you are inviting into your life!

  • Congratulations on 14 years! This is such a helpful post. So thoughtful. I really connect with your “focus” section and your comment about the seasons of life. I think this ties in nicely with the changes of motherhood that you mentioned as well. Merci!
    To the next 14 or more years!

  • Thank you so much for putting this all together, Clotilde. I’ve already bookmarked this post, because I know I’ll be coming back to it again and again. (After more than a decade working in-house, I’ve recently gone full-time freelance, and it’s terrifying. And exciting. But also terrifying.) Your recipes and stories have been a big part of my life for years, but now I’m finding even more value in them through my new, self-employed lens. Merci beaucoup!

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